Romantica—a beloved MPLS + STPL band fronted by Ben Kyle that features a who’s who of the music scene—will be releasing their highly anticipated new album Shadowlands on Last Chance Records with a big show at the Fitzgerald Theater on February 4th.
Before the show, we quick checked in with Kyle on the band’s stacked lineup, their songwriting, and the (not so) surprising love of Gram Parsons.
Secrets of the City: How did the musicians in Romantica get lined up? It’s quite a supergroup of talent with the likes of “Danger” Dave Strahan, Tony Zaccardi, and other powerhouses.
Ben Kyle: Tony Zaccardi and I have been friends since I was 15. When I asked him to join Romantica he said no because he was in too many projects, but his wife told him to call me back immediately and say yes! We brought “Danger” Dave (Farewell Milwaukee) in when we wanted to add a second guitar to the live show. We met through the House of Mercy Band and a long time supporter and friend Erik Brandt. His first day with the band was on a session at Pachyderm, recording for the Minnesota Beatles Project. He completely nailed the part, tone and aesthetic and we new he was in for the long haul. Jayanthi Kyle (Gospel Machine) is married to my older brother and we’ve been singing together since we were kids. Ryan Lovan was drumming for Roma Di Luna when we did a short midwest tour with Roma and Trampled by Turtles back in 2011. Our previous drummer had literally just left and so we asked Ryan if he could fill those dates. He did, and he’s been filling ever since. Aaron Fabbrini (Ben Rosenbush, Sara Groves) is actually a session bass player who flies all over the country doing session work. He was picking up the pedal steel for fun when we did a bill with one of his bands and asked him to sit in. He started playing Daniel Lanois’s Here is What is for soundcheck and it was love at first sight.
What’s the relationship of songwriting to sound for a band like Romantica? Is a layered, harmonious, and at times haunting song like “Harder to Hear” written first and then the sound built off of the lyrics and melodies?
Typically yes. I bring the words and melody in skeletal form to the band and then we work out the landscape together. But on Shadowlands we experimented a bit with writing together. “Here it Comes” for example, started with a steel lick that Aaron brought and everything else was inspired from there, in the moment. We recorded as we were writing it and the 3rd or 4th take is what ended up on the record.
Both Romantica and Ben Kyle are at an interesting place career-wise right now, sort of at the upper levels of local success. What goals—artistic, commercial, or otherwise—do you have for Shadowlands? And following it?
My goal is to give life to the world, however that can happen. If the music does that and there continues to be opportunities to do it, then I think we will.
We’re into the Gram Parsons tribute song, will the band be playing the Fitz show in custom-made nudie suits? Please say yes.
Most definitely! Yes, I still remember when I discovered Gram for the first time. I was driving home from half-price books where I had just picked up my first Gram Parsons compilation. It was the middle of summer and I had the windows rolled down in my navy blue cutlass station wagon and the speakers were blaring. I was thinking to myself, “I’ve been looking for this sound all my life and I didn’t even know it existed!” I was euphoric. I soon read Gram’s biography and was heartbroken that he died so young and I would never get to hear him sing. O Lord, My Lord, no angel had a voice could ring like that!
Tickets are still available to the release show at the Fitzgerald on Feb 4th. Photo credit Nicole McCoy Photography.