12 Rods

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12 Rods
OriginOxford, Ohio
GenresIndie rock
Years active1992–2004, 2015
LabelsV2, Chigliak
Associated actsc.Kostra
The Bad Plus
Halloween, Alaska
Mystery Palace

12 Rods (also known by the stylistic variants 12RODS and Twelve Rods) was an indie rock band from Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States. The group was formed in Oxford, Ohio in 1992, later relocating to Minneapolis in 1995 where it was based until its disbandment in 2004.


1992: Formation[edit]

An early incarnation of the group that would become 12 Rods was formed in Oxford, Ohio in May 1992, initiated by Talawanda High School student Ryan Olcott. Friends and fellow students Christopher McGuire, Matt Flynn, and Daniel Perlin were included as members of the band. At this time, the group was known as Ryan'z Bihg Hed,[1] a name coined by Flynn in reference to Olcott's purported behavior during their rehearsals.[citation needed] The band prepared numerous songs for a performance early in the summer of 1992 at a local high school graduation party named "Field Fest 3". A cassette recording of this performance, titled Helikopter Hundrid Dolurz, became their first release before the group disbanded until July 1992 when Olcott was invited to join a new group formed by McGuire, Flynn, and Daniel Burton-Rose at a performance at the end of the summer. Olcott accepted and the roster went on to name themselves "12RODS", a title discovered by Flynn in a passage from a children's Bible.[1]

1993–1995: Career beginnings and relocation[edit]

The group independently released Bliss in 1993, their first album under the name 12 Rods, which was recorded in Minneapolis while the members were still living in Oxford.[1] In 1996, one year after fully relocating to Minneapolis, the band released the EP gay?, which went on to bring the group much-needed publicity following a review by an early Pitchfork where it received one of the few 10.0 ratings given in the publication's history.[2] Former Pitchfork columnist Jason Josephes spoke of gay? favorably in his "Three Blocks from Groove Street" column after he and Pitchfork founder Ryan Schreiber saw 12 Rods' first Minneapolis concert and bought the EP.[3]

1996–2000: V2 Records era[edit]

In 1996, 12 Rods became the first American act to sign to the newly founded V2 Records,[1] then a part of Richard Branson's Virgin Group, where gay? was reissued, making it the group's first major label release. The band's next album Split Personalities was released in 1998 and was named in Pitchfork's first list of the best albums of the 1990s (although it was absent in the second version). Minneapolis musician Bill Shaw joined the group around this time, serving as its bassist until the end of the band's career.[3]

12 Rods released its next album, the Todd Rundgren-produced Separation Anxieties, in 2000. Band members say Rundgren didn't do much during recording:

“All he would do was press the ‘record’ button and go back to doing crossword puzzles,” said Ev Olcott, who, like his brother, wound up producing records for other bands. “Some of those songs are good, but Todd Rundgren did the absolute worst job possible with that record,” Ryan Olcott sneered. “I would straight-up re-record that record before I’d reissue it.”

— Star Tribune[4]

The band was dropped by V2 Records following the album's release, which was a disappointment both critically and commercially. Local Minneapolis drummer Dave King went on to be the group's drummer for most of the remainder of its career after McGuire's departure following the recording sessions for Separation Anxieties.[3]

2000–2004: Independent era and disbandment[edit]

Jake Hansen joined the band in the summer of 2002 as an additional guitarist, and in 2003 George Marich took on drumming duties due to King's touring conflicts with The Bad Plus.[1] The group recorded and released one more album, 2002's self-released Lost Time, then broke up in 2004.[3]

Lost Time reissue, brief reunion, and documentary[edit]

On September 7, 2011, it was announced on the website for Justin Vernon's record label Chigliak that 12 Rods had an album awaiting release in the label's "first year of vinyl releases",[5] which began on May 22, 2012, with Amateur Love's It's All Aquatic, produced by Ev Olcott.[6]

On October 8, 2014, 12 Rods announced via Facebook that Chigliak would be reissuing Lost Time on January 20, 2015, and the band would be playing a reunion show at First Avenue in Minneapolis on January 16, 2015 with Ryan Olcott, Ev, Christopher McGuire, Matthew Foust, Matt Flynn, Tal Tahir, Bill Shaw, Dave King, and Jake Hanson.[7]

James Francis Flynn filmed the reunion show as part of a documentary about 12 Rods. Throughout the summer and fall of 2015 he completed gathering the interviews and additional footage for the documentary titled "Accidents Waiting to Happen". The film, modeled after Martin Scorsese's "The Last Waltz", was funded by a Kickstarter campaign[8] and was shown at the Minneapolis Saint Paul International Film Festival in April 2017.[9]

After 12 Rods[edit]

Following the band's break-up, Ryan went on to perform solo as Foodteam (and later as c.Kostra), with a band as Mystery Palace, and is a record producer in Minneapolis. Ev went on to play in Halloween, Alaska and The Few Nice Words, and co-founded audio software company Audiofile Engineering. McGuire went on to play with Kid Dakota, John Vanderslice, The Mountain Goats, Quruli and has been involved in giving drumming lessons. Matt Flynn currently lives in Cincinnati, Ohio and performs in a group called the Queen City Silver Stars and The Matt Flynn Jazz Trio where he plays the upright bass. Bill Shaw re-formed Post Mortem Grinner and also plays in The Few Nice Words and Halloween, Alaska. Dave King plays actively with Happy Apple, The Bad Plus, Halloween, Alaska, and Dave King Trucking Company.



  • Ryan Olcott – vocals, guitar, synths
  • Ev (Olcott) – synths, guitar, vocals
  • Christopher McGuire – drums (1992–1999)
  • Matt Flynn – bass (1992–1994)
  • Matthew Foust – bass (1994–1996)
  • Bill Shaw – bass (1998–2004)
  • Dave King – drums (2000–2004)

Live/touring personnel[edit]

  • Tal Tahir – bass (1997)
  • Alejandro Urzagaste – bass (1998)
  • Jake Hansen – guitar (2002–2004)
  • George Marich – drums (2003–2004)



  1. ^ a b c d e Thomas, Lindsey (11 August 2004). "End of the Road, End of the Rods". City Pages. City Pages. Retrieved 21 February 2018.
  2. ^ Josephes, Jason (1 May 1996). "12 Rods: Gay?: Pitchfork Record Review". Pitchfork. Archived from the original on 6 April 2008. Retrieved 11 January 2011.
  3. ^ a b c d Campbell, David (5 March 2015). "Artist of the Month: 12 Rods". The Current. Minnesota Public Radio. Retrieved 21 February 2018.
  4. ^ Riemenschneider, Chris (1 January 2015). "10 years later, 12 Rods is back". Star Tribune. Star Tribune. Retrieved 21 February 2018.
  5. ^ Sundquist, Josh (7 September 2011). "About". Chigliak. Retrieved 12 March 2015.
  6. ^ Sundquist, Josh (22 March 2012). "It's All Aquatic on May 22". Chigliak. Retrieved 12 March 2015.
  7. ^ Reed, Fischer (8 October 2014). "12 Rods Announce January Reunion Show". City Pages. City Pages. Archived from the original on 1 March 2015. Retrieved 12 March 2015.
  8. ^ "Accidents Waiting to Happen: The 12 Rods Story by James Francis Flynn".
  9. ^ Gerth, Austin (20 April 2017). "12 Rods documentary remembers what might have been". City Pages. City Pages. Retrieved 3 March 2018.

External links[edit]