Quick Q+A: Donna Grantis

Donna Grantis

Imagine how good you have to be for Prince to pick you to play guitar in his band—especially in his later years when he was far into his “guitar god” status himself. Well, Donna Grantis, who played with his Purpleness in the New Power Generation and 3RDEYEGIRL, is just that good, a fact acknowledged by Guitar Player mag to bands she’s shared the stage with: Pearl Jam, Stevie Wonder, Janelle Monae, and more.

Now back making her own music, Grantis debuts her new music—we flipped out when reading the descriptions that cite Miles Davis’ “Electric Period” as a comparison—at the Dakota with two shows this Friday. Before Grantis’s big sonic splash, we sent some Quick Question to her about the new music, creating a look, finding talent, and the prospect of becoming a notable local in MPLS + STPL.

Secrets of the City: We know the Dakota is great, especially for jazz/blues performance, but why specifically did you pick the Dakota as the spot to debut your new band?

Donna Gratis: My first public performance with Prince & 3RDEYEGIRL (before we even had a band name) was at the Dakota. As a band, we often visit to check out live music—it’s a great room for both listening and performing in, and Lowell and everyone involved with the club have always been exceptional. Some of my favorite guitarists, like John Scofield and Bill Frisell, have played there a number of times.

We also know that JT Bates is required on the kit for most jazz shows in MPLS, but how did you go about recruiting the rest of your band? Are they musicians you’ve previously worked with? Musicians who share your vision? Does everyone want to play with you these days?

I scoured the internet and frequented clubs like First Ave and Icehouse for a couple of months looking for players who I thought would best fit the musical direction of this new project. After reaching out, we all got together for three days and jammed some of the compositions I’d been working on over the past 18 months. Then we spent a day at The Terrarium Studio in Minneapolis and recorded most of the upcoming album.

It’s very cool to see Miles Davis’s Electric Period as an influence on your musical direction! What parts of that are most prominent for you? Miles’s modal stylings? John McLaughlin’s jazz guitar work? All the guitars on Get Up With It?

Albums I’ve been diggin’ lately are: On The Corner, Big Fun, Dark Magus, In A Silent Way, The Complete Jack Johnson Sessions, Live – Evil and Bitches Brew. I love how the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll is blended with a jazz sensibility in an exploratory context.

Your gear in 3RDEYEGIRL seemed like a pretty advanced rock guitar set-up, will there be many changes gear wise/effect wise for the new band? What helps make the new Donna Grantis sound?

My guitar tech refers to the pedalboard I used with 3RDEYEGIRL as “The Starship”. It features 21 effects pedals over 3 interconnected boards, all running in-stereo. It’s a pretty wild set-up. For this new project, I again worked with Craig Pattison Rig Design to create a simplified board of 9 essential pedals. One in particular that I’m excited about is the Empress Ecosystem Delay which features duel delay engines and up to 35 presets ranging from classic to obscure sounds.

We’re loving (in a big way) the silk screen posters that are available at the shows and some of the retro-funky visuals in the photos, etc. How much input do you have on the design direction and aesthetic for the band/show?

I think photography, fashion, production, lighting, art and design are all important creative outlets that can communicate an artistic vision. I like to collaborate with photographers, designers, sound and lighting engineers and visual artists to ensure that the creative direction on all fronts matches the vibe of the music. It was a pleasure working with Minneapolis’ own Brian Geihl from Dogfish Media to create the silk screen poster. I’m collaborating with long time friends, Call And Response Clothing in Toronto. They are brilliant designers and so fun to work with! They created so many of our stunning wardrobe pieces for 3RDEYEGIRL and it’s been a blast seeing thru this new artistic vision with them.

One of our hopes is that you’ll be regularly performing in and around MPLS + STPL this year and upcoming year—can we look forward to many more shows from you and your projects?

Yes—Thanks! I’m very happy to be here in MPLS. More music coming soon!

Some tickets still available for the August 4th show at the Dakota; 7 & 9:30 PM. $55-30.

Twincy Cheat Sheet: Fighting FOMO

fashon week mn

It’s almost impossible to keep up with the arts and the culture and the entertainment and food and drink and the people and the places here in MPLS + STPL, so we’ve put together this list of stuff that we’re using as talking points this week and sharing them with you to pretend like they’re you’re own.

