THE COVER of Gayngs' Relayted says it all: a symbol that looks like a cross between a pot leaf and a vagina. Fittingly, the record is a collection of warped, drugged-out sex jams that take their cue from 10cc's "I'm Not in Love"—with every track at a steady, slow-grinding 69 beats per minute. "The 10cc vibe was more like a goal to reach," says Gayngs mastermind Ryan Olson, who also plays in Minneapolis bands Digitata and Marijuana Deathsquads. "It was just something to keep in mind more so than, 'It must be 10cc.' It doesn't really sound anything like 10cc. It's just kind of... as close as I can get to it."
"I'm Not in Love" is actually a very strange recording. While the 1975 song initially seems like a swanky, FM-lite slow jam, its instrumental backing consists of an army of voices—the result of literally hundreds of overdubs from all four members of 10cc—which were looped and dropped in and out of the track, the mixing console played like a keyboard. The eerie result is a hugely ambitious recording experiment that does double duty as a romantic soft-rock ballad.
That arty combo of seductive and strange could be Gayngs' MO, although improvements in recording technology have certainly made things simpler than they were for 10cc. Still, Relayted—which includes a cover of Godley and Creme's post-10cc hit "Cry"—is a dizzyingly dense recording featuring over 25 contributors from around the Midwest, including members of Solid Gold and Megafaun, P.O.S. and Dessa from the Doomtree collective, Ivan Howard of the Rosebuds, Har Mar Superstar, Justin Vernon and Mike Noyce from Bon Iver, and many others. Gayngs quickly evolved from a casual bedroom-recording project to a collective along the lines of Broken Social Scene. And once that happened, it seemed obvious that replicating it live would be impossible.
"It wasn't supposed to be this massive thing. It just made sense once we started going," Olson explains. "It really, pretty quickly, became clear that this was not a band. It started out with me and Zach [Coulter] and Adam [Hurlburt] from Solid Gold, and then as soon as we started writing outlines of songs, we wanted to get Megafaun involved. And it made sense for us to record at Justin's because he just got a studio. And once that happened, it was [obvious] we're not really going to play this out or anything."
In spite of that, Gayngs assembled in May 2010 at Minneapolis' First Avenue for a release show for Relayted. All the members performed. Despite the logistics, the show was a triumph. Even Prince showed up. A pared-down version of Gayngs then hit the road last fall for a successful tour—marred only by an incident in which the tour rental company wrongly repossessed their bus and all their irreplaceable equipment—and a high-profile gig at Coachella followed in April.
A slightly different iteration of Gayngs kicks off a short string of West Coast dates in Portland. This lineup includes Olson, Coulter, Hurlburt, Howard, Har Mar Superstar, Brad Cook and Joe Westerlund of Megafaun, Jake Luck of Leisure Birds, Channy Casselle of Roma di Luna, and perhaps one more player. Olson says this will likely be the last run of shows for this installment of Gayngs. "Other people's bands are starting to get really busy," he says, mentioning that he's working on a new project with Marijuana Deathsquads. "There is a new Gayngs project that's in the works, but I'm not exactly... It's gonna be a bit before that comes together."