Minneapolis band Skemp & Weather is almost like an embodiment of the Twin Cities arts community.
Its blend of poetry, tunes, natural imagery and visual art feels familiar as individual aspects, but together, they make something new.
Skemp & Weather planted its roots around 2015, when lead vocalist and poet Jeffrey Skemp and longtime friend James Everest decided to be more proactive about music making. They asked their friend Karen Townsend to join.
“It takes a special group of musicians to have interest in working with a poet,” Skemp said. “It just felt like an authentic collaboration in the way that everyone is offering advice that's just going to make things better artistically.”
Along with drummer Martin Dosh and guitarist and producer Ben Durrant, Skemp & Weather began defining its sound and digging into everyone's musical backgrounds.
“[Durrant] and I were volunteers at the Whole Music Club in college where I later hosted the Making Music conversation series from 2005 to 2013,” said Everest, a University of Minnesota alum.
The series highlighted various creative processes of musicians which, paired with various gigs, projects and musical abilities, informed a collaboration style that is unique to Skemp & Weather.
“Everybody's just really coming from their heart in how everything has unfolded,” said Townsend, who plays the accordion in Skemp & Weather. “It just feels really whole. It feels really good.”
The five-piece band recently released their debut album, “The Hum of the Sky” on March 7 at Moon Palace Books. The album, which took a little over a year to record, is the product of about five years of collaboration among the members.
“We had all these little accomplishments along the way that sort of kept us going,” Skemp said. “And we finally decided that we wanted to do an album.”
The album includes 14 tracks, four of which are sung through, while the others include Skemp’s poetry over instrumentals.
The album is hauntingly reassuring. Skemp tells tales of overcoming, places he’s been and living through our climate crisis. The instrumentals give magic to Skemp’s poems, adding shifts in mood and feeling as you listen.
“I don't even know if all of us within the band would interpret each [song] in the same way,” Townsend said. “There's so many layers with [the album], so the more settled into performing or rehearsing together we are, the more I actually get to hear the soul of what [Skemp is] saying.”
The imagery presented in each song allows for interpretation, as poetry often does. While Skemp is telling stories through his own lens, he encourages listeners to interpret it in their own ways.
“What people identify through their experiences, through the context of how they heard the piece, is amazing,” Skemp said. “That is both one of the frustrating and most gratifying aspects of doing things artistically.”
Skemp & Weather see “The Hum of the Sky” as a marker of their journey as musicians and as old friends.
“In the context of the current situation with the virus, a lot of people are going to be sitting at home,” Skemp said. “Maybe people will take the time to listen. There's a change in the rhythm of things right now, and it could be around for a while.”