May 15--For local roots rockers High on Stress, the title of their fourth album "Leaving MPLS" turned out to be prophetic. Although it wasn't the plan when they started recording it, it turned out to be the foursome's swan song.
The band's CD release show Friday at Minneapolis' Parkway Theater will also be High on Stress' final performance.
"I think the universe knew something we didn't," said band leader Nick Leet.
Leet inadvertently named the album when he tweeted the phrase "Leaving Minneapolis" on the way home from work one day. A friend said he should use that as the title of a song and Leet agreed.
Initially meant to be an EP, the project took a turn midway through recording when bassist Jim Soule announced he was moving to Illinois with his family. "We've replaced other people in the past, but this felt like it was it," Leet said. "We did a lot of the things we set out to do, and now was the time to walk away while we were all still getting along."
A Minot, N.D., native who grew up worshiping Prince, Leet moved to the Twin Cities in 1999 with a previous band. He started High on Stress in 2003 and released the group's first album in 2005. "The first record had some rock stuff on it, but definitely had more of a twang to it," Leet said. "As time went on, the older I got, the louder I got. Maybe it's because I'm going deaf."
Each of the band's efforts earned warm reviews both in the Twin Cities and beyond, with the four band members fitting High on Stress into lives that included day jobs and budding families. Along the way, Leet managed to tick numerous goals off his bucket list, including backing former Replacements guitarist Slim Dunlap on stage and opening for Replacements bassist Tommy Stinson at the Fine Line. "We also played the First Avenue main room several times," Leet said. "That was a goal of mine even before I first picked up a guitar as a kid."
Now, counting the band's previous guitar player, High on Stress has produced seven children. That's more than enough to form a High on Stress tribute band 20 years from now, right?
"You think they would," Leet said with a laugh. "They all have the same favorite song on the new album."
While High on Stress will be history after this weekend, band members will continue to make music. Guitarist Mark Devaraj already plays in the Red Flags and a new Pixies tribute act. As for Leet, he has a new band nearly ready to go, which means he's skipping the part where he releases an underwhelming solo, acoustic album.
"I'm too stupid to quit," he said. "It's going to be bittersweet, and I don't know if it's all hit me yet. But I'm proud of what we did."
Pop music critic Ross Raihala can be reached at 651-228-5553. Follow him at Twitter.com/RossRaihala.
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