Minneapolis rock band Chalk releases record, plans new tour

Haley Swan Johnson practices with her band, Chalk, on Friday, Sept. 23, 2016 in Uptown Minneapolis. Chalk is releasing a new album,

Chelsea Gortmaker

Haley Swan Johnson practices with her band, Chalk, on Friday, Sept. 23, 2016 in Uptown Minneapolis. Chalk is releasing a new album, “Water”, on Saturday, October 22, 2016 with a release show at the Kitty Cat Klub.

Joe Cristo

Hard Times Cafe is the obvious center of our wilting college music scene. The bizarre ordering system, the pile of free second-rate thrift store junk and tables filled with bright-haired, angry artists all scream, “You’re not ‘authentic’ enough.”

Most of the interviews that take place here are with baggy-eyed sensitive types that want to wax poetic about their droopy, bland art. While waiting for Chalk, an old man missing at least a dozen teeth sat at the table next to me.

“F*** earrings,” he said.

The yokel with the discerning eye immediately moved to a table in the corner where he could read his newspaper in peace. In walked Chalk.

Singer and guitarist Michael Voller wore tight jeans, long curly blonde hair and an earring, albeit a less feminine one. Drummer Forrest Fritz-Storhaug had a massive Lemmy Kilmister-inspired beard and a Teamsters cap on. I mentioned that my dad is a Teamster.

“Really?” Fritz-Storhaug said. “I don’t even know what they are. I just got it from a thrift store because I like the word team.”

Both sat down. The old-man began glaring at us.

Chalk — or at least the seed of what would one day become the band — can trace its origins back 13 years. Voller met Fritz-Storhaug on the middle school playground.

“We would just goof around and talk Snoop Dogg to one another,” Fritz-Storhaug said. “Like say the lyrics instead of rap them.”

The Minneapolis-raised childhood friends started getting into rock music around the same time. They bonded over a mutual love of totemic indie shlock rock gods like Built to Spill and Modest Mouse.

“We would sit around and play PlayStation,” Voller said. “ … And then finally we would fool around and play music in [Fritz-Storhaug’s] dad’s basement. We learned to rock out together and form that common language.”

It’s the second time Voller has used the term “common language.” This idea is central to the band — the “language” that Voller and Fritz-Storhaug share is evident. They finish each others’ sentences.

“When me and [Fritz-Storhaug] were kids our — ,” Voller said.

“ — Our band name was Silver Pennies,” Fritz-Storhaug said.

The two have been the only constant members of the band. Since its inception, Chalk has had a high turnover rate with members coming and going at their leisure. Right now, the band includes bassist Sam Frederick, guitarist Anthony Casey and keyboardist Hayley Swan Johnson.

“Sam and Hayley have only been in the band for a month,” Voller said. “So it’s really a new band sort of.”

Chalk’s newest record, “Water,” was recorded at Sound Gallery with Aaron Baum and Tony Schurbon. The album was mastered by Ryan Olcott. An expansion of their previous sound, songs like “Future Sport” toe the textural line between Wilco and Beach House.

“You can hear a lot of stuff in there,” Voller said. “We’re influenced by artists like Modest Mouse, Radiohead, Slowdive and Usher.”

“Water” will be released on Oct. 22 at the Kitty Cat Klub. The bands Wetter, Good Doom and Devata Daun will be supporting the bill.

“Then we’re gonna go on tour,” Voller said. “It’s gonna be a Southern tour and it’ll look like just a big loop through the South. New Orleans and Texas — places like that.”

For now, the band is focusing on releasing their new record and possibly shopping it around to labels.

“My main goal is to just make music into its own self-sustaining venture,” Voller said. “I’d basically like to make a living out of it.”