These guys are pretty cool

Kate Silver

“His sister got us into [Chicago venue] The Empty Bottle when we were 15 because she knew the Grifters,” recounts Malachi Constant vocalist Carl Wedoff of high school friend and bandmate Ben Hecker.

His storytelling is inflected in a way that recalls that smart-ass who sat behind you in AP English, yet there is also a degree of humility that suggests he probably let you copy his notes from time to time.

“So we had to pretend to do lights. Everyone’s like, ‘Who are these kids?!'”

With a perpetual motor of hand motions, he continues describing the giddy adolescent affair, down to the complementary Sonic Youth t-shirts, as Hecker deadpans, “We were really lame when we were 15.”

Then Wedoff remarks to his fellow 20-something friends, commenting that it was cool though. “That’s the coolest thing I’ve ever done, really,” he laughs.

It’s hard to deny the thrill, especially at 15, of a live band. Luckily for locals, frenzied stage action can be discovered year-round, which allows for a degree of warmth on a cold Minnesota evening. Deep in the month of February, the rock quartet, also consisting of bassist Sean Harrison and drummer Alex McCown, convene over beer and burgers in St. Paul’s Macalester campus hangout Groveland Tap.

They’re keenly discussing a passion for the local scene. Nodding fervently in agreement to the notion that likeminded bands can co-exist without friction in the Twin Cities.

“I think it’s kind of cool to be influenced by one another. That’s the sign of something good happening,” explains Wedoff, dropping the names of fellow St. Paulites Superhopper, Grotto and Nationale (among a laundry-list of favorites mentioned during our interview). Perhaps it’s without an ID that you’ve been able to experience Malachi Constant live, firmly registering their band-on-the-verge-of-a-nervous-breakdown guitar clips and fragmented feedback for the last three years. They’re equally disturbing and engaging onstage, as apt to karate chop each other as to embark on Who-like damage. Their bipolar sound is emulated on the quartet’s third release Zenith, a joint effort between local label Guilt Ridden Pop and Double Indemnity, an operation collectively run by the band and friends. In all, ten bands have put out records under the Double Indemnity moniker. Yet the group is hesitant to refer to it as a proper label, rather an informal way for artists to show off their work.

“It’s the name: Zenith,” describes Wedoff sarcastically. “The pinnacle of pomposity and egocentrism.”

Impossible to believe coming from the ever laid-back St. Paul foursome, who remain as humble as pie. The sound they fashion together is delivered with great tension. Guitar lines snap in half, Wedoff’s delivery is often fractured and distant, yet it’s still encompassed around a warm feed of energy from his mates. Opener “The Spice of Life” ripples with a clinical Morse-code guitar, breaking softly behind Wedoff’s subtle confession, “My motives are true.” “Rhythms” is bleak, yet with an extension of tightly wound melody, wrapped like DNA, further spilling into complete chaos (and an exhaustive drum solo). Further explorations such as “Risks” and “Funny Pony” revel in distorted drudgery, while “I’m Enjoying Myself Hugely” benefits from finely picked harmonies. It’s “Horizons” that perhaps best demonstrates Malachi Constant’s schizo tendencies. McCown’s steady stick-work is slowly blanketed by the intensity of irate reverb, rising to a glimmering breakpoint and dissolving once again into the effusive closer “Achieva”.

The group describes Zenith, as “unfinished,” allowing for an open-ended ideology that’s divulged onstage. Yet the LP, produced with Rank Strangers’ Mike Wisti in his Albatross studio, allowed the group several post-production advantages. With summer tours in the works, the members of Malachi Constant look to further hone their skills within their favored habitat, the live stage.

“[To play with] bands we’re influenced by and try to emulate is, like, crazy fun,” Wedoff remarks excitedly. “Isn’t being in a band pretty fun?” he asks. “It’s like the only thing that we do…that I do. You guys have girlfriends.” Together they share a laugh, and another beer or two.

Malachi Constant plays Friday, March 22nd at Big V’s Saloon (1567 University Ave. W., St. Paul. 651-645-8472) with Superhopper, Nationale and Signal To Trust. 9 p.m. 21+.