The Ericksons take up residency at the Aster

The Ericksons base their music around one principle: simplicity. Less is more. Sisters Bethany Valentini and Jenny Kochsiek cultivate a sound that is sparse and dark, a little Appalachian and a little bluegrass. Their lyrics are in the tradition of a storyteller, humble but with heart and soul, and the sisters share an impeccable intuition for melody.

They have acoustic and electric guitars and bass--the electric is newish, Jenny tells me--and live, they perform with a drummer, Dan Kapernick. It's an old-school approach, and, combined with the sisters' unique vocal harmonies, makes for music that sounds like it tumbled down from a mountain somewhere. Valentini and Kochsiek have voices that meet somewhere between Gillian Welch and Sharon Van Etten, and when the sisters both join in for a chorus, it vibrates around the room.

Valentini and Kochsiek first began making music together as the Ericksons in 2006, while they were living in Brooklyn. It was then that the sisters decided on their band name--my first question, since neither of the sisters have the last name "Erickson."

"At the time when we were first playing and recording, Bethany's last name was Erickson--she was married, that was her husband's last name," explained Kochsiek. "Once he got sick, we decided just to call ourselves the Ericksons. We'll always be the Ericksons."

It's that open-faced honesty and solemn acceptance that makes it almost impossible to think of the Ericksons as anything but a Midwestern duo--they are entirely devoid of pretension, and when they are on stage, they play as much for their audience as they do for themselves.

The Ericksons recorded their sophomore album, don't be scared, don't be alarmed last year at the infamous Smart Studios in Madison (Nirvana, Death Cab for Cutie) and debuted it in September. Since then, and since relocating to Minneapolis, the sisters are now focused on making the Midwest their home base. Part of that is taking on more shows. The Ericksons are in the second week of a month-long residency at the Aster Café this month, where, every Wednesday night at 9 p.m., Valentini and Kochsiek will have the opportunity to spring their sound on a batch of fresh ears. This, the sisters say, is what drives them.

"More than anything, we just want to play good music," said Kochsiek. "We're very simple about it. We want people to hear what we do, and hopefully like it, but we aren't making it complicated."

The Ericksons will be playing at the Aster Café every Wednesday in May at 9 p.m. $5 cover.

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