Interview by Paul Salfen
Vocalist/guitarist Dave Pirner will be the first one to admit that recording a Soul Asylum album can sometimes be very stressful, simply because he cares so deeply about every aspect of his songs and how the record unfolds. However, the frontman reports that making the band’s twelfth studio full-length, Hurry Up and Wait, was a completely seamless, enjoyable and productive experience.
This ease is evident in the music, which reflects Soul Asylum’s usual eclectic approach: thrashing songs indebted to punk (“Hopped Up Feelin'”) and classic rock (“Got It Pretty Good”), folk-influenced pop-rock (“Silly Things”), and gorgeous jangle-pop (“If I Told You”). “It was just total freedom,” Pirner says. “There was nothing, pressure-wise, that was making it less of a smooth creative process—if there is such a thing.”
It helped that Soul Asylum—which also includes drummer Michael Bland, lead guitarist Ryan Smith and bassist Winston Roye—recorded Hurry Up and Wait with a long-time studio collaborator: co-producer John Fields, who also worked on the band’s previous three albums, including their most recent effort, 2016’s Change of Fortune.
The group also decamped to a familiar spot: Nicollet Studios, the same place Soul Asylum recorded seminal early albums released on Twin/Tone Records, such as the 1986 LP While You Were Out. Recording at Nicollet again was “extremely comfortable” says Pirner, who moved back to Minneapolis in recent years after a long stint living in New Orleans.
“I don’t think I could be more comfortable in a studio than at that place, except for my house,” he says. “There’s an amazing sense of familiarity. Every store in the neighborhood has changed just about, but it’s still the same place—it’s a very familiar place. It definitely evokes [a feeling of], ‘Shit, I’m back at my old place of work. Oh my God—how much time passed again?'”
Hurry Up and Wait, which was mastered by Grammy Award-winning mastering engineer Emily Lazar, certainly echoes of all eras of (and influences on) Soul Asylum’s work. “Make Her Laugh” is a laid-back, Stones-inspired jam; “Freezer Burn” marries hardcore energy to supercharged melodic punk riffing; and “Here We Go” is a pristine, lovelorn song with a deeply sentimental core. Lead single “If I Told You,” meanwhile, is classic Soul Asylum: Chiming riffs, an evocative guitar solo, and wistful Pirner vocals and lyrics (“If I told you I love you, would you hold it against me?”) unite to create a vibe that’s melancholy but lovely.
However, Hurry Up and Wait also boasts some subtle sonic evolutions. The acoustic-heavy, country-leaning lead single “Dead Letter” boasts an especially mournful vibe, and the smoky guitars of “Social Butterfly” have the dreamy aesthetic of ’80s indie-pop acts such as the Smiths.
“I did sort of put my guard down,” Pirner says. “And I was like, ‘Well, this time, I’m going to just go with whatever seems to be working, and I don’t really care what kind of music people want to call it.’ It’s a little raw
and forthcoming in the way that I didn’t second guess it. There’s a lot of just letting it come out as opposed to trying to force something.”