Gabriel Douglas has built his reputation on the churning, heavy-thumping blues rock of the 4onthefloor, whose sound is defined as much by his wild man warrior-bellow vocals as it is by the steady pulse of the four members’ synchronous bass-drum thuds—but a delve into the corners of his catalog reveals an artist with a startling breadth of interests.
The man keeps busy, holding down gigs in several stylistically distinct groups while regularly performing and recording solo. Below is a concise guide to help you get a handle on Gabe’s many moods and many bands. You can use this guide to bone up before the May 26 release of the 4onthefloor’s new album, All In, or to hunt down some deep cuts to request at their upcoming headlining show at First Avenue on May 22 with American Aquarium and Dan Mariska.
The 4onthefloor are a band with a deliberate set of limitations. Each of the four members plays a bass drum in addition to handling pieces of the standard rock and roll instrumental palette. Each song is built around a four-on-the-floor bass drum rhythm, in 4/4 time. Douglas describes their blend of styles as “stompin’ blues, roots rock.” The group has its roots in vacant bedroom jam sessions between Douglas and the group’s eventual guitarist.
“(B)efore the first show we got a rhythm section,” Douglas says, “and we decided that everybody was gonna play bass drums.” They got their rock-and-roll perpetual-motion-machine sound started on their first album, 4×4, in 2011, and followed it up with a second, Spirit of Minnesota, in 2013. In between they’ve put out EPs and 7’’s, including 2011’s awesomely titled …And 4 Riders Approached at Dawn, and Lion & Lamb, a split with Roster McCabe. They’ve toured with everyone from Sugarland to Steve Martin to Murder By Death. Their third album, All In, is out later this month; album track “All My Friends” is The Current’s Song of the Day today.
Silverback Colony represents “the twangy side of Gabriel Douglas,” and a bit more than that. They’re an alt-country collective who began with a series of impromptu Monday night shows at Carmody’s Irish Pub in Duluth, at which Douglas was joined by a rotating cast of “regular ruffians.” Their debut album, Sounds Like Silverback Colony: A North Country Soundtrack, was released last year. The album displays their rapid growth from beginnings as “almost a Limbeck cover band,” in Douglas’s words. Its sprawling sound contrasts markedly with the pounding aesthetic of the 4onthefloor, ranging from emotive rock and roll to melancholy lakeside guitar jams to a track mixing found sounds and high school football locker room-type chanting.
Douglas frequently records and gigs on his own, mixing in covers from artists as diverse as Ryan Adams, Brand New, Cloud Cult, and his favorite band Third Eye Blind. Before the 4onthefloor released 4×4, he put out an album of acoustic indie folk, A December in the 21st Century, under his own name; that album may receive a follow-up soon. “I’ve been doing a lot of solo electric lately, and I cut a record doing that, so hopefully that’ll come out later this year,” Douglas said. He also contributed a song to the Farewell Transmission Jason Molina tribute album in 2013, and he records a “kids’ record” every year, the Songs for Lillian series, for his niece.
The experimental side of Gabriel Douglas. This collective centers on the collaboration of Douglas and, on keys, Alex Steele (from Roster McCabe and Night Phoenix). Their sound is “very downtempo, and just really really groovy, just very in-the-groove music. It’s a very fluid, very slow jam situation,” says Douglas. Their average songs float out to the seven- or eight-minute mark and beyond, and they’re working on their first recording.