The 4onthefloor | 'Spirit of Minneapolis' | New Music Review

After listening to the beginning of The 4onthefloor's new album, Spirit of Minneapolis, I had very mixed feelings. I put these feelings aside to listen to and write about this band on a non-biased opinion. I cannot find too much information about the bands’ musicians as much as I can about their concerts, tours and origins. The band members are; Gabriel Douglas, James Gould, Mark Larson and Chris Holm. This band hails from Minneapolis, Minnesota and has a versatile sound that can transcend regions and genres.

This music has a swampy, backwoods sound that the guitar and bass dominate. There is a talented use of distortion and even touches of a 1970’s and 1980’s classic rock feel. I hear a musical influence of very eclectic mixtures; such as The Talking Heads, The Doors, The Beatles, The Jefferson Airplane, and even Pearl Jam. The vocals are deep and guttural and they take the show and out-range the other musicians. There are some points where the vocalist is overbearing and seems to try to hard. The first few tracks all sound similar and the vocalist does not demonstrate versatility and soul until about track four on. The vocal area is controlled by the styling of Gabriel Douglas and the mid to later album seems to be his most powerful explosion of talent.

The drums are stomping and driving and progress the music forward. The drums can feel very repetitive, but capture the necessary mood for the other performers to follow. The bass is very well versed and incorporate several different styles including funk, jazz, soul, country, pop, rock, and more. The guitar tries to explore many different sounds, but the ones that capture the show are the country and folk styles. The major, musical feelings I seem to get from this band are country, soul, blues, southern rock, swamp music, and a gypsy/voodoo touch. I hear a large amount of Jim Morrison/ The Doors influence in the vocals, lyrics and musicianship. This band has talent when they demonstrate that they have soul. I would enjoy seeing a live show of this band, more than I have enjoyed listening to the new album. I can imagine that The 4onthefloor has a better stage presence and excitement than what their album has tried to capture. I hope to hear more from this band!

Comments

tpurcell's picture

For what it’s worth, Mr.

For what it’s worth, Mr. Hungerford is fair in his review when he states: “The 4onthefloor has a better stage presence and excitement than what their album has tried to capture”, but I think the average reader should take that in a very significant context.

People see photos of the Grand Canyon and say “Nice Picture” but when they lay their eyes on it personally their breath is taken away. Seeing satellite video of the Earth taken from space is spectacular, but I’ll bet that the few astronauts that have looked at the Earth from that perspective will swear that the photos and video can’t come close to the experience of looking down at the earth with their own eyes. Many more analogies like this could be made, but for brevity’s sake, let’s just say that many natural wonders are positively received in their recorded forms whether it is photo or video, but that the impact of firsthand experience will always make the recorded form a pale comparison.

Is The 4onthefloor a natural wonder? No—not literally—but for me, being in their presence while they pour their music out in 4/4 time is the next best thing. I listen to their music at home and on the go all the time and I can’t help myself from tapping my foot and signing along; but I have an advantage. Similar to how an astronaut that has seen the Earth from space can look at a photo and remember what it was like to be there and see that, the energy from experiencing the The 4onthefloor live reverberates within me when I hear their recorded songs.

I’ve seen a number of bands, and the vast majority I would say are better live (but there is that small minority that have studio work that just can’t be recreated live). What sets The 4onthefloor apart for me personally is that Gabe, James, Chris and Mark bring an authenticity and uncomplicated confidence to what they do. There’s no pyrotechnics, there’s no jumbo-tron, there’s no power slides or cock-push-ups, or flashy rock star shenanigans. What they do bring to the stage is a purity of conviction and sincerity about what they are as a band, and this album reflects that.

About a year ago marked the first time I heard their hallmark: “hello, we’re The 4onthefloor, and these songs are in 4/4 time.” I’d never even heard of them before but from that moment I was caught. My attention was immediately drawn to the bearded front man who seemed to have walked out of the northwoods and onto the stage to howl like a wolf calling to its pack. Second I looked at the tower of a bassist who pulled additional duties and further impressed with his harmonica. Next, the lead guitar demanded my attention and I was struck by his natural demeanor to make you focus not on him but on his guitar. Lastly I was delighted to find the drummer sitting behind the simplest kit I’d ever seen a professional use, as if he was and is a living embodiment of the idea of “killing two birds with one stone”. That night I became a fan. They were the first opener, with 2 other bands to follow, but they should have been the headliner.

