Formed in 2014 by Cara VonderBruegge (vocals) and Johnnie Pressley (guitar), the American duo released their debut album “This is Us” in 2017.
Inspired by the likes of Prince, AC/DC, Miranda Lambert and The Beatles, the St. Louis-based band has created their own folk-country-rock sound, delivering powerful vocals and energetic records.
As the band is currently working on their second album, the duo will be heading back on tour this summer.
Their debut album “This Is Us” is now available on all major streaming platforms.
Introduce the band.
Hello! We are the Whiskey Raccoons! We are an acoustic duo and also have a drummer (Kyle Ray) who plays some shows with us. Our band consists of Cara VonderBruegge (vocals) and Johnnie Pressley (guitar).
How did you guys meet? How long have you been making music together?
We met on Craigslist in 2014. I was looking for an acoustic guitarist and John was looking for a singer. I saw his posting and emailed him a video of me singing. We had our first practice a few days later and even though I didn’t have a guitarist yet, I had already booked a 4-hour wedding gig in December of that year. I told John that during our first practice and he about had a heart attack. However, we practiced 3 - 5 times a week and played the wedding reception in December. We were so nervous, but pulled it off.
How did your band’s name come about? What’s the story behind it?
Well, John and I first connected on Craigslist, so I was a bit concerned that he might be a creeper. So, I created and sent him a 75 question survey for him to take so I could get to know him better. He filled it out and we found out that our favorite liquor is Whiskey and his favorite animal is a Raccoon, thus we became the Whiskey Raccoons.
How would you define Whiskey Raccoons?
We are a lively, fun acoustic duo. We love to entertain people and make the audience laugh and dance. We are a good balance as I (Cara, the singer) am an energetic, spunky, wild blonde and John (the guitarist) is a quiet, shy ginger. We are kind of a funny combo together because we’re so opposite, but it works.
You covered numerous records on Youtube. How do you pick the songs to cover?
A lot of times when we’re at practice, John or I might just start singing or playing a song and if we both like it, we learn it. We’ve also had a lot of requests from people. My Pawpaw would always come to me with new songs to learn :) So we either come to practice with songs one of us likes or we learn songs that people request. We also sing a ton of weddings and a lot of times those people have specific songs they want us to do for their big day, so we learn those songs as well.
What makes a good cover song?
Putting your own spin on things while also not losing what makes that particular song so special. It also helps if you have a particular attachment to that song so that you can really get into it and make it your own.
You released your album “This Is Us” in 2017. What’s the inspiration behind this record? Who did you work with?
We worked with our producer Joey Banua, who owns DB Studios and recorded about 90% of the album in Nashville and the rest at a studio in St. Louis. Joey produced our album, recorded the majority of it and also plays all the additional instruments on the album - he is truly awesome!
How would you describe the sound of “This Is Us”?
I guess it is kind of country/ rock if I had to define it. I have a very country-inspired mind and background, so I tend to navigate my songs towards being more country. John, however, tends to lean more towards Rock/ Punk Rock, so he brings a lot of that to the table when we write music together. The album is a mix of fun and somber songs.
What message do you want to deliver through this album?
No matter what you’re going through, you can and will get through it. Keep working hard, keep looking ahead and don’t keep people around who are weighing you down in life. True love and true friendship are out there. Be patient, be kind and believe in yourself.
What can you tell us about the music scene in St. Louis? Any local band you’d like to recommend?
The St. Louis music scene is truly awesome and we are so blessed to know and be inspired by so many awesome musicians and local bands. The Sleepy Rubies, The Cara Louise Band, The John Spicer band, The Hillary Fitz Band, Grassfed Mule, Midlife Band, Kim Massie, Falling Fences, and Jake’s Leg are fantastic, just to name a few. St. Louis has a ton of local music and you can find live music in STL every night of the week. There’s a local podcaster, Shane Presley, who posts what bands are playing where almost daily, it’s awesome.
What’s the hardest thing about being an artist/a band in 2018?
Keeping up with Social Media and getting your name out there. There are SO many avenues to get your music out there (YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Sound Cloud, Twitter, GigMasters, etc…) it’s a lot to keep up with. It’s absolutely a full-time job just keeping up with posting enough content to keep your audiences engaged.
As artists, what lessons have you learnt so far?
People enjoy live music, theater, etc… because they like to escape. People want to be entertained, they want to enjoy themselves - so as an artist, you need to let yourself do the same: let go, enjoy performing and let yourself escape into what you’re doing. For a while there we were playing 4 - 5 shows a week on top of working our full-time day jobs and playing music became a job instead of something we were enjoying doing. We had to take a step back, remember why we love creating and making music, and allow ourselves to get back to a place of enjoying the process and enjoying each performance and song that we do.
What do you want to accomplish in this world?
Overall, I think my life goals include bringing as much happiness, love and creativity to this world as I’m capable of. I think if everyone would just try to give 10% more of anything positive each and every day, this world would be a much better place. What I mean by that is that if everyone could just exert a little more (10%) optimism, love, compassion, gratitude, etc… each day, I truly think it would make a positive difference in this world.
In your opinion, what would make this world a better place?
Understanding and compassion. We are all so much more alike than we know. At the end of the day, the majority of us just want to feel loved, safe, accepted and peaceful, regardless of what form that takes. I think if we were all just a little more compassionate towards one another and gave those around us the benefit of the doubt, there just wouldn’t be time or room for hatefulness. It’s much easier said than done - you have to practice it a little every day, but it is possible.
What are the goals for Whiskey Raccoons?
Immediate goals for the WRs are to keep making music and finish and record Album #2, which we’re super pumped for. We also are starting to play a lot of out-of-state shows this summer which is super exciting. We’ll be playing in Illinois, Tennessee, Ohio, and more. We’d love to play some big music festivals in the next year or two and continue to increase our following.
Long term goals for the band include putting together an actual tour one day and being able to collaborate with more amazing artists. We learn something new every time we write, perform or record music and we just want to keep learning. I’d love to say we could be full-time musicians one day, that would be absolutely amazing.
What are you currently working on? Any upcoming projects?
Yes!! Working on Album #2! We are so excited for this album. We learned so much in making our first album, we can’t wait to apply it to Album 2. We have roughly 6 or so songs done and we’re looking to have about 10 total on the album. Our next album will incorporate a lot of different influences and experiences we’ve had over the last few years. We also just expanded the band recently by bringing in our awesome drummer, Kyle Ray. We’re hoping to continue expanding the band down the line with another vocalist/ instrumentalist at some point when we’re ready.
What’s your purpose?
The question of all questions! I think our purpose is to create and entertain. I’ve always been an entertainer, since I was little, and it makes me feel fullfilled. I also think that we feel our most full and accomplished when we’re writing. We love to write music and experiment with new sounds and ideas - I think that’s what we’re meant to do, so we just have to keep on doing it. :)
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