- Views & Opinions
With a few notable exceptions — like ‘80s power pop outfit The Shivvers and ‘90s alternative rockers Garbage — the Wisconsin music scene has been largely dominated by male musicians.
That trend is beginning to change as female-led bands proliferate around the state. Groups such as Phox, GGOOLLDD, Seasaw, New Boyz Club, Tigernite, and Reyna are now among the most successful local acts. Additionally, Milwaukee’s Riverwest FemFest has put the spotlight on femme-oriented artists each January for the past three years.
One of the latest female-fronted bands to emerge from the Milwaukee music scene is Rocket Paloma. The four-piece has only been active for a few years, but in that short time they’ve performed on some big stages — including Bay View’s Chill on the Hill — and are set to release their first recording, a self-titled EP.
Rocket Paloma was founded by Joanna (Joey) Kerner as a solo act. A self-described “choir geek,” clarinet player and theater major at Cardinal Stritch, Kerner took to composition in college. Kerner has since written for a variety of local theater productions and the Milwaukee Opera Theatre’s Eurydice Festival. A couple years after college she picked up a guitar and started writing music for herself.
Kerner initially cut her teeth in the Milwaukee folk scene as a singer-songwriter. As her songs developed, she began seeking out band members. Kerner met Jonathan Blohm while competing in a battle of the bands at Club Charlie’s in the Third Ward. Blohm — who had previously played bass in Tastes Like Red — was working sound at the event. Kerner lost the battle, but gained her first bandmate.
Drummer Bob Schaab comes from a metal background, citing Dream Theater and Between the Buried and Me as major influences. Schaab has played with The Directionals, Vedic Eden and The Sugar Stems. Kerner met Schaab at one of his gigs and asked if he would play in her band. As a fan of the Atlanta based band Little Tybee, Schaab was ecstatic to open for them at Cactus Club last summer with Rocket Paloma.
Guitarist Jack Beyler hails from a classical background. He was in the pit orchestra of Evil Dead the Musical, which Kerner attended one evening. Not knowing who he was, Kerner struck up a conversation with Beyler during intermission, mentioning how much she enjoyed the guitar player in the pit orchestra. Turns out, that was Beyler. In addition to playing lead guitar in Rocket Paloma, Beyler is plays with funk group Bo Triplex and His Beautiful Band, as well as classical trio Tabula Nova.
With their variety of musical backgrounds, Rocket Paloma blends styles to create an energetic progressive rock sound rooted in a heavy folk foundation. Their sound brings to mind female-fronted rock bands of the 1970s such as Jefferson Airplane.
The four songs on the Rocket Paloma’s debut EP are from Kerner’s days as a solo act. They were recorded with Kevin Arndt at the Exchange Recording Complex and mastered by Justin Perkins of Mystery Room Mastering.
“We had been practicing a lot beforehand, laying down the tracks in our practice sessions,” says Schaab. “So we knew what to start with and what we should be able to tackle each day. As soon as we entered the studio we started knocking it out.”
Rocket Paloma, who has gained a reputation for “a riveting live show,” hopes to tour in the near future and produce a debut full-length album.
“As a band we have grown quite the repertoire of original songs,” says Kerner. “We’re all writing and contributing to the process now, so we’re amassing a lot of material.”
Thursday, March 23, Rocket Paloma will play 88Nine Radio Milwaukee’s ‘414 Live.’ It is free, all-ages, and open to the public. Doors are at 5 p.m.
Saturday, March 25, Rocket Paloma will play an EP release show at Linneman’s Riverwest Inn with Faux Fiction, Timothy Charles & the Blind Fiction, plus DJ Seedy. It is 21+ and $5 or $8 w/ a CD. Doors are at 9 p.m.