Finn Riggins is nothing if not efficient.
The Idaho-based trio is efficient with its music, a tightly wound ball of spastic, post-punk energy crossed with yummy pop melodies and a torrent of new-wave synthesizer sounds.
Take some Talking Heads, Blondie, Dismemberment Plan and Mates of State, stir it all up, mix in some get-in-the-van, D.I.Y. aesthetic, and you’ve got yourself some Finn Riggins.
Efficient, too, is this band’s story arc so far. Eric Gilbert, 31, Lisa Simpson, 32, and Cameron Bouiss, 30, met while studying music at the University of Idaho, and after graduation, they moved downstate to the tiny mountain town of Hailey in August of 2006 “with the goal of being a touring rock band,” Gilbert said in an e-mail interview.
Mission accomplished. By the end of 2007, Finn Riggins had played 140 shows, signed to the Tender Loving Empire record label, and released their first album, “A Soldier, A Saint, An Ocean Explorer.” The band spent 2008 playing 200 shows across the country, including the massive CMJ Music Marathon festival in New York City.
Earlier this year, the group moved to Boise, Idaho, and they’re currently working on the second Finn Riggins album, “Vs Wilderness,” to be released in the fall. They’ll also play in Bend tonight (see “If you go”). Despite all that activity, however, Gilbert — the band’s main keys/synth/organ dude — took a minute to sit down and address a few questions. Here are his edited answers:
GO!: What’s the story behind the band’s name?
Eric Gilbert: We wanted to name the band like a character in a book, for which we could write the story. We’ve all driven through Riggins, Idaho a ton since we were students up at the University of Idaho in Moscow and had roots in southern Idaho. Thus, Riggins found its way into the conversation.
Lisa mentioned how she’d always wanted to name a kid Finn, and it stuck. We liked the way it sounded. I suppose creating a band is a lot like having a kid. Sort of. Our little Finn will be 3 years old in August. She/he has been a busy little kid.
GO!: You moved to Hailey, Idaho to launch the band. Really? Is that a good place to be an indie rock band? Is Hailey the next Brooklyn and/or Portland?
Eric: It was definitely a backwards approach. We moved there with the intention of isolating ourselves, writing, recording and touring. We were able to rent Cam’s grandparents’ old house for really cheap and that allowed us to be gone for long periods of time with low overhead.
It sort of felt like we had multiple musical homes, and we usually just said we were from Idaho, as we had ties to the Moscow music scene still and now Hailey and Boise. Portland has definitely been a musical home for us too. So in a lot of ways, it’s worked for us, but it’s also been challenging without any direct roots to some sort of larger scene.
We’re excited about living in Boise now though. It’s nice to be able to go to shows and have fellow bands around doing relatively similar stuff. It’s a cool scene here and seems to have a lot of potential. We’ve been really impressed with it so far. A lot of energy and creativity around.
GO!: Do you find that being from such a sparsely populated or “forgotten” state is a help or a hindrance as you make music, book shows, play shows, do interviews and so on? Thank goodness for (Boise-based indie-rock icons) Built to Spill, I guess…
Eric: We’ve definitely embraced the mystery of being from Idaho. It’s fun. We sort of feel like musical ambassadors to the rest of the country, and we hear a lot of funny things for sure. Sometimes we feel like geography teachers just trying to explain where Idaho is and that no, it’s not near Iowa or Ohio, and yes, it has mountains. Very big ones. Idaho has a cooler scene than it gets credit for. And yes, thank goodness for Built to Spill. I like that (frontman Doug Martsch) is rooted here.
But to answer your question, it’s helpful in many ways as it sort of helps us stand out as at least being from somewhere different and that may strike some curiosity, but I think sometimes we don’t get taken as seriously because of it. We enjoy the challenge and the opportunity to help break down that misconception. People are usually pretty surprised to find out we’re from Idaho.
GO!: Too many bands these days, I think, try too hard to seem too serious. When I listen to your music, I hear a band having fun. Is fun the top priority in Finn Riggins?
Eric: Some of our songs deal with serious topics, but we definitely are doing this for the fun of it and naturally write tunes that help us remember that. We haven’t really been that goal-orientated thus far, but having fun has certainly been a very clear one.
GO!: You’re recording new stuff for a fall release. Is it in a similar vein as “A Soldier”? Is it different? If so, how?
Eric: It feels different. Not totally sure how yet. I think the 300 shows we’ve played since recording the last album is definitely apparent in all of our playing. I feel like our songwriting has tightened up and matured in a lot of ways. This one feels a little edgier as well. But really, we need a month or two to step back from it and make sense of it for ourselves too. We’ve been so immersed in the moment of creating it that it’s hard to find some understanding about it just yet. We’re excited about it though. It sounds really good and the songs are fun.
GO!: Indie rock is doing quite well these days. Grizzly Bear just released a record that reached No. 8 on the Billboard 200 chart, and Wavves had a bad show overseas, and the Internet stopped what it was doing to mock that guy. People also seem to love Finn Riggins. Do you guys have a sense that the upcoming record could be a sort of breakthrough for the band?
Eric: Yeah, there’s a sense that people are starting to pay attention more to what we’re up to and this record could definitely play a role in expanding our audience. We’d certainly not resist that. Working with Tender Loving Empire has been great and we haven’t had to compromise any of ourselves in the process, so if we can continue to find more success doing what we love, by all means, bring it on.
There’s one thing that the road has certainly helped us with and that’s rolling with the punches. We figure we just keep doing what we do to the best of our ability and that’s all we really have control over. We’ve been in this from the beginning for the adventure of it all and it appears we’re entering a whole new phase of that ride. It should be interesting.