With a growing arts and culture scene, Rochester is making more of a name for itself than just medicine. Nowadays there are more and more up-and-coming artists emerging out of Rochester and growing an audience that extends past city boundaries.
Many of those musicians making names for themselves are young people. Here’s a look at just some of the next generation of musicians and bands coming out of Rochester, and what they think of the music scene there.
Fauna and Flora
Fauna and Flora is made up of singer Elle Pollock, drummer Mitchell Nelson, and pianist Kris Tremain, who first met as elementary school students in Rochester. Once in high school, Nelson and Remain started working together on some music, and after asking Pollock to join them as a singer, Fauna and Flora was born. Now as college students, they’ve seen their music grow over the years.
“As a band, we’ve grown a lot in our sound. It’s been fun, reflecting on the type of music we liked three years ago versus the type of music we like now and the type of music we like to play now,” Pollock said. “It’s really rewarding because I think we’re better musicians today and we’ve just gotten more comfortable with each other and playing with each other and knowing what we like and what we don’t like, so it’s really satisfying to see how we’ve grown with what we’re working on now and what we’ve released in the past.”
Being in school, most of the work Fauna and Flora does together happens over the summer, but they still send ideas back and forth during the rest of the year to keep things going.
“I feel like we really grind in the summer because it’s really our only chance to get some writing together or rehearsing together, but I feel like a lot of writing we do is during the school year, just because we have so much time outside of school,” Tremain said. “I guess it’s kind of hard when you’ve got an idea and you can’t share it with people in the same room, and it’s a lot different than texting each other like, ‘Yo I have something I feel really good about,’ and then like actually meeting with each other and getting immediate feedback. So I would say that’s kind of a challenge, but we aren’t really pressured or anything, so it’s not too bad.”
In Rochester, Fauna and Flora play mostly smaller shows in coffee shops and backyard parties, but they do see that the scene is growing and appreciate the close community of musicians who live there.
“I guess before, it was sort of a limited amount of venues that we could play at, so we’d always sort of see each other at these shows, Remain said. “Being a musician, you kind of know a lot of the other musicians so it’s sort of a pretty tight knit community I would say.”
As far as growing as a band goes, Fauna and Flora are taking a relaxed approach to its music. all of the members of the band are focused on finishing up school and see their music as just something that makes them happy.
“We’re just kind of releasing these singles for us and it’s just something that we enjoy,” Drummer Nelson said. “Record a song, put it out there and get people’s thoughts on it. No pressure, it’s just what we enjoy.”
Josh Augustin and Sam Winemiller make up the electronic pop-duo Vansire. The two met in their high school’s drum line and, after playing in school-run ensembles together for a while they decided to form their own group. They started out by recording music on a broken iPad and are still going strong four years later. Like Fauna and Flora, both Augustin and Winemiller are also college students who are focused on school, but it’s still important to them to make time for their music.
“I think we’ve just been making music together for so long that it’s not a huge deal,” Augustin said. “When we’re together we bump ideas off each other and we definitely enjoy doing it. When we’re apart it’s a little more difficult but it’s so easy just to send WAV files back and forth in a way that’s still productive. It’s not as ideal, but it works out perfectly fine so that hasn’t really hindered us in any way.”
While Augustin and Winemiller are both from Rochester, they don’t see the city as having a music scene and don’t see much opportunity for themselves to work as musicians in the city.
“I really like being in Rochester,” said Augustin, “but my biggest takeaway was that you can’t do this as a real thing — you can’t pursue music as a career here. People just have to go more of a STEM route. Creative pursuits are kind of a waste of time there, and that’s perpetuated on a lot of different levels — whether it’s in our public school system, or in the the job landscape. Sam and I were very lucky to have incredible teachers in our schools and the people we took lessons from were amazing, but beyond that we never really thought that music was something we could do.”
Although they just finished their first tour this summer, for Vansire their focus is more on recording their work than on performing it live, and they hold themselves to a high standard when it comes to the music they release — something that has changed for the band over the years.
“I never thought we’d be making music for an audience so to speak. It’s kind of weird being at the point now where we know that if we put out music, it will be heard by a decently substantial audience and I think that has changed the way and speed in which we craft songs,” Augustin said. “Back in the day when it was just for fun and no one was listening, it was just make a song, and it would sound kind of crappy but it would be, whatever. Now, there’s a lot more time put into them. We kind of hold ourselves to a standard of like, ‘Would you want to play this in a car?’ or ‘Would you put this down at a party?’ Just objectively, ‘Is this something you want to hear?’”
In the near future, Vansire is going to keep making music as long as it’s still fun for them and manageable while they’re in school.
“It’s kind of cool now with Spotify and stuff online, we’ve been able to develop followings in other places. Like we were playing some big shows in California and that was cool because it was the first time we had ever met people who were fans of us who didn’t know us personally,” Augustin said. “So I think where I see us going from now on was that we’ll just keep on recording as we feel like it, and maybe another tour happens. We’ll see where the option stands, but as long as it’s enjoyable, we’ll just keep at it. And that’s kind of where it stands right now.”
VILD, personally known as Emily Nelson, is a musician working in Rochester year round. After moving back to the area after college, she grew to love the Rochester music scene and enjoys working as an artist in the city where she gets to record, perform, and teach music.
“When I moved away after high school I thought this city was kind of dry, and moving back I’ve been given this opportunity to teach music full time, and play shows here and there. Some are paid, some not, but to have these opportunities to play here has been really incredible,” Nelson said. “Playing in Rochester in all these little pop-up shows and little acoustic sets that are happening is really fun and a cool scene to be part of. I get to record at Carpet Booth Studios, play live, teach, write, and do all of these things in this city that I thought there was no opportunity for. Now I’m realizing that there is opportunity here for that, and I don’t have to run away to L.A. to have those opportunities.”
For VILD, her inspiration to become a musician came from her mom, and she hopes to pass on her love of music to the next generation.
“Before I was even born, she was listening to the Cranberries and she’d put me to sleep to Enya every night of my life when I was born. My friend once said that, I don’t really know how to describe my music, but she told me that I sound like a contemporary Enya,” Nelson said. “I think it’s so funny how deep-rooted inspiration to my work, from so young, can bleed into who we are now. I kind of feel like, me teaching at Pure Rock Studios, maybe some kid is going to be in a lesson with me and we’re going to sing something or play something or learn something that’s going to inspire them to do this one day.”
In addition to music, Nelson also works as a photographer and at a coffee shop on the side, but she is dedicated to working in music in Rochester.
“Before I would have said, ‘Oh it’s not possible, I can’t do music as a career,’ but now all these pieces are coming together almost organically and opportunities are unfolding,” She said. “If I have the opportunity, whether it be teaching music [or] performing live, I would, because it’s my way to share and inspire in this world, and I think creativity is so important.”
Simone Cazares is a student at Saint Paul College. Originally from Miami, Fla., she survives Minnesota’s cruel winters by immersing herself in the Twin Cities music scene.