Press for ‘We Built a Fortress on Short Notice’ (2012)
"Imagine Shellac’s 1000 Hurts stripped of its hardcore elements. Keep the driving guitar, but make it more textural than pummeliing, and the shouted lyrics, sungy with ferocious conviction. Now, add some jazz-like grooves to soften it up.”
“With bands like Self-Evident, I cannot begin to consider where the starting point might be for a song or how they get to the end. It seems as if there is a satellite navigation set up to go from A to Z, via every letter of the alphabet but not in the logical order one would expect. That’s what I love about this math-like approach when it is done as well as it is on We Built A Fortress on Short Notice.”
4/5 stars - Rich Cocksedge, Punknews.org
“...The band also seems to know how to lay the delicate lines when necessary as well as lock into a nice groove on some tracks. .. the band also is familiar with melodies and uses them effectively to give the listener a wide range of emotion through the music..If you’re a fan of Shellac, Bear Claw, or melodic math rock, “We Built a Fortress on Short Notice” comes highly recommended.”
Kurt Morris, Razorcake
“The musical radiance continues on the supremely titled We Built a Fortress on Short Notice, where textured harmonious elements and subtle uses of blunt power make this record intriguing. There is certainly undeniable intricacy on each track, but each stop and start and every skittish guitar riff is organic and purposeful. In short, this is worth finding.”
Rich Quinlan, Jersey Beat
“They recorded Fortress in February with engineer Carl Amburn, who has worked with the band for years, honing their on point rhythms and riffs that have hints of the raw intensity of Fugazi or Quicksand. But there is certainly a more restrained, melodic nature to these new songs as well, which adds an impassioned tension to their combustible sound.”
Erik Thompson, City Pages Gimme Noise
“For a three piece band these guys have a really big intense sound. Captivating charging tracks include “Rumors,” “Not Literally,” and “Steve Stevens.” Good solid hard rockin’ stuff with brains.”
“Three guys from Minneapolis play sort of mathy post punk indie thing pretty darn good at it too. Is a bit more challenging than their last release ”Endings”, but equally this album doesn’t disappoint me because I do love angular guitar riffs of which there are plenty. I like everything I’ve heard from these guys. Really good, well thought out song structures. Go listen.”
New Noise (UK)
“HOLY SHIT IT’S MATH-ROCK! Whoa! It hangs righ in there with classics like Polvo, Faraquet, Lefty’s Deceiver and A career in Plastics too! I’m surprised to say that I enjoyed hearing some completely NON-danceable, time-signature-defying music today.”
“WBAFOSN is a tour de force of creative, thoughtful rock. The complexity of Self-Evident’s music is deceptive, because they make it sound so easy...If you’re into intricate rhythms and guitar antics, this one will blow your mind.”
Stephen Carradini, Independent Clauses
“WBAFOSN is their newest efforts to date, host to my favourite song of the year-In Cowardice. It’s just beautiful. And well, I’m still getting goosebumps from it. GET UP! GET UP! THIS IS HAPPENING RIGHT NOW. Just skip to track 5 will you.”
Zine & Not Heard (UK); #7 of Top 10 Albums of 2012
“Rumors” is the opening track from We Built a Fortress on Short Notice and is a pretty good intro to those who might still be unfamiliar with the band. Staccoto guitar punctuates a distorted bass groove and precise drumming. Musically and vocally recalling some of the dissonant math rock of the 90s.”
Adam Bubolz, Reviler
“Self-Evident play a kind of shouty, skittering, mathy punk rock, sounding like a weird amalgam of California funny-punk and King Crimson, shifting time signatures at the drop of a hat and creating grooves that aren’t grooves inside songs that are only sorta songs. Which we realize sounds bizarre, but it works marvelously on their new LP, We Built A Fortress On Short Notice, a record driven by a potency that propels the band into fascinating territories.”
Jon Hunt, l’etoile magazine
“Being interesting, intelligent and angular is the name of the game and although heavy in tone “We Built a Fortress on Short Notice” leans more generally towards a kind of pared down heavy progressive rock rather than dissonant punk, and results in a total that is more than the sum of its parts.”
