As Murder Shoes settled in at the brand new Spyhouse in Minneapolis’ North Loop neighborhood, they fit in well with the polished environment of urbanites sipping on cappuccinos.
Their polish is a faÃ§ade; however, as Murder Shoes churns out raucous bangers with a dark edge.
Murder Shoes formed in 2014, when vocalist and keyboardist Tess Weinberg, guitarist and vocalist Chris White, and guitarist Derek Van Gieson started writing
The group hit the ground running with two EPs and a residency at the Nomad World Pub. Their first full-length album, “Daydreaming,” dropped last Friday, and they’re hosting a party for its release at Icehouse on Tuesday.
The band toes the line between heartfelt soliloquy and absurdist grit, which sets them apart in the pantheon of punk-flecked surf-pop acts that have risen in the wave of Best Coast. This contrast takes center stage in their music video, “Girls Named Benji,” which features lo-fi images of Detroit shot on a Nikon camera from the ’90s.
“Just so you know, a lot of the nonsense comes from [Van Gieson],” Weinberg said of Murder Shoes’ absurdist tendencies. “With ‘Girls Named Benji,’ when we started as a band, [Van Gieson] would start doing these songwriting challenges to get us all writing. One of us would propose a title, and [we’d] all have to write a song to that title. … The original demo was [Van Gieson] singing it, and it was super Lou Reed-y [with an] off-tempo delivery.”
Other tracks weave serious and silly narratives with subversive finesse — the humanism they capture helps them avoid many of the genre’s clichÃ©s.
“We have songs that don’t take ourselves too seriously, like ‘Reefer and Pizza,’ ” Weinberg said. “I meow in the song for a whole section of it. On another song, we’re talking about sad breakups and moving on and how it feels when someone is walking away from you.”
Before joining Murder Shoes, music was a casual hobby for most of the members. While they kicked around with other groups on and off, none had careers destined for star power.
Weinberg’s chops, however, came from a humble background role with a fast-rising local songstress.
“I started backup singing years ago for Lizzo when I worked at Radio K and met her through that,” Weinberg said. “That’s how I got introduced to a lot of musicians.”
One such musician is drummer Elliot Manthey. Manthey adds an X-factor to the band that gives them an edge to balance out their sunny melodies.
“We had another drummer that we practiced with a handful of times,” White said. “We liked him — it was working. [But] he couldn’t be in the band anymore; he had to bail for his own personal reasons. All of a sudden, we didn’t have a drummer. I had heard [Elliot’s] last band had stopped playing.”
“And he just broke up with his girlfriend, which is a great time to poach a musician,” Weinberg added.
At first, Manthey was reluctant to join Murder Shoes because their style diverged from what he was used to playing. White took pride in admitting that he tricked Manthey into joining the band, though, by all accounts, Manthey eased into his beat-keeping role sooner rather than later.
“He came to the first practice — you could tell he was so not into it,” Weinberg said. “Elliot has an amazing quality to wear his emotions on his sleeve. I remember thinking,
‘This guy’s kind of a dick.’ Then, he started taking some artistic liberties and started liking how he was pushing and pulling the band. We were all really receptive to it.”
Initial success surprised Murder Shoes, even though they’ve overhauled their lifestyles to make their project work. Part of this attitude comes from their belief they’re not running with the big guns, even as their local profile rapidly rises.
“None of us have been part of the ‘cool-kids’ Minneapolis club,” Weinberg said. “We’ve played in bands, but nothing that has been as prolific and concentrated as what we’re doing now.”