Nervous But Excited
7:30 p.m. Nov. 3
1991 W. Liberty Ave., Ann Arbor
RSVP to [email protected]
7:30 p.m. Nov. 4
People Called Women, Toledo
Sarah Cleaver and Kate Peterson’s band name wasn’t intentional.
Peterson, via instant messenger, was getting ready to reveal the duo’s name to the band’s engineer Nicholas Koby.
“I prefaced it by saying I was nervous but excited,” says Peterson, 27, from North Carolina where she and Cleaver are mingling with friends.
Koby replied, “Nervous But Excited? I like that!”
The name Peterson had planned on revealing, though, was My Marching Band, which the duo chose out of desperation and not because either were in a marching band – or had ever been. The fortunate misunderstanding was definitely an upgrade from other options, notes Cleaver, 26.
“It definitely captures the eccentric side of us. Our flair, if you will,” Peterson says.
With a microphone set up in the living room and cables dangling from the ceiling like an oversized spider web, the queer folk duo recorded most of their debut album, “Once More … With Feeling,” in their Lansing home’s living room in March. The rest, including drums and the banjo, were added in a Lansing studio and in the home’s kitchen, where they had to unplug the fridge to prevent blowing a fuse.
“I was making mac and cheese while recording a violin part to the last song on the CD,” Cleaver laughs.
Although the women had formed a local fan base, they struggled to hoard enough revenue from pre-orders in order to pursue the project. Eventually, though, as their number of gigs grew, so did interest in the album. “We were very fortunate,” Cleaver says.
The band ran into another bump in the road when their mixer unexpectedly had to move to Oregon. Peterson took charge and, as Cleaver puts it, “tapped into some unknown talent.”
Peterson adds, “In retrospect, it went pretty smoothly in the way we had to put it all together.”
Cleaver and Peterson seesawed between lyrics and music, but each song was usually crafted entirely by one of them. The other bandmate would fuse in their creative vibe after the other completed her part.
“Ultimately, we’d like to share the process,” Cleaver says.
During the recording process, Cleaver would soak in some Paul Simon. Peterson would throw on some Patty Griffin. Most of their inspiration, though, birthed from encountering local acts in different parts of the country.
“We’re very influenced by many of the people we come in contact with on the road,” Cleaver says. “And also our music community in Michigan that surrounds us is incredibly influential to who we are as singer/songwriters.”
Memories of their second tour outing in Cleaver’s Pennsylvania hometown haunts her. The duo played a coffee house that Cleaver used to in high school. Little did she know that this venue turned into the local teenage make-out joint.
“There was some explicit activity happening there with the teenagers,” Cleaver recalls. “It was kind of a sketchy situation.”
A few years before the gig-gone-bad, the owner of Golden Rod Music in Lansing, who distributed their debut, introduced Cleaver, an apprentice to a handyman, and Peterson, a web designer. “She was like, ‘So you play music, Kate plays music, ya’ll should be friends,'” Cleaver recalls.
“Lansing isn’t that large so we kept finding out we had more and more mutual friends and then eventually we were just forced to become friends ’cause we just had too much in common to be enemies.”
Their relationship has always been about music – and nothing more.
As both of them laugh, Cleaver says, “We’re very compatible as friends and as singer-songwriter companions but romantically it would just be awkward.”