Leicester Bangs (UK)
“...this mesmerizing mathcore combo seems to be in impressively good health, music-wise.”
“There’s definitely some fabulous song-writing going on with this band. It’s a shame I didn’t cathc on sooner. Self-Evident take a wide range of influences, and throw them together to create something special. I’d suggest not making the same mistake of sleeping on this band and give this record a listen. 8.0/10”
Scene Point Blank
“Just a little heavy math for you. The lines are always in motion, and most of the time that works out quite nicely.”
Aiding & Abetting
Press for ‘Endings’ (2009)
"The mathy angularity of bands like Faraquet and Q And Not U is still there but toned down ever so slightly. And if it is even possible the band seems tighter and more pronounced in their playing here. ‘Endings’ feels streamlined…perhaps this is a more calculated and realized version of Self- Evident than we have seen before. The album delivers on the promise of the band’s past endeavors while gaining confidence for the future. Self-Evident is a band slowly growing into something special.”
Sound As Language
“This is not an album that you slap on in the background of your life. This is music to be appreciated. ‘Endings’ is an album of eleven tunes with nothing left up to chance. Every turn is meticulously planned and plotted, and the result is a brilliant album that holds attention melodically, rhythmically, and mood-wise for almost forty minutes (longer, if you repeat songs – as you should). This is a stand-out release in every sense of the word, and I hope that people will release that and lavish the praise this album so rightly deserves. Get this album now.”
Stephen Carradini, Independent Clauses
“Listening to “Endings” is like taking a trip back to when bands like the Dismembement Plan and At the Drive-In were crafting music that was vibrant, utterly confounding, and laden with irony. ...Even when at their most aggressive, as on “Before the Beginning”, they still maintain their contorted sense of tunefullness with an off-kilter rhythmic pulse that would likely spell the death of a lesser band, but here seems to fit in place almost perfectly.”
David Bowes, The Skinny (UK)
“This trio from the Mini Apple have persevered for over a decade, releasing a smattering of records that employ a precise mathy set of arrangements and a sound that hovers somewhere between Don Caballero and the great Fugazmund, even recalling the Minutement at times in its vocal stylings. What should be evident is that Self-Evident have shown no signs of let up or slow down in their long career, unless “Endings” means something in that regard, whichone would certainly hope not.”
Joey T. Germ, Reglar Wiglar
“Endings is a fantastic aural version of pulling the tablecloth out from under the silverware and nice china. Diagonal harmonies seem to deftly interweave with the magnificent melodies that recall DC-based rockers like Fugazi, but its their truly artistic vision and unimaginably grand instrumentation that sets them firmly apart from any comparison.”
J-Sinn, Smother Magazine
“The music is focused and tightly wound, with well-tuned drums and meticulously laid-out time-stops. The quiet parts of a very pretty tapestry of arpeggios. The loud parts are where the fire comes from, the shouting and demanding. It’s Jawbox, Faraquet, all that good shit.”
Jeff Tobias, Flagpole
“On, “Endings”, self-evident balances its angst-ridden lyrics with a hypnotizing effect of guitar. Explosions of screams and fiery words are comlemented by soothing instrumental pauses--an odd combination, but it works.”
“I can here Codeine on this.. and Bitch Magnet… These guys are pretty tightly knit.... a well oiled drum, bass and guitar combo.”
Press for ‘Self-Evident’ (2007)
“With mathematical precision, excellent drumming, and smooth, melodic guitars, Self-Evident has made an impressively refined and sophisticated new album. These very talented musicians excel with their very own breed of intense, thoughtful, and capably-executed rock in the vain of influences like Don Caballero and Fugazi.”
Claire Schuster, Delusions of Adequacy
“Many of the songs on the band’s new self-titlted album patiently flesh out the kind of quiet passages that other contemporary punk-influenced groups just stick in for dramatic effect.”
The Onion (Madison)
“Self-Evident is an appealing substitute to bands like Mineral, Fugazi, and Cursive. If you’re looking for the next polished angular post-emo rock outfit, than this oughta be your bag.”
