(From left, Mike Helland (bass), Andrew Helland (drums), Brandon Phrommany (guitar/vocals)
By Austin Kaus
For the three 21-year-olds that make up Tenenbaums, dreams are important. The Sioux Falls natives process their own subconscious adventures through ethereal indie pop songs on their debut full-length Favorite Dreams. Bassist Mike Helland spoke with Austin Kaus about the band’s continued growth and why skipping school to see a Twins game can be downright inspirational.
Tell me about how Tenenbaums came to be.
MH: Andrew and Brandon both go to University of South Dakota. They were both working through the radio program and they found out they had the same interest in music and that they both played music. It started with a jam session and the rest is history. (laughs) We just really clicked, so we wanted to keep doing it.
What kind of musical influences brought them together?
MH: It’s weird. Some of the music we just really like. We don’t necessarily write the same type of music as that. Some of the influences would be Foxygen, alt-J and STRFKR.
You spelled it out instead of pronouncing it. That’s very polite of you.
MH: Yeah, well…yeah. (laughs)
Are you in school?
MH: I’m studying music production in Mankato.
How are you a Sioux Falls band?
MH: We all live in Sioux Falls in the summer and we all grew up there.
What year did you start?
MH: Summer of 2014. We’ve been a band about eight months.
How has it been?
MH: It’s been incredible. I did not expect as much success as we’ve had. We got offered shows right away which got us more shows and got us in line with our producer. We were able to record an EP. Over Christmas time, we were able to record our full-length.
What are your goals with this new record?
MH: Brandon writes a lot of songs and he’s always throwing us demos. We wanted to have this material to put out there for people to hear. We just couldn’t see ourselves not doing it. I think a lot of people put out EPs and singles, but writing and recording a full-length is a whole different beast. We really wanted to take that challenge. We’ve been in different bands, but this was the first full-length album we’ve ever worked on.
You’ve talked about how dreams have been a big influence on your band. Tell me about that.
MH: Our album is called Favorite Dreams, which is one of the lyrics in “Buffalo Grass.” We’ve taken a lot of influence from dreams. One of our songs “45 Minutes” is all about a crazy dream that Brandon had. Some of our lyrics are sort of surreal. Our whole album is 45 minutes on the dot. We really wanted to make this album sort of a dream-like experience. Forty-five minutes is the time period of the REM cycle where your most crazy dreams happen. We really wanted to push that theme through the album.
What’s one of the best dreams you’ve had lately?
MH: Oh, man. Playing in front of a thousand people and having them all scream our names and dance. (laughs)
Nothing weird popped up in that dream? No flying cheeseburgers or anything?
MH: I mean, as much weird stuff as anyone else’s weird dreams, I guess.
How would you react if I said that your music is kind of what I wanted the last few Interpol albums to sound like instead of how they actually sounded?
MH: That’s interesting. We like Interpol. We like their type of mentality, I guess some of their earlier stuff. Their last type of stuff I didn’t necessarily like either.
What’s the future for Tenenbaums?
MH: We’ve been in contact with a lot of different people. We just want to get our music out there, so we’re trying to play as many shows as possible around the Midwest. This summer, we just plan on playing a lot, writing a lot and just putting all of our efforts toward the band.
Tell me about the cover of the album.
MH: That is actually my dad from 1979 at the Metrodome in Minneapolis. There’s this huge poster of that hanging in our garage. The story was that he snuck out of school to go up to see a Twins game when he was in high school. They found some beer in the back of his dad’s trunk and they took these photos. I guess they didn’t drink the beers. It was more of a photo shoot type of thing. My grandma found the film and freaked out and thought she gave birth to a delinquent. It’s kind of just a funny joke. We think it’s an awesome cover. It kind of goes along with the Favorite Dreams theme with like daydreaming. What’s better than skipping class and going to a Twins game? (laughs)
Seems like it’s a pretty exciting time.
MH: It’s just been awesome. We’ve already been writing songs for the next album. It’s been great. We don’t plan on slowing down. We plan on turning it up.
With the dream-based nature of your music, do you have fans coming up and telling you about their dreams?
MH: A lot of people have told us their interpretations of the songs and we really like hearing that. When we write songs, we do have specific themes and stories, but I really like hearing other people’s interpretations. It’s just been awesome talking with our fans and hearing what they have to say. That sort of inspires us because when we play, we’re having the most fun ever. We want to really make it an awesome experience for our fans too. That’s why we put a lot of energy and time and commitment towards playing shows.
Is Adeline a real person?
MH: Adeline is not a real person. Adeline is actually about Adderall. Brandon (Phrommany, guitarist/vocalist) has ADHD and so it’s a love/hate relationship song about how he has to take Adderall and how he kind of personified that drug into a person. I think it’s one of my favorite songs lyrically because it holds a lot of weight for Brandon. I just really think he did a good job writing that one.
Well, I really dig the album. I’ll just rely on you guys instead of Interpol for consistency at this point.
MH: (Laughs) Awesome. We love it.