Exclusive Interview with Acoustic Quartet Thunder and Rain

Acoustic quartet Thunder and Rain recently released their third studio album, Passing in the Night. Six years on the road saw quite an evolution in the band and their music, and the new album finds the group digging back into their acoustic roots. 

I got the chance to talk with vocalist/guitarist Erinn Peet-Lukes about how the band culminated into what it is now, why they decided to fund their album via a Kickstarter campaign, their new single “Wine and Weed and You” and more! Keep reading to see what she had to say!

For those who might not have ever heard of y’all, can you give us a brief history of the band and how it culminated into what it is now?

Very long story short: I formed the band with my then-bandmate Pete Weber when I moved to Golden, Colorado in 2013. The first version of the band was me and Pete; then we added RP Oates on banjo – who is no longer in the band but continues to cowrite with me – and Ian Haegele on bass, who is the only member still in the group. We all met through jamming bluegrass at various festivals and breweries. That group did not stay together very long. Half a year after the release of our first album, RP left the group to finish a doctorate degree. Two years ago, Pete and I ended our professional and romantic relationship, and we gained the two members of the band we have now – Allen Cooke on dobro and Dylan McCarthy on mandolin. 

Where did the name Thunder and Rain come from?

Pete wrote a song with a lyric that says, “Thunder always comes with the rain.” We were so attached and in sync at the time, that I felt we were like the thunder and the rain. The band name stuck, even though the relationship did not. 

I’m always genuinely curious about what artists want to convey to listeners with their music. So if you had to describe the music you make without using genre names, how would you describe it?

I want this music to feel personal and intimate – especially our new album. I’ve always taken joy from revealing my deepest feelings through my lyrics, and this album is no exception. I want people to feel like they are close to me when they listen, but I also want them to feel like they see themselves in the stories of the songs. I also have always loved the sound of acoustic instruments: it’s warm and inviting. This music to me is earthy and ethereal all at once, with vocals soaring above everything while the acoustic instruments keep everything grounded and accessible. I like that in our most recent record, you can pick out each instrument and what it is doing.

Kind of going off of that, who are some of your musical influences as a group?

I’ve always been influenced by 60s and 70s folk throughout my life, but this record was inspired by more than that. One song is inspired by classic Hank Williams country, another by old time music, and another by modern jamgrass, which is basically bluegrass musicians playing spaced out, elongated and improvised rock jams.

Let’s talk about your new album, Passing in the Night. I know you got it funded on Kickstarter. Why did you want to crowdsource it instead of maybe going a more traditional route when it comes to getting an album made?

To me, Kickstarter is the traditional route. It’s how we funded our first album. Our second album was self-funded with money we saved up by playing many, many gigs. The breakup between Pete and I left me with less money than I needed to make a record. I knew we had a great record, and I didn’t want anyone else to get their hands in it. I was really protective of this music and wanted to keep all of the producing and ideas just within the group. Kickstarter gave us the freedom to make the record exactly the way we wanted it, while having the funds to do art, promotion, production etc. 

What was the recording process like for it? How long did it take for this to come together from start to finish?

We recorded the album in 8 days. We spent a few months arranging the songs as I wrote them, which was so much fun. Everyone in the band got to put their musical identity on this record, and I think it feels as good to the whole band as it does to me. We recorded the bulk of the music together in a room, isolated from each other but able to see each other. This gave the album some nice cohesion. 

I love the new single “Wine and Weed and You”. What’s this song about?

“Wine and Weed and You” is about vices and how they don’t necessarily make you feel good but at least you don’t feel anything. This song is very real for me; my doctor was telling me to quit smoking weed for my vocal health, but I couldn’t stop. Weed made it possible for me to numb the hard feelings after Pete and I broke up. Wine and other relationships helped. It’s about the great lengths I would go to shut out any bad memories of past relationships, even though deep down I knew I would have to someday face them. 

Something I’ve always been curious with songwriting is how topics come to mind. Did you know what you wanted to write about going into the song session that birthed “Wine and Weed and You” or did it just come about organically once you were in the session?

I wrote the first verse and chorus of this song in my house, right after I moved in. I had left the apartment I shared with Pete, and had entered a new relationship very quickly. I snuck out to my living room to write and not wake my roommates, and “Wine and Weed and You” popped out. I struggled to come up with the rest, so I called up my good friend for a songwriting session. He came over and helped me with the second verse and the catchy pop hook that the dobro and mandolin play.

What was the songwriting process like for this song specifically?

That tends to be my process every time. I write by myself first, just playing around. If I’m not playing or having fun, a good hook probably won’t come out of it. I’m always searching for the hook or chorus first. Once I have a good hook and title and maybe even a verse, I will either set the song down and come back another day to write more, or call in my co writer to help out. Then that goes back and forth for a while until it feels done.

Was there any major changes made to “Wine and Weed and You” once you guys got into the recording studio, whether it be in the lyrics or something sonically?

Not really at all. I wanted to have a spaced out, Greensky bluegrass-inspired jam at the end of the song – something dreamy that might sound great when you’re too high and drunk to function. The boys took that idea and made something really beautiful. I also had a ton of fun adding that background vocals in this song to make it more and more intense as the song builds.

Is there a track from this album that you feel best represents you guys and who you are as a band?

I think “Nobody’s Darlin” is a great track to introduce us. Lately, I’ve put it as our show opener on our set list. It shows off the mastery of the instrumentalists in the band, but most of the musical focus is on a beautiful melody played together. The song is upbeat but deep, and it’s in my favorite key of Bb. It’s a little grassy, a little country, and a little folk. 

Lastly, we’re called Talk Nerdy With Us because we all have an inner nerd so what is something that you’re currently nerding out about?

My nerdy ventures vary. I really like politics. I listen to a lot of political podcasts and been following the 2020 primary very closely. On the other end of the spectrum, I know way too much about the show The Bachelor. I listen to recap podcasts and follow the players on Instagram. I am fascinated by that show. I have an idea to write a fiction novel about a player going on that show and falling in love with a producer. Don’t steal my idea!

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