Like a storm building on the horizon, it's hard to stop the impetus that is Aaron Rosell (keyboards & auxiliary) and Shawn Bortel (drums & percussion) of First Dates. The Minneapolis-based instrumental duo takes pieces built around beats created by Bortel and/or melodies by Rosell—and as two people would discover how a tentative first date might play out—they allow feelings to unveil themselves as the songs evolve.
The two friends met circa 2005 when Bortel was working as a youth director for a band in which Rosell played drums. This musical friendship led to an improv jazz group under the guidance of Bortel, but with new jobs and college and distance filtering in, the two lost touch. Almost a decade later, with Rosell out of college and back in Minnesota, he received an invitation in February of 2014 to join Bortel in a new improv-based group—and things naturally fell into place.
Set to release their debut album, "Awkward Conversations," in the fall of 2016, the duo created a space that is infused with feeling, ruffled with ragged edges, and displays humanity at its most vulnerable.
A collaborative effort, "Awkward Conversations" is so overwhelmingly dense, it envelops its listeners entirely. Some songs sway, some songs pulse, but each one hums deeply—as if the two were able to tune into the circadian rhythms of a mysterious machine buried deep underneath the earth’s crust. It’s not often you find an album as breathlessly immersive as this. Drawing from influences such as Dave King, MuteMath, Sigur Rós, and Phish, the six songs are real, and the duo have used the past as a clear starting point from which to spring forth.
It’s apparent listening to their album that for Rosell and Bortel, 2016 will be an extremely momentous year, as they have effectively channeled the fabric of their experiences into their work. Beneath the lighthearted friendship and minivan jokes, this is a group that is just starting to figure out how far they can go.
released September 23, 2016
First Dates is:
Shawn Bortel // Drums & Percussion
Aaron Rosell // Keyboards & Auxiliary
All songs written & performed by First Dates © 2016
Recorded by August Ogren at The Petting Zoo in Minneapolis, MN
Produced and mixed by August Ogren
Additional production by Shawn Bortel & Aaron Rosell
Guitars performed by Leng Moua
Additional synths & auxiliary percussion performed by August Ogren
Mastered by Bruce Templeton at Magneto Mastering
Album artwork by Jason Walz // www.jasonwwalz.com
Layout & design direction by Rudy Arnold // www.rudyarnold.com
Photography by Nancy Hauck // www.nancyhauck.com
Shawn would like to thank:
Him who made The Way. Also, my family: My above and beyond wife Jenny. My daughters: Tatum, Macey, and Annika, who teach me daily. My parents, Mike and Dar, who never missed a FGP concert. My brothers, Todd and Ryan, and their families, who listened and supported with true belief. Thanks to Peg, Sherwood, Ward, Beth, and Graham. You have supported us in great and unique ways. Props to the Rutherford family; we raise a kanuper to you! My friends: Aaron, who took a chance on two dudes with vans. Greg, for the vision that started this whole thing. ALL of Lionsgate Academy… you know who you are. All my friends, past and present... former students, thank you. To those who helped shape this project: August, Leng, Nancy Hauck, Dan Huiting, Jason Walz, and Rudy Arnold. Finally, thank you to Kevin and Casey and the crew at Center Church.
Aaron would like to thank:
My family: Joe, Barb, Craig, and Kate Rosell. Mealeys & Rosells the world over. Shawn for his talents, time, and brotherhood. Greg Boesel for laying the foundation with us. August & Leng for breathing beauty into these tracks. Jen Bortel for the couch notes and bottomless wine supply. The timeless jazz cats in The White Bear Big Band for the beer & music. My amazing colleagues at GoDaddy & Mad Mimi for their daily camaraderie; the incredible people at Portastand; every staff member at Nina’s Coffee Cafe & Claddagh Coffee (both in Saint Paul, MN) for keeping me alive. My friends/fellow musicians/lovers of art who helped us make this record: Alec Nicholson, Annie Hejny, Carl Corcoran, Dan Huiting, Dustin Jensen, Jason Walz, Kasano Mwanza, Katie Wohlers, Mike Forbess, Nancy Hauck, Rudy Arnold, Samie Kaufman, Seth Lienard, Stefan Swanson, and Steven Shepard.