Midnight Reruns had a very good 2015. By the time December drew to a close, the Milwaukee punk/power pop band was able to rightly trumpet on Facebook their status as one of the city’s most celebrated bands of the year. With just two full-length albums under their belts — including this year’s release, Force of Nurture, which numerous local publications counted among the best of the year — Midnight Reruns have risen to the top of the vibrant Milwaukee music scene.
They’ll take a victory lap Jan. 21 at Turner Hall Ballroom, when they open for bass legend Tommy Stinson of The Replacements and Guns N’ Roses.
The band’s connection with Stinson and The Replacements goes deeper than a choice opening slot this month, according to Reruns guitarist and frontman Graham Hunt. It was in fact a chance mention of the legendary punk act that originally started Hunt on the path to Midnight Reruns.
“My dad mentioned The Replacements because I think he saw them in college one time and he said, ‘You would probably like that band,’” Hunt says. He took his father’s advice to heart and picked up a copy of the band’s 1981 debut, Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash.
He loved it. Hunt became obsessed with the group’s music and dove deeper into an appreciation of punk music in general.
Midnight Reruns was formed at the end of 2010, but the group didn’t take off right away, due in part to Hunt joining Trapper Schoepp and the Shades in 2011. That band was successful locally when Hunt came on board, and with the release of the album Run, Engine, Run in 2012, Trapper Schoepp and his cohorts looked like the next big thing out of Wisconsin.
But Hunt says his somewhat uneasy alliance with the group disintegrated and he put his focus back into Midnight Reruns. “I was always more concerned with my own songwriting and wanting to do my own thing,” he says. The band ultimately released their self-titled album in 2013, to promising critical reviews.
But Hunt’s stint playing with Trapper Schoepp would benefit the band long after his departure. Trapper Schoepp’s manager, Milwaukeean Ben Perlstein, also manages Stinson, and passed along Midnight Reruns to the bassist. By coincidence, Stinson was wanting to get into the production business and looking for bands to bring into his studio. “He said, ‘Come to my house; I have a studio there. Drive out to New York and we can make a record.”
In 2014, that’s just what the Reruns did, heading up to Hudson, New York, to record Force of Nurture. The four-day schedule was so tight, Hunt says, they didn’t have time for idol worship. “We kind of worked off the starstruck-ness,” he says. The new album was noted for its fearless venturing into new territory while staying rooted in the spirit of both classic punk and power pop.
But for all their success in the studio, the band is just as celebrated for its energetic, interactive live shows, in venues big and small. Hunt says his favorite songs to perform are “any song that we don’t have to be really strict with how we play it,” and the band is known for making lots of alterations to music or lyrics as they perform live. They’ve also got an extensive catalog of covers they perform, and have an alter ego as a wedding band called “Hamdog Millionaire$” for good friends only.
One of the shows Hunt remembers best was from the band’s first trip to Stevens Point, a basement show all the way up in “tiny small-town Wisconsin.” “I’ve just never seen people go so crazy,” he says. “There was crowd surfing and moshing.” The band even made some good friends during the gig and visited another four times before graduation day came.
Midnight Reruns is a band that’s full of surprises, and you should expect to see lots of them at the Turner Hall show. There’s the aforementioned possibility of good covers — one in consideration being a previously well-received take on Hall & Oates’ “You Make My Dreams.” But, he adds, the band is at work on new songs for a third studio album, and they’re likely to try out a few before their friend and benefactor Stinson takes the stage.
Midnight Reruns and Platinum Boys will open for Tommy Stinson on Jan. 21 at Turner Hall Ballroom, 1040 N. Fourth St., Milwaukee. Doors open at 8 p.m., and tickets are $10, $12 day-of-show. Visit pabsttheater.org or call 414-286-3205 to order.