The music of Minneapolis band 13 Hertz carries with it an urgency that you’d expect from a group of musicians who have something to say.
Lead vocalist and lyricist T. Perry Bowers is not shy about his spiritual bent — in his songs or on stage. At a gig in an Uptown club, he talked five minutes about past lives while his bandmates stood by and shared knowing glances with each other; the singer was in his groove.
The groove for this band, featuring guitarist Charlie Henrikson’s penchant for odd time signatures ala Zeppelin, is surprisingly complex, and its air of discovery and exploration accurately mirrors the path of the players. Together since the spring of 1998, the six band members continue to meld, and they maintain a perspective of watchful anticipation for the time when their audience is at one with the frequency filling the empty space.
Acknowledging their influences as Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Yes and ’70s jazz (Miles Davis, Mahavishnu Orchestra and Weather Report), they liken their work to recent bands Smashing Pumpkins, The Verve and Radiohead. 13 Hertz has recorded six songs: “Full Spectrum,” “Aura” and “Carlos Castenada,” and the more recent “Cool Waterway,” “Nowhere Somewhere” and “Rose.”
The band’s vocalist and lead guitarist met when they were in college, Bowers at Hamline and Henrikson at Macalester. After forming one band and then a second, Gigawatt, the two faced the reality that it would only work if they recruited new musicians who shared their intentions.
Where did that leave you?
T. Perry Bowers: We basically spent two years in a rehearsal space almost every night and ended up with the four songs on our demo. That demo was done to attract musicians to 13 Hertz.
During that time also, we did an intentional ritual with a shaman. Looking back on it, I think that had a lot to do with where we are today. At the time, it was, like, “What’s going on here?”
Charlie Henrikson: The ritual took place over one night but we continued the meditations over six months.
And with the ritual, you set your intentions?
Henrikson: Intentions were definitely set. A lot of it for me was to do whatever it took to make my dreams happen. There was a lot of getting in our own way with drug use, and just not having the discipline to take our music to the next level. That was a big part of it.
Bowers: The intention was to be successful musicians and write our own music. And with that intention, a lot of things started to peel away — like he said, things that were getting in our own way. Distractions and the people we didn’t need to have around anymore. Our mindset was changing.
We also focused on the fire deep inside of us. We looked deep inside and said, “Wow, this is pretty big!” We also created, in a way, through our intentions, another entity outside of ourselves — or else we realized that it existed. We can always look to that — it is an image in my mind of energy that’s just bubbling and feeds what we’re doing.
That energy connects with your band’s name?
Bowers: A little bit. 13 Hertz is actually taken from Gregg Braden’s book Awakening to Zero Point. His theory is that the resonant frequency of the Earth would be at 13 Hertz during a pole shift. And it ties into the shrinking magnetic field of the planet. Whether his theory is true or provable, it’s a hope that we have. If the Earth’s resonance is rising, what does that say about our own internal resonance? And what will this shift do to our consciousness?
Henrikson: In our ritual experience and the preparation for it, we really gained a spiritual sensitivity that we’ve always carried somehow but never experienced first-hand. We’re gaining more awareness of that. And with books like Awakening to Zero Point, where Gregg Braden’s actually quantifying certain aspects of this higher frequency coming in from a lot of different disciplines, it really strengthened our vision. That’s why we chose the name 13 Hertz.
Bowers: Also, right around the time of our first band Gigawatt, we started reading all the Pleiadian books. That was really big for us. We might have called ourselves The Pleiadians at one point.
13 Hertz was something we could all agree upon. Not everyone in the band is as far out as we are, as far as spirituality goes. But as we’ve moved on and talked with the band about these things…
Henrikson: …Resistance has been less and less. They just kind of accept the crazy things that we say.
Bowers: Now, when we’re on stage before a show, they go, “You have to say all that crazy stuff you say!” And I say, “OK, I’ll try.”
Sometimes it just comes. I remember the first time when I was talking about, I don’t know what it was, past lives…we have a couple songs about past lives and stuff…and I spoke about it for about five minutes or so. It was in an Uptown bar and you could see some of the people saying, “What’s this guy about?” You could tell the people who thought we were out there. And then you could see the people who were thinking, “Wow…this is different.” And then the band was like, “Let’s rock ‘n’ roll.”
