Back in 2009, in the grimy shadows of a decrepit Minneapolis warehouse, Marijuana Deathsquads was born. Formed by Gayngs mastermind Ryan Olson and Isaac Gale, the experimental electro-noise band came up through off-the-record performances and almost-underground residencies that featured an amorphous cast of cool kids, including Doomtree's P.O.S., Poliça's Ben Ivascu, and Har Mar Superstar.
I remember many a splendid evening spent in Minneapolis' Loring Park alley as Marijuana Deathsquads loosed dark, animalistic beats into the night, Gale's voice arriving over some tortured alien frequency. And last year's Oh My Sexy Lord finally delivers that rabid attack in recorded form, extending two giant middle fingers to genre-boxing.
We dialed up Gale at his Minneapolis home ahead of Marijuana Deathsquads' Monday, March 17, RecordBar show.
The Pitch: Listening to Oh My Sexy Lord is like being on eight different types of prescription medications at once.
Gale: [Laughs.] Everything we do is written for a live set. We've written tons of material, and we took that into the studio. It took us almost two years to make that thing. We just recorded, like, six hours of stuff and then, over the long process of editing, sort of arrived at those so-called songs. But it's meant to sort of warp your mind or make you feel different when you're listening to it. It's meant to be sort of overwhelming and maximal.
The songwriting for Marijuana Deathsquads, I imagine, is a lot different from what a typical indie-rock band does.
Yeah, we don't go into writing traditionally. I don't show up with a guitar riff and say, "Hey, why don't we make this into a three-minute song." It's more like, we get together and make a bunch of weird, repetitive loops and beats, and then we bring it to a live show, where we have a bunch of players — whoever can sit in on that live show — sort of stacking layers on top of that. We arrive at the songs by sort of throwing everything at it and then editing certain things away. It's a very thought-out and controlled chaos, I guess.
Everyone in this band has a ton of different projects going on, and you're a full-time music-video and film director and producer. What does Marijuana Deathsquads do for you?
This project is sort of my ultimate dream band that I could play in. It's the most freeing music I've ever gotten to play. If I've been working on film and I haven't touched the band in a while, I find myself freaking out. There's something about the performance — I need to do it.
Ryan and I worked at a place together, and we just sort of worked at this job that was kind of boring. And we needed a band that we could do, a project, that didn't cost money or need a practice space, something where we didn't need amps or guitars or anything and we could just show up and go live. We wanted something that freed us up from the structure of a band. Our previous thing was a hardcore band called Building Better Bombs, and it was sort of like, certain rules come with being in a band like that.
I never really imagined Marijuana Deathsquads as a touring band. Part of the beauty of your performances — at least the ones I saw — was that they weren't planned out.
It's a whole new thing for the band. Now that we have a record out, we want to play some of those things on the record — we want to do those live, so that people can buy the record, you know? [Laughs.] In a lot of ways, taking this band on tour has been one of the weirdest things we've ever done — in a band where all we try to do are the weirdest things possible.
We just did two months in Europe with Poliça. They have a huge audience. We're playing these huge rooms, and no one knows us. We're onstage at 8 p.m. under the lights, not on the floor in some dingy warehouse or whatever. Definitely one of the weirdest things we've ever done is play the same sets every night, on a stage, in front of a lot of people who aren't expecting it early in the night.
But also, part of the band has to be this dangerous element, where we don't exactly know what's going to come out next when we switch to the next part. So now we've started mixing in parts we know, things from Oh My Sexy Lord, with other things in our live shows. It's sort of cool because now, after a show, we'll shake hands and give each other notes on what we thought went down and what we can do next. It's a really fun project to be a part of like that, where we are constantly like, "When we do this song again tonight, let's make this part stretch out longer because this part rules."