Fargo folk rockers Riesage are releasing their very first album, “Anon,” on cassette tape this August 31 at The Aquarium.
“Anon,” a five-song EP, includes years-old songs written by lead vocalist/guitarist Mike Barnum, who originally played music and toured as a solo artist. It wasn’t until early 2010 that he started forming what is now known as Riesage.
“I’ve been touring by myself since 21,” Barnum says. “It’s really hard to tour by yourself. You get sick of people talking over you … so I started playing with people because of those reasons, but mostly because I wanted the music to be more dynamic.”
Since forming a few years ago, the group has become one of the most active original bands in the F-M area. They’ve opened for a number of acclaimed indie acts, including Blitzen Trapper, Josiah Wolf, Caroline Smith, Wooden Sky and Ivan & Alyosha.
“Anon” has been out on Bandcamp since earlier this year, but this Aug. 31 is its official release party, where concertgoers can purchase the album on cassette. Inserted in the case is a download card for a digital copy of album as well.
They chose to release the album on cassette instead of the standard CD for a number of reasons.
“Mainly cause they are affordable. Nobody really wants CDs anymore, but vinyl is really expensive to press,” says bassist Ben Sailer.
“It’s really just to give something to people if the pay for a download code rather than just selling them just the digital file – there is actually something tangible.”
Drummer James Ricigliano says they are making a comeback: “It’s the same type of thing, that the retro throwback – that 8-tracks and tapes are now making a huge comeback just like clothing styles and everything like that.”
Even so, cassettes have their own certain sound quality to them that listeners may not get on a CD or MP3 file.
“There’s a little more warble to the guitars. There’s a little bit more warmness on the drums,” says Troy Gion, guitarist (formally of Sunrise/Sunset). “It kind of has more of a live sound.”
The band’s overall sound definitely captures a live feel. Barnum’s earnest, and sometimes demanding, vocal style and his relationship-driven lyricism over an acoustic guitar is accompanied by Riesage’s power, atmosphere, tension, beautiful melodic lines and pulsating rhythms.
The band members use the term “whiskey folk” to describe their music.
“The way that the music starts to pick up,” Ricigliano says, “it’s something that in the very beginning you can be drowned out and then by the end of it you are actually dancing on your feet.”
Vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Andi Thoreson, the band’s newest addition, joined the group earlier this year. She knew Barnum back when he was just a solo artist.
“I always really liked his song ‘Shut Your Mouth and Don’t Let It Go To Your Head,’” she says. “And I remember thinking ‘God, I could harmonize the shit out of that song.’”
Thoreson and Ricigliano are not on “Anon” (it was actually recorded in 2011), but the band is now in the process of recording a full-length album, expected to release later this year. Other future plans include a mini tour.
Barnum says one of the most important things he makes sure not to do is take himself too seriously. Instead, it’s about enjoying the music and the company of others.
“We always have a lot fun at our shows and we joke around,” he says, “and be who we are.”
IF YOU GO:
WHAT: Riesage “Anon” Release with Kipp G, Shane Maland and Little Winter and Restless Vibes
WHERE: The Aquarium, 226 Broadway
WHEN: Sat., Aug 31, 10 p.m.
INFO: FREE, 21+
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