Minor Kingdom release 'Don't Worry Baby,' bid farewell to the Twin Cities

Categories: Interview

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Photo by Erik Hess
Kristiam Melom performing at the Southern Songbook in February 2011
The music of Kristian Melom, who performs as Minor Kingdom with various members of a rotating backing band, is unexpectedly soft; the sonic equivalent of a drizzly summer evening at dusk, all fuzzy candlelight and old books. Melom writes his songs with a sensitivity that is not overt and an intelligence that is not forced, and his new album, Don't Worry Baby, is a testament to that careful composition.

Melom recorded the album with ten different people--an assemblage of some of the Twin Cities' finest musicians, by what it looks like: Brett Bullion on drums and synth, Joe Downing on bass and vocals, Jacob Hanson on guitar, Patrick Harrison on accordion, Joey Kantor on keys, Ryan Lovan on drums and percussion, Katy Melom on vocals, Ryan Paul Plewacki on guitar, Adam Wozniak on electric bass, upright bass, organ, and tambourine, and Dan Zanzow on cello. Minor Kingdom indeed.

For all those different hands in the pot, the final product is remarkably stripped down and cohesive. The songs are slow, but the album is diverse enough to encompass the electric energy of lo-fi folk and the acoustic raspy-ness of Ray LaMontagne, with just enough hazy synth-tinged tracks to vibe on early '90s living-room rock. It's the kind of album that stealthily eschews genres somehow, because Melom masterfully commands his musical influences and personal inspirations, crafting a sound that sounds more like pine trees and quiet log cabin summer nights than any single type of music. It's also the kind of album you can play on repeat for an entire afternoon without realizing it.

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Strange, then, given this golden second-debut (Minor Kingdom's first album, My Back Will Bend, was out in 2010), that the CD release show for Don't Worry Baby is Melom's last hurrah before roadtripping across the country to San Francisco and waving goodbye to Minneapolis. I asked Melom how he felt about starting all over, essentially, in a new market, without a fan base and without contacts.

"I'm really, really excited about it," replied Melom genuinely. "I'm better as a band manager than a band frontman, honestly. I'm good at meeting people and bringing them together, which is why Minor Kingdom works, actually, though that wasn't the idea when I originally got the name.... and I feel like I'm leaving on a high note," he continued, smiling. "I'm not feeling defeated, which is hard sometimes because this is a super competitive town and we have amazing talent here. I'm really going to miss it."

Our conversation weaved around from books to movies to growing up in small towns and back again to music, and I asked him about the title of the album.

"It's like hopefulness in the face of impending doom, I guess," said Melom thoughtfully. "Hope for what the future will be like for our kids. And I like the twist on the word 'baby'--it's really soothing, that word in itself. It can either refer to your child or your significant other. I guess in some ways it's a concept album... my girlfriend and I were just discussing this the other day, actually, that people are going to need a rehabilitation from technology," mused Melom. "Like the song 'Sweet Emily,' I wrote thinking about my little sister. The lines 'She stares at a screen all day/She don't like to read'... it's just that our lives are so connected to technology now that human interaction takes place in the digital realm first. It's crazy."

Melom has all that characteristic Midwestern humility and hard-work ethic, layered with gratitude. "I challenge myself to get a little bit better with every song and every performance, and eventually I do get better, but it's because of the people around me. It's a confidence that comes from support."

Support for an artist with a clear vision and a talent for crafting music with sincerity? Absolutely.

The Minor Kingdom CD Release Show will be taking place at Café Maude on Thursday, May 12, from 8-10 p.m. Holly Newsom will be opening.


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