Little Black Books (2010)

Andrew Olson

Reader Weekly

The Little Black Books are back in full-force with a new album, new line up, new songs, and a great slot at RT Quinlan’s for Homegrown.

LBB’s current line up consists of Mark Lindquist (vocals and guitar), Bob Olson (guitar), Jim Hagstrom (drums), and Ethan Thompson (bass). They have been writing and recording new songs together since last summer, using a studio in Hagstrom’s basement for their musical séance. It has been one fresh song a week being churned out in preparation for a much anticipated CD release.

“Sometimes I'd write the tune on the day we would get together just to have something to lay down on tape,” Lindquist said. “And then sometimes we'd work on something that I’ve had in my back pocket for a long time.”

The band writes most of their songs together, working out the arrangements and individual parts for each member as a group. This is different from Lindquist’s previous endeavors, and might end up changing his reputation.

“That's a nice change and less work for me,” Lindquist said. “I take pride in my lazy musician/writer stereotype.”

About two months ago the band began to realize that they had enough material for a full set and so they have decided to perform live again. Lindquist also hasn’t given up on old fashioned vinyl records either.

“We have a new Christmas song that I want to put out on a 7" vinyl next winter. We'll also be putting out a CD even though I've sworn off all digital music. Jim has sort of convinced me that I'm alone in the fight for vinyl in an analog-only world.”

To prepare for Homegrown, The Little Black Books are playing at RT Quinlan’s this Saturday, April 17th and next Saturday, April 24th at Pizza Luce. Being an integral part of the local scene for many years now, I asked Lindquist how many Homegrown Festivals he has been in.

“I don't recall,” Lindquist said. “I know I missed one due to a battle I lost with a Bloody Mary beer bong. I'm really nervous and excited to play at RT Quinlan’s for this year's Homegrown. That is the only place that would let me on stage with my own songs when I first moved here--that was almost 20 years ago. The weird host of the Wednesday open stage back then would give you one drink token for playing a ten minute set. It was an open stage and you'd think the host would encourage performers, especially young newcomers just learning how to do it. Instead, he'd cut your time short, make snide remarks to the crowd after you were done, and then play an extra long set of his own stuff. I remember crying once in the bathroom there after one Wednesday night because I was so humiliated… but… we'd all be back for the next Wednesday with our little acoustic guitars and little combos of musicians. So to play there 15 years later on a Saturday night of a cool music festival with some of the same people that suffered on that stage with me back in the day, well, there won't be any crying in the bathroom this time....hopefully.”

RT Quinlan’s has created a musical connection for Lindquist as more than just a venue he played at; it was the place where he got to know LBB’s guitarist Bob Olson. Most people are hearing Olson’s name locally right now associated with his very popular band with Alan Sparhawk, The Black Eyed Snakes. In BES he plays all the tasty riffs and is the possession that drives all of Sparhawk’s musical fits on stage.

“We've known each other since those RT Quinlan's days back in the mid 90s,” Lindquist said of Olson. “His wife booked the bands there at the time. Bob actually is probably responsible for starting the Little Black Books, and is pretty much solely responsible for starting it up again last summer. He's obviously in one of the best live bands in the Midwest (BES) and is in another favorite of mine (Father Hennepin), so I take it as a compliment that he has put up with all my ups and downs in The Little Black Books for 4 years now.”

Back in 2005 when LBB formed there were different members in the band. I remember a show they played at the NorShor Mezzanine very clearly. At that show their drummer Chunk, who didn’t like my description of the band at all in an article I had written, made sure to let me know. LBB was all punk in his eyes, but I was drawn to the subtle Rolling Stone undertones I heard in their sound. While the members of the band have changed over the years, Lindquist’s history with the NorShor and the scene encapsulates the pinnacle of the Duluth sound.

“The Little Black Books pretty much formed on that block of Superior Street in 2005,” Lindquist said. “We rehearsed and recorded in the upstairs of the old used record and bookstore that used to be called Carlson Books, and then we'd take our gear across the street to the NorShor to play shows. I also wrote and directed a one act comedy called the Celebrity Spelling Bee that my friends and I performed at the 'Shor. I need to emphasize how supportive Rick Boo was when he ran that place. He was so good because if you were earnest in what you were trying to do as an artist, whether it be something as serious as a Low show or something as silly as a one act comedy--he'd always have your back, whether people showed up or not. Everyone from the bartenders to the regulars to the bands to the movie patrons to the spoken word nights... it felt like we all had good bullshit meters and no one there suffered false or fraudulent motivations from the outside. You couldn't wear sunglasses and a fancy jacket on stage and think you were going to get away with it. Maybe that's why it didn't last forever, but you don't see that good old fashion bullshit meter anywhere else in town where making money and playing music is involved.”

LBB are one band that has really impressed me musically in Duluth. Their older songs and albums play very often on my Ipod, but expect all new tunes for their upcoming shows.

“We're working on a few of the older ones and at least one Cheap Trick cover,” Lindquist said. “I'm not sure Jim and Ethan are really interested in playing a bunch of old Little Black Books tunes… I'm not so sure I'm even interested in playing more than just a few of the older ones. So we're trying to have a mostly new set list because some of the older ones don't translate for whatever reasons.”