Lush harmonies, arrangements propel Moonrise Nation

Written By By Tricia Despres For Sun-Times Media Posted: 08/15/2014, 01:14pm

Sixties-sounding trio Moonrise Nation’s ties to Chicago’s Lincoln Hall harkens back to the days when guitarist Emma McCall took her parents’ car to sneak into a Kate Nash concert. Once there, she crowd surfed, caught a guitar pick and got Nash to autograph an old tattered prayer card she had laying at the bottom of her purse.“It all felt very rebellious, and a bit cliche at the same time, for a 16-year-old suburban kid,” the Oak Park native recalled.

These days, McCall and her Moonrise Nation band mates, Arden and Eva Bee, are anything but cliche, except when it comes to their band name.

“I wish I had a better story for that one,” chuckles 21-year-old Eva Bee, who will return to Lincoln Hall for Moonrise Nation’s August 16th show. “Our family has some land in Galena and we were playing music one night, and all I can say is that we saw a moon rise over a tree and it just spoke to us. I guess I have always felt that the moon is a little more subdued than the sun, but just as powerful, you know?”

Compared to the likes of Lana Del Rey and inspired by the music of everyone from Fleetwood Mac to Johnny Cash, Moonrise Nation has a retro sound and a fresh look that just might make their genre-proof songs fit right into today’s music scene.

“People assume that I’m just going to quit school and just go and get famous. I mean, who do they think I am?” questions 17-year-old Arden Bee, an incoming senior at Oak Park River Forest High school and sister to Eva, who is currently a senior at the University of Wisconsin. “At this moment, we just want our music to reach as many people as possible rather than thinking about what is coming next.”

Raised in a “heavily classically trained household,” the Bee sisters grew up being musically inspired by their parents, who both were active in the jazz music scene in Chicago in the ’80s and’ 90s.

“Music was just always at the center of the family,” explains Arden Bee. “Our mom would always tell us that someday, we would appreciate being able to pick up an instrument and play it. As a kid, it was a lot of hard work, but we now know it was worth it.”

Incorporating a slew of orchestral instruments such as cello, violin and piano, the Bee sisters would join together with McCall in 2011 via the typical “we should start a band” conversation, and went on to eventually be discovered the old-fashioned way — in the local cafes of Oak Park and throughout the Midwest earlier this year. “I would never go on a show like ‘The Voice’ or something like that,” Eva Bee states emphatically. “Getting punished because you can’t hit another singer’s notes? It’s just not for me.”

Now signed to Zinc Records and with the recent release of their self-titled EP, Moonrise Nation is quick to impress a growing group of fans with attention-grabbing songs such as “Empty Hearted” and “Sticks & Stones.”

“At this point, we are just going back to school and letting the universe do its work,” concludes Eva Bee, who is planning a family dinner at Erie Cafe once she gets back in town. “It can be hard tobreak through, and the last thing we want is for our music to cause us anxiety. Music is and always will be our joy.”

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