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MP3 The Alarmists - A Detail of Soldiers

A blend of 60s pop sensibility with modern rock, driven by jangly guitars and piano.

6 MP3 Songs
ROCK: Modern Rock, ROCK: Classic Rock

The Alarmists make music for the bored and weary masses, for those sick of the hum-drum repetition of mainstream rock and pop. Though their songwriting pays homage to some of their biggest influences- including The Beatles, Bowie, Radiohead, and Wilco, they have managed to craft a sound that is incredibly fresh, at times so familiar it is impossible not to sing along, while at other times bending the concept of pop music to include dramatic chord changes and unexpected tempo and rhythmic changes.

The band has quickly gained a fan following and garnered positive attention from several members of the [Minneapolis] media - this is a band on the rise. The debut album "A Detail of Soldiers", was recorded in The Alarmists own studio, Instrument Control, with the production help of Adam Krinsky.

The Alarmists becoming local favorites

Star Tribune, Minneapolis, September 15th, 2006

In their busiest month ever, Brit-pop-loving suburban kids the Alarmists are fast becoming big stars of the local scene. Which is all they''re asking for.
Chris Riemenschneider, Star Tribune

Like synchronized rock stars, the members of the Alarmists light up cigarettes all at once while hanging out along the riverfront in downtown Minneapolis. When the smoke clears, their attention turns to what else is dangling below frontman Eric Lovold''s nose.
"I think you sing better with a moustache," guitarist Ryan McMillan jokes.

There''s jealousy behind McMillan''s barb, though: The blond mop-topped guitarist can''t yet grow so much as a decent pencil-stache. He has watched from the sidelines as three of the other four Alarmists simultaneously grew new facial hair over the past month.

"I hope I''m still rock ''n'' roll enough," McMillan quips.

All in their early 20s, the Alarmists still have a little growing to do, but they have had no trouble proving their rock cred. Since the June release of their six-song debut CD, "A Detail of Soldiers," they''ve quickly become a popular headliner in local clubs and a favorite on the Current (89.3 FM).

September has turned out to be their busiest month yet. They played at the Wild River Festival and 7th Street Entry last weekend, are at the Bryant-Lake Bowl Block Party this Saturday and then have a slot during the Summit Big Brew bash Sept. 30.

Probably the most unusual thing about them -- as far as local indie-rock bands of late go -- is the fact that their sound is not all that unusual.

Theirs is a pretty classic, tried-and-true Brit-pop sound. A little Beatles. A little Oasis. Some early Radiohead. Some psychedelic-era Stones. Lovold''s voice especially recalls Richard Ashcroft of the Verve.

Much like their sound, the band members are accessible, friendly and extremely familiar in person. The edgiest thing about the guys may be that fledgling facial hair.

Tellingly, the "sounds like" entry on the Alarmists'' MySpace page reads, "A band to bring home to mom." That''s not really a joke.

"We''ve had several friends say to us, ''My mom really loves your CD,'' " Lovold said. "That''s sort of cool ... I think."

At a modest 26 minutes, "A Detail of Soldiers" is bursting with sharp hooks and cocky energy. Sure, most CDs offer more than six tracks, but not many bands can boast that their debut album doesn''t have a single dullard on it.

The stage is where the Alarmists shine brightest. At the Entry last weekend, they played almost nonstop and acted as if they were headlining the main room, starting with the rousing show opener "Good Advice" and including several new songs good enough to have made the CD.

The climax of the set was "Soldados," the first track on "A Detail of Soldiers," which kicks off with a wicked guitar riff and marching rhythm and builds into whirring chaos.

It was no accident that a 40-something guy in the crowded room asked between songs, "Where are these guys from?" They could easily have been mistaken for some fine-tuned touring band.

"They are very particular about the sound they are after," said Joe Holland, booker at Big V''s in St. Paul. "I''ve done live sound for them a bunch of times, and Eric always brings his own SM57 for a microphone, which is a pretty old-school and uncommon choice. Singers were more commonly using those mics in the ''70s, but for some reason it works perfectly for his voice."

One of the music scene''s best-known Brit-pop music lovers, Ed Ackerson of Polara, noticed the Alarmists'' earnestness and attention to detail when he had them in his Flowers studio.

"I''ve known Eric and [keyboardist] Joe Kuefler since they were 18, and they''ve always been very focused," Ackerson said. "When I talk to them they remind me a lot of what I was like when I was in college, always sharpening their skills, wanting to get really good at all aspects of the rock thing. The band -- and Eric Lovold in particular -- has an interest in the process of putting music together, including arrangement and production."

Attention to ''Detail''

Lovold, Kuefler and McMillan grew up together in White Bear Lake and simultaneously started messing around with bands in high school. McMillan claims he was kicked out of several lineups by the other two.

"But that was when I was still trying to play drums," he said.

They got serious and formed the Alarmists in the fall of 2004 with drummer Ryan Mach, who grew up in the southern ''burbs but "had pretty much the same existence as theirs," he said, with a drollness that screamed, "Next question."

The odd Alarmist out is bassist Tony Najm, who moved to the Twin Cities from Lebanon to study mechanical engineering at the University of Minnesota. He got the degree, but he also got a job with the Alarmists in May as they prepared for their CD-release show.

"I couldn''t pass up the chance to do what I love most," said Najm, who helped bring his mom to the Twin Cities during the outburst of bombings in Lebanon over the summer. ("Things are settling down now, thankfully," he said.)

