Inside the joyful noise of Coax From Chuckanut

Coax From Chuckanut | Aster Cafe | Sunday, August 24
A little quirky and a little bit rock 'n' roll, husband and wife duo Libby and Ryan Sutherland make up the Minneapolis band Coax From Chuckanut. On their self-titled debut album, Libby and Ryan mix heartfelt indie rock and folk adorably.

Gimme Noise caught up with Ryan and Libby before their album release at the Aster Cafe on Sunday night to talk about how they keep their relationship healthy and what it really means to be coaxed from a chuckanut.

Band members: Ryan and Libby Sutherland

Where does the name Coax From Chuckanut come from?

Ryan Sutherland: It just popped into my head one day. Chuckanut is a word for "a long beach far from a narrow entrance," and a symbol of a beautiful place that is difficult to get to. I just found myself in a place in my life (moving up to Minneapolis, finding community here, growing spiritually) that I think many people would've found through a difficult journey. I felt gently coaxed or even led here. It wasn't hard for me to navigate this weird move when it should have been. It just happened that I came to this place, that I needed to come to this place, for my life to really take off.

How did the band evolve from a solo project to a duo?

Libby Sutherland: We got married. No, Ryan and I are both creative people but my natural outlet is writing and I'm not particularly musically inclined. I always liked Ryan's musical style and philosophy -- that music should be fun and interactive -- but never got involved.

Then, one day, Ryan was jammin' with a friend and former bandmate/drummer who just invited me to come down and try drumming. I'd never done it before but Nick was sweet enough to give me some basic drumming tips without making me feel like a nuisance due to my lack of ability and experience. I ended up having a lot of fun and just kept with the kit.

RS: Mine and Libby's favorite book is a marriage and faith memoir called A Severe Mercy. It challenged us to grow closer by sharing our passions and interests. Music and making music is a huge part of my life, and it would be weird if Libby never became part of that.

How do you fill out the live sound with just two people? Do you write with that in mind?

LS: I don't think so or, at least, I've really never thought about it. I think working in a duo just forces us to think about our projects in an almost budgetary-type way: This is what we have to work with, what can we do with it?

RS: This isn't maybe the best plan but we really do rely on audience interaction and willingness to join in with us. We like sharing our stories with people and we get into it. It's not a musical technique but we really use our banter, our attitude to fill-out a show.

Your songs are pretty silly and fun. Do you feel they capture the essence of your personality? 

LS: I'm not sure if I'd use the word "silly" so much as "joyful." I mean, our lives and our world have a tendency to go really dark and somber -- just look at the news today or the trend in our popular culture to veer towards violence and shock value -- and I personally just don't have time to pursue art that doesn't make me happy. I think that reflects in our music: Our conscious choice to be joy-filled people.

Many of your songs fall into a narrative tone. Do any of these tracks come from personal stories? 

RS: Most of the songs come from specific, personal stories. "Re-Do" is a pretty prime example: When Libby and I first got married, she implemented this rule of "re-do." It's like what kids do when they play pick-up games of softball -- if you mess up, you get a chance to clean the slate and just try again. For example, if I come home from work and walk in the door complaining before even saying hello to her, she'll call out "re-do" and I physically have to walk out the door, re-enter without complaining, give her a smooch, and try it again. It's funny but it's actually a grace thing -- it prevents fights, it gives us a chance to do better with each other in our marriage. "Re-Do" is about that -- loving each other, being on the same team, giving each other the chance to be the best husband or wife we can be.
Coax From Chuckanut by Coax From Chuckanut

Tell me about your favorite track on the album?

LS: My favorite track is "Something's Happening" for both sentimental and creative reasons. It's a song that Ryan wrote for me while we were dating as a Valentine's present, but we had only been dating a handful of weeks at that point. It's very light-hearted and silly (because you can't overtly profess your love after a couple of weeks without scaring a new girlfriend away) and reminds me of the sweetness of our relationship.

As a recording, however, it was a very different track until Peter Bodurtha insisted on adding a banjo bit which, I think, Ryan and I originally resisted but since we had the time we gave him one or two takes in the studio. When we heard it over the rest of the song, I realized we had nearly missed out on something really spectacular and I'm so grateful Peter rallied so hard for it to be included.

RS: "Weapons" is my favorite because it's unlike the rest of the tracks and really not typical of our sound. It was inspired by a Black Rebel Motorcycle Club song called (wait for it) "Weapon of Choice." It's a little more hard, dirty with a protest-feel to it. It's about refusing to waste the things you've been given. It was fun to record and see Libby, Peter, and Grant get into the drive of it. It's one song where, even with just a duo, we can really rock out.

What are you looking forward to sharing at the album release show?

RS: We're excited to celebrate all the work that went into this project. We had incredible support for this EP from so many people. Jacob Grun and Jacob Mullis from The Sound Gallery were a great resource and it wouldn't have been possible without their guidance and expertise. A good friend and artist Alxndr Jones donated his time and talents to complete our graphic design needs for the physical copies of the EP and other merchandise. Cory Kimball from Corwin Video donated hours to film and produce two great music videos. Plus, the EP recording was funded through an Indiegogo campaign and it's a chance to invite the supporting community to come and see what they were apart of creating before the "official" release on Tuesday, August 26.

LS: I'm excited to play for our community of supporters -- to give them a night of fun, to give them the physical CDs and buttons and T-shirts they paid for in the Indiegogo campaign. I'm also excited to fully express our gratitude to our biggest supporters: Grant Adams and Peter Bodurtha are busy fathers as well as musicians and they gave many days to this project. Their amazing wives Beccy and Julie sacrificed whole nights and weekends, had to hold down their child-laden forts but did so without complaint because they believe in the music. It means so much to us and I want to buy those ladies a drink.

Coax From Chuckanut will release their self-titled album at the Aster Cafe on Sunday, August 24, 2014 with Good Diction.
AA, $5, 8 pm

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