“If you are a fan of the mathy DC sound that spawned bands like Fugazi and Faraquet then Self-Evident is a must hear. Self-Evident have put forth a mature and extremely confident effort that proves they deserve to be noticed. Message received loud and clear.”
Sound as Language
“Self-Evident is decidedly more tight and concise than previous releases. It explodes from the first millisecond of the opening track into an incredibly taut, angular, jarring, and hypnotic exploration of obsessiveness. Self-Evident demonstrate an intimacy and economy in their writing that their vaulted peers often lack.”
Michael Walsh, City Pages
“Something I’ve come to enjoy about Self-Evident is that they can go from a delicate, almost jazzy, meandering sound to an enormous rock giant in the matter of seconds. Whether it’s the bands goal to defy all categorization or not, they’ve maintained my respect throughout the years for taking on a multitude of different ideas and influences while working them into roughly three minute songs. It’s a difficult task to which on this album they have successfully made it all work.”
Built on a Weak Spot
“This Minneapolis’ trio offers us a further glimpse into their post-hardcore world, and they’re sounding more assured and spasmodic than ever. The result representing how Rush may have sounded had they formed thirty years later and been weaned on a diet of Fugazi and Q and Not U.”
“They all combine the varied technical approaches of the last couple decades of melodic Midwestern indie rock for a result that is both familiar and challenging.”
The New Scheme #17
Self-Evident: Ten years after
Pulse of the Twin Cities
It would be an impossible task to catalog the bands that have started in the Twin Cities in the past 10 years. Let's just agree that there are a lot. The local music scene is fertile--new bands pop up daily--but it's also volatile: Those bands usually don't make it beyond a few years. So how does an angular, mathy, indie rock three-piece now in their tenth year keep it together? "As long as we're enjoying it--let's keep doing it," says Self-Evident guitarist and singer Conrad Mach.
With bassist Tom Berg and drummer Brian Heitzman filling out the trio, the band has released six records and done numerous tours. They've seen the various trends in local music; they talk about extinct opportunities like Quest for Mayhem--a local concert series that was hosted at the now defunct Quest nightclub--and playing Bon Appetit, another defunct proving ground in back of a gyro shop in Dinkytown. The band reminisces about other bands they played with that just couldn't make it. They joke about outliving bands and then also outliving reincarnations of those same bands.
Living through different labels, playing with different bands, performing at different venues, this band that started in 1997 just out of high school feels as if they have achieved a lot, but still have a lot left to try. They survived the tumultuous life of a rock band intact until last year, when Heitzman quit.
When it was the original three, the idea was that if any of them wanted out, the band would fold, but when Heitzmann turned in his sticks for good, Berg and Mach knew almost immediately that they couldn't let the band die. And they also knew almost immediately who they wanted to take Heitzmann's place behind the drum kit. Ben Johnston of local rockers Clair de Lune is transitioning from that band to Self-Evident and bringing with him a more straightforward and deliberate style. Influenced and maybe even inspired by their new drummer, the band delivers an urgent record of anthemic rock songs.
The band feels like this is a new beginning and the fact that Self-Evident's new album is self-titled is not a coincidence. "I feel like the band was reborn because of the lineup change. I feel like we have a whole new energy," says Mach.
"I feel like Ben's drumming now really makes sense of what we are doing," says Berg. "It makes rock songs â€¦ it brings it down to a more simple rhythmic level."
And, indeed, the record is all about rhythm. Berg's bass offers a counterpoint to Mach's angular and jazzy grooves--at times offering an anchoring bottom end and at times creating countermelodies, but it all comes back to a persistent groove that drives the songs. The excellent musicianship offers the opportunity for the trio's rhythms to wrap around each other and create a huge driving wall of sound. On top of that, Mach summons his best Ian Mackaye to convey a sense of importance and urgency with his vocals. Although his call to action may not always be clear, the effectiveness of the music lies in its ability to get you moving. Packing 12 songs into just over a half-hour is indicative of the no-frills approach the band took on this record. In the past, they tended toward a bit more experimentation and sprawling epics, but everything the band has to say on this record is concise and direct.
