On The Road With NPR Music: Andrea Swensson At KCMP, Twin Cities, Minnesota

We love music here at Gadling, and this month is Public Radio Music Month, which is why we’re teaming up with NPR to bring you exclusive interviews from NPR music specialists around the country. We’ll be learning about local music culture and up and coming new regional artists, so be sure to follow along all month.

Name: Andrea Swensson

Member station: 89.3 The Current

Regular Show/Contribution Beat: Music Reporter

When people think of music in the Twin Cities, what do they think of?

The first thing that seems to come to mind for most people is either Prince or the underground punk scene of the ’80s, which spawned the Replacements, Hüsker Dü and Soul Asylum. In more recent years our hip hop community – led by Rhymesayers artists like Atmosphere and Brother Ali and independent crew Doomtree – has become world-renowned, and we have big variety of other genres of artists finding success, from bluegrass to electro-pop to jazz. In general, people think of the Twin Cities with a vibrant, collaborative and supportive place to make music. We like to joke that we are living in the Land of 10,000 Bands.

How do you help curate that musical scene?

The Current has several different ways it supports the Minnesota music community. My role at the station is to report exclusively on local music and post my findings on the blog – which contains everything from show reviews and interviews to news stories and in-depth profiles – and share them with the host of the Current’s weekly Local Show. We also have a 24/7 all-Minnesota music stream called Local Current, and have just launched a pair of specialty shows about the Duluth scene (home of Trampled by Turtles, Low, and Charlie Parr) and our ever-expanding hip-hop scene.

How has that scene evolved over the last few decades?

We have experienced a boom in both the number of active bands and the number of bands breaking out nationally over the past few years. It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what is causing this upswing, but at times it can be difficult to keep up with all of the high-quality new music coming out. It’s not just one genre or niche that’s expanding, either; there is an energy and excitement that is palpable throughout the Twin Cities.

What would you say is the most unique thing about the Twin Cities music scene?

There is a collaborative spirit that binds our community together. The Twin Cities are large enough to support a couple dozen venues and spawn hundreds of bands, yet small enough that musicians can develop meaningful relationships with one another. It’s not uncommon for bands to share members or work together on projects; the 27-member Gayngs recording project is a good example of this, as are compilations like “Absolutely Cuckoo: Minnesota Covers 69 Love Songs,” which featured Magnetic Fields songs covered by 69 different local artists.

What are three new up and coming bands on your local scene right now and what makes them distinct?

The Chalice: An explosive hip-hop trio that has caught the attention of our entire scene this year. They are natural performers and their charisma is off the charts.

Meme: Crystalline pop from a young duo who are just beginning to play out live. Singer Lizzie Brown’s voice is mesmerizing, and her partner Danny Burke creates cool high-concept, animated music videos to accompany their tracks.

Southwire: This Duluth quartet combines gospel, folk and spoken word to create a unique, alluring sound.

For a Gadling playlist, what are your favorite tracks?

  • Aby Wolf, “Permission”
  • Meme, “Young”
  • Crankshaft, “Boomtown”
  • Trampled by Turtles, “Alone”
  • Van Stee, “We Are”
  • P.O.S., “Get Down”
  • The Chalice, “Push It”
  • Southwire, “Gone Astray”
  • Dessa, “Dixon’s Girl”
  • Har Mar Superstar, “Lady, You Shot Me”

Listen to the playlist on Spotify.

[Photo Credit: Photo by Nate Ryan/MPR]