The 1900s

By the Numbers

Rarely, if ever, do we get jealous of Chicago — save for its big pizza and its 4 a.m. bars, which means that the city’s still partying while we’re driving through Taco Bell. But there’s one thing St. Louis can’t claim: The 1900s. And now we’re officially stamping our feet and whining, “No fair!”

Each exuberant element of the band’s sound calls to mind different comparisons: the boundless organ favored by the Zombies; John Denver’s tranquil simplicity; the honeyed vocal interplay of Fleetwood Mac or the Mamas & the Papas; and the omnipresent tension of the Velvet Underground. But even with these various influences, the 1900s aren’t close to being a rip-off; it’s like the band took only the best parts from these classic groups and combined them to design and birth a pretty little pop baby. In fact, the band was born so perfect that it signed to the Urbana, Illinois, label Parasol after its very first public show, in May 2006.

Now seven members strong, the 1900s’ first full-length for Parasol, Cold & Kind, is an indie-pop masterpiece. Main songwriter/vocalist Edward Anderson says the band wanted to make a “big, epic record,” and though the process was grueling (all band members still have day jobs) he modestly admits that “[Kind] seemed to come out all right.” Credit this satisfaction to his creative approach to music: Although Anderson writes lyrics the old-fashioned way — “I’ll just sit and smoke a lot of cigarettes and drink, like, a bottle of wine and try to figure it out” — recording music is another story.

“Like, the first run-through will be maybe on my phone while I have an idea,” he says. “And then I’ll do it on GarageBand for a couple weeks or months or whatever it takes, kinda iron it out. Then I’ll do a ProTools demo, then I’ll give a CD to the band. [The songs] usually change quite a bit [when] they all add their parts.”

For being barely two years old, the 1900s have received a ridiculous amount of good press. In fact, it’s nearly impossible to find a negative printed word. When questioned about this phenomenon, Anderson laughs and seems embarrassed. “Kind of miraculously, for the most part [the press] has been pretty good,” he says. “In Chicago a lot of people have the perception that we’re this band that made it and everything, because we do really well [there] and all the papers write about us and stuff. But then we go on tour and no one knows who we are.

“For us the main goal is to try to get a little more known outside of the city. It’s kind of exciting, though. You get people on MySpace or all over the world writing and stuff and someone will be like ‘Oh, there’s some teenagers in Paris listening to the record,’ and it’s like, ‘Oh, that’s strange.'”

— Jaime Lees

9 p.m. Saturday, March 29. The Billiken Club, 20 North Grand Boulevard. Free. 314-977-2020.