When: Fall Fashion Week MN

One of the big showcases of the local fashion scene, Fashion Week MN #FWMN—which highlights the diversity and sustainability of the Twin Cities fashion scene—announced fall installment for the week of September 7-15th. The programming is again really exciting, from smaller events like the returning Crosswalk, the outdoor fashion show on the intersections of Uptown produced by local boutique Cliché, to bigger events like Fashionopolis at Aria, and brand new buyers market in partnership with Winsome Goods featuring a curated lineup of Minnesota fashion brands. Mark your calendar!


Speaking of local fashion, Tim and Thom Navarro—who contribute heavily to our scene with cool events like Black Hearts Ball and design outside season and gender—are raising funds to help with their trip to New York Fashion Week this fall. Help ’em out!

Where: Upton 43, Victory 44, and The Dirty Bird

Huge news from the foodie world last week: Local celeb chef Erick Harcey‘s big deal North MPLS restaurant Victory 44 will be closing, his other big deal restaurant Upton 43 will be relocating from Linden Hills to the trendy North Loop in MPLS, and the takeout fried chicken counter The Dirty Bird in the back of Upton 43 will also close. 

Why (Not? and How): Sneaking into the lower level of stadium shows

Having any FOMO from this weekend’s spate of stadium shows like Guns n Roses or Backstreet Boys with Nelly and FGL or even Billy Joel (with special Axl appearance)? We heard of a few folks who copped cheap upper level tickets at the last minute and then either walked around the lower level concourse for better views—or even just snuck down on to the floor’s much more expensive GA sections. 

Trend Watch: Duluth Week Redux

all pints north

All Pints North triumphed with a sold out event, notable for the very appreciate and attentive Bauhaus Haus Band Viva Knieval crowd, nontraditional pretzel necklaces (jumbo pretzels, entire snack bags), and a very pleasant, if accidental, baby break spot on a patch of grass overlooking the shore. Here’s a few of the fun beer names and trends that our APN Special Correspondent Isabelle Wattenberg gleaned in-between her many beers:

Funny + Punny Beer Names
CTRL+ALT+DEL – Altbier from LTD Brewing Company
Grrreat Flakes – American IPA (made with flaked corn) from Wicked Wort Brewing Company
Grow a Pear – Cider from Loon Juice
Hopothermia – Imperial IPA from Alaskan Brewing Co
Mo’ Citra, Mo Problems – Double IPA from Grand Rounds Brewing Company
Nursing in Public – Milk Stout from Spilled Grain Brewhouse
Prairie Bomb! – Imperial Stout from Prairie Artisan Ales

Shout out to Fair State Brewing as well, not only for winning the people’s choice vote, but for affixing sprinklers to their marquee awning. Well played. Well played.

Babies > Dogs
Block parties might still be the best place to hang out with the pooches, but this year’s APN had more little humans than doggos. We’ve noticed this in tap rooms, too, and support parents having a spot to take their tikes that also has good beers.

Little black dresses > Rompers
Just in case you were getting the impression beer fests are just new parents, it wasn’t. If you going to go out to a festival, look good! 

T-shirts from local breweries > Plaid
Speaking of looking good—the exotic local brewery t-shirt is the new David Bowie in Japan tour concert t-shirt. 

Man Buns > Men with beards covered in brewery stickers (Close call though)
The top knot trend is still going strong, but we’re hoping the beard decoration trend breaks out of just the beer festivals and into Twincy’s gen pop.

Custom pretzel necklaces > Traditional pretzel necklaces
Here’s a tip for any beer festival: If you’re going, you’ve got to up your pretzel necklace game. This has been a steady trend that’s just going to continue to grow. (Most notable: leis instead of yarn, necklaces containing entire mini-bags of pretzels.)


Quick Q+A: Irene Ruderman Clark + StoLyette


Much like a certain national political party or fans of GLOW, we’ve recently developed an intense love for Russians, thanks to the beautiful, sparse electronic music of StoLyette. The musical trio rework traditional Russian folk songs into emotional soundscapes full of click-pop percussion, heavy effects on the bass line, and singer Irene Ruderman Clark’s gripping vocals delivered in mother Russian. 

On Friday, StoLyette release their new album Summer, a project three years in the making that shows some subtle stylistic changes. It is a fantastic album—we have been listening to our copy over and over all week. The event includes a huge lineup of artists: Ryan Olcott (who produced the record), Devata Daun, and some of StoLyette’s label-mates from Totally Gross National Product, Invisible Boy and Andrew Broder. Before the show we sent some adoring questions over to Irene Ruderman Clark to hear more about it all.   

Secrets of the City: With yourself, Ben Clark (Pornonono, Votel, tiny deaths) and Mitch Miller (Beasthead, Sun Gods to Gamma Rays), is StoLyette basically a super group? Also how hard is it to schedule rehearsals?

