With release of a new album Saturday at Founders Brewing, the Grand Rapids folk-rock band is poised to build a national audience and live the dream. Check out the performance in video, podcast and photos.
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Call it a restart or a reinvention or – as drummer Dan Rickabus puts it – “a band paradigm shift.”
However you describe it, The Crane Wives have lived it over the past year, recording not one but two albums after the departure of banjo player Tom Gunnels, quitting their day jobs, mounting multiple national tours and basically redefining just what this Grand Rapids folk-rock band is all about.
“At the beginning of this year, it was kind of like going back to square one with what the band should sound like,” Rickabus said of the time period just before The Crane Wives entered La Luna Recording in Kalamazoo with producer Ian Gorman to lay down tracks for what would become “Coyote Stories,” plus a second album set for release in early 2016.
“It’s been a huge change. It’s been kind of looking at it in the eye and saying, ‘Let’s do this. Let’s make this our job and our life as opposed to passion that we do when we can.’ We’ve just been riding it. It’s been amazing.”
Guitarist and singer Kate Pillsbury described it as “a big life transition” — getting started “with this new Crane Wives” and making things really happen in Michigan and beyond.
“This last tour (to the East Coast and out West) was kind of redefining. I guess I’ve been kind of not believing that anything would actually come of this,” she conceded. “It always kind of felt like a pipedream. But with this tour, we had such a good reception from people we’ve never met, from places we’ve never been, and it started to feel like this might actually work out for us.”
RELEASING “COYOTE STORIES’ SATURDAY WITH A NEW GENRE-MELDING APPROACH
Added fellow guitarist and singer Emilee Petersmark: “It’s starting to feel a lot more possible than it did five years ago which is really exciting.”
Judging by the exuberant reaction to the band’s new songs and The Crane Wives’ fast-expanding audience inside and outside the state, that dream is nearing reality. Indeed, the band officially celebrates release of its third album, the 13-track “Coyote Stories,” at 9:30 p.m. Saturday at Founders Brewing Co. in Grand Rapids.
Before that, however, members of the group – Pillsbury, Petersmark, Rickabus and bassist Ben Zito – gathered at Grand Rapids’ River City Studios earlier this week to talk about their action-packed year and perform songs from their new recordings as part of the HopCat presents Local Spins Live at River City series. Listen to a podcast of the entire, exclusive Local Spins session here, with a video below.
PODCAST: HOPCAT PRESENTS LOCAL SPINS LIVE @ RIVER CITY WITH THE CRANE WIVES
The revealing session ranged from band members raving about their favorite current bands (My Morning Jacket, Lake Street Dive, The Punch Brothers, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats) and most important influences (Incubus, Regina Spektor, Fiona Apple, The Band) to struggling with ways to describe their revamped musical direction.
“There’s so much happening that genre words are failing us all,” Rickabus conceded. “It’s kind of like more everything. Kate’s playing a lot of electric guitar and Emilee plays some, too. We’ve got guest musicians on there doing lap steel and electric guitar and all sorts of other stuff. There’s influences from jazz to hip hop to blues to rock happening. So, we’re getting increasingly harder to describe, which is my favorite thing.”
It’s all part of the maturation process for a band of Grand Valley State University students that formed five years ago and was just happy to play wherever folks would listen.
With the release of “Coyote Stories” – and the follow-up, recorded during the same sessions – The Crane Wives are poised to take the next step nationally as the band grows ever more comfortable with performing and cross-country touring.
“When we started out in 2010 we were just like bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, raring to play anything we could play,” Pillsbury said. “When we wrote a song it was sort of like, ‘Here are our chords, here are our lyrics, let’s play in front of an audience,’ because we were just so excited to play.
“This new album is more composition-focused. We spent a lot of time rehearsing and fine-tuning all the details of the music. What we have is our first really professional album.”
Learn more about the band and its upcoming performance schedule at thecranewives.com. Admission to Saturday’s 9:30 p.m. show at Founders Brewing in Grand Rapids is $5, with Steve Leaf and the Ex-Pats opening the show.
Audio by producer Roy Wallace
Video by Brennan Heldt & The River City Studios Video Team
VIDEO: The Crane Wives, Local Spins Live @ River City
PHOTO GALLERY: The Crane Wives, Local Spins Live @ River City
Photos by Anna Sink