True Endeavors Presents:
J.E. Sunde, We Are The Willows
701A E. Washington Ave
Madison, WI, 53703
This event is 18 and over
Watch & Listen
PHOX is from Baraboo, WI, which is a place where kids often drink poisoned groundwater and become endowed mutants. The six best friends who make up the ensemble happen to be blessed with madness, illusions of grandeur, and the inability to do the same thing twice. They also play music.
Ten years ago I started a band with my brother Jason and our good friend Jesse Edgington called The Daredevil Christopher Wright. We were living in and around Eau Claire, WI and found ourselves learning to write and perform in what turned out to be a fertile community of like-minded musicians and creative types. From 2009 through 2012 we worked at it full time, touring across the U.S., Canada and Europe, trying to make a proper go of it. At the end of touring our second full-length record, we realized that a change was in order. Jobs were to be had and the prospect of being in one place and investing in a community again looked rather good. So we decided to put the band on hiatus and try a different balance of things for a while.
Over the years of writing with Daredevil I had gathered a fair amount of songs that for various reason the band hadn’t used. I would pick up a solo show now and again when we weren’t touring and found myself performing songs from that collection. The notion of one day taking some time to try my hand at a solo project entered my mind and when the band decided to take a break, I thought it would be an opportune moment to give it a go. Inspired by the sounds of the 60s and 70s, and musicians like Nina Simone and Leonard Cohen, I started writing and arranging. Most of the material was drawn from that back catalog of tunes that had been patiently waiting. I decided not to shy away from the shadow of my influences but to draw from familiar sounds and tweak them enough to create something that would hopefully feel comfortable but not entirely derivative. With that loose framework in mind, I followed a pretty intuitive creative process; grabbing onto what felt good and trusting that that would lead to something interesting.
In April 2013 I headed to Honeytone Studios in southeastern Wisconsin to start tracking the record. The engineers and partners in the studio, Patrick Boland, Marty Brueggemann and Mark Zbikowski, have created this beautiful space and came at the project with an energy and respect that was really humbling.
I had decided for creative, and economic, reasons that I wanted to perform as much of the album myself as I could. I knew however, that achieving the drumming that I was hoping for would be well beyond my meager abilities and so I enlisted the help of my friend Shane Leonard (Kalispell, Field Report) to take on the drumming and percussion duties. I can’t overstate how great a job Shane did. He took my two dimensional drum ideas and brought them to a wholly other place. And the sounds that the guys were able to capture were really exciting. I had at that point been writing and arranging for 5 months on my own, and so it felt amazing to bring people into the process and hear these ideas become enfleshed. Shane did the drumming and Marty stepped in on bass for a tune and offered up an organ solo on another, otherwise I performed everything else. It was a fun challenge to take on but it made for exhausting tracking sessions. In the end we tracked the record in 13 days over three months, finishing up at the end of July. In August I brought the tracks to Patick Stolley in Davenport, IA. We had met several years before when he recorded Daredevil for a Daytrotter session. We got on quite well and after knowing each other for a few years, he recorded the second Daredevil full length. Through that experience I really came to trust his esthetic sense and his technical abilities. So early on I knew that I wanted him to mix the solo record. Later he took on the mastering duties as well.
Somewhere in there I decided to call the record Shapes That Kiss The Lips Of God. It’s a line from a tune on the record that’s a description of birds migrating south.
In the end I think the album is something of a chronicle of the last ten years for me. Not that I can call it strictly autobiographical, but there is a sense about it as I listen that it seems to chart the tones and themes that had significance in that stretch of my life. Perhaps there's some closure in that. It’s interesting, that thought hadn’t struck me until just now as I write this.
We Are The Willows
We Are The Willows is an orchestral indie rock band based out of South Minneapolis. The 6-piece ensemble features songwriter/frontman Peter Miller’s unique countertenor voice and guitar, supported by Jeremiah Satterthwaite (guitar/banjo), Leah Ottman (violin/voice/keys), Hilary James (cello/voice/keys), Travis Collins (bass), and Stephen Lindquist (drums/voice). We Are The Willows craft dynamic, intimate songs with instruments and voices combining to create energetic rhythms and intricate melodies. Their heartfelt arrangements evoke shared nostalgic feelings of love and loss.
The band has recently recorded their second full-length album, Picture [Portrait], based off of 350 letters written by Peter’s grandfather to his grandmother while he was stationed in the Southwest Pacific during World War II. Their correspondence inspired Peter to explore themes of family, separation, life, death, and identity in a time of national and personal crisis. The songs communicate complex ideas delivered with pop-sensible charm. His grandmother loves this album. You just might too.
We Are The Willows have received kind words from PASTE Magazine, Daytrotter, Magnet Magazine, 89.3 The Current, City Pages, and VitaMN. They continue to have fun playing their music throughout Minnesota, the Midwest, and the wide world beyond. They hope to be the first band to perform on the moon.