Whether it’s something you agree with or not, it’s something we have that a lot of rock bands don’t have. And having the guts to say it in a setting like that. I think that’s what prompted the band to say, “You have to do that more.”
Is this new for you, or have you always been outspoken?
Bowers: Among my friends, I guess. I’ve always been sensitive to people. If I know somebody’s really resistant to something, I don’t tend to push it in their face. But if I feel an opening within somebody, I’ll start talking and I’ll try to bring it out and understand what’s within them that I don’t know and try to share what I know. I’m not a crusader by any means, but I like to see my opportunity — and go for it! Even if it’s just a little mark I can make on somebody. That’s what I always try to do. The more we go out and do shows, the more people come up to me afterward and say, “I totally relate with what you had to say on stage.” Then they’ll go on for a half hour about their own experiences of meditating and seeing Jesus.
It’s a resonance you create with your audience?
Bowers: Yeah! We try to. That’s one thing the ritual allowed us to do. It allowed us to see that we can’t conquer everyone. We’re not trying to be Britney Spears or write something that’s going to be accessible to everybody. We hope to invite more people who resonate with who we are, with the metaphysical and new age.
Every band has a niche, and I think that’s ours.
Henrikson: I think the rock music that has endured has always been revolutionary. It’s had a radical element to it, even the Beatles with their Eastern religion and the LSD when it first came out. All of the music that’s still around today has that element to it. You talk about Britney Spears. I don’t that music’s going to endure.
Bowers: Well, look at somebody like Madonna. When she came out, she potentially could’ve been somebody like Britney Spears, but then she matured and had a lot to say about feminism, about being a woman, about sexuality.
You never know what kind of ripple your presence will create in your audience.
Bowers: Yeah. That’s where faith and trust come in. If there’s one person in the audience who is truly offended by what I say, there’s probably another person who’s truly touched by what I say. I’m not trying to offend anyone, but you have to go with what you believe in when you’re trying to get a message across. Everybody has his or her own experience, and everybody’s going to look at what I say and hear what I say in a different light. Hopefully, I’ll get across my message to people who are just ready for it.
How do you integrate who you are into the sound that you create?
Bowers: It comes through in the lyrics. That is the most obvious thing.
Henrikson: Perry doesn’t write the lyrics ahead of time. He writes them as we’re working on the instrumental part of the song. Then the lyrics come into his head and they fit. I always come up with guitar parts and then we play around with those.
I have a penchant for odd time signatures. I like conflicts and interlocking rhythms. When you talk about music therapy, sonically, I think the type of music I like to play breaks up rigid forms. I think it’s more ethereal and less physical. That just came to me the other day. I think that’s why I like it so much. It’s not 4-4 time. It’s the unexpected. It’s asymmetrical. It breaks up patterns.
That reminds me of Led Zeppelin and how they used odd chord sequences.
Bowers: Led Zeppelin is probably one of our biggest influences.
Henrikson: If I was stuck on a desert island, a Led Zeppelin CD is all I would need.
Bowers: And Robert Plant, from what I understand, also comes up with lyrics while listening to the music. He doesn’t sit down and write a song beforehand. He said some of the songs he wrote were actually done in one take, spontaneously off the top of his head. I’ve done that before, too, written a whole song and then just adjust a word or two to make it fit better.
That’s something you can’t really think about: Does this verse connect with this verse and that chorus? When you look at the whole thing when it is finished, you see the completed idea. It’s a matter of getting out of your own way.
Then you began to recruit members into 13 Hertz, one by one?
Henrikson: Our whole purpose of making that demo tape after two years of going underground was to put a band together, a band that we could put all of our ideas and intentions into. As soon as we made that tape, it happened very fast. Somebody knew somebody else and just by word of mouth it came together.
Bowers: I used to play with our drummer, Kent Mortimer, when we were in high school. We saw him at a show and asked him to come over and check out our new sound.
Our first intention was to get two females to play with us. We wanted that balance in our band. Then we ran into Kent and we decided to make an exception for him, because he’s very talented and dedicated. So then we vowed that the next person we got for the band would be a female. Kent said he knew a woman who was a guitar player — not a bass player that we were looking for — and we said, “OK, let’s bring her in.” She came and played and everything started clicking. Having a second guitar made our sound more interesting. So Lila Karash joined, and she had a friend, Rob Aurand, who was a bass player, so he joined. Then we auditioned female vocalists for backup singers. At one point, we had a nine-person band. We had an organ player, three female backup singers, and then the other five in the band. Then the organ player moved to Texas and two of the backup singers backed out. That left Charlie Jaisle as our backup vocalist.
