Owen Sartori was staring into the abyss of another dreary day at the office when inspiration happened along. Like so many other worker bees, the former frontman of A Band Called Delicious was being paid to do something entirely other than what he was busying himself with in his cube when the muse arrived.
“I literally wrote that song while working in a cubicle. Staring at my computer, loathing the work, loathing the position I was in. On company time, I sat there and wrote it out,” he says with a little laugh.
The song is aptly titled “The Cube.”
“Such a cruel joke that this should be my life,” he sings over ironically buoyant pop rock in what serves as the title track for his solo album, “Another Beautiful Day in the Cube.” The new CD is on Milwaukee’s indie Burst Records.
Sartori celebrates the release of the album at Trocaderos in downtown Minneapolis at 8 p.m. Friday (Aug. 1).
The dual themes of “The Cube” are in balance; the Kafka-like claustrophobia is offset by a c’mon-get-happy melody (it might remind some of Matthew Sweet’s “Sick of Myself” from “100% Fun”).
“It seemed to be the central theme of the record, which was, if you have to do something to get by, make sure it’s something that you love to do and not something that’s going to drain you emotionally,” 35-year-old Sartori says.
“I’ve been through my metal phase. All young males have to go through their angry music phase. While I still express some aggression, I try to make it a little lighter. Being too dark, I don’t know. This isn’t the blues. This is pop rock. I’m generally a very happy person.”
He says his music has evolved from long and artsy introspection to a more tightly focused sound.
“I went into the experimental, super-emotional, epic, long songs,” he says, laughing. “Seven minutes was no big deal. But I’ve decided that if you can’t get your point across in three-and-a- half or four-and-a-half minutes, maybe you should rethink what you’re trying to say.”
(You can hear all of Sartori’s earlier recordings at his website.)
Sartori’s now completely in love with pop songs.
“They’re far more entertaining and a lot more fun to play and then you don’t come off like you take yourself so seriously,” he says. “That’s what I’ve changed over the years. I’ve gotten away from being too dark or, I don’t know, I don’t want to say depressing, but it seemed like a lot of the music went that way. It’s time to have some fun.”
With a little help
Sartori, who is now more happily employed as a recruiter at the Institute of Production and Recording in Minneapolis, landed some well-regarded session musicians for the recording of “Cube.”
Among them is drummer Kenny Aronoff, who has worked with a long list of A List musicians, including Santana, the Rolling Stones, Smashing Pumpkins, Vince Gill, Aaron Neville, Elton John, Bob Dylan … and on and on and on.
Bassist Dave Marotta also played on the CD and can drop some pretty big names himself: Phil Collins, Manhattan Transfer, Burt Bacharach and Bruce Hornsby, among others.
Sartori says he aims to make the show this Friday at Trocaderos into something more than the usual CD release party. He’s going to have eight acts precede him and his band on stage; each one performing a micro-set of 15 minutes.
The lineup: Kevin Bowe, Mighty Fairly, Sirens of Titan, Grayson, The Heed, The Farewell Circuit, Wet Nurse Orgy and Run at the Dog.
“Each one of these bands, in say one of the three songs they do, they’re going to cover a song off of my record. So that’s going to be fun,” he says.
He says he’ll probably do his own versions of the uncovered songs in his set, which will, of course, bring the night to a close.
“Any show should be an event of some kind,” he says. “You’ve got to give people a reason to go out and this is what we came up with.”
Admission to the show is $6.
Sartori also will be performing at 10:40 a.m. Friday on KARE 11 TV on “Showcase Minnesota.”
Perhaps no one is more determined to have fun playing their music than Chout and Alex, the two guitarist-bassist-vocalists who make up Small White.
Their irreverent approach begins with the band’s name (a contrarian takeoff on Steve Albini’s Big Black) and carries through much of their material; the full-bore guitar roar with shouted lyrics about cleaning the genitalia of horses (“She’s Chunkin’), surf-punk with a melodic nod to the “Munsters” theme (“Drowning Poseur”) and a bouncy bit of thunder called “Be My Rodeo.”
“It’s all about fun,” says Chout. He acquired his odd name in games of disc golf he used to play “when the hippie mood would hit.”
“Chout” was a shouted warning — a fusion of “watch” and “out” — to fellow players.
A downside of the nickname is that people have sung Tears for Fears’ “Shout” at him over the years. (These are the things he can do without, apparently.)
Chout and Alex say they’re carrying on the tradition of rock duos (they mischievously cite Wham! and Hall & Oates as influences), but acknowledge that they would someday like to replace their three programmed drum machines with a real person.
Small White celebrates the release of a new CD, “Do It Til It Ends,” this Friday (Aug. 1) at St. Paul’s Turf Club. Les Deux Magots, Somatic Fuzz (their final show) and Gumbi also are on the bill. Admission is $5.