Don’t even try to define Roster McCabe’s sound.
Their fusion of multiple genres and styles defies labels. In fact, describing the music created by the Minneapolis-based, five-piece ensemble is probably best left to the ones who play it.
“We call it, ‘funky-reggae-dance-rock,’” said Drew Preiner, who plays guitar and lends vocals. “We go from straight-ahead jazz to metal to top-40 pop to reggae. ... There’s no boundaries to what we do.”
Pushing boundaries is a rather appropriate summation for the band that Billboard Magazine hailed as one of the five up-and-coming bands that “could draw audiences to the festivals of tomorrow” and Soundfuse magazine named as one of the five best Midwestern bands of 2011.
For one, Roster McCabe gives all its music away free. They feature name-your-price downloads on their website — www.rostermccabe.com — and sell name-your-price albums at their concerts ($3 minimum). They’re also heavy social networkers with an active Facebook page and a frequently updated blog.
Preiner said the band made the decision early on to embrace the burgeoning music-sharing market — instead of shoveling sand against an inevitable tide.
“If people want music for free, they’re going to find a way to do it,” he said. “The most important thing for us is not to make money — it’s to have people hearing the music.”
And there is no shortage of opportunities to hear the music.
Roster McCabe also pushes boundaries with its touring schedule.
Last year, it played 180 live shows. This year, they plan to exceed 220 shows — including Jan. 25 in Mankato.
The Mankato show at RedSky Lounge will serve as the band’s kickoff for its 2012 Winter Tour. The tour spans eight weeks and cities across Minnesota. Of course, Roster McCabe has been to town before, playing most recently at Midtown Tavern last fall.
“We’ve got a good fan base out there,” Preiner said.
But please: Don’t call them a jam band.
The “jam band” label is one rarely assigned correctly and usually misunderstood, Preiner said. And for Roster McCabe, he’s adamant the label doesn’t fit.
Though Roster McCabe does feature some improvisation during its sets and certainly has the eclectic flair that marks such well-known jam bands like Grateful Dead and Phish, Preiner said the connotation of jam bands playing to throngs of hippies with pockets full of psychadelics turns some people off.
“It’s hurt us a little bit,” Preiner said. “We’re not a jam band. We’re nothing like the Grateful Dead.”
In 2011, the band opened for Stephen Marley and Matisyahu. Legendary keyboard/synth player Bernie Worrell of Parliment-Funkadelic and Kyle Hollingsworth of the The String Cheese Incident have both sat in on stage with Roster McCabe.
The band’s most recent album is “Live at the Cabooze, Vol. 11” and their most recent studio album is “Through Space and Time.” The latter, Preiner said, was recorded in part at a cabin in Cross Lake.
Since then, however, Preiner said the band has continued to refresh its sound, adding more electronic elements.
“We won’t sound like a DJ,” he said. “But it’s a little edgier.”