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Pet sounds

Minneapolis’ new kid on the block flexes his pop melody muscles.
Jack Ventimiglia of Housepet kicks back at his apartment on Saturday in downtown Minneapolis.
Image by Joe Michaud-Scorza
Jack Ventimiglia of Housepet kicks back at his apartment on Saturday in downtown Minneapolis.


When: Feb. 10

Where: Aster Café (125 Main Street S.E.)


The market has been biting onto the whole âÄúsongwriter in exileâÄù archetype for the past few years. Justin Vernon managed to turn his one-off woodsy crooning from 2008âÄôs âÄúFor Emma, Forever AgoâÄù into what is proving to be a well-deserved career. The AntlersâÄô Peter Silberman also cashed in on a more metropolitan biography with 2009âÄôs âÄúHospice.âÄù

While these national acts have staked out careers based on their isolated introspection, big moves for small acts are more of a commonality than one would think. Take Jack VentimigliaâÄôs Minneapolis-via-Detroit project Housepet, whose move was one simply of personal practicality.

Ventimiglia, who made the little-big move from the Detroit suburbs to Minneapolis on New YearâÄô s Day of 2009, doesnâÄôt craft songs around gripping isolation. These arenâÄôt insular epics on the transcendental powers of being alone. Instead, they are just very catchy and very intricate pop songs. But the one-man band does maintain that the move has had a significant impact on his creative output.

âÄúThe economy is still really bad where IâÄôm from,âÄù he said. âÄúSo I was just looking at the economy thing along with a school to do recording.âÄù

But the Detroit roots have not been lost on VentimigliaâÄôs creative output. His debut EP on MinneapolisâÄô Hospice label, âÄúOh, F*** It,âÄù is laden with moments gurgling Jack White guitar dissonance and a simplistic melodic catchiness indicative of The StoogesâÄô influence.

âÄúThereâÄôs definitely a part of my music that is drawn upon from Iggy Pop and Jack White,âÄù he said. âÄúDetroit has a sound unto itself.âÄù

Moreover, the musicianâÄôs current academic endeavors have only helped him carry the instrumentation further through his solo efforts. His enrollment with MinneapolisâÄô Institute of Production and Recording has allowed substantial network tapping.

Even with session musicians at his disposal for percussion, horns and strings, VentimigliaâÄôs singular vision as mixer and producer remains. It sounds perpetually clear that these are his bedroom creations âÄî a space that naturally doubles as a makeshift studio.

âÄúIâÄôll just start kind of literally like mumbling,âÄù he said, âÄúand it will kind of work into a melody. So it all sort of stumbles into a certain aesthetic.âÄù

And HousepetâÄôs strengths rise from the effortless diversity across tracks. âÄúBlack WaterâÄù rolls through a seamless short pattern of bayou guitar twangs and some appropriately lazy background whistling.

âÄúAnytime SoonâÄù is carried by well-layered vocal harmonies, as is the case with much of his output, giving work of this sole individual a greater aural space to live in.

There is one aspect of the career musician that Ventimiglia remains wary about âÄî the live performance. With songs that play like a full band, VentimigliaâÄôs approach to the stage is still that of a man and his guitar. However, if his January in-studio performance for MPRâÄôs The Current, an undeniable local steppingstone, proved anything, itâÄôs that his songs stand tall even in bare-bones renditions.

âÄúIt really makes me take everything more seriously,âÄù he said.

Ventimiglia hopes that future shows may lead to Housepet being a solo-endeavor no more. A relatively fresh face in town, he speaks of the currently obligatory live performance as a means of further networking with musicians.

âÄúMaybe I can rope people into the circle that way,âÄù he said. âÄúIf they can bring stuff to the table, thatâÄôs always good.âÄù

Regardless of whether Housepet becomes a fully fleshed-out act or simply the product of VentimigliaâÄôs creativity, the Twin Cities music scene has some fresh blood. And in a community that is so good at celebrating itself, a foreigner is not the worst thing.

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