Since that night, I’ve followed the band and taken every opportunity to see and talk to them that I could, at times driving 6 hours round trip and even flying to see them at SXSW. In one year I’ve seen them eight times, and it’s still not enough. But WHY?

They are more than the sum of their parts. I’ll attempt to explain, but you won’t be able to understand until you see them.

BD1: Gabe told me once, “I like songs with lyrics that have meaning”. He practices what he preaches. Each song they perform is about SOMETHING, being either a narrative or a proverb. Not just that, but when Gabe sings and plays you can tell he feels it. He’s not just putting on a show, he’s pouring out his heart and soul for use to bear witness to. I don’t know why he performs like he does, but I suspect that he’s a willing servant to the concept that he should pour out his energy laced music and leave it all on stage simply because he can—it’s just one of the things he was made to do. Maybe it’s a Midwestern work ethic thing, but doing your best at all times is just a way of life and you can tell Gabe was raised in that tradition even when you’ve only had a chance to see or talk with him a few times.

BD2: James’ name fits him, as his guitar play puts the deed of playing and playing at your best above all else. There’s wisdom to his play, he holds to the beat and pays attention to where he is, what he is doing and what else is happening on stage. I suppose this might not sound like a detail to be impressed with to some, but the Star Wars geek inside me considers James to be a Jedi of the Guitar. I’m reminded of Yoda talking to a specter Obi-Wan about a young Luke Skywalker, “All his life has he looked away... to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was. Hmm? What he was doing. Hmph. Adventure. Heh. Excitement. Heh. A Jedi craves not these things.” Basically, James keeps his focus on playing, and when he’s not playing, I imagine he a can reflect blaster fire with a blue lightsaber.

BD3: Chris strikes me as a raw chunk of talent that’s happy to find himself holding a bass and standing in front of a microphone. It seems he’s got a smirk more often than not and is happy to be a go to guy when the artistic need arises. All art functions on a base concept of repetition with variation, and that fact isn’t lost on Chris. If he needs to provide a steady building bass line, he’s your man. If you need to throw in some extra variation, he’ll produce a harmonica to keep your ears happy. Do you need a leader to help cue the STOMP faithful? Chris will keep them clapping in time and singing in the chorus. It seems to me that every band needs a Chris, and those that don’t wish they did.

BD4: Mark’s drums might be decried as too simple by some (not me), and to that I say: it takes a heart and humility to know that your part of the whole is what provides the basis for something greater. Every all star quarterback needs a steady consistent offensive line to protect him, and every home needs a rock solid foundation. Like I said above, I feel The 4onthe floor is an example of the whole being more than the sum of its parts. Mark’s percussion is the heartbeat, and you can’t have the vitality The 4onthefloor plays with without it.

I don’t know what else to say, other than, that in the span of one year The 4onthefloor went from being unknown to me, to being my favorite band.

porter's picture

William - the 4onthefloor

William - the 4onthefloor dominates live! Being from MN myself, I've seen them a number of times. Actually heading up to Twin Cities today for the Spirit of Minneapolis album release show tomorrow night at First Avenue. Every song is in 4/4 time. I've never heard anyone sing quite like Gabe can sing. He definitely holds a stage presence with his low grizzly voice and then holds it on chorus. I'd lose my voice if I tried to do the same. If/when you see them live, the other thing that stands out is the four bass drums that each member uses. The stomping beat hits & shakes you to the core. The guitar play between Gabe & James is excellent too. Chris rounds out the rhythm with bass & harmonica. Mark keeps the beat steady and does a great job on tempo conversions with a very simplistic drum setup. Overall, they play damn good stompin' blues rock n roll and I have a good feeling this will not be the last that you hear of the 4onthefloor. Their music is hitting the TV circuit with play on Duck Dynasty, Nashville, Buckwild & Storage Wars.

You must check out their previous album "4x4" https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/4x4/id419141360?uo=4 and EP "...and 4 Riders Approached at Dawn" https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/...and-4-riders-approached/id457874508?uo=4 as well as on youtube http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=4onthefloor

A nice recent interview & performances: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6XIcCg1idM8