Carroll is a band with a hell of a work ethic. “Needs,” the only release by the Macalester College-founded group, is only six songs long, but the brief back catalog never meant they shied away from touring.
Even with only a week before gigs, drummer Charlie Rudoy remembers composing new material to fill time in a set.
“Even when we had only six songs, we would just always take shows,” Rudoy said.
Carroll’s efforts seem to be paying off. The quartet, who chose their name after a street in St. Paul, won this year’s Vita.mn’s “Are You Local?” contest and went to SXSW.
With the taut indie pop of “Needs,” Carroll carved out a niche within the local crowd, all thanks to a contest.
Humans Win!, a local recording studio, called for submissions from bands last year. Hundreds of local acts entered to record under the helm of Lance Conrad, a producer who’s worked with everyone from Dosh to DeVotchKa.
“We almost didn’t send it in because of the quality of the demo,” Rudoy said.
“Billionaire” might’ve sounded rough out of the gate, but Conrad’s production on “Needs” shines. Singer Brian Hurlow hones Dirty Projectors-like devotion for experimental pop on the intricate release.
Rudoy and guitarist Max Kulicke first noticed Hurlow’s talent at a free show in Powderhorn Park in 2011. He performed at the outdoor concert with a crude setup, but his future partners in Carroll could see through the on-stage clutter.
“To have a pedal to trigger the samples on his laptop, he used an old Apple keyboard and would just stomp on the spacebar,” Rudoy said. “It was a really weird setup. It didn’t work very well.”
Two songs from Hurlow’s makeshift solo project eventually made it on “Needs” with the help of the full band, now with the proper equipment. Rudoy and Kulicke, members of the same bar band at the time, approached the one-man band with the same intention.
“We both were trying to quit the band we were in without telling each other,” Rudoy said.
With that band’s dissolution, Rudoy and Kulicke wanted to start an original project — not simply covering Led Zeppelin and LCD Soundsystem in dive bars. Combining Hurlow’s ear for pop melodies and the new members’ fondness for shoegaze, Carroll finds an original synthesis.
Although Rudoy’s initial intention fed into his darker, experimental roots, Carroll owns a tight pop sheen on tracks like “Lead Balloon.”
“We wanted to be My Bloody Valentine, but we couldn’t help making pop songs,” Rudoy said.
The blend never feels too strong one way or the other on “Needs,” a collision of influences. Rudoy and Kulicke agree that Carroll’s only just now settling on an identifiable sound, hurtling into murkier territory now that the band’s had time to grow.
Where the EP mostly represents Hurlow’s handiwork, Carroll’s now looking to open up the songwriting to the entire group.
“The newer songs I feel like are a better representation of the four of us playing together,” Kulicke said.
At work on their debut full-length, the band’s latest challenge is to hone the new sinister material. Carroll’s new songs sound like a sickly sweet concoction — musically and lyrically.
“We have a song on the new album — the opening line is ‘I put poison in your ice cream,’” Rudoy said. “Maybe that’s a good analogy for our band.”
What: Strange Names with Carroll and Hot Freaks
Where: 7th St. Entry, 701 N. First Ave., Minneapolis
When: 8 p.m., Saturday