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Are you in the Drug Budget?

Are you in the Drug Budget? The enigmatic Vain Mainstream, a.k.a. David W Gibson, fronts the local 14-strong “garage orchestra.”

Despite its massive roster — boasting a traditional rock setup, backing singers and a horn section — Minneapolis band the Drug Budget insist they’re not a “collective.”

“A collective seems more fair than [what] this is,” said frontman Vain Mainstream, who also goes by David W Gibson online. “It’s just me telling everybody what to do.”

Mainstream, aka Gibson (both are pseudonyms; he declines to publicize his real name to protect his privacy), has led the Drug Budget since founding the band in 2009.

Now, several albums and an endless number of contributors in, the Drug Budget are bringing their self-described “garage orchestra” sound to the 7th St. Entry on Sunday to record their upcoming live album.

Though the band’s current lineup hasn’t seen many changes in the past year, Mainstream said the Drug Budget’s total membership remains fluid.

“Could be 14, could be 15,” Mainstream said. “Depending on a couple of who-shows-ups.”

The Drug Budget’s lineup now consists of Linus Kangas on guitar, drummer Tom Tier, bassist Lorin Nelson, Tara Davis on trumpet, trombonist Alex Paetznick, keyboardist Paul Trieber and others, including kazoo player Robert Fones.

At the start, the band forged its genre-hopping style when an indie record label executive forced the Drug Budget to open a show, despite the band being the only act the label had signed.

“I thought, ‘I’ve got to get all these other instruments up there, make it this big folk-type production and shove it in his face,’” Mainstream said.

He invited other musicians and friends onstage to “find a way to be cool, be interesting, and it was only intended to be one show. People went totally nuts.”

Not wanting to kick anyone out after the joke performance, Mainstream invited the Drug Budget’s one-off cohorts to join the band full time.

“To me, that was a follow-your-heart thing,” Mainstream said. “I really wanted to piss this guy off. And that worked out.”

With a herd of musicians at his disposal and without formal musical training, Mainstream’s understanding of composition has been exemplified and subverted in the Drug Budget’s ample, complex arrangements.

When recording this year’s “Disrespect” album, Mainstream oversaw the complete songwriting process, including the solos some musicians would play.

“I did this thing where I would go to each [band member’s] individual houses, and we would go through just their part,” Mainstream said. “When we got into the studio, we hadn’t played together at all.”

University of Minnesota senior Mary Scott, the band’s tenor saxophone player, said Mainstream’s leadership extends beyond the scope of a typical frontman.

“Maybe it’s a little cult-ish,” Scott said. “We’re all working for this one leader.”

For their live album, Signaturetone Recording owner and operator Adam Tucker is working with the band to capture their sprawling jams — including the 8-minute riff-epic “Ugly Woman Ugly Man” — without compromise.

“When it’s live, [the band members] materialize out of the fog and play these crazy weird shows where you never know what to expect,” Tucker said.

He described the band as a “weird mix of extremely specific, controlled and total chaos.”

Scott said the band’s massive faction keeps the Drug Budget’s live shows energetic.

“It’s this huge, pep band feel,” Scott said. “Most people are just in it for fun, just to be in a band.”

Tucker echoed Scott’s sentiments on Mainstream’s domineering direction of the band.

“He knows what he wants, and he gets it out of his players,” Tucker said. “So it’s him running the circus.”

Mainstream said he likes to keep the Drug Budget unbound for their live shows.

“Playing live is a totally different animal, and it’s something that I don’t try to have as much control over,” Mainstream said. “Everybody is on the same page enough that it doesn’t matter what the loose ends are.”

Of course, in a 14-piece band, some loose ends are lost — including a lucrative touring schedule.

“We tour in two, three vehicles,” Mainstream said. “We lose money every tour.”

Despite the Drug Budget’s antagonistic roots, Mainstream said he doesn’t describe himself as “punk.”

“I feel much closer to a nihilist mentality,” Mainstream said. “I try and remember that nothing means anything and that life has no purpose.”


What: The Drug Budget live album recording

When: 7 p.m. Sunday

Where: 7th St. Entry, 701 First Ave. N., Minneapolis

Cost: $5

Age: 18+

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