MAHS grad finds success with Minneapolis indie band
MORRIS – Two years ago, Craiglist helped a 2007 Morris Area High School graduate join a band that has just started earning accolades in the Twin Cities area and, last weekend, released its first album.
Sean Schultz got his start in music in Morris, playing at the Stevens County Fair and school variety shows with his younger brother, Kyle. After graduation, Schultz moved to the Twin Cities to study at the University of Minnesota where he earned a degree in communications. But while he was there, Schultz said he became interested in studying music.
“I’d always been a guitar player – my brother played drums, I played guitar – but in music school I had to go through a piano course so that’s why I started playing piano,” said Schultz.
Picking up the piano helped Schultz connect with Black Diet, where he plays keyboard.
The band came together through a series of ads on Craigslist. The lead singer, Jonathan Tolliver, found guitar player Mitch Sigurdson, after advertising on the site. Sigurdson, in turn, found Schultz and vocalist Margaret "Mugsy" Keller. The drummer, David Tullis, is Keller’s roommate, but he connected with the band online too.
“Two summers ago I had come back from a trip in Europe and I’d been playing guitar and keyboard,” said Schultz. “I wanted to join another band … so I looked for a band that wanted a keyboardist. … I came in, auditioned in a church, and surprisingly they liked me enough.”
“I think the only person we found in the ‘real world’ was the bassist [Garrison Grouse], who was doing sound or DJing and we found him that way,” said Schultz.
To help build chemistry and find their sound – a mix of MoTown and rock and roll – members of the group spend a lot of time together. As a small operation, band members do most of their own management, everything from setting up bookings to making music videos.
“We’re a pretty busy band in comparison to most people – we’re practicing twice a week and gigging a lot, almost a show a week,” said Schultz. “That’s where it really comes together.”
The band started to get more attention after winning two contests in the Twin Cities area, Best New Band from First Avenue and Radio K and Are You Local? from Vita.mn.
“Those two things really gave us a bunch of press and recognition and people started to pay attention,” said Schultz.
Black Diet released their first album, Find Your Tambourine, last Saturday, April 19 as part of a bigger celebration of Record Store Day, an event designed to celebrate the culture of independently owned record stores.
Hymie's Vintage Records, a small store in Minneapolis, offered to host the release party and have been consistently supportive of the band, said Schultz.
Black Diet recorded the 10 song album three different times, but ended up throwing out the digital recordings in favor of recording on a tape. This means they couldn’t digitally splice tracks together to come up with an entirely polished final version.
“It was a great experience doing it all on tape that way,” said Schultz. “It’s a really fun album. All the songs are pretty upbeat, it’s pretty dancy, it’s really warm. Part of recording on tape is if you make a mistake it’s kind of permanent. Those little imperfections that really make the album great – it’s not glossy pop.”
Now that the album is out, the band hopes to spend the summer touring and playing at street festivals in the Twin Cities area – Bastille Day, Art-A-Whirl and Pridefest, among others.
“It’s all new for us – before, we were just a dive bar band, playing these small clubs around Minneapolis,” said Schultz. “All of a sudden we took off locally. It feels like the skies the limit, we just don’t know how to go about it quite yet.”
For more information about the band visit www.facebook.com/blackdietband.