Concerts and conferences

The Counterfactuals will play at the Minnesota Music Summit

Lead singer Daniel Groll and drummer Michael Fuerstein record their first album for the Counterfactuals. The band will play at the Minnesota Music Summit this week.

Photo Courtesy of Nate Ryan

Lead singer Daniel Groll and drummer Michael Fuerstein record their first album for the Counterfactuals. The band will play at the Minnesota Music Summit this week.

by Jackie Renzetti

The Counterfactuals are paving their way in the prof rock world. Carleton College professors Daniel Groll, Jason Decker and Andy Flory and St. Olaf College professor Michael Fuerstein comprise the indie rock outfit from Northfield, Minn. The group released its first album, âÄúMinimally Decent People,âÄù in January 2014, and it has another album thatâÄôs currently in the works. The Counterfactuals will play at the Minnesota Music Summit at the Amsterdam Bar in St. Paul on Friday. âÄúFor the first album, we didnâÄôt have [many] resources,âÄù Decker said. âÄúWe were using old Radio Shack mics that were taped to broken stands. I enjoy that sort of thing âÄî trying to make a recording when you donâÄôt really have the right equipment to be making it.âÄù They eventually started using Carleton CollegeâÄôs equipment for recording many of the tracks on their albums. After studying percussion and philosophy at McGill University, Groll went on to the University of Chicago to earn his Ph.D. in philosophy. He said he realized that he couldnâÄôt play drums in his apartment, so he picked up the guitar as a substitute. From there, he began composing his own songs and started playing music with some friends in a casual band. Groll said he didnâÄôt want to give up on his newfound passion for songwriting when he arrived in Northfield. As he started to meet other professors and learn about their musical backgrounds, he asked them to play in a band with him. Originally, Groll and Flory played as a duo. Within a week of putting their music on Bandcamp, Groll received a call from representatives from 89.3 the CurrentâÄôs âÄúThe Local Show,âÄù asking for permission to play it. âÄúThereâÄôs not a goal to one day quit our jobs, thatâÄôs not what weâÄôre going for. WeâÄôre in it because we really enjoy playing music,âÄù Groll said. Other career highlights include playing at the 7th Street Entry, having a track chosen for the CurrentâÄôs âÄúSong of the DayâÄù and performing gigs around the Twin Cities and Northfield. Though Groll studied percussion in college, he provides lead vocals and guitar. Likewise, Fuerstein attended school for jazz saxophone but plays drums. Flory said he considers himself more of a guitarist, but he plays bass. Decker supplies guitar. Because most of the bandâÄôs members donâÄôt play their original instruments, the Counterfactuals had to overcome playing obstacles that came with unfamiliarity. âÄú[Groll] knew I had a background in music. Even though I was not a drummer, he was like, âÄòOh do you want to play drums?âÄô He had never even heard me play but he trusted that my music background was going to allow me to pick things up quickly enough,âÄù Feuerstein said. The bandâÄôs members said their full-time teaching jobs donâÄôt hurt the band, but rather benefit it. âÄúIf we were all full-time professional musicians, weâÄôd be hustling constantly, trying to plan as many projects as possible to pay the bills. That sort of thing really interferes with a stable rehearsal schedule,âÄù Fuerstein said. âÄúIn some ways, having a job and kids and living in a small town makes it easy to carve out some regular time.âÄù The band rehearses about three times a month, Fuerstein said. âÄúThe fact weâÄôre all academics makes it easier because we all understand the demands in each otherâÄôs lives,âÄù Groll said. âÄúSo if a great gig comes up but someone has to go to a conference, itâÄôs like, âÄòAlright, youâÄôre going to a conference!âÄôâÄù The sound effects that are sprinkled throughout âÄúMinimally Decent PeopleâÄù add personality to the album. Decker makes most of them and uses his stopbox in live concerts. He uses an old tape deck to echo the sound of his bass for some songs. Right now, heâÄôs working on a rotating speaker thatâÄôs built with a piece from a Wurlitzer organ and makes a Doppler effect on his bass. All band members work together in editing their recordings, which often involves multi-tracking. Groll said Decker and Flory use their expertise to perfect the recordings, though the process is democratic. Groll said he usually presents the skeletons of songs and then takes in the bandâÄôs input. âÄúThatâÄôs sort of one of the magical things about making music not with a virtuosic intention. None of us want to be the soloist; we all just sort of want to blend together and make music,âÄù Flory said. The Counterfactuals with Chastity Brown and Fathom Lane at the Minnesota Music Summit Where: The Amsterdam Bar, 6 W. 6th St., St. Paul When: 6:30 p.m. Friday Cost: $10