Describe the growth you have seen in the three years that you’ve been together as one unit?
Bowers: One of our challenges has been that Charlie’s guitar parts are dense, so it’s been hard to create some space in our songs. So we’ve gone at that a couple different ways. One is, we’ve tried to have as much dynamic range, like volume up and down, in our music, so that offers a sense of space even though the parts might be dense. And Lila has one of the hardest jobs: to lay another guitar part on top of Charlie’s already complicated and intricate, odd-time stuff. So she’s had to find her niche. It’s been hard at times to work the two guitars together.
Henrikson: One thing we’ve always had in this band is personal respect. There’s no rivalries going on, and I remember new members remarking how different that is from other bands they’ve been in. I think that’s helped us solve problems and stay together.
As we’ve written songs, everyone has had faith that we can come up with really good songs. I’ve tried to adjust the way I write songs to leave space. I’ve tried to evolve, too, to write for the band.
Bowers: The writing process hasn’t been easy, but it’s getting better. We know now that we can get through things even though they appear hard.
How challenging has it been to connect with your audience niche, given the type of clubs you have to play in to make some money?
Bowers: I was talking to Sandy Swanson the other day about the fate of Lake Harriet Spiritual Community. I think the fate of the church and the fate of 13 Hertz goes along the same lines. We’re both floating along, paying our bills and everything’s fine, except in terms of massive success and appeal. I don’t think there is anything else you do walk your walk and persevere — for the right energy, for the right chemistry, for the right venue, for it all to just explode. To have word of mouth spread like fire. Then all of a sudden you’re there.
It’s that faith that you have. If you keep doing what you’re doing and maintain your intention, at some point it’s going to catch fire or, it just was never meant to be. And if it was never meant to be, well, we gave it our best shot. But I don’t believe that.
I think it’s the same thing for Lake Harriet. Does it take a solar blast of consciousness to come down to Earth? Or does it just take good marketing? I don’t know what it takes other than just sticking with our intentions.
Tell me about the new songs you’ve recorded.
Bowers: “Cool Waterway” is about being a young adult and having my parents explain to me the skeletons in their closet: “This is who I am, this is who I was, these are the mistakes I’ve made. You never knew this before, but you’re old enough now to integrate it within your own experience.” Part of it was because I wanted to understand what made me who I am. I think a lot of us young adults never realize what was going on behind the scenes when they were growing up as children with their parents. I give a lot of respect to my parents for having the guts to tell me — to really tell me what was going on. It took me a few months of asking a few more questions to get a sense of what was up. It’s a hard process to go through, but it’s freeing. It helped me realize why I was having a lot of problems in my own life, in my own relationships. It helped me put it together.
“Nowhere Somewhere” has a lot to do with the Conversations with God book, and about psychic power. It has a lot to do with New Year’s Eve 1999 at an event at Lake Harriet Community Church with Michele Mayama, when she channeled and I could clearly see her aura…it was yellow, huge. It was one of those moments you wait for your whole life. I was moved so much. It was such a natural high. So “Nowhere Somewhere” is about being in this physical realm one moment and the next you are in the spiritual realm where you’ve always hoped to be. It’s like, why can’t I always be there?
Henrikson: That particular song raised the bar as far as the quality of songs we were writing. We were discussing our desire to deliberately write more energetic, exciting, more rockin’ kind of material. It came together by the band during jam session, rather than me coming in with my parts and having the others come up with something to go along with it. I think was just a lot better than what we had been writing. Once you come out with something like that, you don’t want to step back.
So you may be using that process of creating songs more in the future?
Bowers: Yeah…it was a turning point.
What about the third song, “Rose”?
Bowers: It is an apology to my girlfriend for not being truthful to her and trying to mend things with her. It’s a love song. It’s pretty simple, and one of our shorter songs, too.
For more, go to www.13hertz.com. The band is interested in hearing from intrigued band managers and video artists for future collaboration. Write 13 Hertz at 2921 N. 2nd St, Minneapolis, MN 55411 or call (612) 840-5780. E-mail the band at [email protected]