Tag Archives: blatz

Soul Low and the domestic beer challenge

The rock outfit from Milwaukee known as Soul Low includes Jake Balistreri (vocals, guitar), Sam Gehrke (vocals, bass), Charlie Celenza (drums) and Sean Hirthe (keyboard, saxophone). They are a restless bunch. You’d be hard pressed to find a local band who works harder than Soul Low.

In between their debut record, Uneasy (2013), and the official follow-up, Nosebleeds (last week), they released two EPs (Kind Spirit and Sweet Pea), a few demos, a couple b-sides, a single, and an Unplugged live recording. They just can’t help themselves.

Over the past month or so the boys played Appleton’s Mile of Music (twice), 88Nine Radio Milwaukee’s “414 Live,” a benefit for Planned Parenthood, Chill on the Hill, River Rhythms, Summer Soulstice, a boat cruise, and UW-Madison’s terrace. In between proper tours of the East Coast and Southwest the band started doing weekend runs around the Midwest.

One of the reasons Soul Low has been so restless over the past year is that their highly-anticipated sophomore release was delayed due to a vinyl pressing backlog, an unfortunate side effect of vinyl’s return to popularity. They recorded Nosebleeds in November 2015 over a weekend in Chicago. Nine months later the album has finally seen the light of day.

"Nosebleeds" album art.
“Nosebleeds” album art.

Nosebleeds is far more complex than the rambunctious, garage rock jams on their latest EP, but their dark pop sensibility is still there. Songs like “Frenemies” and “The Adulterer” unravel slowly, more deliberately. Album closer “Hard to Gage” is a sweet ballad about romantic uncertainty. The growth between Uneasy and Nosebleeds reflects their maturity as songwriters, performers, and young men, though they remain a goofy band of brothers.

You might not be surprised to learn that amid their heavy workload the boys occasionally blow off steam and sometimes that involves classic American beer. Knowing Soul Low’s penchant for Blatz beer–they wrote a song called “Blatz Beat” and made this awesome video for it–I figured it might be fun to put their palates to the test with a blind taste test of five domestic beers with century-old recipes while I conducted an interview with the band.

The night I visited Soul Low was Charlie’s 25th birthday. As their oldest member, lone Tool enthusiast and Chicago sports fan, he is sort of the black sheep of the band. Jake is the frontman. He combines boyish good looks with a quivering falsetto and painfully honest lyrics. Sam is the de facto manager of the band, running one of the tightest ships in town.

Sean was away at college for the bulk of their post-Uneasy period, but has been in the band since the beginning. It’s worth mentioning that when they made Uneasy, arguably the best debut record from a Milwaukee band in my lifetime, the boys were still in high school.

After moving back to Milwaukee Sean took up residence in the Riverwest neighborhood in a corner house on Humboldt Boulevard. The basement was previously a Sat. Nite Duets practice space, which is where I met with Soul Low.

When I arrive they are wrapping rehearsal. I go upstairs to the kitchen/living room area to set up the domestic beer challenge. I do not reveal the names of the beers, but they are Pabst Blue Ribbon (PBR), Old Milwaukee, Blatz, Miller High Life, and Schlitz. I would’ve included Hamm’s but Old Milwaukee six-packs were more readily available. I tell them that Hamm’s may or may not be in the lineup. The challenge requires you to guess the beer and give it a rating from zero to five.

I pass out the initial beer and Jake speaks first. He thinks it’s a High Life. Sam agrees. Jake gives it a three. What follows is a transcript of our conversation, with a few omissions for legal purposes.

Topics of discussion include their new album, building their fan base, a weird house show in Albuquerque, the best venue in Milwaukee, Souls of Mischief, their boat cruise, “Lejames Brown,” The Mosleys, scoring dresses at thrift stores, and the video for “Be Like You,” which comes out August 16.

(The first beer is PBR.)

CHARLIE: “I’m thinking that’s PBR.”

SAM: “No f****** way.”

JAKE: “What?”

CHARLIE: “Honestly, I think it’s PBR.”

SAM: “I’m trying to envision myself being blacked out having that last beer of the day…”

SEAN: “Well, it’s kind of bitter.”

SAM: “…reaching for that tall boy.”

SEAN: “Just for the sake of mixing it up I’m going to go with Hamm’s.”

SAM: “You think it’s Hamm’s? No f****** way.”

JAKE: “No way.”

SEAN: “I would say two.”

JAKE: “This could be Miller Lite. Are there light beers?”

WiG: “No light beers.”

JAKE: “Right. I’m going to give it a six.”

SAM: “Out of five?”

