317 Main Community Music Center is proud to present Lula Wiles in concert at First Parish Congregational Church in Yarmouth on Saturday, March 24th at 7:30 PM.

This all-female alt-folk trio based in Boston is made up of Ellie Buckland (fiddle/guitar), Isa Burke (guitar/fiddle) and Mali Obomsawin (bass).  What makes these young women formidable is that all three can sing lead, play multiple instruments and write songs.

Born in Maine to musical families, they began playing music together as kids at Maine Fiddle Camp. “I remember we immediately bonded over two things” recalls Isa.  “Our love of the Harry Potter books, and our love of a fiddle tune called Hull’s Reel.”  Eventually each made their way to Boston to study at Berklee College of Music. Isa and Ellie began performing as a duo in 2013, and Lula Wiles was born when Mali joined the band a year later.

What’s the deal with the name? No one is named Lula.

We get this question a lot! So the first iteration of this band was called “Ellie Buckland and Isa Burke (with Mali Obomsawin)” which is a terrible band name. We then started calling ourselves The Wiles, as in “we used our feminine wiles on him.” It was then brought to our attention that there was already a band called The Wiles, so we began hunting for a new band name. We wanted to keep Wiles in the name to avoid confusion (and because we liked it), but it was actually my dad who suggested Lula Wiles, which is a play on the title of a Carter Family song, “Lula Walls.” The titular character is described as an “aggravating beauty” and we liked the sound of that, so we went with it.

How did you three meet and did you “click” right away?

Ellie and Mali grew up together in Farmington, Maine. The two of them actually first met in swimming lessons when Ellie was about 11 and Mali was about 9, and they also played in a fiddling group in school. They became close friends after Ellie graduated from high school, partly through Maine Fiddle Camp, which is where I met both of them. I met Ellie first, when she and I were about 13 and 12, and we were fiddle buddies for a few years. I remember we immediately bonded over two things: our love of the Harry Potter books, and our love of a fiddle tune called Hull’s Reel. Mali’s first memory of talking to me is when we were standing in the lunch line at Maine Fiddle Camp. Apparently Mali said something self-deprecating about her own singing to the person next to her, and I turned around and said “Shut up, you can sing.” I have no memory of this, but I 100% believe that it happened. The two moments that sparked Lula Wiles also took place at MFC: a late-night song jam which was the first time Ellie and I sang in harmony together (instantly magical!), and the first time all three of us performed together onstage. We performed the old-time song “Fall On My Knees” as a legendary but short-lived band called Hot Lime, featuring fellow Mainer Lina Tullgren on banjo. That was the only performance Hot Lime ever did, but it went on to inspire Lula Wiles.
 

How does Maine factor into the music you make? 

This is a great question with a kind of circuitous answer. In the early days of our band, we played traditional fiddle tunes and ballads that we’d learned at fiddle camp. (Ellie and I used to do a double-fiddle version of an old logging ballad we learned from Lissa Schneckenburger.) Soon we started moving in a more country/Americana direction, especially as songwriting moved to the forefront of our musical lives. I guess it makes sense that as we left Maine for college and struck out on our own, we started exploring musical ideas that weren’t connected to our roots in Maine. Eventually, though, Maine came back to us in a different way, through our songwriting. All of us would say that our lyrics are inspired by the natural world, which I think is certainly rooted in our upbringing, and as our writing has matured (i.e. we don’t just write sad love songs anymore), we have begun to explore ideas relating to rural poverty and the struggles of the people we grew up with.

Favorite Maine hangout(s)? 

We are extreme fans of Soup For You, a restaurant in Ellie and Mali’s hometown that serves delicious soups and sandwiches, many of which are Seinfeld-themed. Portland, of course, has a lot of hangout spots that we love – One Longfellow Square for concerts, Otto for pizza, Tandem for coffee, Pai Men Miyake for ramen, LFK for drinks. (The last two are conveniently across the street from One Longfellow.) My favorite beach on earth is Popham Beach, and I grew up wandering around Vaughan Woods and the historic Hamilton House in my hometown of South Berwick. I could go on forever. Maine is the best.

What advice do you have for young musicians who hope to make music a career?

Oh wow. First of all, make peace with the idea that you’re not going to make much money and you’re going to spend a lot of time sending emails and sitting in a vehicle! Being a professional musician is a lot less glamorous than it looks from the outside, but the best moments make all the drudgery worthwhile. (I’m currently writing from the backseat of a rental car, ending day 4 of an extremely unglamorous trip from Boston to Kansas City for a folk music conference.) Second, the music business is a relationship-driven business, which means that building relationships and helping your friends out will benefit you in the long run. Go to camps and festivals. Collaborate with the people you meet, stay in touch with them, and bring your A game to every rehearsal, every jam, every gig, because you never know who might have something awesome to offer you in a few years. Third, don’t be afraid to ask for advice from older and more established musicians. Chances are, someone helped them out when they were your age, and they should be willing to pay it forward. Fourth: do everything you possibly can to limit your use of social media. It can be a powerful tool for connection and expression, but it can also be incredibly toxic, and you can’t practice your craft if you’re scrolling endlessly through Instagram comparing yourself to other people. Fifth: make some stupid, fun music with your friends, right now, while you can and the stakes are low. Give yourself multiple spaces to experiment, to take risks, to be recklessly creative. Eventually you might realize that “the dumb stuff you made with your friends in college” is actually becoming your real, life-changing, career-making work.