Local Current Blog

You Need To Know: Lutheran Heat, Piñata Records’s new garage pop delight

Sara Pette, Garth Blomberg, Matt Engelstad, and Justin Nelles (l-r). Courtesy Lutheran Heat.

Lutheran Heat, four Minneapolis-based musicians making summery garage pop, are a ton of fun. The band split their time between making music (see: their first LP, Louder From The Other Side, out today), day jobs (from dog-walking to graphic design), and hanging out in hometown favorite bars. Whatever they’re up to, they’re probably joking around — guitarist/vocalist Garth Blomberg remembered, “I was talking to my girlfriend Michelle about the last time I laughed so hard I couldn’t quit, and it was because of these guys.” The lightheartedness carries into their music.

The band’s Facebook bio introduces the line-up as “Garth Blomberg (guitar/vocals/beard related duties), Sara Pette (guitar/vocals/treasurer/band dad), Matt Engelstad (bass guitar/vocals/nonsense), and Justin Nelles (drums/more nonsense).” Tonight, the four of them celebrate their LP with a release show at the Eagles Club. Ahead of the show, they talked over quesadillas and coffee at Grumpy’s, getting into their favorite bands, a Japan Prince story, and their tongue-in-cheek name.

CJ: I love the name Lutheran Heat. [laughs] What’s behind the band name?

ME: I grew up with really straight, formal, Norwegian Lutherans that are very stoic. They don’t really show a lot of emotion. So the idea of them being in a rowdy rock ‘n’ roll band with soul to it — it’s about as far from that as you can get. Lutheran Heat! It’s like, what does that mean, you unbutton your top button? You don’t switch to decaf until 11:00? […] I think of a farmer — a guy in a feed cap and overalls — as James Brown. [With Minnesotan accent:] “Boy, I’d sure like to get up and do my thing.” [all laugh]

GB: We have some friends who run Hymie’s Records, and they said a Lutheran pastor came in and heard the band playing. [After finding out their name,] he said, “I want anything you can find from this band.”

SP: Lutherans are good about the joke.

CJ: Who do you guys like to listen to?

GB: Friends.

SP: Name-drop some bands!

ME: We were all just at Toys That Kill [at the 7th Street Entry].

SP: For me, it was the ultimate show.

ME: [Toys That Kill openers] Birthday Suits are always on point.

CJ: What are your shows like?

GB: Our shows in a nutshell are Matt and Sara telling a bunch of terrible jokes in between songs, and then me rolling my eyes. [laughs]

SP: He just turns his ears off.

ME: It looks like Garth is tuning his guitar, but he’s just trying to focus on something else. [all laugh]

SP: It works out. People do laugh.

GB: It definitely builds that relationship between people who go to shows and people on stage. You’re like, “Oh, they’re weirdos, just like me.” 

One thing we’re terrible at is letting people know we have merchandise for sale. We’re so bad at that. We have a couple 7″ inch records; some cassette tapes.

CJ: Do you guys have favorite venues to play or to see shows at?

GB: That Toys To Kill show was at the Entry, and that’s sadly overlooked by a bunch of people in town. That venue’s atmosphere is so awesome. It sounds great there — it sounds great playing there. It’s awesome.

ME: When you get some good bands playing there, it hits the spot.

SP: One day we’ll do it.

GB: [All the venues] have their perks, I guess. The 331 is fun because it always feels packed. You’re like, “Whoa, we really filled up the house!” But the downside is it’s hard to load in and out your equipment because there are so many people.

SP: Where we’re playing — the Eagles — I really like that because you can do up to three shows at once. When they’re doing that, it gets packed in the bar area, and that feels good.

GB: Also, the vibe of the Eagles is an old club, but the decor is this blend of David Lynch and Wes Anderson.

SP: Unintentionally.

GB: Yeah, that’s what these guys based their style off. And yeah, they haven’t updated their decor in 40 years, and it’s really fun to hang out there.

SP: Yeah.

GB: I want to get back to bands we like, though. My recent crush is Private Interests, a new band within the last six months. Doing great power pop — kind of ’70s vibe. Really good. And they’re playing [our] release show, as well.

JN: I saw the Carnegies last night. They’re long-haired, ’70s children. Rock and roll. We’re also playing with Nato Coles & the Blue Diamond Band, because they play crazy, crazy, crazy good music, and they’re always fun to be around. The Chinchees have a full-length record now.

SP: You stole mine! I was going to say them.

JN: [laughs] You say it!

SP: The Chinchees!

ME: Everyone loves the Chinchees.

JN: Recess Records needs to call the Chinchees.

SP: I defer to classic music a lot, so I’m stuck in the past in a lot of ways, which informs all of us.

ME: Whenever I listen to Eddie Hazel, I can’t help but think of teenage Prince. Like, this is definitely a part of the legacy.

CJ: Do any of you guys have a Prince story?

SP: Yes. It’s not mine, but it’s my dad’s. But it’s not here, it’s in Japan. When [my family] was living in Japan, I guess my dad was coming home from work. In Japan, a lot of people commute by train. You’ve probably seen pictures of masses of people being stuffed into trains. Often, when trains let out, it’ll be a flood of people in one direction down or up the stairs.

My dad was swimming downstream with the rest of the commuters, and then he sees this tiny man of color — in Japan, that sticks out more — but I guess he wasn’t [instantly recognizable] or a household name. So he’s just chilling by himself, and he’s going down the up stairs. My dad knows who he is, because he’s American. Prince has sunglasses on, and he’s trying to be sort of incognito. And my dad has this pretty thick New York accent, and — I think this is pretty rude, especially considering the story behind being called “The Artist Formerly Known As Prince” — but anyway, he saw him, and as soon as he realized it, he said, [in New York accent] “Is that you, Formerly? Hey, Formerly!” [all laugh]

So, Japan Prince story. No local Prince stories.

CJ: So cool. Let’s talk about the music a little bit.

GB: Yeah, let’s talk about this record. We recorded with this guy named Matt Castore, who works out of his basement in St. Paul. He converted his entire basement to this recording studio, and he’s one of the few recording engineers that still has a tape machine. So that was quite a fun experience.

We got a couple guest musicians playing organ and pedal steel, as well, which is really awesome. They’ll be at our release show.

We had the album mastered at this great place in Los Angeles called Infrasonic Sound, which is a big master company. They do huge stuff like Weezer and the Hold Steady. This guy that used to live here, Dave Gardner, now works out there, and he did a super solid job. I definitely recommend bands recording with Matt Castore and mastering with Dave Gardner.

The band started about three years ago. We had an original drummer; she now lives in Seattle. Annie May. Matt and I lived in Fargo before Minneapolis, so we knew Justin there. Sara knew Justin from band stuff, and he just seemed like the perfect fit. And he is.

CJ: Does songwriting come easily to you guys?

SP: Well, we’re also focusing on playing the songs on the album. Perfecting those even harder. But yeah.

ME: Garth writes a lot of songs and comes with a lot of ideas, and it might take a few months to get it where everything fits just so.

SP: Garth pumps out the pop hits. I just am like, “Maybe this is a song.” Sorry to out you, but he has a whole other album’s worth of material for this band.

Catch Lutheran Heat’s first album release show at the Eagles Club tonight.