JAKE: “Oh my bad. Same answer. Write down a six please.”

CHARLIE: “I’ll go with three. I think it’s PBR. Actually, wait, wait…no it’s not.”

JAKE: “PBR doesn’t have any taste.”

CHARLIE: “You’re right. I revoke that. I’m sipping and I’m thinking about it. This might actually be Hamm’s. I’m going to side with Sean on this one.”

SEAN: “Who’s picking sides here? I was just trying to be the odd man out. I didn’t really think that was it. I was kind of joking.”

WiG: “First question, what was the difference between the recording process for this record versus the last one?”

CHARLIE: “It was very, very different.”

SEAN: “They were both in basements.”

SAM: “Well, technically. Uneasy was done in more of a studio setting at Bobby Peru.”

SEAN: “That’s the only similarity I can think of.”

JAKE:Uneasy was done with high end equipment, state-of-the-art stuff.”

CHARLIE: “The pressure was on because it was by the hour.”

SAM: “It was a little more expensive.”

WiG: “Where was Uneasy recorded?”

SAM: “Shane (Olivio) was at the time in a basement by Wilson Park on Howell. It was his dad’s house, but it was still set up really well. It was pretty isolated.”

CHARLIE: “The recording process for the new record was very laid back. We recorded it at this guy Chris Lee’s house. We got it done in a weekend.”

JAKE: “And like bare minimum equipment.”

CHARLIE: “We basically lived in his house for those days.”

JAKE: “Yeah it was done like the epitome of DIY, not much equipment, actually lofi. There were no condenser mics at all, no isolation, no headphones. It was all done on live 57, 58 mics, the post-production was minimal.

SAM:  “The reason for the change in aesthetic and style is that after Uneasy we wanted to make a record that sounded more like our live show. Something more raw or visceral. We did some tracking with Shane at Bobby Peru. But we wanted to take that route of something that was a little more gritty, so he reached out to Chris in Chicago.”

(I pass out the second beer, which is Old Milwaukee.)

CHARLIE: “This is harder than I thought. I thought for sure I would recognize the beers right away.”

JAKE: “I’m certain it’s not High Life. I think this one might be PBR.”

SEAN: “Yep, that’s PBR.”

SAM: “I don’t know. It might be a Blatz.”

SEAN: “What?”

CHARLIE: “This is PBR. I’m pretty sure.”

SEAN: “This isn’t that fizzy.”

CHARLIE: “It’s been sitting in that cup for a few minutes.”

SEAN: “I feel like I can’t just say what everyone else says.”

SAM:  “I think it’s a Blatz or PBR.”

JAKE: “I think it’s a PBR.”

SAM: “I’ll say Pabst.”

JAKE: “PBR and two.”

SAM: “It’s flat enough where it feels like a Pabst.”

SEAN: “Alright, if we’re wrong, we’re wrong together. PBR.”

CHARLIE: “I mean, that’s easily the most recognizable. I drink this s*** so much.”

WiG: “I know there’s no light beer, but this one almost seems light to me.”

SAM: “It seems super light, which is why I think it’s a Pabst. I’m going to have to agree with you on that.”

WiG: “And how would you rate it?”

SAM: “Two.”

CHARLIE: “Five! Give it a five!”

SEAN: “Did you just say five? I’ll say two again.”

SAM: “Sean is harsh on the domestics.”

CHARLIE: “You’re judging domestics. You shouldn’t compare it to f****** Riverwest Stein.”

WiG: “Alright, next question. You guys tour more than probably any other Milwaukee band.”

SAM: “Yeah we do, number one.”

WiG: “How do you keep it fresh? How do you keep it lively on tour?”

SAM: “That’s a good question.”

CHARLIE: “Tour is just a whole different mindset. You got to get into that headspace on tour. You’re living in a car, going to a city you may have never been to, meeting people that you may have never met.”

Soul Low at Locust Street Festival 2015
Soul Low at Locust Street Festival 2015. (Photo by Wendy Jean)

SEAN: “The thing we did this fall that we haven’t done in the past is the weekend runs. Like every other weekend pretty much we were out on the road, hitting a couple of cities in the Midwest. It’s good because it keeps you always in tour mode. Even when you’re still in the Midwest, if it’s a city you’ve only played a couple times you’re still trying to build on it. That way you never really get settled.”

SAM: “I think when you tour more often you get the mindset that you have to bring the same intensity if you’re playing to a crowd the size of Summer Soulstice or some small bar in a new city. You get into that routine and you stop thinking, “S*** well, nobody’s really here, I guess I’ll just get through it and go home.””

