By Tanner Kent
MANKATO — From the tuneful opening notes of its debut album, The Full Setup announces itself as a pop band with swerve.
Formed little over a year ago, the Mankato three-piece matches eminently listenable pop melodies with deft artistic flourishes.
"It's mostly upbeat, catchy and fun," said drummer Dave O'Connell, the Mankato music everywhere-man better known by his stage name, Ocho. "But we've got some tricky things going on, too."
The Full Setup -- which also includes James Zimanske and Braden Saulsbury -- is hosting a CD release party today at the Red Sky Lounge. And listeners will find that The Full Setup is more than meets the ears.
The opening track, "Streetlights," is an anthemic party track that lays the groundwork for musical content that is universally understood, yet inescapably Mankato. In the first evidence of his robust performances throughout the record, Braden Saulsbury's keyboard punctuates the band's call for the crowd "Rock your head and bounce to the backbeat/ Livin' it up at midnight on Sixth Street."
A few tracks later, a lilting acoustic intro precedes a tongue-in-cheek exploration of workaday concerns when "you're better than the boss" while "Face It" is a twinkling, rhythmic pop tune dressed in decidedly vintage garb.
"Just Sorta There" and "I Can't Think" feature some of The Full Setup's cleverest songwriting with the former expressing disdain for an inescapable former flame and the latter displaying what is perhaps the band's most complete work through its series of tempo and mood changes, backup harmonies and synthesis of musical and lyrical content.
Then, in "Precious," a hot, Sirroco wind blows an unexpected, Mediterranean quality into the keyboard-guitar interplay.
"We've kind of developed an unlikely sound from a keyboard, drums and guitar," Ocho said.
As a three-piece, Ocho said the band's name is somewhat tongue in cheek. Since they play without a bass player, The Full Setup is one musician short of what many would consider a full musical setup.
The name's roots, however, lie in another one of Ocho's 10 bands.
In addition to a couple solo and group projects, the prolific musician plays in a Nirvana tribute band called Near-vana. After one Near-vana show, a fan kept raving that the band just had to come back to his place to check out his "full setup." That particular gentleman never did explain what materials comprised his full setup, but speculation provided fodder for a good band name.
"We just kept wondering: 'A full setup of what?'" Ocho said.
As for what distinguishes The Full Setup from his various other projects, Ocho complimented the skills of his fellow players. Combining technical flourishes with catchy songwriting, Ocho said the band has found a groove that is unlike anything he's done before.
"I don't really think of myself as playing pop music a lot," he said. "But it's been really cool playing with guys that are so tight, melodic and fast."
If You Go What The Full Setup's CD release party When 10 p.m., with opening act The Wardogs Where Red Sky Lounge, 520 S. Front St.