[Banner Photo is The Controversial New Skinny Pill’s Original Artwork]
Minneapolis outlet The Controversial New Skinny Pill’s style is often described as “frat rock,” which sums up the dance aspect of their discography nicely, but the band’s new project, LOCATION LOCATION LOCATION, also showcases their unique ability to build on the idea of dance music with synth and thoughtful funk.
Our head reporter (and Minneapolis native), Julia, got the chance to meet with them for a brief discussion about their upcoming projects and why clickbait plays a key role in their image.
JO: Thanks for sitting down with us! Real quick: a run-through of everyone in the band.
CNSP: The band members are Skyler (guitar), Alana (drums), Dan (bass), and Mariel (synth).
JO: What are some artists that you’ve all been listening to right now?
CNSP: Well I’ve been listening to a lot of MPLS locals: PPL, Loud Sun, Eric Mayson, Free Music, and Zuluzuluu! I’m also listening to Mild High Club (quite obsessed right now), Dan, I believe, is going through a Phil Collins phase, and Mariel noted she’s been listening to Frankie Knuckles’ “Your Love” for a year nonstop.
JO: Love it. So how’d this entire LOCATION LOCATION LOCATION project start?
CNSP: Sort of like a joke. I had asked to play a micro-set of super short songs during a fifteen-minute intermission for this variety show that featured short pieces (this was at the now-closed Bedlam). The organizers obliged (before I even had a band to play with), so then I had to put a band together! I asked my friend Alana to drum, and Dan to play bass (I was playing bass for his band, Daniel Bonespur). My grandmother was visiting town and she even caught this show; she didn’t hate it!
For a long time, I wanted a synth player, but was wary of having to balance four people’s schedules for shows/rehearsals. But, a year in, we played a bill with Mariel’s band, and then she joined us to play synths, and it’s been a dream come true ever since (I love my band members so much).
JO: And where did the name come from? When doing some internet digging, I found an article with the headline, “Donald Trump SHOCKED After Daughter Publicly Admits to Taking ‘Controversial New Skinny Pill’” …Coincidence?
CNSP: [Laughs] Yeah, the name definitely comes from the clickbait trope. At our first show, I didn’t really have the hope that it would turn into a real band, so [when] naming the band, I wanted to choose something that would be familiar, but also impossible to Google. This bites me in the butt now, since I worry band-related emails might go straight to the spam folder. Also, I definitely did not choose the name to make those with eating/dieting issues uncomfortable, and I do apologize if this is the case.
JO: Tell me a little more about the influence/inspiration for your brand new project. There’s such a good and funky variety to the songs. What is the creation process like for Controversial New Skinny Pill?
CNSP: Thank you, and thank you for asking! To be quite literal and quite honest, every time I make a song, I have this uneasy feeling it will be my last idea ever. So [when] an idea, or at least a feel, comes to mind, I get excited, and I’ll try to bang out a recording of it. Once I get twenty minutes of these, I’ll decide whether it sounds like an album or not. (I like the 20 minute cassettes; this is why there’s that time constraint.) This has been the case for ‘LLL’ and the previous Big Whoop! So in some ways, it might be a little too all over the place, but I like to think that the album has a cohesive point of view, or is at least fun to listen to.
JO: Are there any musical influences for the band/your music?
CNSP: Naming influences is tough stuff! I’ll often want to cite artists I love, but we may not sound anything like them. But, I can confidently cite both Talking Heads and Sly Stone. [Regardless of] whether we sound like them or not, I have spent so much of my life listening to them that the influence is undeniable, and credit is due. Also, Renny Wilson (both his smooth disco and his anxious punk stuff). I also owe much credit to two local musicians I very much look up to, and have had the opportunity to play for: Kyle (Rupert Angeleyes), and Leo (of Hot Freaks and Joey Joey Michaels).
JO: One piece of what makes Controversial New Skinny Pill so unique is your usage of synth. Can you tell me more about what you’re doing with it, and how you decided to incorporate synth of such a funky nature into this project?
CNSP: The synth you hear on the album is actually the indie-pop staple MicroKorg (this is that small synth you see every-dang-where), so in a sense, [there’s] nothing too special to report. Structurally, the synth does a lot of the melodic heavy lifting that I do not trust my voice to do, especially since most of the guitar action is all strums. However, the sounds I aim for are definitely inspired by the influences already listed, along with Dick Hyman’s Moog album, Wendy Carlos, Mort Garson, Bernie Worrell, and, of course, Stevie (So many names, I’m so sorry!). Mariel, who plays synth, has her own synth heavy, live, electro-disco project, “XOXO Tech”, so her tastes and abilities have a huge impact on the sound and feel.
JO: In Seattle, we’re beginning to see some effects of the Oakland fire on our DIY community. What does the DIY community mean to you, and have you seen any impact in MPLS?
CNSP: Gigantic question… I feel in some ways an inadequate voice on the subject. And I hope to be respectful. It is exactly the kind of place I’ve spent the majority of my adult life: music, plays, dances, art showings, lectures, classes, meeting people who have important things they need to say and share, and have found a direct and meaningful way to do so in these spaces across the country. Where we rehearse and record is a place like that. It was created by people who have opened, and been run out of, numerous spaces exactly like Ghost Ship [the Oakland warehouse that set ablaze this past December, resulting in 36 deaths]. The DIY community means more than I even realized before these conversations. I’m just saying that I’ve enjoyed it, and have been lucky to participate and contribute [to it], but I’ve learned moreover that there are people who need it. It’s truly their best option to express what they need to express, be who they wish to be, [and] to live in a way that feels meaningful. There are smarter and more eloquent statements on what the fire meant (politically, economically), and on what parts of the system are so broken that they make this kind of place both necessary and, in some ways, unreliable. I tried. And here, as I’m sure everywhere, these places [hold] people who feel invested in the community. They truly push to shape this part of the world in constructive ways; push to make the spaces more accessible, more inviting, more radical, more meaningful, safer, stronger…just somehow better than the spaces that let down and push down these creative and unheard voices.
And that’s ongoing. There’s always a better way for these places to run, and for these places to start to disappear? That’s (what feels like) people’s homes. The news of similar places being shuttered across the country hangs heavy on the people in Minneapolis, and now reading the hateful thoughts of people online who are philosophically opposed to the existence of these places, and also the existence of the people who make them happen, has been chilling, as well.
The Controversial New Skinny Pill: FACEBOOK | BANDCAMP | SOUNDCLOUD
JULIA OLSON | KXSU Head Reporter