Couple bands

Erica Lashley and Ethan Wilson met in the music industry program. They’ve played in three different bands together.

The indie sounds of the bands Lilac Sun and missangelbird intermingle in a special way. Singer-songwriter Erica Lashley plays the drums for her boyfriend, Ethan Wilson’s, band, Lilac Sun, while Wilson is the drummer for her band, missangelbird. 

“Empathetic and destined for rockstardom powerhouse couple,” Brendan Callan, a junior music industry major, said. “That is what comes to mind when I think of Ethan and Erica. They amplify each other’s kindness and musical skills without a doubt.”

Callan, Lashley’s roommate and best friend, calls their house Wilson’s second home.

Lashley, a junior economics major, began her music career singing in church when she was about six or seven years old, but didn’t pick up an instrument until sixth grade.

“I started playing guitar in jazz band in high school,” Lashley said. “Then I went on this study abroad in Montreal the summer after my freshman year and it just like, got me into jazz hardcore again, and so I decided to start trying to pursue it here at JMU and I’ve had a really fun time with it.”

Wilson, a junior music industry major, picked up the flute when he was a kid and came to JMU as a flute major but realized he had more interest in playing guitar.

During their freshman year, Lashley and Wilson met each other through the music industry program and worked together at WXJM. Shortly after, they started the band Slow Clover and spent a lot of time playing music together. The two hung out after practice once and told each other their true feelings, which is what Lilac Sun’s song “Midnight” is about.

Once they became a couple they came up with the idea to drum for each other’s bands.

“Drums just seemed like the most logical instrument for a duo,” Lashley said. “I really love the way he plays and like he’s really intuitive, so I just asked him to play drums for me.”

Lashley became eager to learn how to play the drums. Wilson and Callan gave her the push she needed by telling her how to play a simple beat. She picked up the skill quickly and then became Lilac Sun’s drummer.

“We just jumped into it, I never really told her what to play, she has a really good ear,” Wilson said. “She’s also really intuitive as a musician so she can just come up with things that fit, and I don’t know, it’s good chemistry.”

Lashley created missangelbird in the beginning of September, consisting of only Wilson’s drumming and Lashley singing.

“I wanted to have my own project that I wrote the songs for and it was just going to be me solo,” Lashley said. “But I guess everyone in Slow Clover found out about it and they were like, ‘We’ll be glad to play with you if you want,’ so I asked him to play drums with me, and it just kept happening.”

Along with sharing each other’s bands, they both have the same approach to brainstorming ideas.

“I just like to have one of my instruments with me either like the guitar or piano and be alone and able to turn my brain off and not think about anything else,” Wilson said.

And when they aren’t writing lyrics, they’re practicing with their bands in each other’s basements.

“If we have a big show coming up and we haven’t practiced in a while, and we need to work through it all it’s serious,” Lashley said. “But if it’s just a casual practice I’d say it’s pretty goofy, especially if it’s just the two of us.”

Both bands play basement shows at houses in the Harrisonburg area.

“We’re friends with everyone and we both book shows at these houses,” Wilson said. “There’s usually a band that’s on tour and they come and play and the local bands are trying to bring people to support them and give them money.”

For Lashley and Wilson, playing at houses has more of a party atmosphere, whereas venues like the Golden Pony give them the rockstar feel they love.

“The focus is more on you,” Wilson said. “People come to pay money to see you, and they give you all the money too, which is unheard of in terms of venues.”

The only challenge that the couple runs into is their lack of confidence as musicians.

“Both of us really self-doubt a lot,” Wilson said. “Like, both of us are feeling kind of bad about our music stuff at the same time, but I wouldn’t say that’s bad because we usually like kind of bring each other back.”

Lashley agrees that they lift each other up.

After being together for four months, Wilson and Lashley focus on the best part about being in each other’s band.

“I just really like sharing the stage,” Wilson said. “And Erica’s a really good musician and it’s fun to share the stage with really good musicians.”

Lashley believes that having Wilson drum for missangelbird is what makes her songs sound special.

“It’s just fun to be able to like communicate in a different way through music and jam with each other, that’s probably my favorite part,” Lashley said.

Contact Joanna McNeilly at mcneilje@dukes.jmu.edu.