Band throws back to the '70s

Enchanted Ape may be based in Minneapolis, far away from the Red River Valley, but the band has become a familiar sight in downtown Grand Forks over the past few years.

Enchanted Ape may be based in Minneapolis, far away from the Red River Valley, but the band has become a familiar sight in downtown Grand Forks over the past few years.

Tonight will be the band's sixth appearance at the Crosstown Lounge. Singer and acoustic and slide guitarist Chris O'Brien said he heard about the venue from other Minneapolis bands who had made the trek to Grand Forks.

"It seems like there's a pretty good community of music fans in Grand Forks," he said. "A lot of times, we'll see some familiar faces when we come up there, and we've really had nothing but good experiences."

The venue has even become one of the band's favorites, O'Brien said. Enchanted Ape performs at 10 tonight at the Crosstown Lounge, and there is a $5 cover charge.

Sonic influence


O'Brien said the band, which came together in 2005, is "kind of a throwback to 1970s kind of rock" and uses quite a bit of improvisation in the music. Still, even the most jamming band needs priorities -- "the song is the most important," he said.

Enchanted Ape's sound takes its influence from a number of styles of music, such as jazz, world music, and "rootsy" blues. That mishmash of sounds seems to come from the band member's diverse musical tastes.

O'Brien said he grew up on blues rock, listening to bands like Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughan. But electric guitarist and vocalist Pat Riddle leans more to jazz and listens to a lot of John Scofield, John Coltrane and other jazz greats.

The band's current lineup has been around for the last few years, and came about after the original drummer left in 2006. O'Brien heard through the grapevine about drummer Adam Kuchelmeister of McNally Smith College of Music.

The new drummer brought in Riddle, another student at the St. Paul college, and bassist Rob Bruce quickly joined up. The band's two studio albums feature six or seven predominant musicians, O'Brien said, but it now tours as a four-piece group.

Filling out the edges of his band wasn't hard in a city with a vibrant music scene like Minneapolis.

"There's so many musicians in Minneapolis that if you're out there playing, you just sooner or later run into people."

Enchanted Ape has new material right now, O'Brien said, but he wasn't sure if the band would record a third studio album, try a live album or maybe skip the album idea all together and just release singles as the songs are individually record.


"It's kind of in the twilight of the CD era I guess," he said. "We're trying to consider how best to put out the music."

Advertising man

It wasn't long ago that it seemed unlikely O'Brien would become the lead singer and songwriter of a touring band. After growing up in the Milwaukee area, he went to Winona State University in southern Minnesota and was always "a pretty good student" with plans of going into advertising.

He played piano and sang some as a kid but didn't really play much music until college, he said. O'Brien "really got into playing the guitar" during his freshman year, and by the time he graduated in 2000, he was determined it was what he wanted to do.

His post-college job as an editor of a fishing magazine brought him to Minneapolis. He said he loves fishing, but he also saw it as a chance to give performing a shot.

"Minneapolis I knew had quite a lot of music going on and a pretty good music scene," he said. "As soon as I moved up here, I started kind of going out and playing open mics."

O'Brien admitted his new career choice was probably a "little bit of a shock" to his family, but he said it made sense in the scheme of things. "I think I've always been kind of an artist," he said, adding that he has drawn, painted and played music for much of his life.

"Everybody's been very, very supportive since then," he said.


O'Brien said Enchanted Ape takes the music seriously, "in the sense that it's kind of a spiritual thing," and added he tries to project sincerity in what he does on stage. Still, the band wants to be fun and see the crowd dance and move.

"We want people to maybe think a little bit about some of the lyrics but also just have a good time."

- On the Web: Listen to songs on Enchanted Ape's Web site,

Johnson covers local music events and runs a music blog at . Reach him at (701) 780-1105; (800) 477-6572, ext. 105; or send e-mail to .

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