Seen & Heard: A method to La Madness - Kasson native records with rock band

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Some reviews of the Minneapolis-based band La Madness say they have a signature style and a live show reputation that "goes all the way."

After talking with band member Kurt Vatland, a Kasson native, I believe it. Kurt, the lead singer and guitarist, is everything you could imagine a "rock star" to be — great voice, smooth and charismatic, curses like a sailor, and full of crazy stories that could only happen to a musician and can't be printed in the paper.

I put "rock star" in quotes because if you ask him, he says his band isn't rock; they are "Indie Grind Blues." (Never heard of Indie Grind Blues? Me either.) Kurt coined the phrase to describe his music because nothing else fit.

"We are indie rock with a blues groove element and a throwback of the '90s grunge, which we call grind now, so … 'Indie Grind Blues.'"

After some time in California and Texas, Kurt returned to Minnesota with great songs, but no band, so he decided make an acoustic record.


La Madness is made up of a group of guys who were friends before they were in the band. They include Riggs Kessler, on lead guitar, Seth Levine, on bass, and Aaron Willey, drums. They joined Kurt to record the acoustic record.

"I went to the studio with Aaron," Kurt said, "and after about 15 minutes he said 'put the acoustic down — pick up the electric guitar,' and we went from there. We got Riggs and Seth and it took off from there.

"Everybody in La Madness, I knew of before I started making this band," Kurt said. "These are the best guys I've ever played with. We've all been playing a long time, so it's not like we need a year to get ready for this." Seth, though, is not accompanying the band on tour.

This spring the band is releasing their debut album "Chances Are," produced by Bryan Mengy (New Medicine) and engineered by Cold Leeb (Prince, Soul Asylum). Soon, they'll be touring nationally — plus they are the stars of the upcoming Rockumentary Youtube series "Going Mad."

At the time of this interview the band was No. 1 on the Minneapolis indie charts on Reverbnation, and they were laying final tracks on the album and doing the album cover photo shoot the next day — which included cover girl Jessica Zelinske, another Kasson native who I'll feature in an upcoming column.

La Madness is performing at the "Rock the Catwalk" Fashion and Benefit Show Feb. 23 at the Pourhouse in Minneapolis.

"I've always wanted to marry rock 'n' roll and hair and fashion together," Kurt said. "When I think back to rock 'n' roll music you always think of models. The music now isn't really in the genre of that fashion and hair stuff anymore, and I want to bring rock 'n' roll to that again, so I decided to put together a fashion show featuring local designers and some from L.A. We teamed up with a local breast cancer charity. We are going to premiere the songs that night too."

Proceeds from the event are going to the Treasured Chests Breast Cancer charity.


To hear La Madness' music or get more info, find them on Facebook and Reverbnation. Go hear them play at Kathy's Pub on April 6.

"I'm excited to come down and play Rochester," Kurt said. "I mean, that's my hometown area!"

Related Topics: MUSIC
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