Keeping It Real for the Kids

Jahna Peloquin

On a blustery April day, Brock Davis and David Salmela of the local indie pop band Work of Saws strolled into the Dunn Brothers coffee shop on 9th Street and Nicollet Avenue in Minneapolis.

“You’ll never believe what happened!” Davis exclaimed. “As we were walking over here, Dave helped an old man from falling!”

Salmela grinned modestly in response.

“That was so cool, man!” Davis continued, ecstatic over his bandmate’s Good Samaritanship.

The exciting episode of do-gooding illustrated Salmela’s quietly unassuming and reliable personality-as well as his physical sturdiness. Dressed in a T-shirt and cargo pants, he looks ready for anything, whether it be carrying equipment, playing a show, or catching an old man in his arms.

Davis, on the other hand, looks like the kid who refused to grow up. With his slight, well-postured frame, fitted thrift-store-cowboy shirt, vintage sunglasses, and hanging-upside-down-from-the-jungle-gym hair, he’s the confident schoolboy who hasn’t yet learned of self-consciousness.

Not only do Work of Saws epitomize “Minnesota nice,” they also write sweet, melodious, lo-fi pop tunes that dip into country and blues. Davis said their just-released sophomore album, The Pious Flats, is “similar to the old album, in that it jumps from genre to genre-it’s hard-sounding, poppy and kind of all over the place.”

After talking about the band’s album-making process and their record release show for The Pious Flats, Davis looked down at a small pile of debris before him-the remainder of a wooden coffee stirrer he had nibbled to bits. “What have I been doing?” He asked himself. “Look at this-I can eat wood!”

Davis’ anxious behavior may be a reflection of his stressful week that included the Saws’ guest spot as KFAI DJs last Wednesday and the record release show at the Suburban World Theater on Friday. The newly renovated movie theater was chosen for the show because Davis likes “the idea of people being able to just sit down. It feels different than the typical bar scene.”

The theater, which is comprised of stacked levels littered with tables and chairs, faux balconies lining the walls and a ceiling that gives the illusion of a nighttime sky, felt larger than it actually was. Between songs, Davis said to the audience, “This place is cool, with the sky up above and the Muppets balcony over us, chastising us when we hit a bad note.”

The band played many songs from the new album, filling out the set with older material. Work of Saws have a huge collection of songs, many of which “will never see the light of day,” according to Davis. “We’re probably going to just keep building a huge catalog of sounds,” he said. “I wish we could come out with an album a week.”

As for the new album itself, Salmela said it has more “flow” than the previous album, Motivation and Watertower Grammar. The 44 tracks that comprise their debut album “almost come off as jingles, a random collection of songs.” The new, 14-track release “is more of a concept album.”

When asked if writing longer songs has made Work of Saws a conventional band Davis said, “The new album is more mature, so songs have naturally become longer. We’re getting better and tighter as a band.”

During the CD release show at the Suburban World, the band, covered in blue dots matching those that appear on the new album cover art, passed out blue dot stickers to the audience.

Why dots?

“It’s our marketing strategy!” said Davis. He said the band wanted to translate the songs visually in the album art, but when their first idea involving taxidermic animals fell through, the rub-for-good-luck, National Enquirer-style blue do became their savior.

The band manually covered an entire wall (and a person) with 7,500 blue dots for the album photographs.

“It’s labor!” Davis emphasized, and not computer trickery. “We’re keeping it real for the kids.”

“I think that album design is sooo important,” Davis added. “I want people to look at that cover and have it burned into their brains. Putting all those dots up on the wall, I got -what’s that disorder called?” he asked Salmela.

“Obsessive compulsive disorder?” Salmela offered.

“No … repetitive stress syndrome! I got repetitive stress syndrome, putting all those dots on the wall!”

Salmela responded with only a silent look of bemusement.

Work of Saws will play at the Walker Art Center as part of Don’t Just Do Something, Stand There!, Friday, May 10th, 7pm to 10pm. Tickets are $7 for Walker members and $14 for the general public. For more information or tickets call (612) 375-7622.