Musicians as parents: The Ericksons and Wizards Are Real return after maternity leave

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The Ericksons
Here's one: What's squirmy and pink, weighs about eight and a half pounds, and can stop even the most steamrollin' awesome band on a rockin' roll? For Wizards Are Real -- the only band in town so awesome they don't need words -- it was baby Colin, born on Record Store Day (April 21) to bandmates Melanie Bergstrom and Brian O'Neil. For the Ericksons it was baby Enzo, born July 1 to Bethany Valentini and her husband Tommy.

Gimme Noise decided to check in on both acts and discuss the challenges of getting back to work and playing shows after bringing a new bandmate into the world.

"We're both doing really well," Wizards' Bergstrom reports. She's back to playing tenor and baritone sax with husband O'Neil, who play pedal steel for the group. Thursday, the cultish quartet will perform for the first time since their EP release in January.

"We're doing awesome," says Valentini about bringing her new baby into the world. "We did awesome. He's so good." Valentini founded the Ericksons with her sister Jenny Kochsiek and they've shared the lead ever since. That's right -- siblings sharing. Now we know it has happened at least once.

The soothsaying sisters had just hit their stride when they set down their guitars after a show in May. They'd started adding the new songs to their set and had established a regular rhythm section any singer-songwriter would envy. In bassist Eric Frame and drummer Dan Kapernick they'd found a sound capable of supporting their full, beautiful voices and intense performance style.

The Wizards were also rockin' new songs, although they had been playing the four tracks on their new 10" I'm Your Free Lieutenant, for months. When Bergstrom hung up her horn for the hiatus they were casting their incantations, or whatever it is wizards do, better than ever.

"I basically had to put down the sax after our EP release show in January," says Bergstrom. "I felt out of breath quite a bit and it was getting difficult to position the saxophone around my belly."

But yes, she adds, "It was really nice to get out of hauling gear for a while," she adds. "Brian did all the heavy lifting for me, and now I'm back to hauling all my stuff."

Valentini had a different experience, except that her bandmates also hauled gear for her. She was playing shows up til weeks before the due date. "It was all hilariously normal. A lot of times people would say they didn't even notice ... until after the show when I put the guitar down. 'Oh, you're eight and half months pregnant!'"

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