We Are The Willows didn't begin as a band. It started as the solo project of Minneapolis songwriter, Peter Miller. A Collection of Sounds and Something Like the Plague, released in 2009, was Miller's first effort under the name We Are The Willows. It's an album about loss of religious faith and the act of reimagining the world without god. After the release of the album, Miller began touring extensively. Between 2009 and 2011 he played over 250 shows all across the country. Between tours, Miller recorded, mixed, and released the PLACES EP and began working on what would become the first full band album.
In 2007, Miller's grandmother gifted him over 350 letters written by his grandfather while stationed in the South West Pacific during WWII. On tour, Miller would read the letters, take notes, and eventually songs started to form. Over the next 3 years, Miller wrote songs cataloging his grandparent's courtship during WWII. AS the songs were taking shape, it became clear they needed instrumentation and sonic depth beyond what Miller could perform himself. He enlisted the help of longtime collaborator Jeremiah Satterthwaite to play guitar and co-produce the album as well as Hilary James (voice/cello) and Travis Collins (voice/bass). Together they spent the next year recording the 20 song concept album, Picture (Portrait).
Picture (Portrait) was released in two parts, in 2014 and 2016 respectively. The album garnered praise from NPR, the BBC, NOISEY, PASTE Magazine, Buzzfeed, The Brooklyn Vegan, and USA Today. The band toured a great deal, including showcasing at SXSW, Treefort Music Fest, Summerfest, and supporting slots with Blitzen Trapper, S. Carey, PHOX, and Matt Pond PA. For Miller and the band, it felt like things were taking off.
Picture (Portrait) reached more people than any previous We Are The Willows album and afforded the band unforgettable expereince. It did, however, come at a cost. The strain of being an almost entirely DIY band became a heavy burden. Band relationships strained, logistics became overwhelming, and finances were not sustainable. After a disastrous tour in 2016, the band realized they had hit a ceiling and they took a moment to pause.
Concurrently, Miller's mental health was deteriorating. He had struggled with depression and anxiety in the past but in the years of writing, recording, and promoting Picture (Portrait), both conditions worsened. Additionally, it was becoming apparent that Miller was in love and he was finding it difficult to manage his mental health and be a good partner. Understanding love and partnership while feeling depressed was a new challenge. He was anxiously trying to sort out what elements of his life were satisfying and sustainable, what elements weren't, and what he could do to change any of it.
So the band, both creatively and personally, went back to the drawing board. Miller began going to therapy. The band made some lineup changes and drummer Josh McKay joined the group. They spend the next two years laying low and experimenting. They recorded with various producers in studios around the Midwest including with Mike Noyce (Bon Iver, Tallest Man on Earth) at April Base Studio in Eau Claire, WI and with Zachary Hollander at The Pearl in Minneapolis, MN. They released a few singles and toured around the Midwest. It was slow going, but the band was rounding the corner of something new. New songs were forming and doing so in new ways.
Musically, the band was coming together with more clarity, consideration, and sense of self. The band discovered that the previous years, the ups and downs, had brought them together. They understood and trusted one another's impulses. Miller made space for more collaboration in arranging and the band deftly filled it. Songs that Miller wrote on his own bloomed into something entirely different with the band.
Conceptually, the songs became a way for Miller to process depression, anxiety, the nature of love, and identity. In 'Of A Kind', Miller found inspiration in a commencement speech given by his favorite author, Zadie Smith. The song is about the self and its relation to uniqueness or being "one of a kind". In 'Where We Are Now', Miller shares a lesson learned: that emotional honesty with self and others is the only way to true intimacy. In 'Engine Oil', Miller recognizes his projection of past pain in relationships onto his partner and how that act is motivated by self preservation. 'Up & Down' is a celebration of love, partnership, and how he and his partner have supported one another through mental illness.
In October of 2019, feeling stronger than ever, the band went into legendary Minneapolis studio, The Terrarium, to record with engineer Zachary Hollander. Things clicked into place immediately. The ease with which the band and Hollander worked confirmed that they were onto something good. In 7 days, the band came out of the studio with a new record.
In the summer of 2020, We Are The Willows released their 3rd full length album, Who We Are & Where We Are Now. It's been a long time in the making. This album is a testament to being better for the people and things you love. It's an acceptance of things you can't control and that there is no arrival, there's only Who We Are & Where We Are Now.
This is a General Admission seated show held in the theater of CSPS Hall. Doors will open one hour before showtime.
$17 Advance | $21 Door