By Tosin Faseemo
Minneapolis-based indie band Kazyak is led by guitarist and songwriter Peter Frey. He’s accompanied by bassist Tyler Safraneck, guitarist Andy Wolfe, drummer Nick Grewe, with Pat Hayes on keyboards. Read on to hear more about their freeform approach to live performances and their new album, “Odyssey.”
How did you guys meet?
Peter - This band is evolutionary. We all went to St. John’s University. Andy’s my cousin; we’ve been making music together for decades, I’d say, in some form.
Andy - I mean we’re four years apart, so not consistently, but yeah, for a while.
Peter - Nick and I played in jazz band in college together. Pat and I, our moms, were roommates in college and our dads were best friends growing up but we never played music together until this band. And then there's Tyler, who knows Andy from college.
Tyler - We played in a band in college. So we all went to the same college but we didn’t necessarily overlap.
What does your band’s name mean?
Peter - Honestly, it’s just what we decided to call ourselves. We had a friend named Paul Kazyak about a decade ago who some of us knew pretty well, and I don't know, it was kind of just undefined at the time and I really like that idea.
I just listened to “Odyssey” and I noticed from your Twitter bio that you guys describe yourselves as ‘alternative folk’. What does that mean?
Peter - We really gotta update that Twitter. I think ‘alternative’ is right on and is more meant as the idea that were clearly like an electric, psychedelic rock band where there are a lot of elements of synth and guitars and electronic elements like drum machine. But I think folk is meant more around the fact that a lot of the songs could be played on an acoustic guitar like you’d hear a folk song. We’ve just brought it alive differently.
Andy - And I think as the band has evolved and gotten more synth...like the first couple records were definitely more closely tied to folk but this one has space on the cover. We’ve kind of taken that to space.
Peter - We've had electric instruments on other albums but this one is definitely like Andy said there is the most synth on this one. We made a country album a few years ago called “Happy Camping” and it was a little more stripped down, like there was no synth on that record. I think it's just about trying to keep our sound fresh and hot.
Along with that idea of changing your style over time, what is your creative process like with songwriting and collaborating?
Tyler - That’s been an evolving process. So far, Pete's been bringing the core ideas to the group and we’ve been able to take his parts that he was dabbling with. For the most part, we’re adding our own flourishes to the songs.
Peter - And I think we bring certain influences in when we’re hearing things and deciding where we want the sound to go, because we have similar taste but all of us dabble in different areas. And I think a lot of the things specific to “Odyssey,” it evolved, we created it over the course of six to eight months, because you can’t just learn all these songs in one sitting. There were moving parts and pieces and the guys were still writing parts, so we would just commit to rehearsing a few times a month and chipping away at the development of the songs.
Tyler - And they’re still changing. It's kinda interesting, as we play the songs more and more, each time we come back to it, we hear something different that we like and that’s fun, to play them out after a break.
Peter - We’re not really a jam band but I think we are all interested in improvisational elements in our music.
So you feel that you guys thrive when you’re performing live?
Tyler - ”Thrive” may be a strong word, but that’s when were most comfortable, I think. It’s almost more nerve-wracking to go in and try to lay down a record of these songs that have sounded different each time we’ve played them. Like how do you capture that perfect take when we don’t even know what the perfect tape would even sound like? So I think live performances are just more our thing.
Peter - That's where we get the ultimate sounds that we want to either record or keep trying to get to; we discover them while playing live.
So when you guys perform, you’re less focused on engaging the crowd, but more focused on crafting that sound?
Peter - Totally. We’ve tried to make up for that too with different elements. A lot of times we have live videos that are projected. I think we love the visual idea, and we want to engage the crowd.
Tyler - Just with less theatrics.
What do you guys like about the Twin Cities music scene?
Tyler - There’s always great music around; you can always find a great show. Tame Impala just performed at Surly, best show of my life. It’s just really inspiring to be around that kind of environment, you’ve always got great music and somewhere to go. It can be hard to break into the scene sometimes, but I think it’s still a great place to enjoy other people’s talents and get that exposure and inspiration.
Peter - There are the greats, like Prince, and Bob Dylan, and that’s what people would think of if you asked them about minnesota music. But theres a whole new wave that connected to eau claire and there’s a lot of artists from Minneapolis that support that scene.
Andy - It all feels very accessible too. It feels like it’s a big enough city where you have those bigger names but it feels very accessible.
Kazyak will be performing at the 7th Street Entry on October 25th.