By Juleana Enright
I catch up with the Lookbook patriarch of beats, Grant Cutler, in the subterranean parlor of the 7th St. Entry. It's a Thursday night and the band is on the Tapes N' Tapes "Tour of the Twin Cities" roster, alongside electronic rockers, Mystery Palace and the headliners themselves. With shoulder-length locks, warm and sultry eyes and a plaid button-up tucked into slim blue jeans, he could resemble a famous 70's porn star - who shall remain nameless - but in reality he's somewhat reticent, with a shy charm and an instant familiarity. It's like chatting with an old friend.
Although the night was promised to be an electronic, experimental affair, the crowd was relatively stagnant, very unlike most Lookbook shows where the dance pit is saturated with shoulder shimmies, dramatic head bobs and Flashdance-style moves. Creating electronic rhythm comes organically to the band, but believe it or not, Cutler doesn't listen to much electronic music.
"People will probably be disappointed to hear it, but I listen to a lot of Bonnie 'Prince' Billy. That's what's on when I'm at home making food. And Glen Campbell...I mostly listen to folk and country."
As the list continues, a few other eclectic artists come into the mix.
"I'm really into Washed Out," a bedroom synth-pop project with blurry vocals and a chill wave vibe.
And the Ed Bangers records, Justice, in particular.
"That one Justice album was amazing. The production, the vocals. It was so new, no one was doing that."
When asked about the pairing with local one-man-calypso project, Shahs, at their anticipated release show, Cutler explains they had the honor of basically planning out the entire night, line-up included.
"Zoo Animal is a record I listen to quite a lot. I've known Holly (Hansen) for a while. She's awesome. They're one of the best bands in town. And Shahs I love. DJ Skullbuster is my roommate. He hasn't done much DJing but I'm trying to get him out there because he's really good.
On the much gossiped about new music video for the single "Over and Over" from local director and Lookbook pal, Bo Hakala. Cutler says, "It's super sexual, not like stripper sexual, but it definitely has its cum shot moments. Maggie's drenched in water for most of it."
To my left a similar discussion regarding the new video transpires between Lookbook vocalist, Maggie Morrison, and members of Tapes N' Tapes. I hear someone throw D'Angelo around as a descriptor. I look back over at Cutler -
"I might have to be out of the room while it shows."
Makes sense. The two have a bit of a sibling vibe going on. They had casually know each other through previous bands, including Morrison's work with local electro glam-ers, Digitata. They had joked about starting a band called Tina Turn-On with Morrison's friend, but instead the two of them scrapped the name and the "funny" songs and began working out a slow, ambient sound that would evolve into the danceable, electro-focused, songs fans associate with the band today.
"We actually didn't have a name for 6 months. "Believe the Hype" was the first song we kept. It's ancient."
To the local music community, Lookbook's sound is anything but ancient. In fact, with the music scene catching synth-fever lately, it sounds very current. I was curious to hear where Cutler stood on being lumped into this 80's redux trend.
"It was just the music we were making at the time. We didn't want it to be like an 80's revival, but there is something comfortable about it. It's familiar. It's like (the music to) a prom I never went to...It's like the prom my older sister had. Maggie legitimizes the lyrics. She puts a serious spin on my synthesized tracks."
From catchy anthems to emotive and haunting tone poems, Morrison's lyrics are every bit "legit," and a perfect combination of fun club music and music you'd listen to alone on a rainy day. In either atmosphere, you're getting something out of the music; it's an experience.
As I start to digress into a quip, complete with broad gestures, Cutler stops me.
"Do you mind if we move just an inch or two? There's a pipe above you and I keep worrying you'll smack your head on it."
It's quite possibly this characteristic in Cutler - his attentiveness - that makes the album's compositions flow so perfectly. And it's the empathy and humanism both members exude that draws in adoring fans. All too often the bands under the 80's redux umbrella get by on a level of detached irony and the connection between artist and audience is lost in a sea of hyped persona. It's the antithesis of this attitude fans cleave to. Lookbook isn't obsessed with merely a stage presence, but is a band that invites you to get lost in the music with them. In this city, a band like that doesn't stay a secret for long.