To be clear though, understand that Self-Evident still don't travel in the "three chords and the truth" model of direct communication. The jazzy instrumental interplay is still there. The band is not ear candy; it takes some commitment to listen to Self-Evident. The shimmering yet dark music is complicated, but the reward is that the constant pushing the band does results in a truly unique listening experience. With so many genre bandwagoneers making up the music landscape these days, Self-Evident is that rare band that blooms ever more vibrantly with each album.
The band exudes a confidence in their music, but also a reserved humbleness about any accomplishments they've achieved in the last decade. Both of these traits have helped them reach this 10-year mark--the desire to conquer all, but the steadfastness to try again when faced with inevitable disappointment.
When all three members are stuffed into a booth in a dark corner of the 331 Club, the same interplay that exists onstage exists between them in conversation: a casual ease, genuine love of music and intense passion. The trust and experience that comes with playing thousands of shows and rolling thousands of miles in a van together can either break or make a band. Self-Evident has taken all those shows and miles to heart, and it seems like they've reached a special point in their career. But no matter what happens, the band has been through enough to take whatever happens in stride. "I think what this band has done has exceeded my expectations a long time ago," says Mach. "We're still enjoying ourselves."
I Sing the Equation Quadratic
Tom Berg is playing against type. Halfway through a basement paint job, he's slacking off. The color spreads along the wall promisingly, but then ends in jagged brushstrokes. White strips of drywall tape crisscross the ceiling like miniature runways, leading the eye to where the drywall itself gives way to exposed beams. Yet one would expect that the bass player for Self-Evident, one of the Twin Cities' longest-lived and most accomplished progressive/math-rock bands, wouldn't call quits on a project until it was fully realized, perfectly constructed, and meticulously detailed.
That neglected basement seems especially out of character when listening to Self-Evident's latest album (their fifth in nine years). Berg and the other two members of Self-Evident—guitarist/vocalist Conrad Mach, and new addition Ben Johnston (formerly of Clair de Lune) on drums—recently gathered in Berg's strangely unfinished basement to discuss their new, self-titled release. With the addition of Johnston (who replaced original drummer Brian Heitzman), Self-Evident is decidedly more tight and concise than previous releases. It explodes from the first millisecond of the opening track into an incredibly taut, angular, jarring, and hypnotic exploration of obsessiveness.
"The other albums just wandered a lot more. People thought they were heady when we weren't trying to be," Mach says. "I think this album is the most polished of anything we've done. It's the truest to what we do live."
A big, burly man who looks more than a little like Grizzly Adams, Berg says the band is often compared to the likes of Fugazi, Rush, and Milk. Fine company, to be sure, but Self-Evident demonstrate an intimacy and economy in their writing that their vaulted peers often lack. Difficult as it may be to imagine, it's almost as if they are some unlikely mash-up between Primus and Halloween, Alaska. That dichotomy is best illustrated on "Missing," which lurches between spare, ethereal guitar work accented by Johnston's minimalist cymbals and a crushing assault of furious drums and jagged guitars that erupt without warning.
Whether you call it math-rock or post-rock or progressive rock, there are certain adjectives that apply to this genre of music: intelligent, challenging, experimental, and virtuosic. Unfortunately, more often than not, you would be hard-pressed to add "accessible" to that list. Unless your idea of a fun time is to solve quadratic equations in your head, math-rock is not likely to be your casual listening choice.
But Self-Evident have managed to solve that problem. Throughout the album's 12 tracks, they pair odd time signatures with approachable melodies, jumpy syncopation with moments of quiet reflection, and accomplish it all without sounding like a schizophrenic mess. Not an easy feat. They pull this off particularly well on "The Standard," which begins with Mach shouting over a nervous guitar line that tinkles like breaking glass, but then deflates into a wistful ending that is as gentle and unassuming as any Love Cars song. You get the feeling your subconscious is being exposed to a crash course in advanced music theory, but you don't care—you're enjoying yourself.