Seattle group’s ‘fuzzy pop’ sound comes to The Smiling Moose


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Happy Alexandra Niedzialkowski’s birthday to you.

That’s right, it’s Ms. Niedzialkowski’s birthday — her 26th — but you’re the one who gets the gift as she and her band Cumulus take the stage tonight at The Smiling Moose on the South Side.

The band is in the first chunk of a seven-week tour, but this night has the potential to be special. And fun.

“I feel like a lot of people relate to the songs and they enjoy it, and I have fun playing for them,” Ms. Niedzialkowski said. “We all have a blast on stage. And the reception has been really good so far.”

The “we” on stage is made up of Ms. Niedzialkowski, the singer-songwriter-guitarist up front, with Leah Julius on bass and Lance Umble on guitar.

Ms. Niedzialkowski started out five or six years ago in Bellingham, Wash., playing music by — and for — herself.

“The songs come from my life,” she said. “I started song-writing to understand what was happening around me. To process my emotions. It’s a pretty cathartic and journalistic thing. I would just go home and pick up my guitar and sing about my day and press record on my computer.

“I would create these songs. I just love catching melodies that I was always humming to myself, singing to myself. It would help me with whatever breakup or whatever friend problem or whatever I was going through. I could figure it out. I could process it better by writing about it.”

Realizing that she liked all this writing and singing, she headed to nearby Seattle, where she hooked up with her bandmates in 2010. Seattle, the city that gave us Jimi Hendrix and Nirvana and Macklemore.

“There’s all kinds of music happening in Seattle,” Ms. Niedzialkowski said. “There’s a really great hip-hop scene. There’s an awesome DIY culture in Seattle and a lot of punk bands. There’s a lot of pop music, a lot of rock music, there’s a lot of everything.”

So you ask Ms. Niedzialkowski what kind of music Cumulus plays. She has a ready answer.

“I kind of like to call it ‘fuzzy pop music,’” she said. “Because I write pop music, but we’re a rock band. Indie-rock does fit the bill. It’s a general music category, but I do think we fit into that.”

Her songs — especially the ones from her album, “I Never Meant It To Be Like This” — are wistful and wishful, born in a scraped-knee of experience but bandaged in optimism.

“There’s a song, ‘Middle,’ that is about when you’re feeling really lonely, and then you realize that if you just put yourself out there in the middle of something — just forcing yourself to get out of your own head, you find that there are people out there to support you,” she said. “I remind myself that it gets better. I know that will help other listeners who are feeling that way.”

It’s not just fun, this music-playing thing. There’s got to be a meaning to it.

“One of my goals in playing music is to tell other young girls that they can be in rock bands, too,” said Ms. Niedzialkowski. “I actually teach song-writing over the summer at Rain City Rock Camp for Girls in Seattle. I feel like I would have started playing music a lot sooner if I had had female role models who were accessible in my town. I didn’t start playing music until I was almost done with college. I was always behind the scene.

“Once I started playing, I started meeting women who also played. I love the idea of inspiring other women.”

And when she looks out and sees people in the audience singing along to her music?

“It’s like the best feeling in the world. It feels like I’m doing the right thing when I’m doing it.”

The gig tonight at The Smiling Moose is an all-ages show, which appeals to Ms. Niedzialkowski.

“I feel like different venues provide different receptions,” she said. “At all-ages venues the kids get really, really excited to see live music. There’s not that much opportunity for younger kids to see music. So when they do get the opportunity, I think they really tie themselves into it. It becomes part of them. If they like it, then they lo-o-o-ve it and they want your autograph and they want to buy merchandise and they want to learn the words to your songs.

“That’s really different from when you’re playing a bar venue and they kind of just give you the nod of approval that adults give other adults. I love both environments; it’s just that they’re so different.”

You need to get going if you’re going because the doors open at 6 p.m. and the show starts at 6:30, upstairs at The Moose, 1306 E. Carson St. There’s a $10 cover.

Dan Majors: dmajors@post-gazette.com.


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