WHO, AND MORE IMPORTANTLY • • • •
WHAT THE HELL IS AN ‘IF THOUSANDS’?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

If Thousands is Aaron Molina and Christian McShane – an American drone band from Duluth, Minnesota. They began making music together in 2000 by accident when Aaron was looking for a studio space and Christian was looking for someone to share the cost of the studio space he had. One evening after becoming frustrated with each others current musical ventures, they started playing instruments they had no idea how to play (Aaron was a punk-rock bass player and was a Christian a classical/folk/experimental guitarist).

They liked what they heard. The result was if thousands – the name being the product of a jumble of words put on one of the studio walls, until – after staring at all the words for a couple weeks and taking words down that either didn’t sound right or ‘didn’t fit’, eventually “if” and “thousands” remained. To them, it just sounded right for what they were doing.

In the age of “anybody who has a computer can be an atmospheric musician just like Brian Eno,” what sets them apart from the computerized/laptop-laden/digital masses is that their music is not made with computers. What you hear is being made by humans, not a computer program. Not that there’s anything necessarily bad about computerized music (well, there is, but…). It’s just that computerized music lacks that “human element”.

The typical if thousands foundation is guitar + Hammond organ & Moog synthesizer. After that, it’s wide open. They’ve used anything and everything to create sounds their looking for, from theremin, moog, and optigan, to cellos, ethnic instruments, kids toys, handmade objects, shortwave radios, electric drills…. the list is endless (during the recording of yellowstone, they recorded the as-yet unborn child of a friend in her third trimester for live background tracks). How did they do that? Well….. that’s if thousands.

Since releasing their debut album candice recorder in 2001, the band has released four full-length albums, two self-produced project albums, a soundtrack album, and a split album. In addition, their music has been featured in 18 independent films, as well as on countless compliations, guest appearances on other albums, and also NPR radio. Their one and only tour in 2003 was with Alan Sparhawk of Low and Haley Bonar. As Aaron said, “if thousands wasn’t meant to be a touring band.”

In addition to NPR, if thousands’ music has been heard on college and public radio stations throughout the world. Christian McShane records and performs solo as well as with many other musicians, most notibly in a scattershod manner with Charlie Parr, either accompianing Parr during solo shows or in the band Devil’s Flying Machine. Aaron Molina was previously part of the Minneapolis rock band Small Engine City.

In 2005, if thousands’ ethic of relaxation found form in Slumber, a performance where audience members were encouraged to bring pillows and blankets for the purposes of sleep during a 24 hour music performance by a long lineup of musicians and bands.

In a Dreamland Recordings interview, McShane explained the purpose and origin if thousands, “When we started , there was a lot of angry music in vogue. We were tired of hearing it – so many musicians were doing it, it was getting boring. We decided to go in the opposite direction. The idea that we started with was to relax people. To relax them to a point where they are drooling.”

Nearly 14 years later, and after a 6 year hiatus following the birth of Aaron’s daughter, the two are still creating sounds. Aaron still lives in Duluth, while Christian now lives on a farm about 1 hour southwest of Duluth.

What’s in store for the future of if thousands? Who the heck knows.

But one thing is for sure. It’ll be anything but boring.