A lot of bands would sell their souls for the kind of résumé Lansing alt-rockers LaSalle have built since forming in 2004. With two solid full-lengths, a healthy amount of positive press and a tour with indie stalwarts Cursive to its credit, LaSalle is an inspiring example of a local act that has made a name nationally based on exceptional talent and versatility.
Guitarist and vocalist Mike Reed and drummer Dan Jaquint are seasoned veterans, having played in the late ‘90s and early part of this decade in the now disbanded punk outfit Small Brown Bike. Here in 2009, "emo" conjures some less-than-flattering images of the hundreds of nasally naval gazers who have emerged to share their breakup hardships; but long before the genre (and its "screamo" counterpart) faced inevitable backlash, Small Brown Bike were pioneers in combining melody and musicianship with an emerging post-punk aesthetic. For their final, 2003 LP "The River Bed," the band signed with Lookout! Records, which has also released albums by Alkaline Trio, The Donnas and Operation Ivy.
On LaSalle’s 2005 debut LP "Expedition Songs," the band displayed a noticeably brighter sound than Small Brown Bike, due in part to Reed's wife, Katy, joining to share vocal duties and play bass; but the band retained some elements of pop and punk that certainly appeal to the former act's fan base. The tunes and live show were well received, and in 2006 the band was asked to join Make Believe and longtime friends Cursive on a national tour that culminated in Omaha, Neb., home to famed Saddle Creek Records, Cursive’s label.
"Every show [on the 2006 tour] was sold out, so we always played in front of a full room," Reed says. "It was amazing. I've known the guys in Cursive for a long time. I booked a show for them in East Lansing at Vinyl Addict Records back in 2000. They're great guys. It was awesome of them to ask us to go on tour."
Since then, the band hunkered down to write and record 2008's "Pretty World" for up-and-coming Gangplank Records, a Ferndale label with a roster that includes Blanche, American Mars, Friendly Foes, Sunshine Doray and Old Empire.
"We had a pretty quiet 2008 as far as shows and touring," Reed says. "We spent the first part of the year working on the record, so it was nice to just focus on the music and not worry about booking shows. When we were mixing with Dave Feeny, he asked if we would be interested in putting [“Pretty World”] out on his new label. We love Dave and decided that it would be a good fit, so we worked out a split deal. It's been cool to see the label grow in the last year."
"Pretty World" is everything that could be expected from a band with this much experience. Brimming with pristine power-pop and male/female vocal harmonies, the record is tight and enhanced by the addition of keyboards and horns that blend beautifully with LaSalle's traditional sounds, never sounding gimmicky. The album is an impressive achievement, not to mention a model of efficiency, with only about five days spent in the studio.
On Friday, the band will play Mac's Bar for its first Lansing show since its last tour. "Lansing has always been pretty supportive of what we do," Reed says. "It's been so long since we played a show here; either people will be happy to see us or they've forgotten about us."
Reed sees potential for more local acts to build a following, as LaSalle has, citing Cheap Girls, another act on Friday’s bill, as an example. "There's definitely potential for Lansing bands to get out there and get support from other scenes," Reed says. "I think Cheap Girls are an awesome band, and they're definitely getting exposure outside of Lansing, Mich. I'm excited to see them."
with Cheap Girls, Dead Town, Natural Disasters
6 p.m. Friday, Jan. 9
Mac's Bar, 2700 E. Michigan Ave., Lansing