Gayngs: Let's go to the prom!

CHRIS RIEMENSCHNEIDER; PHOTOS BY CARLOS GONZALEZ , [email protected] | Updated 8/17/2012

The short, hazy oral history of Gayngs - the Midwest's best 23-member, 69-bpm all-star band on its big night out.


Here's how Ryan Olson describes talking to his 22 bandmates in Gayngs over the past few months: "Remember that night you came up to my bedroom, and we got stoned and did some recording?"

They certainly will remember it now. From that hazy inception to what could be an even stranger pair of prom-themed CD-release shows Friday night at First Avenue, Gayngs has become the Midwest indie-rock equivalent of a Robert Altman movie. It has an interwoven all-star cast, improvised and experimental performances and a stylized concept that you either get, or you don't. Oh, and some of the participants were under the influence of something.

As the producer/ringleader, Olson crafted much of the album in his third-story bedroom in northeast Minneapolis. The Eau Claire, Wis., native, 33, recruited old hometown pals along with Twin Cities cohorts, whose names read like Midwest indie-rock royalty. The music is unlike anything any of them had ever done before: ethereal, silk-pillow-soft, '70s/'80s-style soft-rock and smooth-R&B, all set to the same rhythmic time of 69 beats per minute -- slow-jam tempo, baby.

The truly seductive and surprisingly rich results can be heard on Gayngs' 11-song album, "Relayted." Released nationally on Tuesday, the disc is the focus of Friday's two parties, "The Last Prom on Earth." Here's the semi-fantastical story of how this otherwise informal music affair came to be.

THE CAST

  • Ryan Olson (Digitata, Mel Gibson & the Pants, Building Better Bombs)
  • Adam Hurlburt, Zach Coulter and Shon Troth (Solid Gold)
  • Justin Vernon and Mike Noyce (Bon Iver)
  • Brad Cook, Phil Cook and Joe Westerlund (Megafaun)
  • Michael Lewis (Andrew Bird, Happy Apple)
  • James Buckley (James Buckley Trio, Mystery Palace)
  • Stefon Alexander (aka P.O.S.)
  • Maggie Wander (aka Dessa)
  • Maggie Morrison and Grant Cutler (Lookbook)
  • Ivan Howard (Rosebuds)
  • Jake Luck and Nick Ryan (Leisure Birds)
  • Channy Moon Casselle (Roma di Luna)
  • Joe Mabbott (producer)
  • Katy Morley (Olson's friend)
  • Danny Kryzkowski ("a guy I work with who was always narcing on me to get me fired," Olson said)
  • Xander (?)

THE IMPETUS

Olson says the primary inspiration was the sparkly, grandiose 1975 soft-rock hit "I'm Not in Love" by 10cc, which he heard on his alarm clock via cheeseball station Love 105.

Ryan Olson: "I had a definite, violent sense of, 'I love this song!' I was just entranced. That made me start paying attention more to that station and that kind of zone. And then I started jamming with Adam and Zach.

"We started last February, using the 69-beats-per-minute thing as a foundation. It seemed kind of funny -- 69, you know -- but it also felt right. It seemed like something we could work with."

Zach Coulter: "We were just sort of joking around at first. Then one night I went over to Ryan's and we started writing, and it quickly became kind of serious. Slowly, we wrote a batch of songs, and after that people started slowly hopping onto them."

Olson: "A lot of the basic tracks were done over a three-month period. Maggie [Morrison] was living here then, so she threw down some vocals in that time. And as soon as I had like six songs, I had Mike Lewis come over to do his sax thing because I knew that was crucial, like a beacon."