"We’re kind of always starting over again.”
That’s how the Cactus Blossoms describe the next chapter of their band. Brothers Jack Torrey and Page Burkum have been refining their unique brand of Americana for nearly a decade, with each step forward expanding their sound and their musical horizons. With new LP Easy Way, they once again break barriers and push themselves into grandiose new territory.
“The [release] we did back in 2011, we recorded in nine or 10 hours or something,” Torrey remembers. “We had just started playing around the Twin Cities right at the same time. A couple years later, we met JD McPherson and he wanted to produce a record with us. We recorded You’re Dreaming, which came out on Red House Records, a 30-year-old folk label from St. Paul. Then, we got out of our contract with Red House and started our own label. Easy Way is the first one that we’ve released [ourselves]. This is our first time running everything.”
McPherson, a rhythm-and-blues master with a similar ear for the older sounds that Torrey and Burkum focused on, produced the duo’s Red House debut back in 2016. The prestigious folk label gave The Cactus Blossoms a shining endorsement for their skills and authenticity, but also gave potential listeners a well-defined expectation of the boundaries of their sound. With Easy Way, Torrey and Burkum go far beyond this invisible barrier.
“When I think back about it, You’re Dreaming was expanding on our sound at that time, too,” Burkum says. “We didn’t even have a drummer before that album. Now, we’ve just been following whatever whims we have. I hope it keeps changing.”
One big change for the band in the past few years came from an unlikely source: David Lynch. The director asked Cactus Blossoms to feature on the 2017 return of Twin Peaks, playing You’re Dreaming track “Mississippi” on stage at the Roadhouse in the season’s third episode.
“Getting to appear on the show opened up a door that I thought was really cool,” Torrey says. “It shows that we’re a little bit of weirdos. Maybe we could have come across as clean cut, cute, old-timey country band, but this helped bust open a door for us. Not just with an audience, but also a stylistic barrier.”
“It’s been interesting to see who shows up to our live show,” says Burkum. “It might be someone who has followed us for a while, or, somebody who was a Nine Inch Nails fan watching the [TV] show who also saw us and decided to come out.”
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Going independent and starting fresh with an unrefined batch of sketches gave The Cactus Blossoms a chance to trust their instincts and be impulsive. “We produced [Easy Way] ourselves and we didn’t come into it having all the songs finished,” Torrey says. “It felt alive and very creative and it was very fun to bring songs to the table where I didn’t know where they came from.”
“Most of the new songs were quite fresh,” Burkum says. “We were busy playing shows and doing other things, going back and forth from Minneapolis to Chicago a lot. It was fun to come home for a week at a time and write songs in the morning over coffee.”
Where You’re Dreaming could soundtrack a road film shot under blinding sunlight and blue sky, Easy Way finds the Cactus Blossoms on the night shift, still driving down hot asphalt towards the horizon, but with more mysteries hidden in the darkness. With no sign of slowing, Torrey and Burkum will keep weight on the gas pedal and see what the future holds.