“It was the end of March, and kind of this moment where if you listened closely, you could hear a swan song for the world as we knew it.”
That’s Milwaukee musician Elisabeth Gasparka, speaking about a springtime walk through the Seminary Woods in St. Francis, Wisconsin. For Milwaukee, the country, and much of the world, spring 2020 feels like 8,000 years ago. But for Gasparka, the moment stuck with her. Seven months later, she’s unveiling a song inspired by the moment—”Seminary Wood Shrine”—and announcing a new musical project to go along with the song, Lyrid.
“Before the pandemic, I had set some goals,” says Gasparka, who also makes up one-fourth of the Milwaukee pastoral pop group Warhola Cats. “In 2020, I hoped to sing backing vocals on others’ projects, open up to more collaboration, explore recording myself, and to focus more on working on my songs, possibly in a solo capacity. I had no idea what 2020 would mean for all of us, but I’m grateful that I’ve been able to fulfill these goals.”
“Seminary Wood Shrine” marks a number of other firsts for Gasparka. It was recorded at home, and it features backing vocal contributions from Milwaukee music ringers D’Amato and Treccy MT. It was also recorded with the (virtual) help of producer Josh Evert, whom Gasparka was working with on another project, along with Derek DeVinney.
“We kept in touch via email about the project, and I shared some of my voice memo song ideas with them as part of the conversation,” Gasparka says. “Josh responded to this song in particular, and opened the door for a collaboration.”
Despite the melancholy and uncertain times that inspired it, “Seminary Wood Shrine” doesn’t strike Gasparka as a particularly dour song. In fact, she sees it as a beacon of hope.
“This particular song belongs to and comes from this pre-election, mid-pandemic world,” she says. “This song is a message from this time to future us: to keep holding on to each other, to keep loving, keep giving, and keep pushing. Exercise care for each other and joy as a form of resistance, and flood the future with these forces.”