Ivy Spokes to headline Summerfest’s KNE New Music Stage on opening night

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-Photo: Yvonne Lopez

Milwaukee band Ivy Spokes first came together in 2011 and released a debut EP titled Chaos to Cosmos. The band describes its sound as dance rock, but that doesn’t fully honor the wide range of sounds that are woven into an Ivy Spokes show.

The opening track from the EP In Dreams received a Wisconsin Area Music Award nomination for song of the year, putting Ivy Spokes on the radar as one of the area’s hottest new bands. Last year the band performed as part of Summerfest’s Emerging Artists Series. This year it has moved up and will take the headlining spot on the KNE New Music Stage at 8:30 p.m., June 25 — the opening night of Summerfest.

Ivy Spokes’ second recording Upside appeared early this year. Group lead vocalist Brandon Arndt says a new collection of songs will be released later this summer and together with Upside, they’ll form a full-length album. He says Ivy Spokes’ music has moved in a more direct rock ’n’ roll direction recently, but it remains music that will “make you move a little bit.” Some of the new songs reveal the influence of bands like Foo Fighters. In addition to new songs, the group has a new bass player for the summer of 2014. 

Arndt and drummer Hans Blanc are the core of the band and its primary songwriters. New songs sometimes evolve from jam sessions, Arndt says. “We usually know if the song’s going to work in the first 10 minutes of playing with it.”

The band got its name in a similarly spontaneous way. “We were sitting and debating what we were going to be called for awhile,” Arndt says. “Then we were sitting on my front porch and looked over and I had this bike that was just growing plants all over it ... and that’s where we got the name.”

Arndt’s two favorite songs from Upside — “Coexist” and “Something New” — reveal the wide range of sounds that make up the music of Ivy Spokes. “Coexist” has a big, expansive sound that finds a comfortable middle ground between arena rock and dance pop. “Something New” is more of a bracing slice of summer pop rock. Guitars are front and center in the breezily energetic tune.

Ivy Spokes works hard in concert. The performers clearly aim to win over the crowd and draw them into the music. Arndt says the band feeds off the energy of the crowd and performs out of love for the music. 

“We’re always looking to see what we can do better in the next shows and next release,” Arndt adds.

Ivy Spokes has a full lineup of performances for the summer of 2014. In addition to their Summerfest appearance, the band will be taking the stage at Bastille Days and a wide range of outdoor events in the area. They are working hard to put themselves foremost among the Milwaukee area’s rising bands. The group is also looking to climb one step higher in recognition of the quality of their music. Brandon says the Summerfest headlining spot is a sign, “We’re making things happen.”

Ivy Spokes has a unique sound that will appeal to a wide spectrum of music fans. It’s difficult to tease apart the influences, but if you like pop, rock or dance music, you are likely to find something to catch your attention here. 

On Stage

Ivy Spokes kicks off the headlining performances at Summerfest’s KNE New Music Stage at 8:30 p.m. on June 25.