Playing a stripped down set, Gentry Schweiger and Colson Wabshaw of Boy on a Bike appeared on The Garage stage like two men born to be rock stars. Their unique and eclectic style showed as the white projector screen lifted. In the middle of the stage sat a thirteen-inch RCA television playing static with their band name in hot pink on the screen. Gentry, the lead singer and guitarist with long blonde hair, a black leather jacket, a black shirt, black skin-tight jeans, and white shoes, invited the audience to pull in a little closer to the stage.
Opposite him, Colson sat on a stool, his long brown hair and beard resembling a man of Biblical proportions come to jam on his electric guitar. On the outset, it’s hard to guess what style of music they’d play, but that’s the allure. They mix alternative rock, pop, synth, and dance all into one, bringing together their own sound, style, and voice.
I had the pleasure of interviewing with them in person, digging a little deeper into their journey, hearing the challenges and joys of being an artist in the Minneapolis scene, and what their new album “Hearts and Flowers” is all about.
Minnesota Connected: How’d you guys get started?
Gentry Schweiger: This is an embarrassing question because the band has been around too long to the point where we are at. It started with me, and a friend of mine, in 2010 as just an acoustic project initially. Well, yeah, okay, it started with just me, which is why it was named Boy on a Bike.
MC: So, you’re the boy on a bike?
Gentry: Well, that sounds weird. Yeah, that’s why it made more sense when it was just one person. We became a full band in 2012, and that’s when Colson joined.
MC: How did you [Colson] get involved?
Gentry: Just asked him
Colson Wabshaw: He literally just asked me. A long time ago I roadied for this one band and they actually played their senior release show. I remember seeing them [Boy on a Bike], and then Gentry started interning for the youth at church and we talked a little bit. He said, “You should be in my band, but I got to let you know that whenever I lead a band, they break up. So, just don’t leave.”
Gentry: I didn’t know if you were good at the guitar. Did I know?
Colson: I mentioned that I played guitar, but you never had seen me play.
Gentry: I just assumed you were good.
MC: So you both play guitar. Is there a bassist?
Gentry: We play with tracks. You can’t screw up unless everything crashes.
MC: What was the best show you ever played?
Gentry: Hard to say because we kind of reinvented ourselves when Will joined the band. In 2015, we deleted all the old music from the Internet and treated this current record as the first. Our best show was probably the release show that just happened for “Hearts and Flowers.” More people than we thought were going to come showed up.
MC: What was the difference between your music now than before?
Gentry: Yeah before it was more pop punk, big distorted guitars. Now, I don’t know, it is just straight up pop.
Colson: Poppy, a little dance. More synths. Cleaner guitars.
Gentry: I hate the word indie. This is the problem.
Colson [laughing]: It’s alternative.
Gentry: I tell people we’re like an indie version of 5 Seconds of Summer, but I hate the word indie because it means Independent. It’s not even a genre.
MC: Describe the Minnesota music scene. What’s that like? Is it difficult to break into?
Colson: I think it kind of depends. The Minneapolis scene, unless you’re like super indie or hard core, it’s hard to find shows to play. For a long time we were put on a lot of hard-core shows because those were the shows that were happening. A few times we got on pop punk shows. It’s changing a little bit now, but unless you’re like in a hard-core band, it can be hard to break into it.
Gentry: The Minneapolis music scene is amazing. But it is very cliquey so it’s hard for us because we’re too pop for pop punk, but we’re too pop punk for pop. It’s hard for us to find an exact place. While playing diverse shows is cool, fans generally don’t get it. So it’s hard to sell tickets to those shows because people don’t want to be around the loud stuff. So many amazing bands have come out of the Minnesota music scene, and in general are very supportive. It’s hard to find for us, but maybe we’re just bad at it.
MC: Do you think that the pop punk genre has just dwindled?
Gentry: I don’t think there is a local scene for pop music.
MC: Do you think Punk music has a scene?
Gentry: Punk music, yes. It has a very strong following, but we’re too pop for punk music fans.
Colson: There are so many awesome local bands. Minneapolis has a phenomenal scene.
Gentry [laughing]: If it’s anyone’s fault, it’s our fault. I’m generally like a dick to people because I’m too shy so it comes off like, yeah, that’s probably what it is.
Colson [laughing]: Probably.