JAKE: “Yeah when we first started doing the weekend runs we had a nice little following in most Wisconsin cities, plus Minneapolis and Chicago. But then we started going to Ohio and Indiana, and that kicked our asses. Holy s***. F*** Indiana. I’ll still say that.”

CHARLIE: “F*** that whole state.”

SAM: “We have two shows coming up there guys.”

SEAN: “Columbus and Cleveland have been pretty good to us though.”

SAM: “But that’s the thing. I think it’s because we played with the same energy that we like to play our music in those cities when we are playing a basement with ten people. That was enough to sway people to our camp. So the next time we come around they tell their friends and the crowds get bigger.”

CHARLIE: “I will say that when you do show up to a new city  and we killed the show, all these strangers love us, the high that you get from that is amazing.”

JAKE: “Yeah that’s the best. It means a lot more to impress strangers than to impress anyone you know.”

CHARLIE: “It’s so rewarding.”

SAM: “Yeah.”

CHARLIE: “Not only playing to a new audience, but also trying new songs and seeing how people react to them.”

WiG: “That kind of answers my follow-up question: do you feel pressure to go back to the same cities to build the audience, or is it more exciting to try a new town?”

SAM: “We’ve been touring for three years now and we’ve done extensive tours of the Southwest and the East Coast. We played places like Albuquerque, New Mexico and Lancaster, Pennsylvania. These places we’ve never thought to play. We’ve also done a lot of return shows. It’s a different excitement. It’s exciting to be in a new place and to take it in as almost like a tourist. But then when you’re playing cities that you’re familiar with it has its own excitement in that you can see the growth of the fan base.”

Soul Low at Quenchers Saloon in Chicago. (Photo by Jim Vondruska)

JAKE: “The fans that really stick are the ones in the return cities. Those are the ones that have seen you, they had a great time and they bring their friends. That’s how you get real fans. Whereas the people who come to shows in those initial stops or one-offs can be a bit more fleeting. Maybe they had a great time but they didn’t connect with you on the Internet.”

SAM: “Yeah if you don’t return then you risk losing them.”

SEAN: “That’s why we’re going back to the East Coast for the new album tour. We’re going to hit most of the cities that we played before. We’ve been talking about this album for so long that hopefully we will be able to sell it to a lot of those people.”

WiG: “You were saying, “F*** Indiana.” I was just driving through there yesterday.”

SAM: “It’s a hard state to drive through.”

JAKE: “I’m not going to pretend that that state is okay.”

SEAN: “Beautiful windmills though.”

CHARLIE: “It is not okay, even with those windmills.”

WiG: “I’m not a big fan of Indiana. What is the weirdest place you’ve been to?”

JAKE: “What was that place in Ohio?”

CHARLIE: “Columbus?”JAKE: “No.”

SAM: “Cincinnati.”

JAKE: “No.”

SAM: “Cleveland.”

JAKE: “No. What are the other towns in Ohio?”

SAM: “Dayton?”

JAKE: “Dayton! I thought Dayton was pretty strange.”

SAM: “Dayton was kind of weird. The bartender kept giving us shots and Back to the Future was on.”

CHARLIE: “Oh yeah!”

SAM: “It was almost like a biker bar. Felt kind of tough rock. I mean we could see people digging our set and it was cool, but it was weird because the downtown felt old timey.”

SEAN: “And the strangest thing was that we asked the bartender, “Do we get drinks or anything?” And he was like, “Nah, just half off food. But I’ll buy you a drink.” After he bought me one drink I was like, “Okay, maybe do we get drinks?” Then it was anything we wanted.”

SAM: “Whenever my beer was empty or my shot glass was empty he came to the rescue.”

CHARLIE: “For all of us, that was a great night.”

SEAN: “And Back to the Future was on.”

CHARLIE: “We weren’t even on tour.”

SAM: “That was just a one-off.  I would say the weirdest for me was Albuquerque.”

SEAN: “Yeah that was strange.”

JAKE: “I f****** loved Albuquerque.”

CHARLIE: “It was weird but awesome.”

SAM: “It was a weird day because we got up at like 5 a.m. in Austin to drive. I took the first shift and we’re on the open road in Texas and all this s*** happened. Sean’s sleeping bag fell off, we were super low on gas and it was like 60 miles to the next station, we hit black ice in New Mexico.”

SEAN: “Cars were flipped over everywhere.”

SAM: “But it ended up being like the best show of that to tour.”

JAKE: “One of the best.”

SAM: “Yeah it was a house show. It wasn’t crazy packed but we ended up running into one of the guys from Filter Free Radio, one of the guys who does Tasty Tapes here in Milwaukee. We also ran into someone’s relative…”

JAKE: “Charlie’s.”

