Welcome to the Twilight Zone

Skye Klad balance art with reckless abandon

by T. Alexander

“It’s obnoxious when you see a band dead stop, then lurch forward, just because they can. We’re still getting our chops out just fine.” —Erik Wivinis of Skye Klad

It would be easy to imagine Rod Serling, the narrator for the old Twilight Zone series, introducing Skye Klad at one of their shows. Serling would be right at home with his black suit, rail thin tie and disaffected demeanor. Like Serling, Skye Klad has an appreciation for all things bizarre. Both like a good story. Both tend to use classical literature as a point of departure. Both are entertaining, unusual, and intense.

Forming in Duluth, Skye Klad began as an experimental duo with no desire to play “rock” in the traditional sense. They played their first gig as openers for Savage Aural Hotbed at U of M Duluth. The group at the time was made up of only Jason Kesselring on guitar and Matt Zaun on drums. Later the group moved to the Cities to pursue greater opportunities, but stuck to the principles of experimentation that were the primary motivation for their work. After gaining momentum as a group, the duo expanded the lineup. Since the expansion, members have come and gone, but the band is pretty solid these days with Jason Kesselring on guitar, Erik Wivinis on guitar, Adam Backstrom on vocals, Dave Onnen on bass, and Matt Zaun on drums.

Skye Klad’s music takes its cue from a vast array of styles. The band has affection for ’60s (The Doors, Syd era Pink Floyd) and ’70s psychedelia (King Crimson, Henry Cow, and Hawkwind’s earlier material), as well as affinity for Goth (Bauhaus) Japanese freak-out (Overhang Party, High Rise), and ambient music (Current 93) as well as obvious sources such as Black Sabbath, and metal in general.

The band also has ties to a handful of like-minded local bands that are purveyors of postmodern psychedelia. Bass player Onnen was one of the three founders of the mythical band Ousia. Guitarist Wivinis had a hand in the trance band Gentle Tasaday, and he’s still involved with his on again/off again band Salamander, which has a new release on Aussie label Camera Obscura. Skye Klad also organized The Solarium projects to support their theories about the way to present music, and the way the musicians interact with the audience and each other.

While the band enjoy the loftiness of art/ Goth rock, they are not above playing with knuckle-headed simplicity. “I don’t differentiate the two,” says Kesselring. “There is a sympathetic relationship between both aspects, and It’s a part of our Maximalism esthetic.” Maximalism, apparently, is as much about skill as it is about reaction. “We want to avoid the ‘prog’ trap and we want to avoid tightness for tightness sake.”

“It’s obnoxious when you see a band, like, dead stop, then lurch forward, just because they can,” says Wivinis. “We’re still getting our chops out just fine.”

Skye Klad gets their chops out on their eponymous record, to be released this week. The album features mood and setting, highlighting elements of everything from cheesy horror flicks to obscure references to 19th century French literature. The fractal stylism works, though, thanks to the band’s creative process. “We tend to do everything as a unit,” says Wivinis. “It’s not like one guy brings a song to the group. We mash everything together. We also tend to feed each other ideas, and turn each other on to new things.” “We rehearse in a circle; it’s very important to make eye contact,” adds Backstrom.

With all their various interests and influences, Skye Klad still manages to keep their music accessible. “Essentially, we turned into, well . . . a rock band!” Backstrom admits.

Skye Klad will hold their CD release party at the 7th St. Entry on Friday, June 1. $6. 21+. 701 N. 1st Ave., Mpls. 612-338-8388.