Between the residence hall basements of Macalester and the First Avenue stage at 7th Street Entry, one could say that The Scouting Report plays all over town. While they are branching out from their long legacy of coffee shop performances to explore professional artist venues, they still find comfort and confidence in their small venue origins.
The audience alone is evidence of The Scouting Report’s evolution from a band in the Macalester “bubble” to one entering the broader music scene. Started by Macalester students Ryan Dugan ’17 and Hannah Scout-Field ’17 with supporting members Jonah Lazarus ’17 on drums and Ian Goodbar ’17 on bass, the band left their birthplace to connect with a Twin Cities fanbase that is rapidly growing.
At Minneapolis’ Driftwood Char Bar, a self-proclaimed “juke joint,” The Scouting Report finds itself at home. The group performed at the Driftwood last on February 23, following another student band, Astral Turf. A budding post-rock band full of talent, Astral Turf is one more group you should watch out for. Both bands drew fans from their Macalester home, but members of the Twin Cities community lined the walls of the venue to absorb the youthful energy of these performers.
After Astral Turf lead the night with more classic, clean-cut rock, The Scouting Report showcased its more genre-bending songs — its most recent and adventurous. Most chairs were turned towards the stage as heads bobbed to the music, but pub-goers wandered in from the cold throughout the show. The classic sounds of clinking glasses and pool balls created a warm background to the band’s performance, but even the drunkest of the pool players would pause their game to applaud each song.
And as they should. The Scouting Report has paid close attention to detail with each of their songs and their sound is reminiscent of a dozen different rock-bluegrass combo bands that have topped the charts in their genres. They channel the slow-building structures of Nickel Creek, the soft vocals of Laura Marling and the edgy rhythms of The Avett Brothers. Their set list acted like a cross section of the band’s range of styles, which shifted from bluegrass to punk rock and back again.
The performance began with the band utilizing their full sound, touching upon a few of their audience favorites: “Scratch Against the Earth,” “Obscure, Unkind” and “Dousing Embers.” Dugan and Scout-Field filled out the guitar riffs and drum beats with vocals, both singing from somewhere deep down and emotional. They played against a background of post-punk, psychedelic decorations, with tie-dye streaks radiating out behind the drum set as if music made color. This complemented the rock flare of the band, which put their sound somewhere between the Shins and the Grateful Dead.
In the middle of the set, Lazarus and Goodbar left the stage so that Scout-Field and Dugan could return to their acoustic roots. Scout-Field traded electric violin for classical and Dugan picked up his light brown guitar. They were a combo fit for campfire songs and storytelling, but there was nothing soft or shy about their playing. They easily filled up the void left by the electric instruments and let their voices harmonize with renewed balance. Scout-Field’s voice is classically trained and her impeccable sense of pitch helped to make each note resound. When just the two of them played, their grittier, rock-and-roll vibe fell away to reveal their raw talent.
They appeared completely comfortable with one another, each staring off into the distance with a day-dreamer’s look in their eyes. There was no need for guitar-smashing for them to show their emotional investment in the music. In each riff and rhythm, it was obvious that they were really having fun. And with every long-held chord, it became more clear that Dugan and Scout-Field’s voices were made for each other.
In an interview with these two, I caught a glimpse of how they interact off-stage and in the practice rooms. When asked to talk about the time-consuming process of writing, practicing and performing music, Dugan and Scout-Field had only positive stories to tell. They casually discussed their recent recording experience, which was vastly different from their first. All I can say is that the bathroom in Macalester’s Dupre Hall basement has pretty great acoustics, and it’s cheap. You can listen to The Scouting Report’s tracks on Soundcloud if you want to hear the tracks from those recording sessions. Then get excited for their upcoming album, entitled Narrows and Neuron.
The band is hoping to release this album in late March, with a title inspired by Dugan’s trip to Utah. “Narrows” refers to a hike Dugan took on that trip, when he strode between two cliff faces through a gushing stream. When asked to explain the use of “neurons” in the title, Dugan just said that “it’s the quintessential way to describe feeling.” In just a few words, “Narrows and Neurons” sums up The Scouting Report quite well. After all, they are primarily a band of adventure and emotion.