Vocalist/guitarist Dave Pirner will be the first one to admit that recording a Soul Asylum album can sometimes be very stressful, simply because he cares so deeply about every aspect of his songs and how the record unfolds. However, the frontman reports that making the band’s twelfth studio full-length, Hurry Up and Wait, was a completely seamless, enjoyable and productive experience.
This ease is evident in the music, which reflects Soul Asylum’s usual eclectic approach: thrashing songs indebted to punk (“Hopped Up Feelin'”) and classic rock (“Got It Pretty Good”), folk-influenced pop-rock (“Silly Things”), and gorgeous jangle-pop (“If I Told You”). “It was just total freedom,” Pirner says. “There was nothing, pressure-wise, that was making it less of a smooth creative process—if there is such a thing.”
It helped that Soul Asylum—which also includes drummer Michael Bland, lead guitarist Ryan Smith and bassist Winston Roye—recorded Hurry Up and Wait with a long-time studio collaborator: co-producer John Fields, who also worked on the band’s previous three albums, including their most recent effort, 2016’s Change of Fortune.
Soul Asylum initially formed in the early ’80s under the name Loud Fast Rules when Pirner was still in high school with friends Dan Murphy and Karl Mueller, and became part of the celebrated Minneapolis local music scene alongside fellow indie bands the Replacements and Hüsker Dü. This success led to the band entering the major-label mainstream with 1988’s Hang Time and its 1990 follow-up, And the Horse They Rode In On, before achieving a commercial breakthrough with 1992’s triple platinum Grave Dancers Union.
That album spawned several international hits, including “Runaway Train,” which won a Grammy Award for Best Rock Song, and “Black Gold,” and led to steady alternative radio and MTV airplay. Soul Asylum continued to enjoy mainstream success with 1995’s platinum-certified Let Your Dim Light Shine, which featured the hit “Misery,” and 1998’s Candy from a Stranger; the group also appeared on the soundtrack for multiple Kevin Smith movies, including Clerks. Since returning to action with 2006’s The Silver Lining, Soul Asylum has recorded steadily, and become a reliable presence on the road.
Luckily, these days Pirner can bounce his ideas off a steady group of creative foils, including drummer Bland, who spent many years drumming as part of Prince’s New Power Generation. “The band is really the first reaction. And if they respond to something, I pursue it. If we’re playing it for the tenth time in the studio and everyone’s like, ‘I don’t know,’ I’m like, ‘Well, fuck it,'” he says with a laugh. “But if people are just feeling it and they’re excited, I’m like, ‘All right, this one’s going to end up on the record. Let’s fucking do it.'”
Nearly 40 years after Soul Asylum coalesced as a band, Hurry Up and Wait underscores that Pirner is the rare musician who pairs the confidence of a seasoned veteran with the unflagging enthusiasm and ambition of an artist just starting out. “The first time you go into the studio, it’s terrifying,” he says. “You’re on the clock and you have to play and sing well, and have good songs. Now it’s like being a mechanic that’s been working on cars his whole life—you just do it.”
In March of 2020, the band ended their best selling tour in 15 years, The Dead Letter Tour, with support from Local H. They recently released an acoustic EP of songs from HUAW titled, Born Free. With more than 100 songs performed during weekly livestream sessions, the band are anticipating to be back on the road in 2021.