Minor Plains: Math rock makes you smarter

by Rodney Lotter

Upon first listen of Minor Plains’ newest single “Cougar Mountain,” my initial impression was they were doing a freneetic interpretation of Pantera. It has those chunky, hooky riffs that make me want to pump my fist, shotgun a beer and then throw it at the wall, but it still has this mathy aspect to it that keeps it interesting and just the right amount of unpredictability. On the band’s bandcamp page they state “math rock makes you smarter,” and if that’s the case, their brand of math rock seems much more accessible to the mainstream than the usually heavy-jazz influence of other math-rockers.

“Cougar Mountain” is the first single released from the Bellingham band’s first full-length album Tortuga, set to be released on Nov. 11 via their Bandcamp page (minorplains.bandcamp.com.) Minor Plains, which consists of Nate Goldizen on drums, Raleigh Davis on guitar and Lucas Phillips on bass, has been kicking around town for almost two years now, playing shows and making fans along the way.

All of the members are Bellingham transplants (such is the story of a college town,) and when they first started the band, they were not sure how they would be received, they said.

“We didn’t really know if there were any other bands trying to do anything similar to what we were playing or if it’s even anything that people were interested in listening to. But almost right off the bat we felt welcomed and appreciated,” Davis said. ”I think it speaks for the diversity of the Bellingham music scene that stuff like that is possible because it means that the people going out and supporting the music are willing to have open minds and enjoy music of all different varieties for just being awesome.”

One of the things the band has enjoyed the most about the Bellingham scene is playing shows with mixed bills. One night, they’ll be sharing a bill with a folky acoustic band and some other night they’ll be sharing a bill with a thrashy metal band. This dynamic fits the band well since they meld so many different genres and influences into their sound, Davis said.

“We make a point to never box ourselves into a nutshell answer of what [we] should sound like, we play what sounds good to us and that is ever evolving,” Davis said. “I think that’s where the complicated song structures stem from. All of us kind of use Minor Plains as a tool to help further us as musicians”

Other than playing with each other, furthering their musical chops and being friends, the other thing that really revs Minor Plains’ engine is playing live and witnessing people in the crowd actually getting into their music, Phillips and Davis said.

“Sometimes people kind of sit and gape at us but more and more people have been bobbing their heads and moving around,” Davis said. “We like to go crazy no matter the crowd but it brings it to a whole new level when you have the energy of other people to feed off of.”

Well, the other thing the band enjoys is practicing without pants on (which is apparently a tradition for the band).

All funny business aside, the main goal with their album is to push themselves even more and expand the boundaries of their musicianship. The album was recorded at Interlace Audio in Portland, OR, with engineer/producer Stephen Hawkes (who has worked with Portland shredders Gaytheist and stoner gods Red Fang).

“It was probably about the most fulfilling thing any of us have ever done. Hearing the songs tracked, sounding exactly how we play them live and with the same energy was all that we could have hoped for,” Davis said. “It makes us excited for the future.”

As for the future, the boys prefer to keep it modest. Their first goal as a band was to open for Dog Shredder (now Wild Throne) and they achieved that fairly quickly. With their album recorded, they eyeing the road for a tour, and after that, they’ll wait and see what happens.

“We like to keep what we’re working towards next within arm’s reach but we definitely like to sit around after a show and dream big,” Davis said. “We are playing music because it’s what we love to do and we are happy to have whatever success stems from that.”

For more about Minor Plains, see minorplains.bandcamp.com.

Published in the November 2014 issue of What’s Up! Magazine