“We get along; I think when we were starting out, we knew that it was going to take us a while to get where we wanted to be, we had to grow into it. It’s a slowly evolving thing. The kind of songs we were trying to write, it takes time, and we’ve always known that. It keeps us going; it just works, but it’s kind of mystery,” says Benson Ramsey of Iowa-bred Twin Cities-based folkicana outfit, The Pines, who released their new album, Above The Prairie, on Friday, February 5th.
The Pines’ Iowa roots have clearly influenced the album’s style–its celestial sound echoes the simplicity and expansive nature of the prairie. “It’s a feeling; being from the midwest helps us fine-tune the lens. We use the music to stretch out the landscape part of it. We wanted to embrace where we’re from and try to be ourselves,” says Ramsey. “We wanted it to be natural, and not affected by anything. We’re kind of weird. Growing up in Iowa and around the songwriters there, was a huge influence on the depth of the songs, it’s hard to articulate it; it’s just something poetic. The space, the small towns, the farmlands, the sky, all really affect our sound. When we were little kids, there were so many farm communities that are just gone now, and that’s something we think about. It’s a sense of loss, and grappling with what we’re doing and how we fit into that.”
The band calls the Twin Cities home these days; Ramsey says that while there is a burgeoning Americana scene currently, there’s a significant diversity in the Minneapolis/St. Paul scene. “It’s a real melting pot—there are a lot of electronic artists, rappers, all kinds of artists. They all come to our shows and we go to their shows, it’s a great musical community.”
The 10-song record finishes with a special tune made with Native American author, poet, actor, musician, and political activist, John Trudell. “It was huge for us. He’s been a hero of ours since we started, and then we finally got to know him. We got him to come to the Cities and we got to collaborate; he let us pick out words out of a whole batch of stuff, and we wrote it with him before he passed away,” recalls Ramsey. “It was pretty massive for us, it was unreal in a way. We’re really proud of that.”
Currently touring to support the album, Ramsey says the group is excited to take the music out of the midwest to see how people in other areas respond. “I love playing in Nashville, it’s the coolest thing ever. That’s where so many of our heroes played, there’s a good energy there, people care about music. It feels meaningful to play there.”