Benson, Minnesota is a small town. There is not much to do there and there are not many people to do not much with. So of course brothers Billy and Matt Chevalier, and their cousin Dylan Mattheisen, started a rock band.
They are all now in their early-20s, but have been making music together since before they were teenagers, whether playing at Billy and Matt's father's high school reunion in Benson, or traveling to nearby cities, like Fargo, for club and house shows. They used to call themselves the D-Cups -- but they've been Tiny Moving Parts since 2008 -- and on September 9, the Minnesota family math-rock-y pop-punk band releases its first album on Triple Crown Records, 'Pleasant Living.'
Today, we're wildly excited to premiere 'Pleasant Living' a week before its official release date. The album, which was produced by J. Robbins (Against Me!, Dismemberment Plan, Jawbreaker, Small Brown Bike), is streaming below in its entirety. If you like what you hear, you can pre-order it now through Tiny Moving Parts' website.
In July, Billy, Matt and Dylan drove from Benson to Philadelphia to shoot a music video for 'Pleasant Living' song 'Always Focused.' They wanted to work with Philly-based director Kyle Thrash because all three were big fans of the 'Your Graduation' video Thrash made for their friends and recent tour partners Modern Baseball. So they hopped in their second home -- the 2005 Ford Econoline van filled with trash and instruments that they lock up with locks they received as gifts from the band The Front Bottoms and that will take them to Denver later this month for Riot Fest -- and drove 20 hours to make a video.
The day before the shoot, I met them at Clark Park, in West Philadelphia, to talk about growing up in Benson, leaving Benson, moving back in with their parents in Benson, the sadness and optimism of 'Pleasant Living,' and how they don't care about whatever it is we talk about when we talk about the #emorevival. Listen to 'Pleasant Living' and read the interview below.
Tell me about your hometown, Benson, Minnesota.
Matt: We grew up in a really small town, with a little under 3,000 people. There wasn't much to do. We eventually moved to Fargo, and when the band started getting more serious, and we started touring, we moved back to Benson with our parents. There's basically nothing to do there but have band practice. It helped to write the album there because there's nothing to do. No distractions.
And you're all relatives, so you sort of met through necessity.
Billy: Yeah. We can't breakup because that would ruin Christmas and it would be awkward. We're bound to each other.
Dylan: We've been playing music together since we were 12 or 13. It's always been our main interest together. We also skateboarded a lot, but we never got good. There were no skateparks near us and half the year you can't skateboard anyway because of the snow.
What sort of music did you bond over?
Dylan: When we first got instruments, we were listening to power pop punk, like Sum 41 and Blink-182. They influenced us a lot. Then we got into more technical, chaotic, crazy stuff. Now we have a blend of all our favorite things.
Matt: In high school we got into Hot Water Music, Against Me!, Small Brown Bike, mewithoutYou... and lots of math rock.
So you guys never went through an awkward classic rock cover band phase or anything?
Billy: We did our own punk rock stuff, but in our small town, the gigs we played were small bars. We also played our dad's 20 year high school reunion. That was Bruce Springsteen, and other songs from when he graduated in '78. There was some Tom Petty. It was pretty embarrassing.
Dylan: It was really uncomfortable. We were in high school then and playing for people twice our age and playing songs we didn't even like. But they loved it. It's a small town so there weren't that many people there.
Billy: There's actually a video of it, that's not on YouTube or anything. If you watch it, it's obvious that we weren't really into it. Dylan just got up there and was like, “Yeah, we're the band.” It was in a farm outside of town and there were about 40 people there. We played these really aggressive versions of these old people's favorite songs.
Was there a community of likeminded musicians in Benson?
Billy: Not in Benson, but there were some bands in nearby towns. Between about three cities within an hour of each other, there were a few bands; we set up shows for each other. It was a community of people who played different music. We didn't have fans, but people came to the shows because there wasn't anything else to do.
You used to be called the D-Cups. Why did you decide to abandon that name?
Dylan: When Billy went to college, it was weird for Matt and I because he was two hours away and we used to hang out all the time. He was in Fargo, and we missed practicing, so we decided to go on tour. Nobody was gonna take us seriously as the D-Cups, so we decided to become a real band and get a better name. Our first show as Tiny Moving Parts was in like 2008.
What's it like being in a band with family members?
Dylan: It's really cool now. Our family has always been supportive, and now they're on Facebook so they see that people around the country are interested in our music. They love that we're in a band, but they still want us to get real jobs, work a 9-to-5, and make money.
What's it like living back in Benson with your folks?
Billy: They were definitely against it. They knew we'd be touring musicians with no money just crashing at their houses. But they realize how much we love it, and that it's working out for us, so they're okay with us living at home. I was like 24; you can't live at home when you're 24.
Dylan: It was frowned upon a few years ago, but it's more common now.
Moving back home also provided the opportunity to make this new album. It seems torn between loving live and being sad as hell.
Dylan: The whole purpose was to find your own happiness, and make the best of everything. We focused on making upbeat songs but we ended up writing the saddest songs we've ever written. We want it to be uplifting: “Be optimistic in life.” The sadness just came out naturally. But it has all aspects, good and bad moments.
Billy: We write some sad sounding songs. Sometimes the guitars are sad so we can't sing about how happy we are.
It is a very emotional album. What are your thoughts on the emo revival?
Billy: Emo never went anywhere. We had sad songs in 2008, before the revival. Playing and going to house shows in basements as kids, we heard emo music all the time. Now there are bigger bands playing bigger shows so it's more popular. We just play songs and try not to name it. We don't care what people call it. We're just having fun.