Finn Riggins battle it out, Idaho style.The wave of bands hitting the airwaves in the early 1990s - Green Day, The Offspring, Nirvana and Oregon's own Everclear - has always been described as punk rock, or post-punk rock, mostly because of the music's attitude and the musicians' appearances rather than the music, which bears little resemblance to punk rock's working class roots and overtly political message.
To me, none of those bands ever came close to sounding like the original punk rock bands of the late 1970s, like The Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Ramones or the Dead Kennedys, and it's pretty lame to lump together a band like Green Day in the same breath as The Clash.
Enter Idaho's Finn Riggins. Eric Gilbert (keyboards, vocals), describes the Finn Riggins sound as alternative, but to me it sounds closer to the music created by punk rock's pioneers than the typical "alternative" sound. It's loud, it's dirty, it's obnoxious, it's in-your-face, gut-busting, hair-pulling rock and roll with lyrics that make you think beyond whether or not you are an "American Idiot." But Finn Riggins' music is also melodic, full of hooks and riffs that will stick in your head for days after listening to their 2007 debut, "A Solider, A Saint, An Ocean Explorer."
"Describing the music really depends on who you are talking to," Gilbert said. "If you're talking to Grandma, it's rock music that she's not necessarily going to like. I think a basic description of our sound is experimental indie rock, but then again we're not really in that realm; we do things differently. We're influenced by everything. This band was not created by a group of musicians trying to sound similar to the bands we like. We're all over the board. For instance, the drummer and I listen to a lot of African and reggae music, but we also like the Talking Heads and Broken Social Scene. With the MP3 generation, listening to music is a whole different ballgame - people are all over the place and so are we, and it channels into the music that we write and create."
Finn Riggins got its start at the University of Idaho in Moscow. Musicians Gilbert, Cameron Bouiss (drums, percussion) and Lisa Simpson (guitars, vocals) were involved in a handful of musical projects in the limited Moscow music scene. Three years ago they took the songs they liked from each group and distilled those projects down to Finn Riggins. That musical batch has been fermenting through 245 days on the road in 2008 comprising 200 shows in 35 states, and over two albums - the second due out this September.
"We had a gig before we had any new songs written," Gilbert said. "We learned on the road, and moved this band along quickly. Playing so many shows increases the learning curve .... things will either work or they won't."
Gilbert said one of the biggest challenges in today's music business is getting your songs out -an interesting thing to say considering how digital distribution has revolutionized the industry. "In the last few years, yes, the rules have been broken down as far as getting your music out there," he said. "The Internet is nice and all, but everyone is using it, and it's become a sea of music that's hard to stand out in."
Call Finn Riggins old fashioned, if you'd like, but Internet or no Internet, the band is evidence that maybe, just maybe, a band can make it in the Twitter-twatter era by touring its ass off and creating out-of-the box music. Or maybe they should just revamp their MySpace page...who knows.