Crime wave

Crimes keeps psych rock barely within the law’s confines

Local psychedelic rock band Crimes outside of their rehearsal space in Minneapolis on Thursday.

Lisa Persson

Local psychedelic rock band Crimes outside of their rehearsal space in Minneapolis on Thursday.

Grant Tillery

Crimes’ frontman Andrew Jansen regularly considers the possibility of the band breaking up. Some members are starting families and others are moving across the country. This divide makes gigs sparser, despite a slew of engagements this summer that ended a six-month hiatus.

But, on a breezy Tuesday night in a modest two-story house just south of West Lake Street in Minneapolis, Jansen and crew — bassist Hannah Fraser, guitarist Reese Hagy and drummer Luke Friedrich — were anything but a band on the outs. 

They sat on the stoop perusing David Byrne’s book, “How Music Works,” and discussed plans to release new material later this year.

Formed in October 2011, Crimes will grace Icehouse with their brand of psych-rock this Saturday. They merge the droning reverberations of Dirty Beaches with the punk braggadocio of Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon, though Crimes’ songs are more drawn-out than their contemporaries’ brash ditties.  

Crimes began as Jansen’s solo bedroom project, where he wrote songs inspired by local crime.  Back when Myspace was popular among musicians, Jansen would post links to Minneapolis crime statistics in tandem with his music. 

“Counterculture has this fascination with crime,” Jansen said. “I’m really obsessed with shots fired, burglary, larceny. [My wife and I] bought this house and moved here, and there were two murders a block away. There hasn’t been anything since; it’s not like crime follows us around.”

Jansen admitted his earlier work broke boundaries of propriety. They featured themes that made famously dark work, like Lou Reed’s “Berlin,” sound jocular. 

“One of the demos was called ‘Murder,’” he said. “It was about somebody who slashed someone up and hid in the marshes, like in the cartoons where they have a pipe and they’re breathing underwater with the reeds. I imagined it in Powderhorn Park or Lake Calhoun and people are going, ‘Hey, he’s over here.  We got him.’”

When Fraser, Hagy and Friedrich joined the band, the lyrics lost their overt ominousness yet retained morbid tendencies and gaudy allusions. The music developed a sinister drone, played with a strung-out looseness.

“When I joined the band, Andrew told me to pretend that I’m on heroin,” Friedrich said. “I would use it as a way to trance out, rather than having to focus, like in other bands I play in where I play really intense parts and really [need to] be on my game. I can allow the part to play and vibrate through me and use that as a moment to let myself go and move around.”

Crimes’ unassuming wordplay and unwound sound have helped them gather a following with a bit of luck along the way. Even potentially negative experiences have proved positive. 

“[There] was a show where everyone got super drunk [but] we didn’t,” Jansen said. “It was called Beer Dabbler and [dozens of] microbreweries converged in St. Paul.”

The crowd of middle-aged suburbanites was not a typical Crimes audience. But Fraser remembered Beer Dabbler as one of Crimes’ best shows. 

“It’s like going into a situation you know is going to be weird, so you love it the weirder it is,” Fraser said. 

That mentality aids their natural chemistry onstage and off. With a one-two punch of moody melodies and subversive repartee, it would be a shame if their previous, temporary hiatus became permanent — even if the alternative means only playing beer fests where “Free Bird” is a common audience request.

 “I saw Lynyrd Skynyrd in high school twice,” Fraser said. “It’s not cool.” 

“We’re actually not into psychedelic rock, and we all like Skynyrd,” Hagy joked. 

 

What: Crimes
When: 11 p.m. Saturday
Where: Icehouse, 2528 S. Nicollet Ave., Minneapolis
Cost: $8
Age: 21+