whispered the rabbit:
Fave Fair food: Faith Eskola: Cheese curds; Tom Busch: Corn dog; Connor Kuennen: Corn dog/Pronto Pup; Dave Underhill: Other people’s Sweet Martha’s Cookies
Fave Fair activity: Faith Eskola: Visiting the Horticulture Building; Tom Busch: Eating; Connor Kuennen: Visiting the Poultry Barn; Dave Underhill: Eating other people’s Sweet Martha’s Cookies
“None of us can really sing, but we all appreciate storytelling.”
Instrumentalists Whispered the Rabbit, a four-piece project experimenting with sounds found in folk, rock and punk, say not being able to sing is no sweat, considering its members find a “universal truth” in writing instrument-only compositions inspired by stories and folklore.
“In that sense, there is a story behind it, but we're constrained by the voices of our instruments,” Faith Eskola, WTR's five-string violinist, said.
“When I first started to talk to Faith about this, I'm like, ‘I'm just a s***** guitar player who's gonna play really dumb chords,’” added WTR’s upside-down guitar player, David Underhill. “The only songs I ever really could figure out how to play were punk songs, but I kind of felt like I just heard what I was doing – I could hear that violin kind of speaking to that. That's how I think we eventually arrived at where we are.”
Underhill, a left-handed man living in a right-handed man’s world, started playing his brother’s guitar upside down in his formative years, carrying the skill into adulthood and WTR.
“I just made that thing work,” he said. “And then this idea got in my head and this project came together, and I just stuck with that guitar.”
Connor Kuennen, bass player and band-described “part-time wizard,” found his home with the group after talking with Underhill.
“[Dave] sent me some samples of the music, and it just blew my mind,” he said.
Drummer and producer Tom Busch’s early days drumming were spent first learning Green Day’s “Brain Stew,” a way, he says, to “blow off some steam.”
“Since then – my early 20s – all the way until now, [I’ve] just been playing in different bands in Minneapolis and Chicago and driving around.”
All natives of Minnesota, the young band – having played their first official show in April of this year – collectively agree that the Twin Cities music community has shown them the support and camaraderie they needed to help keep up their momentum in an uncertain, semi-post-COVID landscape.
“I think everybody's just still kind of figuring out what this side of COVID looks like, you know, when it comes to live music and all of that,” Eskola said. “I don't really know what's ahead of us, but we're happy to be in the mix.”
Fitting then, that the group still gathers together in the Twin Cities with the hopes of recording and releasing their first album later this year.
“In your most critical moments, you're like, ‘What's the point of all this?’ And you might question all the effort that goes into it. It's hard to quantify, but at the end of the day, what we learn is that art is what defines us as humans, and we really need it – just like we need love, shelter and all the other needs.”
Whispered the Rabbit will be at the KARE 11 Barn Thursday, Sept. 1.
Four-piece, post-grunge group Mostly Trees will play the KARE 11 Barn Friday, Sept. 2.
Mostly Trees performs in the KARE 11 Barn
Fave Fair food: Sarah a.k.a. Fancy: Fried pickles; Emmanuel a.k.a. Envy: Blooming onion
Fave Fair activity: Both Fancy & Envy: Rides at the Midway
“We kind of feed off of each other — the creativity is always flowing.
Sarah and Emmanuel Lanier-Duncan, a.k.a Fancy and Envy of iLLism, are partners in music, business and life.
The hip-hop couple met in 2008, both already having laid the foundation for their own music careers. Envy says it was after they were married in 2009 that they decided to unite their efforts.
“We kind of decided we love our solo careers, but it's really great performing with one another. And the response and the engagement that we get from people when we're together, was really meaningful, so we decided to get together as a group and gave ourselves the name.”
The name iLLism, according to Fancy, represents a “dope musical movement,” incorporating elements of hip-hop and activism that manifest into a unique blend of bars and beats.
“Being married, I think, that just opens up another lane of creativity,” Envy said.
Fancy added, “I think that we're also blessed to be able to be super, super comfortable with one another as a couple, and to share a lot of the same experiences, too. Even when we were growing up and seeing all the different parallels that happened in our life, and being able to express that through our music.”
Although owing some of their creative juice to legacy artists like Prince, Fancy says iLLism also gravitates toward newer artists who experiment across genres – in some ways, like them.
“Keeping an open mind is a huge part of just growing as an artist,” she said. “It’s so dynamic here and so diverse here for me for art in all forms, and to be inspired by it – by all types of art – is a huge part of who we are as a group.”
The group’s latest album, “Family Over Everything,” was released in 2021, the first of the couple’s babies born out of the COVID-19 pandemic, as Fancy was also pregnant with their second child at the time. In addition to their frequent “cruises” to help tap into their creative vision, Envy said spending the time together writing and recording at home was a “great experience.”
“Overall, I think it was a great experience. Sometimes I'll come up with an idea or she'll have something, man, and we're both just like, ‘Oh, let's go!’ It's just great.”
Fancy says the group’s next project will come together at their new creative space they recently opened in south Minneapolis – The Legacy Building – a home for artists from all walks of life to utilize.
“We're excited to record for the first time in a space that's not our home,” she said. “This brand new space that so many energies have already come in here and have shared their creativity with us – not just in music. It's very, very inspiring, and it makes us super excited for what our next project is going to be and how it's going to roll out.”
You can catch iLLism’s set at the KARE 11 Barn Saturday, Sept. 3.
Sharisse Germain of JoJo Green
Fave Fair food: Cheese curds
Fave Fair activity: Ye Old Mill
Sharisse Germain, known as Jermaine Germain in genre-bending, five-piece outfit JoJo Green, says it took the band some time to find its footing in early 2020.
“In January of 2020 we started to book, and then the pandemic hit,” she said. “We kind of had to pump the brakes, but we just decided that our music was just too awesome – and we persevered.”
Using styles ranging from pop, jazz, funk, rock and the blues, the band put out its first album, “The Line,” in October 2022 – a project, the lead vocalist and keys player says, that came together after each member had to record their parts separately. Now, almost a year later, Germain says the band is getting ready to release a new EP in September titled “Summer Tree.”
“[‘Summer Tree’] is gonna be a collection of five songs that are a little bit more artsy,” she said. “I love the music; it's really energetic, and it's really powerful. I think it's some of the best music that we've recorded to date.”
Germain says bassist Scott Yonke “brings the bones” of the music to the band and “everything you hear pretty much comes out of his brain.” After Yonke lays the foundation, the rest of the band – consisting of Germain, saxophone player Zach Miller, guitarist Conner Allen and drummer Nancy Long – come together to jam, shaping the music and letting “everybody’s creativity run wild.”
“Everybody has a vested interest in the artistry of the pieces. Some of the pieces, we've heard being called compositions more than songs, so, you know, it's really kind of a treat, actually.”
JoJo Green will celebrate the release of their new EP Sept. 30 at Glueck’s in downtown Minneapolis, but you can catch them first at the KARE 11 Barn Sunday, Sept. 4.
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