CHARLIE: “That was super weird. Some like cousin of mine. I don’t even want to explain that. Some friend of the family I didn’t even know lived at Albuquerque who I’d never even met before showed up like, “Hey Charlie!” He got the address from my mom who didn’t even tell me he was going to show up, it was a whole weird thing.”

SEAN: “People were dancing hard it was cool.”

(I pass out the third beer, which is Blatz.)

ALL: “Third beer, cheers to Albuquerque.”

JAKE: “Blatz?”

CHARLIE: “Oh, that’s Blatz.”

SAM: “That’s a Blatz.”

SEAN: “Thaaat’s a Blatz. I was waiting for it.”

WiG: “I think I forgot the order now.”

JAKE: “Well, we’ll tell you, it’s a Blatz. God damn that’s a Blatz.”

SAM: “It’s got that sweetness.”

SEAN: “I’ve been drinking it pretty much every week for the past year or so.”

CHARLIE: “It’s such a sugary beer, just so sweet.”

SEAN: “Five out of five.”

JAKE: “It’s got that heaviness, but not the bite.”

CHARLIE: “Five all across the board.”

SAM: “I’ll say four.”

CHARLIE: “Oh damn you Sam.”

SAM: “I’m a hard son of a b****.”

JAKE: “Five.”

SEAN: “We wrote a song about it and you can’t even stand with us Sam?”

SAM: “The video got me black out. I won’t condone that.”

CHARLIE: “Ah, I take it back. I’ll give it a one.”

SEAN: “What?”

CHARLIE: “Because I actually f****** hate Blatz.”

SAM: “You’re killing our personal brand.”

JAKE: “Turn the recording off for that one, that’s off the record.”

(Sam picks up the voice recorder.)

SAM: “This is off the record.”

CHARLIE: “These guys do genuinely drink Blatz. I don’t. I don’t buy the seven dollar 15-pack.”

JAKE: “Five out of five. It sustains me.”

SAM: “Keeps me living.”

WiG: “Favorite place to play in Milwaukee?”

JAKE: “For me it’d be Cactus.”

CHARLIE: “Cactus Club is always awesome.”

SEAN: “Best sound.”

JAKE: “Best sound in the city.”

CHARLIE: “I love that they have the stage separated from the bar.”

SAM: “Yeah that separation is beautiful.”

CHARLIE: “Best move ever.”

SAM: “Because you can really see who came out to actually see you. And if you just want to get a drink there you can isolate yourself for a little bit.”

SEAN: “I love that they added those patio seats.”

SAM: “Yeah that’s awesome.”

SEAN: “And a food truck is sometimes there too.”

CHARLIE: “If you drag your friend to the show and he doesn’t want to see the band you can pay for your ticket and he can hang at the bar. Just nice having that option.”

JAKE: “And the sound is so good. It’s amazing.”

CHARLIE: “What’s that guy’s name?”

SAM: “Alex.”

CHARLIE: “Alex what though?”

SAM: “Alex Pekka Hall.”

CHARLIE: “Best sound guy in Milwaukee, hands down.”

WiG: “He’s got an interesting backstory. He’s from New York City, grew up in Greenwich Village. His dad worked on the Internet before it was the Internet, essentially. The New York Times tried out sending articles through cable lines to people’s TVs, and you could hook up your keyboard to the TV and write a comment on the article.”

ALL: “Whoa!”

SAM: “I’ve heard some weird stories. We opened for Sun Club in May and he was talking about as a teenager he used to do flyering in New York City. Random people would pay you $100 cash, give you posters and you had to put them up otherwise they would find you and f*** you up. If the cops showed up while you were putting up flyers you’d have to cover your ass.”

(At this point Charlie goes over to one of Sean’s roommates who is enjoying a frozen pizza and an episode of Rick and Morty, an animated TV show from Milwaukee-native Dan Harmon, in the living room.)

CHARLIE: “I hate to drop this bomb on you but it’s my birthday.”

SAM: “Look at this entitled motherf*****.”

WiG: “Is it really his birthday?”

JAKE: “Yeah.”

(Charlie is granted a slice of pizza.)

CHARLIE: “Thank you man. I consider it the greatest birthday gift I’ve ever got.”

WiG: “Favorite place to play anywhere?”

SAM: “We’ve had good shows in Columbus, Ohio.“

JAKE: “Minneapolis.”

SEAN: “Yeah Minneapolis.”

JAKE: “We’ve had like two shows in Columbus.”

SAM: “Yeah but they were good shows.”

