Minneapolis rock band Fiji-13 — approved for (appropriate) audiences

Guitarist Heidi James, bassist Hilary James and drummer Steve Crowley of the band Fiji-13 pose for a portrait on Sept. 10, 2016.

Image by Meagan Lynch

Guitarist Heidi James, bassist Hilary James and drummer Steve Crowley of the band Fiji-13 pose for a portrait on Sept. 10, 2016.

by Joe Cristo

I’m told Fiji-13’s name is a joke.

This seems appropriate — the Minneapolis punk-ish trio’s songs always make use of catchy word-craft that blends the topical with irony.

“We were going to be [called] ‘PG-13,’” said singer and guitarist Heidi James. “But that was already a band locally. We were bemoaning the fact to our friend John, and he was like ‘Oh you should just call yourself Fiji-13.’”

It’s at this point in our interview that I notice a grimace on other singer and bassist Hilary James’ face. Something is wrong.

“There’s a fruit fly in the bottom of my cup,” Hilary James said. “And I just noticed it.”

This realization, of course, comes on the heels of Hilary James and drummer Steve Crowley playing expensive flute recorders — call and response style.

“Oh, you’re recording recorders, huh,” Hilary James said.

Hilary James and Heidi James are sisters born three years apart. After growing up in Golden, Colorado, they eventually settled in Minneapolis. Both have explored art and music for most of their lives.

Hilary James also plays cello and keyboard in another local band, We Are The Willows.

“I started playing on cello and pipe organ,” Hilary James said. “Because I’m a fucking nerd.”

Eventually, the sisters decided to start their own band. They brought in their friend Steve Crowley to play drums and soon started performing locally.

I ask Crowley where he’s from.

“I’m from eBay,” Crowley said. “They bought me from eBay.”

“Is that a real place?”

“Yeah, they paid the minimum bid,” Crowley said.

After playing a few shows in basements and clubs, the group decided to record an EP in Northfield, Minnesota.

“My friend Michael Morris has a studio,” Hilary James said. “We had only been a band for a few months. We had no idea what we were doing, but we just went in there and recorded five songs.”

The record, “SLEEZY”, was recorded to tape and includes off-kilter surf-goth musings. It tows the line between deathly serious and quirky. It’s deadpan.

“I feel like [the way we recorded] was pretty unique,” Crowley said. “We did all of the songs live with no overdubbing other than vocals, so it was kind of nerve-wracking and challenging to get it right.”

The record has been out for about a month. Since its release, the band has played on Radio K and has received recognition from regional press.

The group is currently focusing on playing live and extending their fan-base. Their next show will be at Eagles 34 with Mary Allen and the Percolators on Sept. 16.

After that? We’ll have to wait and see.

“Things are definitely up in the air right now,” Hilary James said. “But we might want to record more, and we are planning on touring soon.”

Crowley flutters on the recorder again.

“We’d return him [to eBay],” Hilary James said. “But they had a no-return policy.”