The 14 Twin Cities college bands you need to hear

Categories: Lists
Avye Alexandres

Gimme Noise's fondest memories from college aren't set in $100 million athletic centers or on perfectly manicured lawns, but rather in dingy basements and coffee shop stages. The student music scene has always made big contributions to the Twin Cities as a whole -- local immortals like the U of M's (for a year anyway) Bob Dylan and Macalester's Hüsker Dü started playing while at school. Now, the next generation of well-educated Minnesota musicians are ready to take over.

We've assembled a list of 14 of the best bands to come out of this cultural crucible in recent years. Whether you're still holed up in the library or reminiscing on your glory years, these scholarly musicians are sure to expand your worldview and broaden your horizons -- or at least give you something cool to listen to on a Friday night.

See Also:
Top 20 best Minnesota musicians: The complete list
Best Minnesota albums of 2012
14. Regional Dialect

College connection: Drummer Alyse Emanuel is a sophomore at Hamline and lead singer Mathias Hertel is a student at St. Paul College.

Alyse Emanuel is a triple-major Sophomore at Hamline -- Religion, Music, and Studio Art -- with an unofficial concentration in drumming for bands all over Minnesota. She started working the skins with Regional Dialect last summer after seeing them at a show and asking if they needed a drummer. This fits with how the soul mavens at Regional Dialect operate -- they're know for their frequent collaborations, including occasionally backing Sophia Eris of The Chalice. The sound is a soulful swing with a twist of hip-hop and blues, and Hertel's voice has the depth and smoothness of a good whiskey as he pours two fingers of his heart over the mic. Regional Dialects will head back to the studio soon, and you can catch them next on February 23 at Memory Lanes.

Check out Regional Dialect here.

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13. The Premiums

College connection: Bassist Alex Hamberger graduated from the U of M last May.

"It was kind of like a long-distance relationship," Hamberger says of the early days of funk masters the Premiums. Hamberger and drummer Brett Miller knew each other from high school outside of Milwaukee, but went their separate ways for college -- Hamberger to the U of M, Miller to UW Oshkosh where he met the rest of the band. Members of the Premiums would frequently commute between the two states before the Oshkosh cohort moved to Minneapolis in an RV called "The Groove Thang" in fall 2011. The band had settled in enough to release a self-titled EP last November. The Premiums bring a truly funky sound that gets people on their feet and dancing, mixing high energy rhythms from Jamaica to Motown. The charms of the Premiums aren't lost on the band themselves. "I actually can't help myself, you know," Hamberger said. "I'll get really into it and then be like 'oh shit, I'm still playing.'" The band is currently trying to hammer out some Twin Cities gigs, but in the meantime be on the lookout for a new release sometime this fall.

Check out the Premiums here.

12. The Mystery Train

College connection: The band are all recent graduates or seniors at McNally Smith.

Americana rockers the Mystery Train have roots in a house near McNally Smith now called the Elephant Graveyard (previously the 108 house), where lead singer Simon Brooks and drummer Colin Wilkinson lived for a time before graduating in Fall 2011 and Spring 2012 respectively. The band would host frequent house shows there, building up to their first self-titled EP release last March. The Mystery Train is what Johnny Cash would sound like if he'd gotten into punk in his 20s, and they're liable to mess up your floor with all the stomping the crowd will get up to. Brooks is like a rockabilly David Byrne -- though they sound nothing alike, both are fully willing to embrace and exploit all the weirdness in their voices to great effect. The band performs next at the Acadia on March 7. They expect to release a new 7" some time this summer.

Check out The Mystery Train here.

11. Nallo

College connection:
Lead singer Andrew Ranallo graduated from the U of M in 2007, and bassist Blake Pederson briefly attended the same year.

Nallo may not be the newest band on this list, but their style is certifiably fresh. The band plays a unique fusion of a garage band's raw simplicity and carefully crafted elements of spacy psychedelic pop. Basically, imagine an alien race setting up a four piece in your basement -- though that might be overstating the oddness a little. "It sounds a lot more normal to us then it does to other people," guitarist Ronnie Lee said. Normal, maybe, but not ordinary. Nallo perform at Cause on March 22, and will be releasing their 7" Drugs for the Kids at the Hexagon on April 6.

Check out Nallo here.

10. The Velveteens

College connection:
Drummer and singer Kiera Coonan is a current student at MCTC, where guitarist Jonny Holupchinski was a student last year.

Like members of many of the bands on this list, Coonan and Holupchinski met in high school and have played together for years. Their current garage girl group the Velveteens didn't start to take its current shape until they met co-conspirator bassist Jillian Schroeder through Minneapolis's DIY scene in 2009. That aesthetic carries through the band's work, which is raw and self-made while still remaining charming and fun in their laments of modern love. As you can hear on their self-released and self-titled cassette tape, put out last spring, the Velveteens used to go for a retro doo-wop sort of sound, but since we last spoke with them they've started to move away from an early 1960s cafeteria dance and closer to a mid-1980s cul-de-sac garage. They're playing next on February 21 at the Cedar for a show to promote Macalester's student radio station WMCN, along with list-mates Carroll, Bad Bad Hats, and Is Home Is. They will be joined by Macalester prog-metal outfit Maeth. If you can't get enough, they're playing the next night at Eagles Club 34 for The Dust Buns' tape release.

Check out The Velveteens here.

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