Holy Tones

vibe with The Nunnery's soothing, echoey vocal loops

Sammy Gibbons

SHEETS AND BEATS. Eau Claire native Sarah James, a.k.a. The Nunnery, layered vocal loops and reverb to craft tracks on Dreameriz – her first solo album.
SHEETS AND BEATS. Eau Claire native Sarah James, a.k.a. The Nunnery, layered vocal loops and reverb to craft tracks on Dreameriz – her first solo album.

The illustrious Eau Claire sound continues to resonate as new local artists and venues are popping up frequently. One of the latest blossoming acts is The Nunnery, the moniker of Eau Claire native Sarah James.

The Nunnery uses reverb and vocal looping to layer her dreamy voice and produce ambient works of art. Her first solo album, Dreameriz, dropped on June 10, and is currently available to stream and purchase on Bandcamp. The eight tracks are all a capella; James’ voice and a loop pedal are the only instruments used.  

“I want people to be able to relax and take a break from whatever stresses could be going on and have a meditative experience,” James said. “I want to give people the opportunity to let their mind kind of release.”

“I want people to be able to relax and take a break from whatever stresses could be going on and have a meditative experience.” – Sarah James, on her vocal-looping ambient solo project, The Nunnery

James grew up in Eau Claire, and many of her influences are local talents. She is in the process of moving to Minneapolis and plans to make a mark in that music scene.

The singer played with several bands in the past, mainly folk rock groups. But The Nunnery is an unintentional solo project that simply came together after many jam sessions with the loop pedal in her room. She recorded her album herself, with help from a few friends, in just four days. James said she would find a good loop with a decent rhythm and vibe, and often play the songs live and edit them afterwards, spending only a few hours on each.

The inspiration for The Nunnery’s ditties come from life, as most songs do. James derived her lyrics and feelings of each tune from experiences and emotions. She enjoys improvising at live shows and creating music based on the atmosphere in the space. James’ stage name also came from a sensation.

“I realized I was making a choir-y sound, and it reminded me of the ambient sounds of being in a church,” James said. “I thought ‘Yeah, it’s kind of like a nunnery, where you’re in a very sacred, safe space,’ and the sound kind of became that name.”
James said that her music is more of an experience than just sound, and she believes people at the various shows she has played have felt that. She prefers to play her sound in quiet spaces like house shows; she recently played at Vivian – a house venue that regularly holds both comedy and musical performances in its basement – which involved collaborations with other musicians and visual artists. James hopes to do similar shows in the future and feature the live creation of some form of art as the backdrop for her performance.

“I think one art shouldn’t be separated from another art form,” James said. “The Nunnery allows me to do that, because I’m just me, but it’s so easy to access other artists through the idea of it not just being about music, but also visual.”

A new album by The Nunnery is in the works, and will most likely be released this coming winter. Many of the songs are already done, and James says it is going in a bit of a different direction from Dreameriz. She has also finished shooting footage for a music video for “Eauquatic,” a track off the album, that will be released within the next two months or so. James does not have plans for future shows, but will take any opportunities that arise, so keep an eye and ear out for the dream-like melodies of The Nunnery.

To stream or purchase Dreameriz by The Nunnery, go to thenunnerymusic.bandcamp.com.

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