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September 2017 - Gifts or Creatures

Marriage Gives Birth to Gifts or Creatures

Story by LCC Radio Reporter Sarah Spohn

Gifts or CreaturesFirst comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a…band? Anyone will tell you that marriage takes work. Being in a band takes work, practice, flexibility, and commitment as well. Being in both means you’ve got to be able to handle quite the balancing act. Lansing native band Gifts or Creatures is an indie folk husband-wife duo of Bethany and Brandon Foote. The couple has been married for eight years, and playing music together for seven years.

A wedding gift helped fuel the fire of a future formative band. “We actually didn’t play much together until after we were married,” Bethany said. “Brandon surprised me with a vintage Wurlitzer keyboard as a wedding present. Shortly after our wedding, he started sharing some new music he’d written with me and it evolved from there. We recorded our first project, Pilot House, five months after the wedding.”

The Americana-inspired act admits that juggling date nights and gigs was difficult, but they’ve now got it down to a science.

“Finding balance with family life, work and music has been essential for us as life partners,” they said. “Over the last few years we made the decision to play live less and that’s felt like the right choice time and time again. We love performing, but we also love our time at home with our son, making meals, working on new music and finding solitude in the simple things.”

Influenced by classic artists like Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, The Beatles, The Beach Boys, and The Band, the Footes had varying levels of musical upbringing. Bethany grew up in a musical home, being exposed to a husband-wife duo early on, and played piano in church.

”My parents both played various instruments, and sang and recorded music together. When I reflect on my childhood, pleasant memories come to mind of my dad strumming guitar and my sisters and I singing together around the piano,” Bethany said.
Gifts or Creatures
“I remember music lessons and practice times (some happier than others - though I’m glad I stuck with it!), mixed in with piano recitals and choir practice. Music was a big part of our family, as well our faith community.”

Bethany’s father studied music education in college, and her mother played oboe in orchestra. Brandon became interested in the guitar in eighth grade, and then learned mandolin, lap steel and other instruments while working at Elderly Instruments for 15 years.

Brandon recalled his early music days with his Fisher Price record player, which was later replaced with a cassette player and the Thriller album by Michael Jackson.

“I was exposed to my mother’s record collection as a kid,” Brandon said. “I loved sifting through the albums and was totally enamored by the concept of vinyl records and their sonic byproduct.”

While the couple formed their band in Lansing, they recently moved to Kalamazoo to continue their journey. So far, the band has had national success, with their career highlights as playing Wheatland Festival and recording a session with Daytrotter, which features many up-and-coming indie acts.

Gifts or Creatures considers the mitten state full of musical gems and talented artists, many of whom have positively impacted their sound. Nestled amongst other Michigan musicians including Seth Bernard, May Erlewine, Chris Bathgate, Breathe Owl Breathe, and Red Tail Ring, the indie-folk Americana band is part of the Earthworks Music Collective.

“The people who make up the music community in Michigan are golden,” Gifts or Creatures said. “We have been so blessed to be a part of this community, the Earthwork music community especially. There is a strong sense of support and friendship - instead of competition - amongst fellow musicians in the Mitten state. We see many of them as incredible inspirations, as they are doing wonderful work in the music, environmental, and social justice realms. But we also are privileged to see them as dear friends. That sense of comradery is invaluable, especially in times like these.”

After Brandon met Seth Bernard at Blissfest in 2001, the two connected and have remained close ever since. Brandon even calls Seth an unofficial member of Gifts or Creatures, assisting on production of their records.

“When I had a batch of songs ready to go back in late 2009, Seth Bernard was one of the first people to hear them,” Brandon said. “He was excited about the potential of a Gifts or Creatures record and joined us in the studio to record our debut album.”

For their third studio album, Fair Mitten, historical themes run rampant throughout the record, to be released on Sept.22 via Earthwork Music.
Gifts or Creatures - Fair Mitten
“Our music is heavily influenced by historical events and geographic locations. This new collection of songs indeed explores the last four centuries in the Great Lakes Basin. I have always loved history and the natural world since I was a child,” Brandon said.

Armed with a bachelor’s degree in Outdoor Recreation and Environmental Education, Brandon has worked as a naturalist over the years. This love for history and geography can’t help but creep into the duo’s music.

“Our goal for our music isn’t necessarily to teach lessons as much as it is to inspire people to go out and learn about the area you come from or live in,” Brandon said. “We also hope our music inspires people to protect the land, water and air for future generations. Understanding the history of the Great Lakes region has helped me feel more connected to the area.”

Gifts or Creatures will be making an appearance in our immediate area -- performing on September 29 at the Robin Theatre with Seth Bernard in Lansing’s REO Town neighborhood. October dates include Petoskey and Kalamazoo stops, followed by Grand Rapids’ Lamp Light Music Festival in November.


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