Whips go full-throttle on sophomore record ‘The Ride’

By Joey Grihalva

In a recent feature on WebsterX I suggest that, “there are brilliant Wisconsin artists whose gifts will probably never be known to the rest of the world.” At the moment, I can’t think of a local music act that embodies this sentiment more than the Milwaukee rock band Whips.

There are a number of reasons why Whips may remain under the radar. Two of its members — Christian Hansen and Tyler Chicorel — are active in other bands. Its frontwoman — Ashley Smith — recently opened a vintage store in Bay View. And its drummer — Andy Mrotek — has a medical issue that prohibits him from playing back-to-back shows, essentially ruling out any sort of tour.

However, when you put the four of them together on a stage or in a recording booth, the result is searing sonic bliss.

While many Milwaukee bands blend genres and experiment with their sound, Whips excel at good ol’ fashioned rock n’ roll. Their infectious guitar licks, soul-rattling drum beats and bad ass lyrics bring to mind the Nashville/London duo The Kills.

Their debut full-length — Turn It On — remains my favorite Wisconsin album of 2014. Their new record — The Ride — is equally fantastic. It will be released on April 7 via Skeletal Lightning, an independent record label out of Champaign, Illinois. You can now stream and pre-order the album here.  

Last month, Whips headlined Riverwest Public House. It was their first outing in quite some time. By the middle of the set, the crowd was worked into a frenzy. With their blistering sound and gritty, hook-laden anthems, it’s decidedly difficult to stand still at a Whips show.

On Friday, April 7, Whips will play a record release show at Cactus Club in Milwaukee. Surgeons in Heat and Slow Walker are set to open. Local artist Kristina Rolander is creating a stage design and WC Tank will project live visuals.

In anticipation of the new record and the release show, I sent Whips’ guitarist Hansen a few questions.

Was it a challenge to write and record the new album considering everyone’s individual schedules?

Individual schedules continue to challenge our writing process, but that only speaks to our unique lifestyles. We’re artists, printers, store owners, servers, etc. Having roots set in our everyday grind tends to keep our lyrical themes honest and relatable.

How is the new record different from the last one?

There are no swing tempo tracks. Our last record has three tracks in swing, one of which was 6/8. Though we do feature two slower songs on The Ride, it’s every bit as heavy as the rest of the album.

Is there a concept or theme running through the new album?

Musically speaking, we wanted to create new characteristics that we’d avoided in the past like mid-song key changes, full-band breaks, song-end fake out’s, minimally accompanied vocal hooks, even cowbell. More cowbell. There are ongoing themes throughout the record, but not an overall concept. The way that Whips writes songs is very “of the moment.” For the most part, the underlying themes include doubt, drive, sex, and longing.

ON STAGE

Following the official release show on Friday, April 7, at Cactus Club, Whips will play at Mad Planet on Saturday, April 29, as part of the Arte Para Todos Festival. Whips will also play Mickey’s Tavern in Madison on Saturday, June 10. And you can expect to see Whips on a couple of Milwaukee’s neighborhood summer festivals.