Gentry: This is what I realized though. I’m either, like, a shy dick or it’s like I get way too excited.
Colson: It’s true. Like way excited.
MC: What’s your favorite album of 2015?
Colson: I listen to a lot of Twenty One Pilots, especially over the summer. Twenty One Pilots is like my jam.
Gentry: The One Direction record. I’m all about it. Uh, yeah, I’m really into pop music so I really loved Taylor Swift’s record, One Direction’s record, and Justin Bieber’s record.
MC: What drives you and inspires you to make music?
Colson: I love music. I love the feeling I get when I listen to a certain song or listen to an album on a road trip and listen to that album four years later. It makes me think about that. I want to do that for someone else. That inspires me a lot to write music and make people feel things.
Gentry: Yeah, well, one, it’s like the only thing that I’m actually good at. Writing songs. If I’m good at anything that’s all there is. I’d prefer to make a living at something that I enjoy doing and am good at, so that’s part of it. But also, the idea that you can be listening to something that someone else can be listening to at the same time, and share that. The idea of creating that. The record wouldn’t exist unless I loved the songs that were on it, so the fact that I can love these songs and someone else can love these songs is cool to me.
MC: Do you feel a dissonance from your fans because you created the songs?
Gentry: No, I don’t. But I don’t ever explain the meanings of the songs. There’s bands that will do that when playing live, but I don’t want to do that because I don’t want to stick something else…it can mean whatever they want to them. The idea that whatever it meant to me could mean something different to somebody else. So, you’re connecting to it in a completely different way.
Colson: I have no problems connecting with it. Full disclosure, I listened to the album today. A couple times actually.
Gentry: Oh, it’s so good.
Colson: It’s just so good! I think it would be different for me if I were writing the lyrics. So like even in that sense I don’t have that much of a connection as Gentry does.
MC: Tell me about your album “Hearts and Flowers.”
Colson: It’s good
MC: How long have you been working on it?
Gentry: The first song we wrote for it was ‘Echo’ in 2014. Probably a little over a year it’s been in process.
Colson: It was fun. In the writing process, I don’t know if Gentry caught this, but we had a lot more clashing moments, but I think in the end it did come together. There were definitely moments where Gentry was like, “Do this” [Gentry Laughing] and I was like, “Okay, but I don’t want to do that.” But in the end I’m glad I did it. I feel like because of that fighting it made it better, because we grew closer.
Gentry: No, that is true. The recording process was cool because of the person we worked with, Knol Tate, he’s like pretty big in the local scene. He’s very DIY. So, we worked with him, which was the first time that we actually worked with somebody. We have been recording albums by ourselves. We recorded everything live which was opposite of what I wanted to do. When I was writing it I wanted it to be super produced and sound like Neon Trees, very synthy. After talking with him initially, before we started recording, we ended up going with him; same thing as Colson was talking about, I wanted that tension of him being rock and roll and me being not as rock and roll. I think it ended up sounding different than other pop records. The album itself, I hesitate to say what it’s about. Every song is supposed to be a specific feeling in a specific moment. So even if you feel that thing, you love somebody but at a specific moment, for like two seconds, you’re like, “Why are you the worst person ever?” For instance. So every song is supposed to be a different specific moment stretched out. The whole album plays a lot on nostalgia.
MC: You told me how you clash. How do you mesh?
Gentry: We don’t.
Gentry: We come from similar backgrounds and then we branch off. It ends up meshing through clashing.
Colson: I think we mesh in that sense that we all have that same idea of how we want to make people feel when they listen to our music, but when it actually comes to writing to our music, like I listen to a lot of pop punk and Gentry is a lot more radio poppy stuff. We listen to everything too.
Gentry: He’s into super intricate stuff. So it ends up meshing naturally by everyone doing something else. When I bring a barebones song to these guys, there are some things that stay and some things that end up changing.
MC: How can Minnesota Connected readers purchase or listen to your album, “Hearts and Flowers”?
Colson: Well it’s on Spotify.
Gentry: Anywhere. It’s on all streaming music sites. Google Play. iTunes. Band Camp.
MC: So, what’s next for you guys?
Gentry: There’s a show in March coming up and then we’re planning a tour for the summer.
Check out the Boy on a Bike website to keep up with the band!
Photos courtesy of: Boy on a Bike