“Ahem” is the sound of a proud throat clearing, signaling either a pseudo-polite call for attention or a passive-aggressive mark of disapproval. Neither action quite fits the band that has adopted that name. A Minneapolis-based trio, ahem the band demands attention in far less subtle fashion—with fuzzy power chords, pounding drums, and the relaxed yelps of punk melodies or, in the case of the last two songs, the softer edge of indie-rock vocals. The demands on their EP, Just Wanna Be, are clear: “I don’t want to grow up, baby” (“Bottle Rocket”), “Hey fellas / Don’t tell us / My ‘brella / Isn’t hella cool” (“Umbrella”), “Gonna stay up every night” (“Baby Bear”).
ahem recorded much of Just Wanna Be in a windowless bunker beneath a garage, a move that seems like a strange version of self-confinement or exile. Everything in the EP, though, reflects an opposite impulse. Each of the five songs enacts a kind of breaking out—into upbeat rock, heavy distortion, and an album that sounds, above all, fun. Urban Dictionary reminds us that in a third meaning, “ahem” stands in ironically or euphemistically for something else. In that definition and in Just Wanna Be, ahem is a playful wink.