When the Pines frontmen David Huckfelt and Benson Ramsey fill a room with their ambient folk music, listeners are transported to the vast lands of Iowa, where the band members grew up.
This is sure to be the case when they make a stop in Madison on April 4 at the High Noon Saloon. As they put together a new record, the Pines are doing a few sporadic shows around the Midwest, not straying too far from their home in Minneapolis, Minn.
Huckfelt and Ramsey are both from Iowa, but didn’t meet until they were living in Arizona where they started making music together, both singing and playing guitar.
“There was never an intended path or plan,” Huckfelt said. “We just kind of woke up one day and realized that we were ready to do this as much as possible in as many places as possible.”
Since then, the Pines have released five albums with their sixth expected to come out sometime later this year. They signed with indie label Red House Records in 2007 and released their breakout album, Sparrows in the Bell, later that year. They received national attention from their South by Southwest performance, Daytrotter sessions and resounding praise in publications like Q Magazine and Rolling Stone.
Over the years, the Pines have built up a cult following for their hauntingly honest and subdued sound, and they have shared the stage with indie extraordinaires like Bon Iver, Trampled By Turtles and Mason Jennings. Huckfelt likes getting out on the road with other musicians and collaborating rather than competing to create memorable musical events.
“A lot of times you see bands on tour and everybody wants to tear up bands that sound alike or do the same kind of thing,” he said. “I think it’s more interesting when there’s some variance in a given night of music.”
Much of their inspiration comes from the stark, quiet places where they grew up, as well as early American folk and blues music. As they put together their upcoming album, Huckfelt said the writing process is a reflection that encompasses all aspects of their lives. “Our process is kind of a deepening like tracing a river back into its source and going back wide and far,” he said.
The music scene in Minneapolis provides Huckfelt, Ramsey and the rest of their band with the ideal environment to make music.
“It’s small enough that styles and people and personalities and music can really merge in the city,” Huckfelt said. “We’re really Iowa guys at heart, but as far as a music city goes, it’s the best.”
Minneapolis is no stranger to musical talent. The Pines follow in the footsteps of notable artists like Bob Dylan, Atmosphere and The Replacements, who got started in the Twin Cities.
But they don’t get to stick around the city very much, which is just fine with Huckfelt. He said they like to check out the “weird parts” of rural America when they’re on tour.
“If you don’t enjoy travel then there’s no reason to try to play music,” Huckfelt said.
The Pines will be laying pretty low in the coming months while they hunker down to create new music with a busier surge of touring expected in the fall.
“We’ll stay fairly close to home during this time because we have more space to focus and write when we don’t have a lot of traveling to do,” Huckfelt said.
Playing at these smaller Midwestern venues during production gives the band a chance to test drive some of the music on which they’re working.
“Performing [songs] live is one way to get some more information about the new material,” Huckfelt said.
The Pines have played in Madison numerous times, and Huckfelt is excited to come back to the High Noon, and briefly meet up with some friends in the city.
When Huckfelt, Ramsey and their keyboardist Alex Ramsey play their music, you won’t see much jumping around or dancing. Most likely, you won’t see any of that at all. Coinciding with the stark, poetic Americana that resonates from their instruments is a quiet energy which surrounds the musicians and expands throughout the venue.
“Energy is a very illusive kind of subtle thing. We have a lot going on when we’re on stage even though it’s subdued and I feel like there’s a lot of quiet energy in places that aren’t necessarily loud or beating you over the head,” Huckfelt said.
The Pines’ relaxed demeanor is reflective of their understanding relationship with their music and their passion for performing it live.
“For us it’s comfortable delivering songs. Connecting with the audience is what we love to do,” Huckfelt said.
The Pines will perform at High Noon Saloon on April 4. Tickets are $15, and on sale through high-noon.com.