Siblings Serenade

Bethany Valentini and Jenny Kapernick didn’t receive a warm welcome to UW-Eau Claire’s Cabin on a cold January night in 2011.

 Valentini and Kapernick are sisters who play in a band called The Ericksons. Their two person band matched the nearly empty Cabin audience of 2011 one to one — that is if you’re counting the sound technician and his girlfriend.

 This past Friday, Sept. 27, the turnout was much more favorable for The Ericksons, with about 50 people in attendance at the height of their set.

 “The last time we played at the Cabin, we were kind of like, ‘whoa, how did this happen?,’” Kapernick said. “It’s incredibly humbling, and that’s the kind show every band needs to experience, because it makes the good shows that much better.”

 Valentini said the two have been playing music together for about seven years.

 Prior to that, they both wrote independently and would often share what they had written. But now it’s more of a collaborative process, Kapernick said.

 Both have played piano since they were very young, but neither picked up the guitar until much later, Kapernick said.

 “As far as our sound goes, we started out so folky, because we both play guitars,” Kapernick said. “But what we were writing and the direction we were going was not folk music.”

 Valentini said it has always been frustrating trying to break free from the catchall classification of being folk artists.

 “We’re two women with guitars playing in coffee shops, so (folky) is always what people want to call us,” Valentini said.

 “Our sound has developed over time and it’s moving toward this ambient feel with experimental harmonies,” Kapernick said. “As a duo, it’s one of our goals to get this big sound.”

 Junior social work major Libby Richter attended The Ericksons’ performance on Friday.

 “My favorite part was listening to something that I wouldn’t normally listen to,” Richter said. “I usually listen to Z100; I don’t normally listen to any kind of alternative music.”

 “What you can express through music is another world that exists parallel to daily life, and we love being able to connect with people in the audience,” Kapernick said.

 Valentini said their maiden name is Cusick, though that was before they had picked a stage name. They mutually decided that Cusick wasn’t really a good option because it’s difficult to spell.

 “There are occasionally some disagreements between the two of us,” Valentini said. As sisters, neither one of us is afraid of intense confrontation with the other.”

 But Kapernick said the two generally get along and are able to maintain a good balance between family life and their band due to the support of those around them.

 The Ericksons took their name from the surname of Valentini’s late husband, who died in 2006, Valentini said. The band name remains a tribute to him.

 Initially Valentini and Kapernick were based out of New York City, so there were far less bands with Scandinavian sounding stage names. Then the two decided to move to Minneapolis, Minn., and they make the trip to Eau Claire often, Kapernick said.

 “We have such a fondness for Eau Claire now,” Kapernick said. “We recorded our last two projects out here, so there are a lot of links we’ve formed in Eau Claire since performing in The Cabin three years ago.”