With three records and years of of touring under their belt, the Minnesota natives have found something to celebrate.
By Maggie Dickman
A three-piece family band from Minnesota might not scream “punk”. But Tiny Moving Parts have proven their rock worth through intricate instrumental backing and potent vocal authenticity that are nothing short of addicting. Embracing their Midwestern roots, the band takes a poignant look at growing up with songs that bleed small town influence—driving down gravel backroads, accepting life’s ever-changing circumstances and celebrating through it all. And if their recent sold out headlining shows prove anything, it’s that these Minnesota guys just get it.
“We didn’t expect to be where we’re at right now at all,” vocalist/guitarist Dylan Mattheisen says. “This is all just really cool and just as fun as our first tours ever. We’re having the time of our lives.”
Taking the stage, it’s clear they have no trouble commanding a crowd. Mattheisen and bassist Matthew Chevalier deliver calculated riffs and work the stage with an uncontrollable vivacity. Drummer Billy Chevalier brings crashing rhythms that are matched only by the crowd yelling back with a similar blissful ferocity. The show is a fucking celebration—and one that they bring to every tour stop along the way.
Alongside their new record, Celebrate, Tiny Moving Parts’ 2016 has consisted of a European tour with The Fall Of Troy, following a headlining U.S. summer tour with sold out stops along the way. They just finished a U.S. trek with Touché Amoré and Culture Abuse, and they have a European run with The Wonder Years set to kick off 2017. But they never imagined literally living on the road. For the band, that was just a dream.
“When we were in high school, we wanted to be in a touring band,” Mattheisen says. “Travel the world with your friends playing shows every night? That sounds awesome. And that was the benefit about living in a really small town. We knew we had to get out in order to get our name out there or actually be able to tour as much as we could.”
Before the sold out shows and worldwide tours, the family trio found themselves tied down to Benson, Minnesota, population 3,000—give or take a few. Putting music together in a garage, the math rockers lacked that petri dish bands typically use to develop in.
“There was nothing there. I’m surprised we got into the music we did,” Mattheisen says.
“We didn’t really start playing in a scene until college when me and Dylan lived in Fargo,” Billy says in agreement. “Before that, it was just our friends watching us play. That’s it.”
But they immersed themselves in the music and embodied the punk, do-it-yourself lifestyle in a place where a country twang reigns supreme. Mixing an introspective lyrical narrative with calculated math-rock and post-hardcore strings, Mattheisen’s sandpaper rough vocal delivery gave the group a sound that extended beyond small-town Minnesota. With a beginning marked by shitty tours, a broken van and shows with as little as five people (if they were lucky) it wasn’t easy. Not even able to boast the connections for house shows, the band would play bad bar shows to pay for gas to get to the good cities, with a solid DIY show or two thrown in there every once in awhile. Their situation wasn’t ideal. But in their minds, they were living the dream.
“Our first tour ever was just a bad tour, but it was the most mind-blowing thing for us,” Matthew says. “That was just, ‘Oh, we’re actually in a van driving city to city. That’s kind of weird.’ And it’s kind of slowly gotten a little more legit. Very slowly.”
No matter how slowly, or how shitty, it was getting them outside of Benson—a group of friends and good music? They couldn’t ask for anything more. Run after run, city after city, the group hit any and every venue they could.
And that trek-heavy schedule paid off. From bar shows in any city they could book, the group started booking basement shows where people would show up and scream every lyric, just weeks after their freshman record This Couch Is Long And Full Of Friendship made its debut. It was a far cry from the days of playing shows to their friends back in Benson.
But that touring grew organically with each release. Following their second album, Pleasant Living, their first with Triple Crown Records, they toured with the likes of pop punks State Champs and their emo rock cousins Modern Baseball. Both with devoted followings, both opening up a new set of ears to their music.
It’s Tiny Moving Parts’ most recent release, Celebrate, that truly defines their growth as a band. The album of the year contender bleeds the energy of a basement party overflowing with cheap booze, authenticating the idea that life is all about perspective. Touching on life’s extremes—from the poignant “Minnesota” to the album’s exuberant summation in “Happy Birthday”—it’s a reminder of the celebration through it all.
Sure, it would be easy to nag on their small-town roots. (“There’s nothing much to do. We just go golfing and hang out with our parents,” says Mattheisen on being back home, laughing.) But Benson is where it all began. Though they could never have imagined reaching this level, it’s not something they’re taking for granted.
“I think we sold like seven or eight shows out,” Mattheisen says, noting the sold out New York and Philly dates in particular. “Thinking back to Philadelphia basements, where there’d be like 30 people there, we were just totally stoked. But that was 300 people and they were all singing along.”
With an overwhelming response and another run on Celebrate in Europe come January, Tiny Moving Parts are itching to keep on the road. They have their sights set on destinations as far out as Japan and Australia, but they’re not getting ahead of themselves. They put on a hell of a live show no matter the size, and it’s all still about the music. If anything is clear, it’s that they’re still the same small-town rockers they were in the beginning.
“We’re just taking it a day at a time,” Mattheisen says. “We’re so thankful for everything. Touring is still just as fun as when we first started.”
Whether they’re surrounded by strobe lights and fog machines Europe or trekking between shitty American bar shows, Tiny Moving Parts have found a reason to celebrate—and they deserve it.