Coming into the group late, Najm said he, like Ackerson, immediately saw the focus in the band.

"They were working really, really hard, trying to get everything right," he said. "You can hear it when you listen to the CD. There''s a perfection on it that you don''t get with most other bands'' CDs."

A detail that will surprise any audiophile, "A Detail of Soldiers" was actually recorded in the Alarmists'' concrete-surrounded warehouse rehearsal space in St. Paul. It plainly lacked in refined acoustics and hi-fi equipment, but the space provided that all-too essential element of freedom. Instead of watching a studio clock, they were able to experiment.

"We''d spend hours trying to figure out a certain guitar part or keyboard part, and sometimes we wouldn''t even nail it down by the end of the day," Luefler said.

The band mulled around 25 different songs while recording, most of which were whittled out of the equation as the Alarmists narrowed down their sound.

"We figured out who we were becoming as a band while we were recording," Mach said.

Said Lovold, who writes all the lyrics, "We definitely wouldn''t rule out working with producers, but I think in this case, it was essential we did this all on our own."

It''s that sort of attention to game-planning that might really set the Alarmists apart.

For instance, the band spent about a year playing gigs in whatever venue would have them before it even thought about recording. Now, the guys are taking the slowly blossoming money from gigs and CD sales and reinvesting it in building a home studio for their next album. They even have a title for the new CD, "The Ghost and the Hired Gun," without having recorded a lick of it.

What''s more, the Alarmists have no intention of touring anytime soon.

"I don''t think we''re ready yet," Lovold said firmly.

Obviously envious of the recent success of fellow Twin Cities buzz band Tapes ''N Tapes, the Alarmists hope to follow its path in every way, except one: They want everyone in their hometown to know who they are before folks abroad start raving about them (which, they admit, they can only dream of).

"The next few months, I think, are going to be especially important to us," Lovold said.

Among the highlights: a nomination for best new band at the Oct. 1 Minnesota Music Awards; a pretty-much-guaranteed spot on City Pages'' upcoming Picked to Click poll, plus the Summit bash, also featuring Tapes ''N Tapes, Soul Asylum and the Suburbs.

Instead of queries about where they came from, the Alarmists can hope to hear more questions like the one hollered at them in the Entry last weekend.

A good portion of the crowd knew the songs almost word for word, but one fan recognized there was something different since the last time he''d seen the band perform.

"What''s with the moustaches?!" the guy asked.

Lovold smiled as if it were a compliment.

Chris Riemenschneider



The Alarmists
A Detail of Soldiers

Two thumbs and several enthusiastic toes up for the Alarmists'' debut, perhaps the best local release of the year thus far. It''s only a six-song EP, but there''s not a single filler track or wasted moment to be found. And as if that''s not reason enough to fall hard and fast, the young band recorded the pristine disc themselves. Rather than executing a hasty smash-and-grab job on any one influence, the quartet has compiled all the best bits from the last 10 years of thinking-man''s pop. The ghostly vocals that creep up on "Soldados" recall Radiohead just minutes before the paranoid android invasion. "Some Things Never Stop" throws choppy guitar strums over a simple piano plunk à la Spoon. And "Coming to Meet Me" is pure Wilco with slide guitar guiding the bittersweet refrain: "And she''s coming to meet me/We got nothing to say/I try to keep it familiar/Like a lot''s the same." My favorite track (as of this particular moment) is the driving "Good Advice," the chorus of which gets ushered in by a burble of synths that appears out of nowhere, and escorted out with a line of the most infectious oohs I''ve heard since Snow Patrol''s "Spitting Games" took over my head two years ago. The keyboard-reliant "New Romans" and anthemic closer "She Will Love Again (Hey Kid)" round it out. There you go. Six tracks, all brilliant. Now if you''ll excuse me, I have to put an end to this review, as I''m starting to feel like a publicist.

- Lindsey Thomas, City Pages Minneapolis

Alarmists join ranks of local baby bands rarin'' to take their first steps


Pioneer Press St Paul

The Alarmists are the latest in a recent string of new local rock groups to emerge fully formed and ready to adore — seemingly out of nowhere.

Indeed, they''ve followed what appears to be this year''s trend for Twin Cities baby bands: Play some key opening slots, release a killer EP and then land semi-regular rotation on the Current.

It remains to be seen what next buzz-building step these bands will take, but Friday''s show at the Varsity already feels like the kind of night people will be talking about for months, particularly when City Pages'' Picked to Click ballots go out this fall (and all the local tastemakers vote on the year''s best new acts).

Friday''s gig is a CD-release show for the Alarmists'' terrific six-song debut, "A Detail of Soldiers." The four-piece will be joined by two other fresh young bands that also happen to have excellent EPs available, White Light Riot and Low Lustre.

All three acts play good, old-fashioned alternative rock — in the best sense of that term. They would easily have fit in 15 years ago when a new wave of bands was making its own sense out of a decade''s worth of influences, from U2 and R.E.M. to the Replacements and the Smiths. Think big, likable and confident songs with fat hooks and no messing around.

Really, the Current isn''t just playing the local card whenever it spins one of these groups. It''s pretty clear these bands deserve airplay regardless of their ZIP code.

With the ever-growing list of homegrown acts with high-profile albums out or on the way — from Tapes ''N Tapes to Quietdrive to Jordis Unga — A&R types are already sniffing around town. And bands like the Alarmists, White Light Riot and Low Lustre smell quite fragrant.

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