Todd Millenacker wrote a song called "Jack the Idiot Dance," and at live shows he takes on the persona of Todd the Idiot Frontman - climbing on bar tops, hanging from ceiling fixtures and even running out the door of the club if he has a cordless microphone.
But during a phone interview, he's decidedly less idiotic as he analyzes the music of his Minneapolis electropunk band, Avenpitch.
"I admit everything I do is ridiculous and stupid, but it's also fun," the 29-year-old vocalist/guitarist said of his onstage antics. "You've gotta shut off the judgmental part of your brain. You've gotta have some type of shtick, especially now. It used to be a lot easier - Elvis shaking his hips, Jagger strutting around, Bowie dressing like an alien. There's no way I'm gonna be as cool as those guys, but I've got pretty good endurance, so I can freak out."
Minneapolis electropunk band Avenpitch includes singer/guitarist/producer Todd Millenacker (back left), drummer Paul Hudalla, keyboardist Sarah France and guitarist Darren Siaw (front). The band, which formed in 2003, has been at the forefront of the growing electropunk scene in the Twin Cities.
Millenacker runs marathons and half-marathons as a hobby and plays Ultimate Frisbee throughout the summer. That's good, because not only does an Avenpitch
show require endurance, but so does creating an Avenpitch song.
"The way Avenpitch works is I write song, we jam through it, I tinker around and I record it," Millenacker said, walking a listener through the genesis of "Desperado," the band's contribution to the recently released "Twin Cities Electropunk Vol. 4." (The album can be downloaded for free at www.tcelectropunk.com and CDs will be handed out to early arrivals at the band's Jan. 18 show at the Eclectic Cafe.)
If you go
When: 9 p.m. Jan. 18.
Where: Eclectic Cafe, 216 S. Eighth St., Brainerd.
Web sites: www.tcelectropunk.com, www.avenpitch.com.
On the Web
Hear "Desperado" by Avenpitch
"After I was done, it was called 'Burn the Disco Down.' It's supposed to be a companion piece to 'Jack the Idiot Dance.' After I got it done, I thought it was too slow, so I took the files and hijacked it up a step. It's lots of trial and error. I'm going through CDs looking for sound effects. With the computer, I kept layering in parts. I think there are 110 parts going through the song."
Computer programs play a big role in electropunk, but of course, they are just the tools; the talent is supplied by the musicians. Guitarist Darren Siaw is a holdover from Millenacker's previous band, the Fleshpeddlers; drummer Paul Hudalla joined when Avenpitch formed in 2003; and fiery-haired keyboardist Sarah France - whose stage energy almost matches the frontman's - joined in 2005.
The band has put out two albums and will probably release a third later this year. Lately, though, Millenacker has been pushing the scene at large through the "Twin Cities Electropunk" collections, the first of which he shepherded in 2004. Although the term "electropunk" is at least 25 years old, efforts by Millenacker and others have nudged it closer to the mainstream.
"It's a catch-all phrase that encompasses anyone with cheap keyboards and a do-it-yourself aesthetic," Millenacker said of the genre. "It's about getting out there and making it work. We use cheap computer software and see what works. As for style, I don't think it's any one particular thing. ... It's definitely an acquired taste; it's not music you'd take home to mom. It's something some weird kid would discover and say, 'This is awesome.'"
Millenacker would be proud to see music historians equate electropunk with the Twin Cities the way grunge is linked to Seattle.
"People associate it with Minneapolis, which is pretty cool. Maybe in 10 years' time people will think, 'That was the place to be back in the day.' I think the music scene will be around a lot longer than Avenpitch or any of the bands."
Not that Avenpitch intends to go away anytime soon. The Eclectic show will be the band's 100th, and Millenacker sees Avenpitch as a long-term project. After graduating from the University of Minnesota - he majored in philosophy, but now works as a freight broker - he disbanded the Fleshpeddlers and started his "last serious band."
"I wanted to build something I could still be doing in 15 years," he said. "I look at the band in a long-term perspective. That's the whole idea with the compilations. You just keep playing shows and don't try to suck up to whoever, you just be honest and do what you do."
Even if that means climbing on a bar to belt out your tunes.
JOHN HANSEN may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5863.
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