Alexandra Sauser-Monnig and Amelia Meath have been yodeling together for upwards of fifteen years – in the backseat of a Prius while on their first cross-country tour, on back porches and backstages. It’s what led them to Fruit, their debut release as The A’s – a joyous ten-song collection spanning genre and decades, with interpretations of traditionals, lullabies, and an original song, it weaves between the weird and the wonderful. “Why I’m Grieving,” originally recorded by the DeZurik Sisters, was the inspiration for the A’s existence. The A’s reach into the past to hold hands with the DeZurik Sisters, two farm girls from rural Minnesota who taught themselves to yodel amongst all their animals, in a continuing celebration of the tradition of folk eccentricity and whimsy.
The A’s played their first show together in 2013 after Sauser-Monnig first moved to North Carolina, where Meath had been living at the time, but it wasn’t until summer 2021 that they thought seriously about making Fruit. They decamped to Sylvan Esso’s Chapel Hill studio, Betty’s, for two weeks in the midst of a balmy and blooming Carolinian summer. They rehearsed during the day, deconstructing yodeling parts phonetically and staring absurdly into each other’s eyes as they practiced tongue twisting harmonies - and recorded in the nighttime, candles lit, a flickering glow against the windows framing the violet twilight outside.
“There was a lot of giggling during the session,” Sauser-Monnig explains. “At one point I was getting a tangle out of my hair and was like, oh, my God, that sounds really cool – the sound of my hands in my hair. And then I thought, what if we recorded hair for a percussion track? And then it just sort of snowballed.” Across the record, the A’s employ a bizarre-o ghost orchestra of strange noises that are percussive and melodic. The credits include nylon shorts, string (singular), hair, shoes, ice chunk, gravel, frog sample, and shoelace, among other unexpected makeshift instrumentation. The backing band is built out by a more traditional group of players: saxophone from Sam Gendel on “Copper Kettle,” backing vocals from Jenn Wasner (Flock of Dimes, Wye Oak) on “When I Die,” string arrangements from Gabriel Kahane on “He Needs Me,” and more.
Fruit is made up simply of songs the A’s love to sing – there are lullabies and love songs; “He Needs Me,” written by Harry Nilsson and first released by Shelley Duvall in the 1980 Popeye film; traditional ballads like “Swing and Turn Jubilee,” “Copper Kettle” and closer “Buckeye Jim,” a multiplying song about frogs and nature. The sole original track to appear on the album is the penultimate “When I Die,” written by Meath. It contains both wishes and instructions for the celebration of her death, a low synth bubbling beneath Sauser-Monnig and Meath’s voices. It’s a collection of ten seemingly incongruous songs, but with the throughline of Sauser-Monnig and Meath’s vocals and sense of humor working in tandem, they fit together into a cosmic yodeling-folk masterpiece. Fruit feels like blowing the dust off a precious artifact of decades past, but also winking and modern. Sauser-Monnig sums up their ethos on the project succinctly: “If it doesn’t make you cackle or cry, it doesn’t belong.”
01 He Needs Me
02 Swing And Turn Jubilee
03 Wedding Dress
04 Why I’m Grieving
05 When The Bloom Is On The Sage
06 My Poncho Pony
07 Go To Sleep My Darling Baby
08 Copper Kettle
09 When I Die
10 Buckeye Jim