Irene Ruderman Clark: Not supergroup at all. We feel really lucky to get to play music and be able to create songs that we like to listen to. One of our favorite things to do is practice, which is where we create new music and get better at what is already made, so we’re all usually excited for practice night. Maybe most importantly, we really like each other and like to hang out together, which is also very lucky.

With your live theater background, how much of the vocal delivery for StoLyette is a persona? It has this very beautiful personal—engaging, alluring, empathetic—character.

Thank you! My favorite thing in all the world has always been acting and pretending to live in another world. This feels different to me, because many of my lyrics and all of my intentions in the music are very personal and exposing (thankfully mostly in Russian, so not too much for English speaking audiences), so I can’t really hide behind a character and that makes me feel more uncomfortable. Overall, I still get to be theatrical and expressive, but in StoLyette, it’s definitely me on stage, not a persona—maybe a more dramatic and theatrical me, but still me.

What’s the songwriting process like for StoLyette? Is the rhythm line always first, followed by the other layers? With such a sparse sound, how do you know when a song is done?

Typically Ben starts with a loop and develops a musical theme. Then I come in vocally on top of that theme and we improvise. Then Mitch comes in to add fullness and clarity. We’ll record various improv sessions and Ben forms a structure to create an actual song with a beginning, middle and end. Meanwhile, I usually refine and create complete lyrics based on the improv sessions. And then, we come back together, play the song and geek out over how exciting it sounds to us. The last one we make is always our favorite, which is a pretty exciting place to be.

Your new single off of the new album Summer is a little more pop than we expected, but it’s fantastic. Are you all lightening up a little with a warm weather album?

Thank you! So glad you like it. Don’t worry, the words are still super dark. :) The rest of the album is the same mixture of dark nostalgic dance . . . or something.

What do you only work with producers named Ryan?

So far we’ve worked exclusively with Ryan Olcott on all three records. Ryan Olson is an old friend of Ben’s, supportive and always admired by us for numerous reasons, but he hasn’t worked on any of our music so far.

If we programmed a birthday party it would basically be the lineup for your release party, which is the collision of Ptych and Totally Gross National Product. On a scale of one to ten, how crazy is this show going to get?

Wow! I agree! You should do it, but add a lot! It’ll be incredible—I expect you to do it! As far as our show, I am so excited that we managed to secure such a stellar lineup. I will be there as a huge fan of all the other musicians and I can’t wait to be on the same stage as all these guys. I also can’t wait to share that unparalleled feeling when music fills the air and all of a sudden everyone in the room is connected on an illogical level. It all feels very special and important to me.

Catch StoLyette and the other incredible musicians at the Summer release show at First Avenue’s 7th St Entry on Friday at 8 PM. $7.

Burger Hunter: Uncle Franky’s

uncle frankys

Week after week, Mike S. impresses us with the depth and breadth of his burger knowledge. He gets fan mail from our readers and from restaurants, in fact more than the rest of us! Check out all The Burger Hunter’s meaty exploits at the #GreatAmericanBurgerHunter tag on Instagram and at @BurgerHunterUSA on the twitter.

At the end of the trendiest street (Quincy) in Twincy and just across the block sits a restaurant that thankfully is lost in time. In the era of swanky this and that with million dollar makeovers this place is historically kitschy and crushing it. Uncle Franky’s is a dog joint and I definitely suggest getting one but I went for the triple cheese burger with bacon. The menu is on a chalkboard which is always a good sign. Yup it is . . . I know you just thought about it. Let’s start with the bun, it’s regs but butter grilled and sized correctly. Burgers got some flavor. Gotta be the old flattop. You could put a cardboard box on that grill and it would taste good. FR. Seasoned hundo p. Guessing chuck but the pack is all the way firm. That cheese tho is the best part. I went to Swiss town and it was all over the place.  And thank you Uncle Franky for that. Onions are minced and on the bottom.  Bacon is fried and from mars. I didn’t understand it. Anywho, this burger is noteworthy and they have a great juicy so mark it down. Comes with some crinkle cut potato logs. Served piping hot! Also the MinneSoda fountain pop is a must. Sitting in this place really brings you to another era.  The ceiling fan. The smell. The chef yells out to you to double check your order. They even have a special of the day that’s under $5. When I got up I thought it would be farmland out those doors. Tasted good—felt amaze! 

Scorecard:   Flavor: 7.7   Presentation: 5   Originality: 7

Uncle Franky’s, 728 Broadway St NE, MPLS;