Earlier in October Eau Claire design agency Knorth Studios (and sister company to screenprinting shop Ambient Inks) released a surprise project entitled “The Knorth Sessions” — live video performances recorded backstage at this year’s Eaux Claires festival and featuring the likes of Phil Cook, Little Scream, and many more (all of which you can watch and browse through below!).
The sessions were shot and recorded in a genuine ice shack, a backdrop that the guys behind Knorth felt was a perfect setting to encapsulate the Northwoods vibe that is so ingrained in much of the music and art that gets produced within the Chippewa Valley or speaks to the people here…and which is certainly a big part of the art and design work Knorth Studios puts out. We sat down with Knorth Studio’s RT Vrieze to find out more about this special project and all that inspired it and helped shape it.
(pictured above in the the aforementioned ice shack from L to R: Christopher Bartlett of Knorth Studios, Ryouji Noumi–who worked on this project as a sound engineer and editor–in the middle, and RT Vrieze on the right)
What was the impetus for Knorth Studios to take this on as a project?
I personally have always loved watching unique live performances of artists and wanted to do some kind of “sessions” of our own ever since we started Knorth three years ago. Music is a huge part of what we do here at Knorth, whether it’s actually doing work for a band or festival, listening/using music that inspires a project, or actually making music ourselves.
The process of the Knorth Sessions started last last year when I was back home at my parents house in Minnesota. I was looking at my dads glorified ice shack he had built and all of the sudden, it hit me: “This is it. We have to have the sessions in here.” It was a perfect piece of culture to represent the “Knorth”. What we do at Knorth Studios is make things, yes. But the whole idea behind Knorth as a company is “Knowledge + North” which for us means bringing the knowledge we have gained from living in this area our whole lives into every project we do. It’s kind of unavoidable. Being able to incorporate the ice shack made our sessions unique and incorporated our seasonal culture. It seems commonplace to us in the Midwest, but we came across several people from different areas of the world at Eaux Claires that didn’t know what an ice shack was.
But anyways, first and foremost, I got permission from my dad to use it. Then we pitched the idea to Michael Brown and Justin Vernon, who liked the concept, then received the green light from the Eaux Claires festival. We then had to actually make this thing functional while also giving it our own artistic aesthetic. We had a bunch of friends and family help us reach our vision: Carrie Vrieze, Todd Vrieze, Ryoji Noumi, Trever Hagen, Kevin Pontuti, Leah Monson, Calvin Keyes, Justin Webb, Justin Anderson, Daniel Wagner, Travis Ungs, Tim Brunner, and Ambient Inks.
We have to give a huge shout out to our now good friend Ryouji Noumi. Ryouji came in from Japan to Eaux Claires just to experience the festival and jumped on this project as our sound engineer and editor. He’s a genius.
Will there be more in this series or other such projects from Knorth?
We definitely plan on doing more sessions this winter out on Lake Altoona.
We’re currently looking for bands…
What did you want to accomplish with this project?
We really just wanted to create something cool that captured the essence of the artist, space, and time at once. We learned a great deal about what we can create in such a confined space. This experience gave us many different ideas for projects beyond the ice shack.
Knorth Sessions – The Video Series
Below we’ve embedded all of the Knorth Sessions so you can watch, listen, and enjoy all of the videos in this first series of the project.