Treading toward the North Star

Lead vocalist Gabriel Rodreick belts out lyrics during Treading Norths set at Triple Rock Social Club on Friday night in Minneapolis.

James Healy

Lead vocalist Gabriel Rodreick belts out lyrics during Treading North’s set at Triple Rock Social Club on Friday night in Minneapolis.

by Grant Tillery

Though they’re a heavy-hitting rock band, Treading North hasn’t made any inroads toward playing metal. While thrashing around seems at odds with the band’s genre-eluding sound, the seven-some fantasize about what would happen if they went metal from time to time.
“We need to get a double bass pedal,” saxophonist Tyler Croat said with a laugh.
Treading North formed in 2012 when lead singer Gabriel Rodreick wanted a vehicle to perform music again after a 2008 accident in Costa Rica left him paralyzed and unable to play piano. The septet brands their sound as “dream funk,” an apt term that encapsulates the ethereal space rock of their melodies and their brash, raw, bottom-heavy driving pulse. According to Rodreick, the band has garnered comparisons ranging from the Red Hot Chili Peppers to the 
Smashing Pumpkins.
Such comparisons don’t give listeners an accurate depiction of Treading North’s sound, however. Rodreick lamented the compartmentalization critics often resort to when marketing bands to prospective listeners.
“I was reading an article with my dad last week on this band Sun Gods to Gamma Rays,” Rodreick said. “The writer used I don’t know how many different descriptions of the band to describe their sound. The things they were using to describe it were valid, but just go listen to them and decide for yourself.”
Rodreick’s coarse warble evokes a more melodic, refined version of Tom Waits. He said Waits serves as a musical inspiration for him, ever since he stumbled across his songs on Pandora.
“The first time I heard it, I was like, ‘Oh my god. This is the greatest thing I’ve ever heard,’” Rodreick said. “Now, he’s just my idol — more than anything, I respect him a lot.”
Last August, the band released their debut LP, “Beautiful Gone Wrong.” The album lives up to its name — it took Treading North a year to record it. Their first EP,
“Canopy,” dropped in March and represents a natural point of evolution in terms of polishedness. While both albums embody the exuberance and raucousness the band aims for, they don’t capture the primal rawness of Treading North’s live shows, which are head-bobbing, body-mashing affairs that mesmerize the audience.
Building an audience is difficult with the group’s diverse age makeup (the musicians range in age from 16-24). Many of their friends are underage and can’t attend their shows. Though they’ve attracted a new legion of fans after a successful EP release show and an appearance on Radio K, they’re familiar with peforming in empty bars.
“Half the band can’t drink,” drummer Nick Meza said.
“Tyler just graduated college,” keyboardist Elena Hansen chimed in. “He’s the only college grad [in the group].”
Treading North’s profile graduated beyond college radio when David Campbell of the Current spun their track “Maki” on the Local Show. Campbell mangled their name as Trending North, a slip the band said is common. Yet the airplay surprised the group more than the mispronunciation.
“One of my friends texted me, and he was like, ‘Hey, you’re on the Current,’” Meza said. “I was like, ‘What?’ And he was like, ‘Yes, [David Campbell] just announced it on the Local Show.’” 
“We were just sitting in the car, blasting it,” Rodreick added. “It was pretty sweet … kind of anticlimactic, though.”
Because of the Current’s tendency toward indie pop and larger acts, Treading North’s airtime on the station has been limited to the one instance, for now.
“[Campbell] emailed us back and said we didn’t fit in their wheelhouse of sound,” Hansen said.
Because of their age, inevitable juxtapositions to local indie rock superstars Hippo Campus happen, even though the bands play in two different ballparks in terms of vibe and sonic palette.
“They’re our frenemies,” Rodreick said of Hippo Campus. “We hate them ’cause we’re jealous of them, but they’re really cool.”
Any semblance of jealousy, however, is a front. For the group, success comes from growth in their craft, rather than early career superstardom.
“I’m glad that we have as much time as we give ourselves because until we commit ourselves 100 percent, our main goal in life is to make sure the band is what it should be to us,” bassist Jack Stanek said.