Austin band Keeper finds catharsis through harmonies on ‘Corners’


This story originally published in October 2016

“Corners,” the new EP from Keeper, is a departure from the slick mix of eurocool club grooves, swirling harmonies and ‘90’s R&B throwback vibes that established the self-described synth soul outfit as one of the most promising acts on Austin’s vibrant electronic music scene in 2015. Downtempo and brooding, the new release has the ominous atmosphere of a fractured fairy tale. It’s a turbulent dreamscape where imminent heartbreak lurks in the shadows as slow moving chords linger over sparse beats. The harmonies are still there, but this time, the women’s voices emerge as beacons, ribbons of light filtered through a haunted darkness.

While the lush soundbeds provided by local producer Bird Peterson pulse with discordant hints of latent menace, the women’s voices shimmer with plaintive beauty. Tension between the two fuels the EP’s power. This is an emotionally weighty release, a lost innocence tale, a lyrical meditation on separation and letting go.

The EP has the feel of a breakup album, but Yadira Brown and Erin Jantzen, the two women behind the project, are both in solid relationships. They say the four-song suite was a broader rumination about the difficult process of personal evolution. “There was a mourning process that we were going through with just life in general,” Jantzen says.

On the surface 2015 was a very good year for Keeper as the group began to build heat in Austin and beyond. Just before South by Southwest, their single “Happy To Be Sad” was featured in the Comedy Central sleeper hit series “Broad City” and later in the year, their eight-song debut, “Moonhigh,” earned them blog looks from around the country.

But the group’s ascent was not without growing pains. A creative disconnect led to the departure of Keeper’s third original member, Lani Camille Thomison. (She sings on the release, but she no longer performs with Keeper.) For a brief period, the future of the project was uncertain and Jantzen and Brown, whose musical collaborations stretch back to 2009, faltered. They began to feel overtaxed and emotionally spent after seven years grinding on the music scene for little financial pay off.

“It’s challenging to work full time and ride super hard for your creative process and feel detached from your home life,” says Jantzen, who holds down a day job as a hair stylist. “When you’re hustling and meeting roadblocks on lots of fronts, it’s hard to focus and not feel bummed about the sacrifices you’re making.”

Brown was working in a management position for a small business where she felt taken advantage of and undervalued. She’d seen enough glimpses of success that the dream of a sustainable musical career was beginning to seem plausible, but she also felt weighed down by real life pressures. She found herself at a precipice, gathering the courage to take a leap of faith.

“It was a really challenging span of time,” she says. “Deciding to stop accommodating, living in fear of losing a source of steady income, and value myself as an artist.”

In summer 2015, Peterson gave them a collection of 12 beats. The material was so moody and evocative, they initially weren’t sure how to approach it.

“We had been doing all this really high energy, kind of sexier dancey (stuff),” Jantzen says.

But the timing was serendipitous. These beats demanded the women dig deep into their feelings to explore them. As they did, a narrative that loosely reflects Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’ stages of grief began to emerge.

Lead track “Fire” is entrenched in the feeling of “fury, frustration, that this is not working,” Brown says. The second song moves to a shaky resolve of accepting change. “Then the third song is being like blown out and really in your feelings about it and the last one, really letting it go.”

“It was not planned but once we kind of cued in on the theme it just sort of made sense,” Jantzen says.

The foray into the darkness has a sense of ceremony that is not accidental. Thematically “Corners” is built around “pagan, witchy esoteric archetypes,” Brown says.

“The four directions have elements attached to them, fire, earth, water, air that sort of govern parts of your life,” she says.

“You go through things with people and you absorb their energy and hopefully, if it’s negative, you have some way to, like, transmute it or make it positive within yourself.”

Feeling emotionally unmoored, they wrote these songs to ground themselves. In the process they created a relatable set of songs that move with the power of a quiet ritual to offer catharsis.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Music

Making turkey soup this weekend? Here’s our family’s favorite homemade noodle recipe
Making turkey soup this weekend? Here’s our family’s favorite homemade noodle recipe

I can think of few comfort foods I love more than my family’s chicken and noodles. Homemade noodles can become the star of any soup, but they particularly shine with leftover turkey and homemade stock. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman My mom learned how to make handmade noodles from one of my dad’s co-workers in the 1990s...
Here are 10 Texas whiskeys you might want on your holiday wish list
Here are 10 Texas whiskeys you might want on your holiday wish list

Kentucky isn’t the only state in the U.S. making top-of-the-line whiskey. Texas may not have been doing it for as long as America’s bourbon bastion, but our proud state has proven that we can still hold our own against legacy producers — perhaps in part because the whiskey industry here is still so young and willing to be adventurous...
2017 Beaujolais Nouveau wine label is created by a St. Petersburg artist
2017 Beaujolais Nouveau wine label is created by a St. Petersburg artist

Every year, there are bad things we can count on: taxes and death. And good things: Thanksgiving Day on the fourth Thursday of November and on the Thursday before, the Beaujolais nouveau arrives. What is less predictable is just how this vin de l'annee ("this year's wine") stacks up. Every now and then the young gamay from the Beaujolais...
Holiday gift guide: Food
Holiday gift guide: Food

These gifts will satisfy the appetites of the food and drink lovers on your list. The nubby handles take a little getting used to, but they encourage a proper knife grip by directing the hand into the proper position and enabling fingers to lock in the front and back. The forged steel eight-inch chef's knife and 3.5-inch paring knife slice cleanly...
Of pints and predators: inside the U.K. Parliament’s boozy hangouts
Of pints and predators: inside the U.K. Parliament’s boozy hangouts

LONDON — A plaque on a wall at the Sports and Social Club, a dingy and stuffy bar located next to garbage cans in the basement of the Houses of Parliament in London, reads: “The Code of the Man Cave. What happens here stays here! Violators will be shot — survivors will be shot again.” That jokey warning took on serious undertones...
More Stories