by ROBBY DOUTHITT & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & M & lt;/span & ost musicians learn how to play instruments before they join bands, but local three-piece Space Age Fur isn't exactly traditional. Three years ago, when they formed, none of them even owned a guitar. Even if one of them owned a guitar, none would have been able to play it.

They are in a sense, then, an effect before a cause -- a paradox that could only make sense when describing art. It is as if their sound was already inside their heads, waiting for their instruments to catch up.

After a few trips to the music store, Elan Toby had a guitar, Kurt Gyllstrom did, too, and his older brother Scott had a drum set. No bass though. Bass amps were just too expensive. As for who would play what, the three were blank slates says Kurt. "We all just looked in the mirror and asked, 'What do we imagine ourselves playing?'"

Three years on, the lack of funds to buy a bass amp and the inability to play any of the instruments they did own has given Space Age Fur a unique sound. Layering fuzzy guitar riffs on top of fuzzier guitar riffs with no underlying bass melody, the band has a garage-grunge tone & aacute; la early White Stripes. With a better drummer, obviously.

"We play a lot of simple chord progressions, 'cause that's what we can do, but as we keep playing together we're always looking to explore new stuff and to keep branching out," says 21-year-old lead singer Toby. "We don't know a whole lot about song structure, so we just sorta do what we want. I think that helps give us our sound." Fur's primary influences are surprisingly local, citing Oil of Angels, Godbear and Lord Kelvin, with the Pixies being an almost obligatory mention.

As the opening act on the indoor stage at the Madison Street Fair last Saturday, Fur garnered a modest-sized crowd at best, like most of the crowds in the fair's wee hours. Live music feeds off the energy of the audience, but even with such a small group watching, Fur found plenty of vigor.

That's thanks, in large part, to drummer Scott Gyllstrom, whose war-like pounding of the floor tom makes up for the lack of a bass. Kurt Gyllstrom's dirty slide-guitar solo, coupled with Toby's piercingly banshee-like vocal interjections on "Little Movie Chest" created the set's most interesting dynamic. The catchiest song, though, was "Twin Apartments," where the vocal melody rose to the top.

Missing from the set was the lyrically unique track "Dented Tile," found on their EP, which was being handed out for free at the fair. "['Dented Tile'] is one of my only 'love' songs," Toby says. "It's about God sending a girl down from heaven but she comes down too hard and smashes my floor."

While the band garnered a few votes in The Inlander's Buzzworthy Bands competition and at least one angry letter to the editor ("why the hell haven't you idiots written about these guys yet?" -- we're paraphrasing), Scott Gyllstrom says it's hard to say whether their simple, straightforward, no rules sound has really begun to develop a fan base. "People like us," he says, "but I don't know if they're going out of their way to see us yet."

Their songwriting bears the marks of their effect-to-cause formation. They feeling their way through a sound, finding what works, what doesn't and they adapt. They have a sense of where they are trying to go. They're just look for the avenues that will get them there.

Even the meaning behind their name, Space Age Fur, is an idea waiting on its inspiration. "We know it has some deeper meaning," Scott Gyllstrom says, "we just haven't figured it out yet."

Space Age Fur plays the Empyrean on Monday, Aug. 18, at 7 pm. Price TBA. Call 838-9819. They play the Zombie Room on Wednesday, Aug. 20, at 8 pm. Price TBA. Call 456-4515.

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