Rank Strangers

Telling the story of Rank Strangers is not unlike what I imagine a pre-World War II Trans-Atlantic flight in bad weather must have been: long, slow moving with turbulence and vomiting. The band was born in the spring of 1990 in East Lansing, Michigan. The founding members were Mike Wisti (vocals/guitar), Doug Durbin (drums), Leif Wisti (bass), and Charlie Wallin (guitar). We moved to Minneapolis in August 1990.

We played our first show in the Twin Cities at the Uptown Bar on a New Band Night in November 1990. Getting local shows was difficult, and throughout 1991 we played more frequently out-of-town on short extended weekend tours or mid-week one nighters to Kansas City or Ames or Cedar Falls or Chicago, etc. etc. etc.

Fall 1991 saw the release of Nirvana's Nevermind and the recording of Rank Strangers' debut, Far Cry From Here. With no record deal and not enough money to put it out ourselves, Far Cry... began collecting dust.

Charlie left the band in January 1992, and we played as a three piece until April 1992 when a friend of ours from Michigan, Jacques Wait, moved out to Minneapolis and joined on guitar. Jacques added guitar parts to one half of Far Cry From Here. It was released in June 1993 on Crackpot Records. Reviews of the album were positive except for one local review in the City Pages, which called the record "born again Christian rock," and labeled me as a "Koresh-like" figure. It was upsetting at the time, but now it seems pretty funny.

Unhappy with the results and expenses of recording in professional studios, we set about recording our second album in our practice space, the basement of my house, in October 1993. Weeds was finished by late winter 1994 and the proposed record was shopped to record labels by a lawyer. The entire process stretched on for the better part of two years, resulting in the "lost year" of 1995. Relatively early in this period, Leif left the band (summer 1994). Davin Odegaard, of Draghounds fame and fortune, joined that same summer and continues with the band today. Weeds remains unreleased.

Disillusioned with events connected to the Weeds album we decided to record a new record which we would release ourselves. Mystery Spot, Rank Strangers' second full- length release, finally came out in June 1996 on our own Veto Records. We began to receive more attention in the local press around this time and attendance at the shows improved. A more organized touring schedule followed the release of Mystery Spot and in general the band did a better job promoting the record. Mystery Spot is easily Rank Strangers' most successful release (until now, we hope, tee hee). Mystery Spot was nominated for a Minnesota Music Award (Best Rock Recording, 1996).

1997 saw the recording and release of Target/Planetarium (7", Veto) in June and Target (CD, Veto/TRG) in October. More touring, etc. Target won a Minnesota Music Award (Best Rock Recording, 1997).

Original member Doug informed the band of his plans to move to Seattle and form a grunge band in January 1998. He continued to play with us through April when new drummer, Brien Lilja, like Davin formerly of the Draghounds, joined. Davin, Brien and I began weekly Wednesday night recording sessions in May that continued throughout the summer. We played sporadic live shows locally with Jacques until August 1998 when he left the band. Ana Voog Is Sleeping/Life During Wartime (7", Veto) came out in November 1998 and established the band's new three-piece identity. As I write this, Consumption, our fourth full-length release, sits in boxes in my bedroom, hopefully to be in stores in June. Are we there yet?

Mike Wisti

May 27, 1999

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HTML 1998-1999 Charles Gillett, Art and Photographs 1993-1999 Rank Strangers.