Local Current Blog

Meet Nunnabove, Minneapolis’s latest and greatest family band

Photo by Karl Demer, courtesy Nunnabove.

In a regular series of features, we’re inviting Minnesota artists to introduce themselves to our audience. Today: Nunnabove, a Minneapolis-based family band who describe their sound as “positive alternative pop.” Their debut album, Season 1, was released in 2019; a follow-up is planned for this fall.

Cadence (lead vocals, bass): Me and my sister started when we were really young. Mattie started playing piano at three and I started singing at four. Wisdom and Bennett started when they were seven and nine. We took individual lessons at K&S Conservatory…Mattie’s piano instructor suggested that we play together in a recital. We played “Jesus Take the Wheel” by Carrie Underwood. Then our dad said we should play “Joy to the World” together on Christmas Day, so we did. We’ve been together as a band for seven years…Right now, I would describe the music that we make as alternative pop. Truthfully, we make all kinds of music. We’ve written rock, pop, neo-soul, and jazz stuff.

Ed (executive producer, dad): The background in this house in terms of parents with musical ability begins and ends with my wife. Michelle plays bass and she understands music theory, and she can sing. I am the hack that has to pay and write checks for things. I’m okay with my lane being executive producer. When I drink a little bit, yes, I can sing, at least I think I can. But otherwise, seriously, it’s my wife. My wife’s mother lived with us for 15 years. She recently passed a month and a half ago. She sang in the church — grew up singing — and she was always walking around here singing spirituals and giving the kids advice on how to practice. That’s where it came from.

Bennett (guitar, backing vocals): I like the fact that we can just go downstairs and create anything we want. Sometimes we’ll be in practice together and we’ll get sidetracked and just make up original songs. I love that. I love that we can just go and make music. 

Mattie (keyboards, backing vocals): My favorite thing is the communication. It’s easy because I know these people. I live with them. They’re my family.  

Wisdom (drums, backing vocals): We argue a lot because we have so many different opinions. But I feel like overall, we get to have our voices heard. After all that, we can get a really nice final product.

Cadence: My favorite part is when we’re performing on stage together. We can just give each other a look and know what’s coming up next. We recently played at Pride, which was really fun. What’s important to Nunnabove is that we enjoy ourselves and that the music speaks to people and helps someone at any point. I’ve always wanted someone to hear the music we make on their drive home from work or whatever and to be like, “I needed to hear that.” 

Mattie: It’s important to remember that making music is hard work. It’s not easy. You got to be having fun and enjoying what you do. Not every day is gonna be laughs and smiles. It’s tough to do what we do and to still want to do it. Keeping that in mind helps you stay motivated.

Bennett: One big challenge right now is recording our second album. We used to record with our producer at his studio, but now we’re doing it at home. COVID messed up a lot of stuff. Recording everything from home with the instruments and the vocals, making sure that you got the right mono versus stereo. This is a lot of stuff to keep track of. It’s all new.

Cadence: The closet in my bathroom is our recording booth for vocals. We put soundproofing stuff on the walls in the room and we had to string cords through my bedroom to the closet and the main room. It’s a whole ordeal, but it works.

Wisdom: “Connection” is my favorite song of ours right now. We just recorded that recently. And for me, I really love it because of the bassline that I made for Cadence.

Cadence: I love “Connection.” But I also like a song we have that’s yet to be released. It’s called “Better Than Love.” It’s about friendship and the friend that you can’t live without. It has a really beautiful chorus. It’s very melodic, very smooth, and I think it meshes with my voice really well. I just like the feeling of singing that song.

Bennett: I’m really feeling a song that is also yet to be released, it’s called “Welcome.” And it’s got this creepy vibe. Almost like a Childish Gambino, “Redbone” type of vibe. It just scares me almost when I hear it. I really want to play it live, but we haven’t yet. I’m really looking forward to it.

Mattie: I would say “Welcome” as well. Not because it’s scary but because I wrote the song when I was messing with a couple of progressions on my keyboard.  I was like, “Oh, I really like this. But what if it was spooky?”

Wisdom: For me recently, I find I get too creative. I kind of block out things in my head sometimes and just focus on one thing, and that causes the song to suffer a little bit.

Mattie: As someone who really loves music theory, this era of music isn’t really focused on that. So when I write by myself, it’s really hard to be like, “I’m not necessarily writing this song for me to enjoy, I’m writing this to entertain somebody else.” I got to think about what everybody else wants to hear and then put a little bit of myself into it.

Cadence: It depends on your goal. I think making music is just fun, but also desire to make a career out of it at some point. So, because of that goal, I would say it’s important that you make music that people will consume.

Mattie: I think it depends on where you are in life. As an artist, if you’re trying to heal, you should make music for yourself. If you’re at a place where you want to share what you found and make somebody else feel the way that you feel, make that music for somebody else. 

Bennett: When you’re trying to get discovered and get your music out there, you make music that will appeal to the mass audience. And then once you’re already discovered and have a following, you can make them music that you want.

Ed: I think music is here to bring people together. I’ve spoken to the kids over the years. When they first got started, people were trying to categorize them. “You’re this.” “You’re that.” I remember having a conversation with them and their pastor at church. The response was, “You just do you.” You just make music. Don’t worry about all that other stuff. Let folks figure out how they want to categorize you, but don’t do that for yourself. Just make music, because in the end if the goal of the musician or performer entertainer is to bring folks together, then there’s a bit of a ministry there, right? People are listening to it. They’re getting something from it. They’re supposed to be edified by it. Not everything is going to be something that’s cleanses your soul and brings you closer to God, I’m not saying all that. What I’m saying is that people are listening to you because they need something. And you’re speaking to someone about something. That’s what music is all about. It’s healing.