Pushing Through the Ceiling

sister trio LASKA grows and evolves on new album

Marie Anthony, photos by Andrea Paulseth

SISTERLY SONGWRITING. (left to right) Hannah, Bex, and Mookie Morton are the sisters that lead LASKA.
SISTERLY SONGWRITING. (left to right) Hannah, Bex, and Mookie Morton are the sisters that lead LASKA.

‘I lie awake when the creatures get too close.”

The hum of the fan was not enough to lure me to sleep that night. Memories I hadn’t visited in years forced their way to the forefront of my mind ...

She washed dishes in the glow of fluorescent light while I slowly ate my pudding pop. I watched as it began to melt and form a sticky, chocolate river between my tiny fingers. I had to eat slowly. I had to make sure she was OK. I could hear the steady beat of a desperate man’s fist outside our apartment door. He wanted my mom back again. All I could do was pray that she wouldn’t open the door to let him back into our lives.

 “There’s only dust under my bed. The monsters live inside my head.”


Something in their song, Creatures, pulled that memory out of the darkness. Try as I might, I couldn’t put it to sleep again. In the course of four and a half minutes I felt things that I forced myself to lock away. I can honestly say that I’ve never listened to an album that made me feel as deeply as LASKA’s Ceiling Zero. I’m thankful for every tear I shed and every wave of emotion that fell over me as I welcomed each hauntingly beautiful, raw note and lyric of this album.

Before they became LASKA, Mookie, Bex, and Hannah Morton embraced music through the violin. As years passed, their passion for music grew. Bex admits that they initially started out with a “folky-Americana” flavor. (They originally recorded as the Morton Sisters.) “It’s mostly my fault,” she says, “...’cause I played the banjo and violin. I’ll take the blame for it. Luckily, we met Evan …”

“I like to say, ‘My life goal is to make people cry.’ It sounds cruel, but I mean it in the most genuine way. I want people to feel understood; like they can release all of the emotions they’ve been forced to put on hold in life.” – Mookie Morton of LASKA

It was their high school history teacher who introduced them to Evan Middlesworth. The sisters attribute much of their growth as musicians to him and their time at his rural Eau Claire recording studio, Pine Hollow. “Evan is the best. Pine Hollow has been an absolute blessing for us,” says Bex.

Mookie adds that, “Evan saw potential in a different direction.” It was Evan who approached them about the idea of adding a rhythm section. That’s when he – along with Zach Brawford and Ethan Schmidt – joined the scene to form the six-piece band known today as LASKA.

“Music is one of the only honest ways to express feeling in a world known to ignore it,” Mookie says. Through their new album, she says she “wants to make people feel. I like to say, ‘My life goal is to make people cry.’ It sounds cruel, but I mean it in the most genuine way. I want people to feel understood; like they can release all of the emotions they’ve been forced to put on hold in life.”

Hannah explains that, “Ceiling Zero refers to the state of complete fog.” Bex adds, “It’s an emotional state of confusion. ... I want people to listen to it and wonder what the hell is going on.”

 

When it comes to inspiration, Hannah remembers the lessons of a “great writing teacher” who told her that, “If she relied on inspiration to write, she’d never write as much or as well as she wanted to.” It’s why she says she “writes about everything and is inspired by everything.”

When I asked which artists most inspire them and their music, they gave credit to several including Tom Odell, Norah Jones, Radiohead, and Weezer because, as Hannah explains, “Weezer can fit words like ‘centrifuge machine’ into songs. They strive to stretch creativity.”

Bex credits performers City of the Sun and Matt Healy of The 1975. “I like insane performers,” she says, “the type that make you question if they are sane or not.”

The sisters are excited for the summer and more chances to perform. All three of them were thankful for the opportunity to play at this year’s Blue Ox Festival on June 9. As for upcoming performances, Hannah shares her love for performing hometown shows because of the support of the Eau Claire community. She says, “Every time we play in Eau Claire people get really excited; there’s lots of energy from the crowd. We play at The Venue on July 15, and I’m excited to be playing for Sounds Like Summer (on Aug. 10). Those summer evenings are so much fun!”

Hannah, Bex, and Mookie are looking forward to their future as LASKA. They want to push the bounds of creativity and get more experimental. “We can promise there will be a lot of surprising sounds and production in our upcoming music,” Bex says. Hannah is anxious to get working on the music they all “put on the back burner” to focus on Ceiling Zero. “The songs on this record have at least a touch of pain in them. Some of the songs I’m working on are full of love and joy,” she says.

Wherever life takes these ladies, I know they’ll be influential. It may sound hokey to say this, but I truly feel that my opportunity to connect with them through their music is an unexpected gift. Because of LASKA and Ceiling Zero, I was able to let go of pain in my past, and “I’m not afraid of the sunrise anymore.”

Find LASKA on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and at laskatheband.com. Their new album, Ceiling Zero, is available on iTunes and at The Local Store, 205 N. Dewey St., Eau Claire.

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