St. Louis' Laika Likes to Scream in Peoples' Faces

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Laika is (from left to right) Paul Heitert, Jack Middeke and Mike Brown. - COURTESY OF LAIKA
  • Courtesy of Laika
  • Laika is (from left to right) Paul Heitert, Jack Middeke and Mike Brown.

In this column, RFT Music gets to know local creatives, musicians and their missions. Get a slice of the local scene, complete with a snippet of sound and info about upcoming releases and shows. Stick around to see what St. Louis artists have to say whenever they Fill in in the Blank.

Laika ran into travel troubles during a recent nine-day Midwest tour -- twice. The first set of issues came in Iowa City, leaving the band stranded in the area college town for two days. Instead of waiting around, the trio, along with tourmates, took to the streets to find a place to set up and play.

A friendly bartender at a place called Gabe's points to a corner and says they can start a show in exactly two hours. Makeshift handbills get crafted with crayons and passed out, a handful of passerby stop in to support the show, new friendships are forged and memories made. During the final leg of their trip, a completely broken-down vehicle meant getting stranded in Nashville for four days. The trio scrapped the car, rented a U-Haul and returned to St. Louis extremely humbled by the kindness of strangers and inspired to continue creating.

When asked to describe his own music, guitarist and vocalist Mike Brown of Laika says, "It's something that continues to push us as musicians. It's aggressive and fast at times but slow and emotional at others. It's a mix of feeling and indifference. We're all aggravated and angry. This is a way for us (or at least me) to sort out our heavies... It doesn't do anyone any good when it sits inside. I'd rather scream them in people's faces."

Brown, along with bandmates Paul Heitert and Jack Middeke, started Laika in September 2012. Rooted in screamo and the melodic side of finger-tapped math rock (a la Piglet, Don Caballero and Tera Melos), the trio creates high energy music that peaks, resolves and moves on in a scatter shot manner from song to song. Structures wax and wane between harried quick-paced attacks to slow, dense sections of emotionally-driven yells dripping with disdain. Brown's lyrics deal with deeply personal subject matter, such as coping and grieving over the sudden loss of a loved one.

During its first year as a band, Laika has completed two tours in surrounding regions with like-minded bands from other cities such as Alta, Scowler and Weakness. Laika currently has an EP titled the Brother, the Solace, the Pariah, the Father available digitally and on cassette. A four-way split 12" with Anodes, Tenants, and Tall Ships Set Sail is due out within the year, as well as a split 5" square lathe called Hamad with Weakness. Hear Laika's most recent recording, another split with Weakness, below.

We invited Laika to fill in the blanks. See what drummer Jack Middeke had to say on behalf of the band on the next page.

COURTESY OF LAIKA
  • Courtesy of Laika

What I like most about St. Louis is... Jack Middeke: I just love the fact that there are even people in St. Louis who are playing music and wanting to go experience it. Not every place is fortunate enough to have anything like what we have.

The St. Louis music scene... has all the potential in the world. We just need to love and be passionate about what we're doing. Then, very useful stuff flows from that.

The best show I ever played was... probably Iowa City, which was not a planned place to play -- our friends just had car troubles. It was fun setting up this show so last minute and promoting to people on the street with makeshift flyers. I got to know everyone that was there. It kinda re-vamped my ideals about music to not let numbers (of people at shows, dollars made, etc.) have influence over what I think is success. We met great people and made the most of being stranded in a city we didn't know. Without going too into detail, I should mention we met a man named Hamad, originally from Sudan, who came to our show after i met hi. He danced to our songs and bought us food, hung out with us, made us laugh, inspired us, and even gave $100 dollars. Long story short, he made Iowa City amazing.

Some current artists worth listening to are... Anodes, Lions Eat Grass, Weakness, Jimshorts, Stonechat, Scowler.

The coolest things I saw while touring were... my friends Tommy, Blake and Schuyler of Weakness, or Mike's car getting towed while it was in park, or my receipt from Whataburger because the dude gave us free food.

The most difficult lesson I've learned while playing music is... don't compare your music to anyone else's. If it is from the heart, nothing else really matters as much.

Check out a video and info on upcoming Laika shows on the next page.

Laika Thursday, August 8, 8 p.m. w/ Reptilian Shape Shifters, Stonechat, Early Worm, Crucial, 3 of 5 @ Cafe Ventana - $5

Laika Saturday, August 17, 8 p.m. w/ Scowler, Tyler Daniel Bean, Good Luck at the Hog Slaughter @ Lemp Arts Center - $5

Laika Thursday, September 26. 8 p.m. w/ When Skies Are Grey, Anodes @ Lemp Arts Center - $5

Follow Laika via its Facebook and Bandcamp pages.

Do you know a project or band that should be considered for this series? Drop a line to fillintheblank@riverfronttimes.com.

Previously from our Fill in the Blank series: - Heavy Horse - Barely Free Partial Prisoners - The Defeated County - Lizzie Weber - Kenshiro's - B.E.L.L.A. - Superfun Yeah Yeah Rocketship - Humdrum - The Blind Eyes

Follow RFT Music on Twitter or Facebook. Follow RFT Music editor Daniel Hill on Twitter too, if you are into that sort of thing.

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