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Music History Spotlight: Astronaut Wife

by Jackie Renzetti

March 24, 2016

Christian Erickson remembers the moment he realized he was in a band.

Gathered in a practice room, Angela Orluck, Amy Turaney and Janey Winterbauer began crafting harmonies for Erickson’s “Cape Canaveral.” Originally, Erickson had just planned for them to sing in some of the different tracks he had written, but he knew he was witnessing something larger than a one-time project as he listened to their voices intertwine.

“The way you know when something's a band is when you bring it to other people and they turn it into something that’s way more amazing than you intended,” Erickson said.  

After polishing the recording, he sent “Cape Canaveral” to Radio K, which put it in heavy rotation. Weeks later, Erickson said, the band played a sold-out show at the 7th Street Entry. Astronaut Wife was soon on its way to becoming one of the most popular groups in the Twin Cities.

In the group's early stages, Amy left after recording some of their most popular singles, and bassist Tim Ritter and drummer Peter Anderson joined the lineup. Throughout Astronaut Wife’s active years in 1998-2004, the group garnered a local fan base, won accolades from Minnesota Music Awards and City Pages, and even got some buzz from Napster.


But fame was never really the goal for the band, Erickson said. At the time, musicians didn’t have the convenience of cheap quality home recordings. For the most part, the band was just trying be financially successful enough to afford time in a recording studio and further their artistic goals, he said.

“It wasn’t how to make it a lifelong career, but just how to keep it going as long as we want, and keep it going enough so we can do better and better stuff,” Erickson said. “I think just because we were so involved with the local music scene, it just  feels awesome to have your community interested in what you’re doing … I think we just had the feeling of, we should just cherish this, it’s fun, it’s cool, let’s just enjoy it and not turn it into something that would be weird or a pain or whatever. I think everyone just had a positive attitude towards, like, ‘Hey, we’re lucky to have some people’s ears listening to us.”

The band started to wind down in 2004 and 2005, as each of the members started families. Erickson said he calculated that throughout 2001-2003, a different band member was having a baby about every six months. As priorities started to change for the band, they slowly stopped performing and collaborating.

Now married, Christian Erickson and Janey Winterbauer still collaborate from time to time and perform in various groups.

Last year, Angela Orluck stopped by Christian and Janey's house to sit in on a song, and the three wound up recording a tune together. Christian said he hopes to continue the collaboration this year.

The track, named "White Tree," carries the signature Astronaut Wife sound, filled with ethereal, poppy vibes, and spacey melodies.

“It was so cool and kind of reminded me of the coolness and uniqueness of that old stuff,” Erickson said.


Jackie Renzetti is a student at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. She is a projects editor at the Minnesota Daily and co-hosts Radio K’s “Off the Record.”

Clean Water Land & Legacy Amendment
This activity is made possible in part by the Minnesota Legacy Amendment’s Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund.