The Suburbs return to First Avenue

Legendary ‘80s Minneapolis punk band reunited in recent years

The Suburbs embrace a new era nearly 40 years after their inception.

The Suburbs

The Suburbs embrace a new era nearly 40 years after their inception.

by Jackie Renzetti

On the campus of the California Institute of the Arts in 1977, a teenage Chan Poling discovered the newly born punk world of the Sex Pistols and the Ramones.

 It was a world hidden beneath the mainstream radio hits of Foreigner and “that light rock kind of stuff,” Poling said. “I was a young man, and I wanted to hear something … that spoke more to me. … So I started my own band.”

A phone call between Poling and friend and guitarist Blaine “Beej” Chaney got the ball rolling, and soon enough, the two were back in their home state of Minnesota. There, they met up with like-minded drummer Hugo Klaers, guitarist Bruce Allen and bassist Michael Halliday, and the Suburbs were born.

“We just kinda sounded alike, and we hit it off. One thing about rock bands is they’re just sort of like clubs,” Poling said. “We hung out all the time and worked our asses off.”

The hard work paid off. They produced eight albums, starting in 1978 with hits like “Rattle My Bones,” “Life is Like” and “Love is the Law,” which recently resurfaced as the anthem for same-sex marriage in Minnesota. Klaers said that in the years that they were originally together, they went on four tours per year with bands like REM.

“In those days, we would go see U2 at First Avenue, and [afterward] they would come to my house and party,” Poling said.

The band went through a couple of different labels, and when their last one, A&M, stopped picking up their new music, the Suburbs decided to hit pause on the project in 1987.

“Nobody wanted to keep making demos and sending them out to different labels. … Chan had some ideas he wanted to do; Beej was actually moving to California,” Klaers said. “So we just kind of said that we were done recording for a while and took a break.”

Obviously, the separation wasn’t permanent.

“It’s kind of hard to break up a thing that just exists by itself,” Poling said.

Following the death of guitarist Bruce Allen in 2009, the remaining members played a memorial concert.

”We all looked at each other and said, ‘Well, why are we doing this?’” Poling said.  “And ever since then, I’d consider the Suburbs an ongoing thing.”

And so, it began, again. In 2012, Poling, Klaers and Chaney, along with two new members, lead guitarist Steve Brantseg and bassist Steve Price, went to work on “Si Sauvage,” producing the album with help from their Kickstarter campaign. Released in August 2013, “Si Sauvage,” was the band’s first album in 27 years.

 “We’re not worried about falling flat on our faces; we just keep coming in with different ideas and working with them until they have that Suburbs feel,” Klaers said.

The Suburbs’ familiar grooves return in “Si Sauvage,” but this time, they’re accompanied by an increased dose of optimistic wisdom.

 “I think [the music] has definitely evolved naturally as people continued to live and experience things in life as an artist and a musician,” Branseg said. “Those things tend to come out and be expressed in our art form, our music.”

 The first track, “Born Under A Good Sign,” is a testament to the band’s growth over time, with its message of persevering through both happy and trying times. The uplifting tone persists throughout the album, especially when the heavier-themed “What’s It Like Out There?” is followed by “Reset the Party” midway through the album. “Reset” bounces the album back to its original exuberance, and it suggests that it’s never too late to enjoy life — fitting for the reunited group.

“There’s always great beats. Chan’s piano stuff is always a unique element. The guitar lines that I get to come up with and work on with Chan have become little signatures,” Branseg said. “Not to mention, of course, our wonderful horn section.”

Concert attendees can expect to hear a balanced mix of material from both “Si Sauvage” and older albums, and there is a chance that newer material may appear, according to Poling.

Since “Si Sauvage,” the band has been working on new music that may make for an album that’s even more dance-floor ready, which they hope to release within a year.

“We’ve got some really cool grooves going and cool dance kind of stuff with this one. So I can’t give it all away, but I think it’ll be a little more funky,” Klaers said. “I think our last record was kind of pop-heavy, and I think this new record, with this direction we’re moving in, is kind of, you know … like Daft Punk and Pharrell and stuff like that.”


What: The Suburbs with Johnny Rey and DJ Jake Rudh
When: 8 p.m. Friday
Where: First Avenue, 701 N. First Ave., Minneapolis
Cost: $20-25