When I was in my mid-20s I liked to think of myself as a nomad. After college I lived, worked and traveled in Europe for a year before moving to Canada for grad school. The next three years I lived in Montreal, traveled across Canada, and held a writing residency on a farm in Oregon between stints at my parents caring for elderly relatives and in Minneapolis working at my college videography job. My girlfriend recently suggested that I wasn’t a true nomad because I collected possessions, which I continue to store at my parents place.
Eau Claire-born/New Berlin-raised musician Brett Newski is the real deal. Since the late 2000s Newski has trekked the globe spreading the DIY rock gospel. With his friend, manager and website designer “The Danimal,” Newski has covered every continent save for Antarctica. As they collect beaucoup frequent flyer miles, Newski has played countless gigs, met a ton of strangers, slept on a variety of couches, and were unfortunately blackmailed in Germany.
Newski, 29, and “Danimal” chronicle their international escapades in the entertaining YouTube series “Crusty Adventures.” This summer Newski launched the One Man Garage Band Tour, literally playing fan garages around the Midwest. Newski also had the honor of opening for Milwaukee icons The Violent Femmes on the West Coast, at First Avenue in Minneapolis, and at Summerfest.
To keep the enterprise afloat Newski has written for various websites, hawked merch, crowdfunded, and exchanged his music wisdom and performances for food, lodging, and transportation. Recently, Newski did a time-honored music tradition; he released a full-length album, the aptly titled Land Air Sea Garage.
Naturally, the 11-track record was written abroad. “A good chunk” was penned two winters ago in South Africa. A few other songs were born while Newski was living in Vietnam, between 2012 and 2014.
“It was partially tracked in the middle of the Sri Lankan jungle, which was wacky,” Newski writes me. “There was a Komodo Dragon walking around camp a few days. Them dudes are dangerous so we had to be careful.”
Land Air Sea Garage sticks to the earnest power-folk that Newski has become known for, while the polished production is a bit of a departure from his DIY aesthetic. The album features some beautiful arrangements and endearing storytelling. Music may be the engine that keeps Newski running, but the journey is just as important. Land Air Sea Garage is a delightful glimpse into Newski’s odyssey.
A couple weeks ago Newski and company celebrated the release of the record at Cactus Club in Milwaukee.
“There’s always more pressure at hometown shows, even though you have ‘home court advantage,’” writes Newski. “But the show went off smashingly and I couldn’t have hoped for a better night. I love Milwaukee.”
On stage: Brett Newski will play the Stone Cellar Brewpub in Appleton on November 22.
When I lived in Canada two female led indie-electro projects topped my musical discoveries: Grimes (Montreal) and Austra (Toronto). Their ethereal, dance-friendly pop sounds continue to be in heavy rotation around my house. Earlier this year, my girlfriend hipped me to a local electronica composer by the name of Luxi (Alexandre Maxine Hill). Her experimental brand of chillwave is not as brazen as Grimes, and Hill doesn’t hit the operatic vocal heights of Austra’s Katie Stelmanis. Still, Luxi has a lot of potential and an impressive catalogue of music under her belt.
Not much has been written about Luxi, who started making music in 2006. Her first official release — [Infinistesma] — is from 2012. Last week she appeared on 91.7 WMSE’s ‘Local/Live’ program for an in-studio performance and interview. What follows are excerpts from her on-air conversation with hosts Erin Wolf and Cal Roach.
On her musical beginnings: “When I was in high school, and even before that, I would record just piano and vocals. Piano was my first instrument. Eventually it evolved when I started wanting to record myself into the computer. I probably started piano classes when I was 5. I was in dance before that. I’ve always been putting myself out there. I begged my parents for lessons and luckily they came through, so thanks mom and dad.”
On her inspiration: “It comes and goes in cycles. This past summer I had a two-month span where I was just writing songs over and over, and I’m not sure where it comes from. It just kind of streams through me. It’s always based on my emotions or whatever is going on. I look inward. I also love finding new artists.”
On her live performance: “I think I’ve definitely gotten more confident. I used to kind of freeze up when I got onstage and I didn’t know what to do with my hands. Now I go out there and have fun. I feel like if you’re having fun it’s always going to be something enjoyable to watch.”
On computers: “I’ve always had an interest in computers. I loved playing games when I was a kid. We had this old PC and you could only get to the games through DOS, so you had to type in the code to open the game. That snowballed into eventually wanting to learn how to design websites. Then I started getting into technical stuff more and that helped the recording.”
On her setup: “I like to sample stuff so it becomes a blend of analog and digital. I’ll sample stuff off of my Nord Electro, which I have at home. I used to have a Roland Gaia, which has unfortunately quit working, but I still have a lot of the sounds sampled off of that. So I try and blend organic and digital sounds together.”
