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Catching up with Electric Forest's token Grand Rapids band: The Crane Wives

The Crane Wives member Kate Pillsbury shares her experience with the band and reveals future plans for the band.
Underwriting support from:
Kate Pillsbury from The Crane Wives

Kate Pillsbury from The Crane Wives /Scopitone Vidbox

Recently, The String Cheese Incident’s second Electric Forest festival in Rothbury, MI boasted primarily national electronic, jam and folk acts. I was able to meet up with Kate Pillsbury from The Crane Wives to discuss their experience as a band.

Adrian Hirsch: The band was formed in Grand Rapids. How has West Michigan shaped your sound?

Kate Pillsbury: Michigan has a ton of amazing artists that we have been able to watch grow and has been a great resource and inspiration for us. Grand Rapids has always has always had a big ska scene, which Emilee has been a part of. I would definitely attribute some of her extra energy to that style of music. Our drummer Dan has also been in rock projects over time so he is able to bring some of that rowdy feel and mesh it with our folk sound.

AH: I really enjoyed catching your set at Founders Fest. How would you compare the experience of playing a more localized festival with something like Electric Forest?

KP: Founders Fest was definitely our largest crowd to date. Most of our Grand Rapids shows may be for several hundred people so taking the leap to thousands of people was really exciting. Founders Fest had some really great national acts so we did feel like one of the hometown bands but at Electric Forest we really feel like the small fish in a big pond. We are so excited because who else in Michigan had this chance? We are one of the only Michigan bands here, which is such an incredible experience to be able to join these national acts and hope that someday we’ll be traveling to more of the larger festivals like Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza in the future. When you're a musician, you set different goals as you progress, like originally when we formed we really wanted to play at Founders, which lead to wanting to play Founders Fest, and now here we are at Electric Forest which is the biggest thing so far. Now the only question is how many people make it out to our show tomorrow considering most of the people here haven’t heard of us. Luckily we're playing on the first stage people see when they walk in so they will have to see some of it...  

AH: Well I’m excited and I bet you will get some good support tomorrow. The Crane Wives are set to come out with their next album in September; anything you would like to share about that?

KP: We’ve been working really hard for the last few months. We recorded at Sound Post Studio. Ben and Dan from the band have been doubling as the sound engineers for the record, from recording to mixing it, making it a completely self produced album. We definitely have a different sound on it than our first album, Safe Ship, Harbored, more mature and musically advanced. It also is a bit darker than some of our other material. A lot of people don’t catch the dark undertones of our first album because we have songs like Counting Sheep, which sound really happy, bright, simple and quite danceable but if you really listen to the lyrics its about a depressed person who just goes through the motions and looks at everyone like they are sheep. It’s almost like we’re tricking people into liking an otherwise sad song. I remember being young and listening to some really weird angsty music that would make me cry but we don’t want that for the music of The Crane Wives. We don’t want people to listen to music and cry, we want them to get up and freakin’ dance! Because that makes you feel happier and we want people to be happy! This next album has been themed around a romantic relationship. It just happened that we all were writing songs about a more traditional woman feeling like she was supposed to do and be certain things to be accepted in society. This album is about that person saying no, I’m not going to that! I’m going to be strong, I’m going to know what I deserve and I’m going to live that way. I’m going to live according to what I deserve. We are trying to give a voice to the people who need to say and do what they want to instead of doing what they are told to do. Hopefully I’m not being too long winded...

AH: I think this is perfect, nobody wants to read my boring questions. This is all about getting the artist's perspective, the way you would give it.

KP: It is funny though, being in a band, and writing music. Usually one of us has an idea for a song but we don’t come out and explain it to each other. We each take our own stance on it so we end up with a variety of subcontexts within a song that individually we may not fully understand. This makes interviewing interesting at times because one of us will explain what a song is about, and another member of the band will not have even thought about it the same way.

AH: Some of the members of The Crane Wives had history together before the formation, correct?

KP: Emilee and I were friends since college, but as solo artists we were really competitive musically. She was working at a Chinese restaurant and got me a job there as well. This was a horrible job and we tried to find any way to get out of working. We were able to convince the  boss to let us play Friday nights at the restaurant which was how Emilee and I started playing music together, which led to the formation of The Crane Wives. It’s funny that by disliking something so much we were able create something we really love.

AH: Did your experience serving Asian food help you come up with a name like The Crane Wives?

KP: The Crane Wives name is based off a Japanese folktale. The way we ended up with it was because it was quite difficult to find a name that wasn’t already being used. We had to throw out several ideas before Emilee suggested The Crane Wife, after an album from The Decemberists. We did some research on The Crane Wife and found the story which is about a man who finds an amazing woman who is a fabric maker. They end up selling a lot of the fabric and she promises to make more as long as he doesn’t watch her do it. Of course he can’t resist looking so he ends up losing her in the long run by doing the one thing she asked him not to.

AH: The forbidden fruit is always too tempting it seems...

Luckily for us, music isn’t forbidden and those at Electric Forest were rewarded with a wonderful music and art filled weekend at a beautiful venue that for The Crane Wives and myself, wasn’t too far from home. The Crane Wives opened up Sunday’s musical lineup with an energetic set for a great crowd.

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