Sun-starved Madtown kids sing to a full moon

The members of Pale Young Gentlemen scrape by with a big budget of talent.

by Becky Lang

You can practically hear the beer sloshing out of mugs when the choruses of Pale Young Gentlemen songs wind into expertly crafted moments of late night, smoke-over-the-card table fraternization. The album creates a pervading sense of ruckus, although it’s the type of ruckus that befalls the sophisticated, as it is laced with pained strings and jolly piano, driving through a sense of “everyman-ness,” that makes the band feel so sincere and human.

Pale Young Gentlemen

WHEN: Noon to midnight, Nov. 10
WHERE: Bedlam Theatre, 1501 Sixth St. S., Minneapolis
TICKETS: free, register for Clapperclaw festival at www.bedlamtheatre.org

“Saturday Night” might as well be sung by someone popping out of the top of a limousine with open arms, as Mike Reisenauer sings with enough urban drama to charm the lights off of Broadway. Yet the album is more than glitz, offering up pounding verses about Plato’s cave and poetic admonitions to a dame with “milk-white skin.”

This Madison-based five-piece is bringing their lavish sound to Minneapolis for the Clapperclaw music festival, and stopped to chat with A & E about their experience.

You guys have Andrew Bird-like arrangements, but more of a cabaret lyrical style. What would you say your musical influences are?

Andrew Bird is right on there; there are some parallels with his earlier albums. I was also influenced by early Randy Newman stuff. That’s where I get my approach for writing lyrics. You try to isolate a character in a situation. You try to say something about life with your song.

Is your new album going to be different?

We’re playing with a string quartet. It will be more fleshed out than this one was, more different types of sounds. There’s no piano on this one; I play it all on guitar.

I noticed that you guys have gained reputation through blogs and your own publicity efforts. What do you think of this new ability to eliminate the middleman?

My brother does our public relations. To be honest about it, I wish we didn’t have to. We’re not trying to stick it to the business, we just think we have a good CD and want to do music, but we have to start somewhere.

What do you think about Radiohead’s latest release, where it was distributed on their own website instead of by a major-label? Do you think there are going to be a lot of copycats?

I think the album is really good, and for a band as big as they are to do something like that, it’s a big deal. I don’t know what impact it will have on major releases in general, and bigger bands, but it’s fresh air. It’s something new, and they could make a lot of money sticking with a label, but instead they are putting themselves out there.

Would you say that the music scene in Madison, Wisconsin has been an interesting place to start out as a band?

It’s good. There are lots of places to play, and lots of opportunities for a band to start out. There’s not too much competition, and a lot of the bands know each other.

Did a lot of your band members go to school in Madison?

My brother (Matt, the drummer) just graduated from there. Most of the band is affiliated with the UW.

Are you guys planning to join in on the Halloween festivities?

I’m having a costume party at my house, but that’s pretty much it. State Street gets so crazy. It’s different now. It’s put on by the city. They sponsor it, and you have to pay for a ticket to get in.

Are there any bands that you guys want to recommend to U of M students?

There’s a band out of Madison called Sleeping in the Aviary that’s pretty good. There’s kind of a punkiness to them, but they’re really poppy at the same time. Shorter songs, straight to the point, but its fun party music.