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Idaho’s Finn Riggins developed its sound in the middle of nowhere

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Imagine yourself skipping through an urban landscape. In one hand, your iPod. In the other, a copy of Thoreau’s Walden.

It’s a struggle — to submit to modern-day technology? To return to our pastoral roots? That conflict between pavement-pounding and grass-frolicking leaves most weary. But for Finn Riggins, it’s just another day on the job.

“Sometimes we think of ourselves as urban hunters and gatherers,” Eric Gilbert, the band’s keyboard and vocalist, says. “It’s just how we live day to day and how we’re surviving.”

The trio formed in 2006 at the University of Idaho. Gilbert says they all were collaborating on multiple projects, but they were the only three people who were ready to drop everything and commit to it.

For Finn Riggins’ musicians, that meant uprooting themselves to a small cabin in Hailey, Idaho, a small town in the center of the state. It was a hideout of sorts to create this band and this vision, Gilbert says. “Sometimes I think it would be nice to drop off the face of the planet for a month or so and make some music.”

Since then, the band has recorded several albums, toured relentlessly (245 days last year), sleeping occasionally in their 15-passenger van.

“Touring is a cool way to explore the culture on a really grassroots level,” Gilbert says. All this playing has, theoretically, made the band better, he thinks. If nothing else, the crowds are getting bigger.

The band’s experimental indie rock breaks expectations. Tracks like “Wake” (from their 2009 record, Vs. Wilderness, released on Jared Mees’ uber-indie DIY label Tender Loving Empire) are fresh and playful, teetering on the brink of pop music. Songs like “Battle” are droning and tap into a darker realm with weighted guitars and screeching vocals.

Finn Riggins numbs all standards, cracking structure with unusual time changes and staccato song constructions. By the time Vs. Wilderness is done, you’ll realize you don’t actually need a beginning, middle or end to be satisfied. And that’s working for indie listeners: Finn Riggins played last year’s Music Fest NW in Portland and has multiple gigs lined up at this year’s SXSW Festival in Austin.

Gilbert says the band has changed a lot in a small amount of time as it’s ingested the music of underground bands across the country. At least that’s what they hear. “When you’re in the midst of evolving, it’s hard to notice,” he says.

Vs. Wilderness wasn’t premeditated much. All in all, the process took about three weeks to record and is “an honest picture of where the band was at that time,” Gilbert says. The title refers to the constant battle between the elements the band travels through. As with Thoreau, the band’s simple, self-sufficient, independent way of life is not a protest against general culture, just a personal preference.

Finn Riggins with La Cha Cha and Real Life Rockers at Empyrean on Thursday, Feb. 4, at 6:30 pm. Tickets $5. All-ages. Call 838-9819. Also with the Holiday Friends and Nonie & the Static at the Belltower, 125 SE Spring St., Pullman, Wash., on Friday, Feb. 5, at 7:30 pm. Tickets $5; $7 at the door. Visit www.stereopathicmusic.com.

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