The Trip Shakespeare sound has roots in early 70's AM radio, which mesmerized brothers Matt and Dan Wilson and pal John Munson growing up in the Twin Cities, Matt comments,   ' When you're a 12-year old , the music that's slaying you is the same stuff that 25-year olds listen to and say, "Oh man, the radio is covered with filth.  ' ''  The future members of Trip Shakespeare existed for the trashy hits of the time, and they remain unashamed (though if you stick with them long enough, you'll also hear paeans sung to Mingus, Beefheart and Ronald Shannon Jackson). Dan and Matt started playing around the same time; Dan, older by two years, stuck to guitar and piano, while Matt, originally a drummer, moved to guitar only when the songwriting bug hit. The Wilson's played in Minneapolis bands as teenagers, but eventually both left home. Dan headed to San Francisco to pursue a painting career, supporting himself with the occasional carpentry job. "I'd gotten sick of the heartbreak of music," he says. "But I still brought my guitar along."

Matt traveled east, to Cambridge, Mass. Where he enrolled in Harvard and met percussionist Elaine Harris. Three years into the curriculum, he realized that music was more important than Harvard, and quit. He'd also sussed that the Boston music scene was less than ideal. "Things were very conservative, lots of mimics- The Cars had just about finished it off. Scenes have to die out completely, and all the scouts have to go away before things happen. That' when cool bands come out, when no one's watching. No one had a hope of being seen in Minneapolis," This being the case, Matt urged Elaine to head home with him.

Around this time, Matt and Elaine devised the unorthodox drum setup that Trip still uses. Every drum , including the bass drum, on stands, no pedals. Elaine stands up,. Maureen Tucker-style, and lets her hands do the work. Matt explains, "If you get on a regular drum set, it asks you to do certain things. But change the ground rules, and that forces different solutions. It's no use just putting a little whipped cream on something that's already been cooked. If it sounds regular, then we want to twist it to say something new. Elaine is the biggest proponent of that approach in the band.

The new setup was really hard those first few gigs, Elaine confesses. "I could barely keep the basic patterns going. I had to stop leading with my right hand, I am close to being ambidextrous now, though."

After auditioning countless artists, Wilson and Harris decided on old friend John Munson, and Trip Shakespeare was born. A few local gigs ensued, followed y the release of the trio's debut album, 1986's Applehead Man featured the concert staple Fireball and the ingenious Beatle, which incorporates quotes from Taxman,Ticket to Ride, Lucy in the Sky and other Fabs classics. Matt had been sending tapes regularly to Dan in San Francisco begging him to join up: the first record finally convinced the elder Wilson. When Dan came back, we flowered, Matt says, before, we'd been  long on concept and long on bass player, but that was about it.

Trip became a quartet, and toured relentlessly, We bought a van and went to Kansas City over and over again, explains John. The schedule was broken up only by sessions for the next album. Are You Shakespearienced? A marked improvement over the first. In 1990 , A&M signed the band and released Across the Universe, signaling another rise in the quality of Trip's playing and writing.

For their next record, the band took a different tack. We wanted it to sound like the live band we'd become over the years of touring, says Dan. A crucial feature of that band is spontaneous improvisation. ( We get compared with the Dead just because we jam, Elaine remarks, mystified. I guess it's something that stands out because so few bands attempt to do it.)

All Lulu's basic tracks were recorded live with everyone in the same room: even the intricate vocal harmonies were done without overdubs, sometimes using only one mike, Dan explains, Our engineer, Justin Niebank, just laughed and said, Leakage is our friend.

The tactic worked: Lulu is Trip Shakespeare's best by far. 

Our genre of music is sweat rock, says Matt. We sweat more per town than any and,It's ridiculous, adds bassist John Munson. We were playing First Avenue in Minneapolis recently, and the level of my bass started going down. I had this incredibly powerful amp turned up to 10... and I still had trouble hearing it. I put on another guitar, and whoa, way too much level. So I turned the amp down, and slowly the pickups got filled with sweat and the same thing happened.

All the sodium chloride in the works could be avoided if the band didn’t rock out so intensely, so athletically. But Matt isn't going to stop just for the sake of a pick-up. Though it's 20 degrees out side, he's sweating more than ever, careening around the stage, playing solos in a precarious, bent-backwards, splay-legged position. And his audience loves it. They've packed the Cubby Bear three nights in a row, drawn by the showmanship and the music it serves: crafty, guitar-driven, hook-laden pop, heard to best advantage on 1991's Lulu.