In the midst of the ’80s new wave craze, a group of Minneapolis teenagers took a stab at punk rock.
Soul Asylum was born.
“When Soul Asylum started out, we were a real punk rock band. We didn’t know how to play our instruments too much, and we were in mom’s garage,” frontman Dave Pirner said.
Rather than performing as a rag-tag group of teenagers like it once did, Soul Asylum takes the stage today as professionals. Lone founding member Pirner keeps the band alive with three experienced musicians: drummer Michael Bland, bassist Winston Roye and guitarist Justin Sharbono. With a new album in the works, the band kicks off a U.S. tour this weekend at First Avenue.
Though they’ve signed on at different times, the current combination of musicians has toured together since 2012.
“It’s been a long and [expletive] road, but I’m still here to play this music,” Pirner said.
Bland entered the band in 2005, closing a revolving door of different drummers. When original bassist Karl Mueller died in 2005, a few different bassists stepped in until Roye became a permanent replacement. Sharbono came on board in 2012 after original guitarist Dan Murphy quit.
In comparison to the most recent lineup with temporary bassist Tommy Stinson and Murphy, Bland said the current group is more serious at concerts. Rather than hanging out, conversing with the audience and playing a few covers as the group did before, he said, Soul Asylum stays in the punk-rock zone.
“We just go on to destroy, and then we get off the stage. It’s a very sort of confrontational situation,” Bland said.
Pirner also spoke of a maturity of the band in comparison to the original members.
“The analogy Michael and I have made is I think a band is like a gang, and he thinks a band is a [expletive] job. I guess it’s a little bit of both. I’ve had to temper
my extremism over the years and not be an 18-year-old gang member and be slightly responsible for getting on stage on time or whatever the [expletive] it is,” Pirner said.
Bland said he finds Roye’s bass playing more reflective of Mueller’s style than Stinson’s. Likewise, he said that Sharbono effectively represents Murphy’s sound by using his main parts and overdubs.
“[Mueller’s playing] was more like low, functional, not too much high stuff going on,” Bland said. “With Winston, I think in a weird way, he plays more like [Mueller] did, where his playing style was less aggressive, but his physical posture [was] more aggressive,” Bland said.
For himself, Bland said he tries to emulate the drumming style of Sterling Campbell, who played with the band from 1995-98.
“I often think about [Campbell] when I’m doing what I’m doing, only because I think his style fit the band the best, I guess. I borrow a lot of what I’ve learned from listening,” Bland said.
Pirner said the additions of Bland, Roye and Sharbono all came as “no-brainer” decisions.
“I see these guys as my family and my team and everything. They really do mean the world to me. It’s just different. It’s sort of something that I’ve been doing my whole life. … Not only do I depend on [Soul Asylum] to sort of express myself, I also just feel [expletive] if it’s not right. [The band is] a vehicle that needs to be a
well-oiled machine,” Pirner said.
Soul Asylum with Meat Puppets and American Scarecrows
Where First Avenue, 701 N. First Ave., Minneapolis
When 7:30 p.m. Friday