Seven Inches of Minnesota Music: The Plastic Constellations, 'The Dreaming'
The Plastic Constellations were something special when they first made an impression on the Twin Cities music scene of the mid-'90s. At the time the teenaged band started things up in their parent's basement and managed to finagle their Hopkins High School superiors to let them use school time to create their own label and plan their eventual takeover of the Twin Cities music scene and the world.
As he prepares to go on tour with Sims, Plastic Constellations singer Aaron Mader, now better known as Doomtree producer Lazerbeak, tries to re-imagine his 15-year-old mindset.
"My Mom would drop us off at Oarfolkjokeopus (now Treehouse records) and there were so many different bands going on in the scene. We wanted to be cool like all of them we were looking up to. When we got our records made we felt legit," he recalls. "There were these kids trying to put together a benefit CD for this kid at our school who'd become paralyzed. So we got to record for free and we made two extra songs and put it out on the 7-inch."
The Plastic Constellations "The Dreaming"
The Plastic Constellations circa 1995
The honor of being in the same bins of the independent music stores in town as their indie-rock heroes Pavement, Sonic Youth, and local band Lifter Puller in wasn't enough. Eventually Mader made buddies with and won support from Craig Finn, a smattering of indie rock vets, and Oarfolk record clerk Kris Keisler, who recommended the Plastic Constellations to Alan Sparhawk of Low for an opening slot.
"I was like 16 and I get this phone call, 'Hey Aaron, this is Alan from Low,'" Mader tells me, still sounding surprised. "Then the Foxfire all ages place opened up and we were there all the time. That was a foundation and a pretty big moment for me as far as carving out what I know I wanted to do."
|Jeff Allen and Aaron Mader at the Foxfire Coffee Lounge|
"Sorry, I was in the liquor store and you know I didn't want to be that guy talking on his phone in the liquor store," says Mader's right hand man in the Plastic Constellations, Jeff Allen, as he calls me back.
Allen remembers the Foxfire fondly as well. "We had a showcase there with some of our friends bands on our fake record label, Pretentious Records. There was about 100 people at there which to us was like selling out Carnegie Hall. The Foxfire was special and during a unique time that spawned a lot of people doing what they're doing now."
Asked to describe their influences, Allen echoes some of Mader's response: "I was listening to a lot of Guided by Voices and there was a lot of nonsensical filling of space lyrically. It's hard to listen to yourself at this point when you were trying to be earnest."
In fact, there's a charm to the crackling voices on this single. The time in your youth when you are discovering music that defines you rings through the grooves, and though the words don't make much sense at this point, they represent the groundwork for the guys that would forge on for 12 years as a band.
"We heard Sonic Youth used a lot of screwdrivers and things on their guitars. So I think there's some of that in 'The Dreaming,'" Mader recounts.
Describing the flipside, "The Smallest Skyline in the Sky," Mader thinks of it as the band's anthem. "We thought we had a power in it, how the song builds up. It was a really unifying thing for us and always gave me goosebumps as we continued to play that song our entire career."
The Plastic Constellations "The Smallest Skyline in the Sky"
After a few full length releases on local labels Modern Radio and 2024 Records, Finn would help the band get the next level nationally on French Kiss Records, and later took the band on the road.
"We toured for 2-3 weeks with the Hold Steady in 2006. We would always stop and start playing and putting stuff out and tour as much as possible." Mader thinks back to his own personal transition musically, and says the encouragement from longtime freind, Stef Alexander (P.O.S.) would keep him in the studio producing hip-hop beats. "We barely were listening to the type of music that we were playing at that point."
Now running a market research company, Allen compares his past to the present. "I co-founded it," he says of his company. "It's like starting a band. It's creative and ambitious, it's just not music."
While bass player of the the Plastic Constellations, Jordon Roske, stays busy as a mechanic, drummer Matt Scharenbroich still plays backing Grant Cutler in the Gorgeous Lords and is an active designer, illustrator, and video director, most recently for the Lazerbeak produced Sims track "LMG."
While officially only on "hiatus" as a band, the Plastic Constellations have had some one-off gigs since sort of wrapping things up in 2008 with reunions for the Modern Radio Anniversary showcase in 2009 and opening for the release party for Lazerbeak's first solo record at the Fine Line in 2010.
Pressed for more stories from their rock and roll past, Allen levels with me, "Listen, there's really not much to say. One of our Dads would drive us to play a gig in his minivan. We'd finish, go home and eat some Laffy Taffy. That's really the level of debauchery we had," he deadpans. "We're still best friends and listen to this stuff. I have a lot of awesome memories of the 10 or 12 years we were doing it."
|The Plastic Constellations 2008|
Aaron Mader recalls the early days of the Plastic Constellations on Making Music
The Plastic Constellation on the Local Show on the Current in 2010
"Like" Gimme Noise on Facebook and follow us on Twitter at @gimme_noise.