Pert Near Sandstone rises from modest startPublished 1:57pm Sunday, August 17, 2014
Playing in a Twin Cities apartment, a trio of old high school friends decided to hold a jam session with no real purpose. The group, who had just become reacquainted after years a part, didn’t foresee at that first session that it would someday transform into a national touring act going on its tenth year as a band.
Pert Near Sandstone, a now five member band, will open for Cloud Cult at the Music in the Outfield show during the Austin Artworks Festival at 7:30 p.m. on Aug. 23 in Marcusen Park.
“We’re going to bring our A-game to Austin,” said band member Nate Sipe.
Sipe, along with fellow bandmates Kevin Kniebel and J Lenz started the band almost ten years ago.
“It’s crazy just to think about it,” Sipe said about the upcoming anniversary.
The trio were close friends in high school and found each other years later after going their separate ways.
“I had been traveling and randomly bumped into them at a show in Minneapolis,” Sipe said. “They had hung up their electric guitars and basses and started singing folk.”
What began as jam sessions eventually led to playing at cafes and bars.
“We were playing wherever we could whenever we could because we enjoyed it so much,” Sipe said. “It became a way of life for us.”
Eventually, irregular gigs turned into monthly shows at a local bar. It wasn’t until six or seven years ago that they decided to take the act on the road.
“[During the tours] we grew as a group and developed an identity,” Sipe said.
Touring also gave the group the opportunity to develop their songwriting abilities.
“They call it playing music for a reason,” Sipe said. “It seems like nothing but fun.”
Having a core group of three players has been good for the band, according to Sipe. “It’s given us a really solid foundation,” Sipe said. “It refreshes the project when we get new players.”
Highlights of the band’s career so far include playing at First Avenue, the Cedar Cultural Center and different festivals across the nation with some of their favorite musicians and acts, one of which meant a lot to Sipe.
“[Performing on ‘A Prairie Home Companion’] was a pinnacle of being a Minnesota musician growing up,” he said. “It’s the reason I got into it in the first place.”
Sipe’s musical influences include many folk music idols like Bob Dylan and Spider John Koerner. However, they don’t limit themselves to just one genre.
“We all grew up listening to grunge music,” Sipe said. “We also listened to jazz, country and everything in between. You can’t listen to just one genre of music without losing your mind.”
Sipe describe the band’s sound as modern string-band music, though he says they fit different genres as well.
Over the past nine years, the band has evolved by learning to work better together and solidify their style of music.
“It took us a while to figure out how to make it all sound good together and seem like it came from the same source,” Sipe said. “Even though we are old friends, it’s always a struggle to get everything to mesh well.”
Though the band has never been to Austin before, they are excited to put on a show for Austinites unfamiliar with the genre.
“We like to bring a lot of high energy for dancing and a positive spirit the way outdoor music with friends and family should be celebrated,” Sipe said. “It’s going to be a fun one.”
In the future, Sipe sees the band playing more festivals and getting into the studio to record another album. There’s no end in sight right now for the band, and Sipe’s not sure if there will truly ever be one.
“It’s the kind of project that will never really go away,” he said. “It’ll always be a part of our lives.”
Cloud Cult and Pert Near Sandstone
Doors: 6 p.m.
Concert time: 7:30 p.m.
Pert Near Sandstone discography:
•Live: Just Outside Sandstone, 2005
•Up and Down the River, 2007
•Needle & Thread, 2008
•Out On A Spree, 2009
•Paradise Hop, 2011
•The Hardest Part of Leaving, 2014
Pert Near Sandstone members
Nate Sipe: Mandolin, Fiddle, vocals
Kevin Kniebel: Banjo, vocals
J Lenz: Acoustic Guitar, vocals
Adam Kiesling: Upright Bass
Andy Lambert: Clogs and Washboard