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Tiny Desk Contest 2021 - SDPB’s Local Favorites

The Wake Singers, Red Shirt Table, SD 

Song: “Mirrors over Skies” 

Reed Two Bulls, vocals & keys 

Douglas Two Bulls, guitar 

Dan Carroll, bass 

Micheal Two Bulls, drums

According to founding member Micheal Two Bulls, The Wake Singers emerged in 2009 in Tewa territory (aka Santa Fe), metamorphosizing from Micheal and Douglas Two Bulls’ previous band called Chocolate Helicopter. Micheal says many iterations of the group have existed but he and Douglas have endured.  

Their younger cousin Reed Two Bulls has sung lead vocals for the past five years. Reed’s voice at the center of their Tiny Desk Contest entry “Mirrors over Skies” is notable – refreshingly low-pitched, unaffected, and somewhat reminiscent of 1980s/90s Concrete Blonde lead vocalist Johnette Napolitano. Reed’s throat-rich vocals, Douglas’s raw-toned guitar and the tune’s unrushed rhythm make for a pleasingly grainy texture: it’s atmospheric and broody in the “hurts so good” vein of the best basement rock love songs.   

To create “Mirrors over Skies,” the band says they packed up everything and spent a week writing and recording, intensely and intentionally, in Red Shirt Table. “It started out as a letter to someone I used to know,” says Douglas. “The last time I saw her I was taking her to the airport seven years ago. She wanted love; I wanted all tomorrow’s parties. It took me a long time to see what she meant.” That original letter gets delivered. The wistful music and lyrics encourage the listener toward play, pine, repeat. Each member brings song sketches to the table that the group develops collaboratively. Douglas, long passionate about writing and poetry, often contributes lyrical content. 

Douglas says he gets his inspiration from Red Shirt Table. When not writing and recording there, the band members call Mni Luzahan Otunwahe (aka Rapid City) home. Reed was born in New York City, and lived in Los Angeles and Minneapolis before moving onto homelands. “I’m not separate from my homelands,” says Micheal. “My homelands ground me and are present in everything I do and create.” Reed concurs: “Music and homelands will always be tied as one for me. The Wake Singers are blood. Family is Red Shirt Table, music is family.” Bassist Dan Carroll says he first fell in love with music as a passive and active participant in South Dakota. “As far as how it’s expressed? Probably me saying ‘ope’ a lot.”  

The band name sounds like what it is. Douglas and Micheal say they imagined actual wake singers and thought of relatives who would do just that – sing at wakes for family. Rose, another member of Chocolate Helicopter, interpreted the band name as an invitation to awakening. Micheal says at this point in life, the name has an element of remembrance and commemoration of relatives who have passed on, often too young.

Not quite as lovelorn as “Mirrors over Skies,” another Wake Singers tune, “Master of Your Own Age,” provides a bittersweet, jangly guitared ride with echoes of longing and social criticism.

Sweet kisses on the lips  

You terrorize / in your own eyes 

You turned it off in your own mind 

The blues-jazzy “No Amulet for Violence,” grounded by resounding bass, tipped in horns, and featuring Reed in excellent voice, demonstrates Doors-esque keyboard and enjoyably spins into free jazz.

They’ll pay you to  

Lobotomized your reason why 

If you can’t commit to what you buy 

 The members are working artists and musicians.  Carroll is currently doing carpentry. Reed runs a hand-painted earring business. They practice in their recording/art studio and most of their performances have been virtual for the past year, but they’ll be playing the Native POP Festival in downtown Rapid City and other venues as the pandemic allows, as well as releasing their debut album.

Watch The Wake Singers’ Tiny Desk Contest entry at and enjoy more on their Instagram @thewakesingers and on their YouTube channel.