When someone names a song “Minnesota,” we Minnesotans can’t help but wonder why.
Like rapper Lil Yachty before them, Vancouver-based jangle-rockers the Courtneys went and wrote a (great) song called “Minnesota” (from their new album, The Courtneys II). Unlike Yachty, however, the Courtneys agreed to let me ask them dumb questions about Minnesota.
Ahead of tonight's show at the Entry, Courtneys’ singer-drummer Jen Twynn Payne spoke to City Pages about the inspiration behind “Minnesota” as well as the similarities (meat raffles, cold) and differences (bowling for turkeys) between Minnesota and Canada.
City Pages: What is the song “Minnesota” about?
Jen Twynn Payne: Well, it’s kind of funny. So, it’s about one of my best friends who moved away. But at the time I wrote those lyrics, it was a few years ago, and he actually wasn’t moving at all at the time, never mind to Minnesota. But then that is actually what ended up happening. So it was kind of like a weird premonition that he would move to Minneapolis.
CP: So the connection is just that you had a premonition that he would move to Minnesota?
JTP: It wasn’t a premonition, it was more like, I wrote the song because he lived here but he’s American. So he was worried at the time that he might not be able to stay in Canada, for visa reasons. And so I was like, ‘Oh, that would suck.’ But it was more just shock, it wasn’t for sure happening that he had to move when I wrote the song. And then I was like, what’s a good state title? I was watching the Fargo TV series at the time, so I was like, ‘Oh, Minnesota, why not?’ And then that is actually where he ended up moving like three years later, so it was kind of weird.
CP: So what do you think of, as a Canadian, when you think of the state of Minnesota? Do you know a lot about Minnesota, or not?
JTP: I feel like I know kind of like a middle of the road amount. More than a lot of Canadians, but less than probably people who live there, or are American, or whatever.
CP: What do you think of when you think of Minnesota? What do you know going into this discussion?
JTP: The way I think of it, is I am actually from a city in Canada called Calgary, I don’t know if you’re familiar with that. Calgary’s in the province of Alberta, and I’ve always kind of thought of Alberta as the Midwest of Canada, just in culture. There’s just a vibe. And then, when I went to the Midwest for the first time, my suspicions were kind of confirmed. They do remind me a lot of where I’m from, and I would say Minnesota, Wisconsin in particular. What else do I think of? Winter. That’s kind of the basis of my thought on it.
CP: I did some background reading to come up with questions for this, and one thing I came across that Minnesota and western Canada have in common is meat raffles.
JTP: [incredulous] Meat waffles?
CP: Meat raffles, not waffles.
JTP: Raffles. Yes, yes, yes, totally. Wait, that doesn’t happen everywhere?
CP: I work with a woman from Texas who was like, “Yeah, I’d never heard of this before I moved up to Wisconsin and Minnesota.”
JTP: That’s hilarious.
CP: So my question is have you ever been to a meat raffle? Do you have an opinion on the idea of them? Because it’s kind of a weird idea when you think about it.
JTP: I have not personally been to one. The only thing I can think of that’s similar, well not really similar, but for some reason this reminded me of this, and I think this happens everywhere, but you know when you go bowling and you win a turkey? That reminds me of meat raffles. But no, I haven’t been to one personally.
CP: Actually, I’ve never heard of winning a turkey at bowling.
JTP: Really? Maybe that’s a weird Canadian thing. When you go bowling here, if you get, it’s either a certain amount of strikes or a certain score, then this big turkey flashes on the screen, and then you actually win a turkey, like to cook, not a live turkey. I don’t know if that’s a Canadian bowling prize or what, but it made me think of that.
CP: Have you ever tried lefse?
JTP: Oh! Yes. Yes, yes, and actually isn’t there a record label called that, maybe?
CP: I think there is one that has lefse in the name.
JTP: The friend that moved away’s band was on that label so that’s a funny thing too. I have tried that.
CP: What did you think of lefse?
JTP: I mean, I’m not gonna eat it all the time.
CP: Do you feel any sort of vague kinship with Minnesota as a sort of Canada-like state in the U.S.?
JTP: Yes. Yes. Definitely. Like I said, in a visual way and sort of the people, but maybe not in a political way. I could be wrong but I feel like maybe it’s more religious than Canada, but aside from that yes, I definitely think of it like when I went to the Midwest in general I was like, “Oh I feel like I’m at home, like this is where I’m from.”
With: Jay Som, Wetter
Where: 7th Street Entry
When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 22
Tickets: 18+; $10 advance/$12 door; more info here