Short, simple and to the point, ahem’s music believes in the idea that less is more. It’s DIY to the core — from the songwriting process to its screen printed t-shirts.
“The two-minute song is the sweet spot,” said Erik Anderson, who plays guitar and sings in the band. “With a song, you can work it to death if you want, but short and sweet is just kind of nice.”
From their first EP “Just Wanna Be,” released in 2016, ahem has consistently produced music that is gritty yet bright and authentic all the way through. In a way, it’s kind of what you would expect from a band named after a “quiet throat clear, not an aggressive one,” according to Anderson.
ahem’s “less is more” attitude gives them a unique perspective on music making. They don’t have a preconceived idea of the direction they want to head. They just love creating music for the sake of it.
“When we first became a band, it was just kind of like, ‘Oh my god, these cool songs are showing up, that's a gift so let's see where they go,’” Anderson said.
They booked shows anywhere they could at the beginning. Drummer Alyse Emanuel had even asked her cousin, a Macalester College radio DJ at the time, to help them book a basement show. Now, though, they sometimes have to turn people down.
“It’s hard to say no because it’s weird to not have to chase after the gigs,” Emanuel said. “But it’s also kind of nice.”
Since working on their debut album, “Try Again,” released on Nov. 1, ahem has seen their radio play go up, too.
“One of my students is like, ‘I keep hearing your band on the radio,’ and I was like, ‘Whoa, that is definitely going in the diary,’” said bassist Courtney Berndt, who’s also a high school teacher.
The band sees “Try Again” as an expansion of their sound.
“We gave every idea a chance because we had this deadline,” Berndt said. “I think sometimes when you have a lot of time it's like ‘Oh, let's cut this idea and wait for something else’ or, ‘Let's combine these two songs.’”
In the weeks leading up to the release, they were all more excited than nervous to put the project out into the world.
“I'm proud of it and it felt selfish to say that but I'm proud of it more than any other thing I’ve recorded,” Emanuel said. “It's so magical.”
The album has also helped redefine the meaning of being a songwriter for the members.
“For a long time, I didn't see myself as a musician,” Berndt said. “I just kind of thought of myself as more of a punk bassist, but since playing with ahem, I’ve thought more about how I can make my music have more feeling.”
That intention is certainly felt in their new music. It’s obvious that “Try Again” is a personal triumph for them.
“It's kind of cool to think that maybe [the record will be] in some bin at a record shop like 80 years from now, and some kid is starting their own band and they’re like ‘Oh shit, what's this?’” Anderson said. “It's nice to put something out in the world that's harder for people to erase. Like you've at least got to throw it away.”
But, like Berndt said, “Someone still might find it.”