The collaboration between the band Collections of Colonies of Bees and Justin Vernon -- aka Bon Iver -- that later became the group Volcano Choir started out in 2005. At the time, Vernon fronted a band called DeYarmond Edison which shared a bill with the Milwaukee-based Bees.
"Chris (Rosenau) had been working on some acoustic guitar pieces that were very different from what we were working on at the time," says drummer Jon Mueller. "For 10 years we focused on instrumental music and we were curious what we could do with a singer."
Rosenau started sharing his music with other musicians, hoping to find a vocalist who wanted to collaborate. When Vernon expressed interest in the project the group was intrigued.
"It seemed like a great fit and so we started file sharing," says Mueller. "It was a fun project. A total playground for all of us."
Vernon moved to North Carolina and the group continued to cyber collaborate. However, when Vernon moved back to Wisconsin he focused on a solo project under the name Bon Iver and released "For Emma, Forever Ago."
The record received rave reviews and Vernon experienced almost overnight success when numerous songs from "Emma" were featured in television programs like "One Tree Hill," "House," "Grey’s Anatomy," "The United States of Tara" and "Chuck."
For the time being, the project with his friends from Collections of Colonies of Bees would have to wait.
"There were not any negative feelings about this," says Mueller. "We were really happy to see someone -- who was not only our friend but such an incredibly talented musician -- experience his dream even though, at the time, we didn’t know if we would ever see Justin again."
Rosenau had similar feelings about putting the project with Vernon on the back burner.
"Justin’s a really good friend and we were really happy to see someone so deserving of success to get it. He is not only talented vocal-wise, but also as a multi-instrumentalist. He can literally pick up almost any instrument and play circles around most people," he says. "And to this day, Justin remains totally grounded and himself. There was no negativity at all."
In 2008, Collections of Colonies of Bees went on tour with Bon Iver as the opening band and while on the road, started reminiscing about the music they had made together years earlier. The group decided that they would get together after the tour and take inventory of what they created to see if it was worth revisiting.
"We went to Justin’s for the weekend and decided that not only did we have a record -- and not just a weird collaboration -- but actually we were a band," says Rosenau. "And we needed a name."
The group brainstormed name ideas until they came up with Volcano Choir -- "choir" is a nod to Vernon’s voice -- and released "Unmap" on the Indiana-based indie label Jagjaguwar in 2009.
"Unmap" is a dynamic and lovely collection of songs that range in style and yet all have a meditative quality. It's pointless and impossible to pigeon-hole the experimental sounds that are cohesive without having an air of "sing-along-ness."
"People gave us a hard time for taking four years to make the record, but we weren’t working on it the whole time," says Rosenau.
Volcano Choir consists of Vernon, Mueller, Rosenau, Jim Schoenecker, Daniel Spack and Thomas Wincek. All the musicians, except Vernon, are in the band Collection of Colonies of Bees or were at one time. (Mueller and Wincek are no longer in the Bees.)
In November 2010, Volcano Choir went on tour in Japan and currently, the band is working on new material. But then again, so is Bon Iver. Hence the future for the band is uncertain at this time. All the more reason to check out Volcano Choir this weekend at Turner Hall Ballroom.
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.