Nostalgia can be a tricky thing.
It’s easy to romanticize the past instead of remembering it as it was. But on their new EP, Spaces, Nora Targonski-O’Brien and Eric Carranza of Hot Date are realistic about leaving their hometowns and about accepting family members as they are.
The two have incorporated much of their musical life into their studio apartment in Lowertown St. Paul. Carranza’s recording studio is in one corner; another corner houses a large record collection that he picks through and selects music from during our conversation. The walls are lined with black-and-white photos of Carranza’s late father from the days when he performed with his band in Minnesota clubs. As Carranza relates the history behind each photo, his deep voice brims with love for the man with whom he shares an uncanny resemblance.
The couple is constantly coming up with new songs here in their home—Targonski-O’Brien jokes about how one time Carranza bothered her about a song she was singing while in the bathtub. “I just wanted to take a bath in peace,” she laughs. Spaces is only their third EP in three years, so while they’re constantly writing, they’re not always recording. They wait for the pieces to all fit together, which eventually they do.
In the past year, Targonski-O’Brien discovered a new passion: acting. She answered a casting call that led to her landing a role in the independent film In Winter, playing Annika, a young woman whose grandfather is dying—the exact same situation Nora herself was in last year while writing the songs for Spaces.
Targonski-O’Brien wrote “Coal Town” about her hometown, Shamokin, Pennsylvania, where she lived with her grandfather when she was very young. Visiting last year, Targonski-O’Brien realized that though coal mining was a dying industry, the town hasn’t been able to move on.
“There’s a metaphor there,” Targonski-O’Brien says. “It runs parallel to the way I saw my childhood home. I needed to process moving on from the things that weren’t working or not as wonderful as I wanted them to be. I’ll always enjoy trips back, but I had to make peace with the fact that it wasn’t as realistic as I maybe initially thought. My grandfather was the father figure in my family. He was firm on some things, mainly women’s roles, that are changing in society. I’m on the opposite end of the spectrum in values. I wish we had talked about it a little bit more before he passed away. It grew to be this quiet distaste between us. I had to come to terms with that. What he thought are my bad qualities I would say are my good qualities. I had to come to terms with that, as well. I had a lot of guilt, but I had to learn to accept him as he was.”
The EP’s final track, “MN Goddess,” was written in a different headspace than the others. Targonski-O’Brien thought up the melody while out hiking alone in the Minnehaha area late last spring 2017. She wanted to pay homage to the women who have made their lives in the wintry Midwest—including herself. “These women are so beautiful with their big sweaters, hiking up north and being creative,” she says. “I wanted to express this sigh of relief that I was feeling when I was doing these creative things. I also wanted to celebrate women. Some of the women out here have been incredible and inspiring and honest.”
Targonski-O’Brien names of some of these ladies, including Deb Huke, a luthier and owner of Huke Guitars who makes everything by hand, and Cassandra Moe, a taxidermist working in a male-dominated field. These women give her peace and help her feel most like herself.
“It’s a community at large that shape us, but also in a community, women are the ones who are birthing, raising, nurturing, calling you back, remembering birthdays. This community that has fostered and made me, have been the women.”
With: Jillian Rae and Tabah
Where: Kitty Cat Klub
When: 9 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 24
Tickets: 21+: $5, more info here