We all know the wondrous stories told by magnificent storytellers, such as Walt Disney or Stephen King. But, there are two amazing storytellers flying under the radar, singing stories that explore the soul of humanity and the reflection of the past and contemplation of the present in a little basement in New York: Ethan Peck and Jesse Weisberg, the forces behind the mysterious band -ness.
I was so fascinated and intrigued by the stories they were telling that I wanted to write about them, but so difficult was it to find information about this band that I had to reach out to them for an interview because I just wanted to know everything there was to know about -ness and I couldn’t find anything on the Internet. However, that still didn’t happen because there is much to unravel with these two gentlemen, but I had the honor of talking to them and trying to get deeper under the layers that make up the profundity of their music.
It all started thanks to Rockband. Though they went to the same high school, it wasn’t until after Ethan heard Jesse sing on the video game that the two got together and started writing and creating music that was meaningful and distinctive to them. As they took this simple hobby and enjoyable pastime more seriously, -ness was born. Though Jesse is currently located in Indiana as an engineer for Toyota and Ethan remains in New York working for Sofar Sounds, the two are still able to create something that satisfies a yearning need for these deep thinkers.
Over time, their unique band name “ness” has taken on a dual meaning. Meaning “miracle” in Hebrew, the suffix -ness embodies what the band strives for: writing about what is unwritten, singing about what cannot be sung, using music to describe the feeling of something beyond the limitations of language that cannot be described. Inspired by the unforgettable moments in their real lives, -ness tells stories set to instruments and pitch. By painting a picture lyrically and musically, they are able to do the impossible and capture the pure essence of an experience.
It was no coincidence that I struggled to find information about this band, which Jesse and Ethan found amusing as they chuckled unsurprisingly. Their name “ness” complete with a “-” before it makes it literally impossible to find anything on Google if you search “-ness”. Look up “ness band” and you’ll have better luck, but it might take a while for the brain to come up with such a phrase to search (I know mine did). Unconcerned about SEO results, -ness is focused on creating authentic music. By being less promotional and letting people find their music on their own, they are able to stay true to themselves and write the words they want to write.
-ness is a distinct, introspective interpretation of Ethan and Jesse’s life, their discography growing along with them. Their debut EP A Second to Think was released in 2015. Their follow-up album, whatever’s unclear to you, it’s the same for me, was written when they were together in Israel in 2016. Earlier this year, they released an odyssey cut of their hit single “The Fisherman” and released a new song that acted as a follow-up to that story, “Lost at Sea”, to create The Fisherman Lost at Sea.
In their song “The Propagandist”, the lyric “I would rather be Van Gogh’s left ear than have a sensible sustainable career” particularly struck me (as a confused English major), and I shared my admiration for that line with the guys. Jesse explained that he wrote this line in response to the cookie cutter life path laid ahead of him and the internal struggle he has felt in his life to express himself creatively as he balances out the battle between his left and right brain, between being both an engineer and an artist. Ethan paid his friend a nice compliment, saying that Jesse had the best balance between his left and right brain in anyone he has ever seen in a person. From our half hour conversation and their music that I’ve listened to over and over, I can certainly see that to be true.
My personal favorite is The Fisherman Lost at Sea. When explaining the process of writing “The Fisherman”, they described their time in Tel Aviv as very formative years and a life-changing experience. Their music acts as a time capsule of their memories, as a multi-dimensional diary where they can freeze in time a certain emotion and experience to reflect upon and for others to listen and relate to as well. Each EP and LP they make is a pin in a specific time on the timeline of their lives. As they continue to grow and learn from their own concepts, their music evolves to encapsulate that as well.
In the odyssey cut of “The Fisherman”, they recorded a makeshift choir at a reverberating pool to bring a powerful transformation that builds to close out the song as they salute to the fisherman one last time. The music video they shot told a story of its own, a journey that paralleled the lyrics of the fisherman but not verbatim. Featuring Ethan’s brother, Jonathan, as he walked through Israel and New York, forests and beaches, cities and cemeteries, they shot the video themselves, which gave it a personal, amateur touch, which Ethan looked back on humbly as he kept saying he didn’t know what he was doing. “I just bought a Super 8 camera on eBay. I figured, if I’m going to make a music video, why not make it harder and use film?” he joked.
However, that homemade, grainy film was exactly what touched me as I was watching it. Ethan explained the process of filming and editing it with the help of his sister Zoey and all the hard work it took, but in the end, it definitely paid off. Though Jesse was in school in St. Louis for the most part of the filming, he was still instrumental in the creative process of the video, even leaving a little touch of his mark through the scroll in the video that came from the same notebook Jesse wrote in when they were sitting by the water in Tel Aviv writing “The Fisherman.”
The music video shows a story unlike any other, and when the choir comes in at the end, there is such a poignant image paired with a transcendent sound that you get hit with such overwhelming sensory emotions that I can only speechlessly applaud -ness for evoking.
“Lost at Sea” was the first song I heard of -ness, and I was instantly captivated by the mesmerizing voice and beautiful soundscape that filled my ears. Though it is an alluring song by itself, listening to it back-to-back with “The Fisherman” gives this song more power and emotion, making it my favorite song x2.
As they continue to document their journey through life, their songs are a labyrinth of ideas and layers of snapshots of memories, conveying the essence of something through the simple art of instruments and words. When you listen to their music, you don’t have to understand it — you just have to feel it. So listen to -ness (by looking up nesstheband.com) and immerse yourself in stories that warm your heart and speak to your soul.
Special thanks to Jesse and Ethan for this interview on a rainy Sunday! 🙂