Indie rock isn't just a big-city phenomenon, even though Brooklyn, Chicago and Portland receive much of the spotlight. Many of the genre's flagship bands - Guided by Voices, Modest Mouse, Death Cab for Cutie - got started in communities smaller than Madison. Eau Claire quartet Laarks is following their lead, and that of their hometown heroes Bon Iver and Megafaun, helping put Wisconsin's Chippewa Valley on the map. Laarks performs at the Frequency Dec. 29.
I spoke with singer and keyboardist Ian Jacoby about the Eau Claire scene, Laarks' debut album, An Exaltation of Laarks, and signing with illustrious indie label Absolutely Kosher Records.
Amazon.com has called Eau Claire a "pastoral indie-rock hotbed." What do you think of this description?
It's hard for me to get perspective on the whole Eau Claire indie phenomenon because I grew up here. When I was 19, I was in a horrible indie-rock band called Sic Transit Gloria, and we alternated between opening for Amateur Love (a legendary Eau Claire indie band) and DeYarmond Edison (Megafaun plus Justin Vernon) for, like, three straight months. I don't think anyone in Eau Claire didn't think all of those guys were going to make it on a national level at some point.
I'm sure there are a million bands like that in cities across the country, so I'm not really sure what makes the Eau Claire air so special. Maybe the university binge-drinking culture and the blue-collar Uniroyal drinking culture created the perfect storm of sadness to create good art? That's what my money's on.
How did you get connected with Absolutely Kosher?
I created a list of labels that felt like a fit for Laarks with my friend Kyle Frenette. Abs Ko was the first on that list, and they showed interest right away. I've always dug a lot of the music they put out - Pinback, the Mountain Goats, the Wrens - so it was a no-brainer to go with them.
Why should Madison watch you guys perform An Exaltation of Laarks?
Laarks is, at its heart, a live band. There's an excitement that happens live that's sometimes hard to manufacture in the studio.