words by Erin Wolf
In 2009, Sarah Parson and Ben Braden were eighteen years old and surrounded by another Minneapolis winter. What to do but write music? The two penned a batch of folk songs, honing in on Parson’s captivating and lively vocals and Braden’s intently husky one, filling their lyrical tales with strummed guitars and plenty of pluck. Their music touched on the genre’s hallmark harmonizing sounds, but added its own youthful edge.
Following the release of those penned songs (2009’s Everywhere To Go EP), the duo relocated to Portland, Oregon and upon arrival, picked up percussionist Nicholas Sadler (also a former Minnesotan). The three, together, formed a musical bond over their mutual love of the Beatles, their hometown and the fresh experience of starting anew, piecing together their first full-length, Where All Maps End.
Friday finds the band at Milwaukee’s Cactus Club and we caught up before they arrive on our doorstep. Listen to a handful of songs from their latest album and find out more about the route from there to here…
Interviews like to focus on how young you all are; so, really…how old are all of you?
We are all 21 years young.
As young musicians, what has been the biggest influence on your style of folk music — the old or the new?
Ben: The old, by far. All we listen to are the Beatles. Like nonstop…it’s kind of crazy.
Sarah: Definitely old. Simon and Garfunkel and like Ben said, the Beatles. Oh, and Neil Young is a big one, too. My parents were always listening to/playing Neil Young, so it’s something I heard a lot as a kid.
Nick: Yeah, Ben said it. The Beatles.
Why pick up and leave Minneapolis for Portland? And has the different environments changed your style or output in any way?
Nick: Change of scenery. Just something new to break out of the box a bit.
Ben: And yes, our output has changed significantly. Being on our own gives us a whole new perspective. It’s really hard, and I think a lot of that came through in the songwriting for Where All Maps End.
Sarah: Yeah, plus Minnesota is really cold.
Your music is focused on the voice as the main instrument. How long have you all been singing?
Since day one, really. We all come from very musical families and it was something that was encouraged in all of us.
Each of you — who is your most respected vocalist, past or present?
Ben: Besides Lennon or McCartney? Probably Dylan. I’ve always been very lyric-driven. It’s fun to focus in only on the words, sometimes, and Dylan is particularly good for that.
Nick: I’d have to say Paul McCartney. That’s gotta be the best voice in rock ‘n roll. Great at the quiet songs, too, but so good for the harder-hitting songs, even the blues.
Sarah: Joanna Newsom, maybe. Or Jack White probably less for his vocals, but more just because he’s such an amazing musician.
The Lower 48 perform this Friday, May 11th at the Cactus Club (2496 S. Wentworth) with Vic and Gab, The Gazettiers and Wolfgang Schaefer. 10 p.m. 21+