On her videos: “I think video production in general is a lot more accessible than it used to be. The cost of all the equipment has gone down and you can get free editing software now. One of my emphases in college was video production. It’s helped meld everything together and I really like the way you can express yourself in that way with visuals.”
On video collaboration: “It’s been mostly me. Recently I did one for a single called “Wandering” with Angelus from LA. Shout out to him. He flew in for a weekend and was looking for a creative project to do and it was just offered to me and I said, “Yes,” which was kind of nerve-wracking because I didn’t have an idea yet. It was pretty awesome. So that one was pretty much the only collab. But it’s been mostly just solo DYI for the videos.”
In addition to her music, Luxi has also developed a 3D interactive exploration game on HitRecord.org, an open collaboration production company founded by the actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Her latest project — astral memories (p a r a d i s e) — is one of the strongest Milwaukee records of the year. During her appearance on ‘Local/Live’ Luxi premiered the song “Next to You,” which will be on her new album, Geometric Universe. For this upcoming project she has begun to expand her sound and has collaborated with drummer Joshua Jenquin. The album is scheduled to be released in January 2017.
WMSE’s ‘Local/Live’ airs every Tuesday from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. on 91.7 FM in Milwaukee and online across the globe at wmse.org.
While most of us are emotionally and psychologically exhausted from the 2016 election cycle, there is more voting to be done. That is, if you care to dictate who takes home the Radio Milwaukee Music Awards. I’ve attended the annual awards party the last two years and it’s always a good time. In fact, the 2014 edition was where my girlfriend and I first saw WebsterX perform with what would become New Age Narcissism. There are still three more performers to be announced for this year’s party, but so far the lineup includes Ian Ewing from Noh Life, D’Amato, and NO/NO.
Because 88Nine doesn’t trim the categories down to a manageable number, it can be overwhelming deciding who to crown. For those less familiar with the artists, albums, videos, and songs, perusing the categories is a great entry point into local music. Whether you click to discover new music or vote for your favorites, make sure to do so before November 25. Click here to vote.
Our friends over at Explain News released their first mini-doc this week. The subject is up-and-coming 18-year-old Madison rapper Trapo. Earlier this year Trapo released the 10-track EP She, which made my top 6 Wisconsin hip-hop releases so far this year. His debut 16-track album — The Shade Trees — was released this week. Listen to it by clicking here.
Speaking of up-and-coming rappers, Milwaukee’s enigmatic poet laureate bliss&alice is reemerging after an extended hiatus. The scribe behind 2014’s best Wisconsin hip-hop release — Poetry Volume One – The Shit Talker Tape — recently wiped his Instagram account and began posting peach colored tiles. Three of them have information, including the producer names for each track, the title of each of track, and the release date for what is presumably a new 8-track project. The date is tomorrow, so be on the lookout for what has quickly become one of the year’s most anticipated Wisconsin releases.
Two of Milwaukee’s most beloved “boy bands” perform this Saturday night November 19. Pysch pop rockers The Fatty Acids will headline Club Timbuktu in Riverwest while heavy pop rockers Soul Low will be across the street at High Dive.
Soul Low are coming off the release of their long-awaited and critically-acclaimed sophomore album Nosebleeds. In the intervening time between recording and releasing Nosebleeds the busybody quartet managed to write another record, which they will be recording in the near future. They’ve indicated that they will use the High Dive set this Saturday to run through some of the new material. Also playing this free show is BRENDA (Kentucky) and Soddy Daisy (Chicago). Click here for more info.
Over The Fatty Acids nearly decade-long career the band — founded by Josh Evert and Derek De Vinney — has gone through a few lineup changes. Since putting out 2013’s exquisite Boléro they’ve settled on a stately quartet that includes one of Wisconsin’s finest guitar slingers: Matt Pappas. Their new record — Dogs of Entertainment — is set to be released in early 2017. Having only played a handful of shows this year, Saturday night will be a rare chance to hear some of the new material. Supporting the Fatties last show of 2016 will be their “best friend band” Sat. Nite Duets, Ruby Yacht’s Antilia Raid, and a “SUPER SPECIAL SURPRISE SPECIAL GUEST.” Click here for more info.
Art House Trap at Jazale’s Art Studio w/ Klassik
The Riverwest Sessions: Gauss & Ravi/Lola at Public House
Bum ileum, Chalk, Falling, Hi Suffer at Bremen
Cream City Chiefers w/ Mic Kellogg, Lucien Parker, Rahn Harper at Cactus Club
Sista Strings and [ ] at Company Brewing
The Birthday Party w/ DJ Fox, TMack & Elechronic at The Gig