SEAN: “Every time we played Minneapolis it’s been crazy. Except for the one recently, but that was at a new venue.”

JAKE: “I would say both of our best shows were in Minneapolis.”

SAM: “Alright, I’ll second that.”

JAKE: “They were both house shows. One was at Green Greens, which is no longer a venue. And the other was at the Party Garage, which is also no longer a venue. But Minneapolis as a whole. That place is so respectful to bands. They care about music so much.”

The Birthday Boy and His Pizza.
The Birthday Boy and His Pizza.

SAM: “And they like to party with the bands.”

WiG: “Yeah I love the Twin Cities. By the way, happy birthday Charlie. How old are you now?”

CHARLIE: “I’m 25,” he says with a mouthful of pizza.

WiG: “You’re the elder statesman?”

JAKE: “Yeah he is.”

CHARLIE: “I’m like a year older than all of them.”

SAM & SEAN: “Two years older.”

JAKE: “We’re all 23.”

CHARLIE: “Okay, well I’m like a year-and-a-half older.”

JAKE: “I turn 24 in a few months.”

CHARLIE: “Okay, so I guess I’m two years older than Sam and Sean.”

SAM: “Ninety-three. That’s how we chill from ‘93 til.”

CHARLIE: “Love that song.”

WiG: “Did you guys see the documentary about Souls of Mischief that was at the Milwaukee Film Festival a couple years ago?”

SAM: “No. Was it good?”

CHARLIE: “Oh man, all the rappers in that group, their solo careers are awesome. That whole crew.”

WiG: “The guy who made it was meant to produce that film. I got to interview him. He was just one of the homies from the neighborhood who wanted to be a filmmaker and eventually went into TV. He recorded them since they were in high school and followed their careers. It was his first film, which he did as a side project while working in the TV industry in the Bay Area.”

CHARLIE: “That’s one of my favorite hip-hop albums, 93 ‘til Infinity by Souls of Mischief.”

(Jake takes a sip of the fourth beer, which is High Life.)

JAKE:  “I think it’s Schlitz, just saying.”

(The rest of us pick up our beers.)

SAM: “Cheers to Minneapolis.”

SEAN: “Yeah, Schlitz, I think so too. Has like kind of a sour thing.”

JAKE: “Could be Hamm’s though.”

SAM: “I feel like Hamm’s is more bitter than sour.”

SEAN: “That’s why I thought Hamm’s was the first one.”

SAM: “I thought the first one was pretty easy. I swear it was High Life.”

SEAN: “I think the aftertaste gives it away.”

SAM: “Schlitz and Hamm’s are super close to me.”

JAKE: “I’m going to go Hamm’s.”

SEAN: “I’m gonna go Schlitz.”

SAM: “How many more do we have to go?”

WiG: “One more after this.”

JAKE: “I’m gonna go Hamm’s. Schlitz always jumps out at me because I don’t have it much.”

CHARLIE: “It’s hard to tell because it’s pretty flat now. But I think this one is Schlitz.”

SAM: “I’ll go Schlitz. I don’t think it’s as bitter as Hamm’s. I’m going to give it a light 2.7.”

SEAN: “Solid three.”

CHARLIE: “2.786. Just kidding. Solid five. Schlitz is my favorite domestic.  I don’t always pay the extra two bucks for the 12 pack, but sometimes.”

JAKE: “I’m going to say Hamm’s and 2.5. And I mean that .5.”

WiG: “Do you have any tour rituals?”

SEAN: “Grocery shopping should be more of a ritual.”

JAKE: “Eating fast food.”

SAM: “Yeah eating fast food is an unfortunate one.”

JAKE: “MacDons.”

SAM: “We’re a pretty straight ahead band. “

CHARLIE: “We’re just a couple of dudes.”

(Everybody laughs.)

SAM: “We kind of just do our work and get drunk.”

SEAN: “Disposable cameras.”

JAKE: “It’s not a ritual.”

SEAN: “I mean we always get them for tours.”

CHARLIE: “That counts.”

DisposableCam

JAKE: “Doing great PR, if that’s a ritual.”

SAM: “Promoting the personal brand.”

SEAN: “Yeah we do a lot of Instagram stuff, like fun things.”

CHARLIE: “We often argue about music choices, music politics are a thing.”

JAKE: “Oftentimes after a show we bring people back to what we call “Car Bar.” It’s kind of like if we had a cool trailer to bring people back to, but it’s just our van.”

(The final beer is handed out, which is Schlitz. We cheers to “Car Bar.”)

SAM: “I take it back. The last one was something else, this is Schlitz.”

CHARLIE: “F*** you, you’re right.”

SEAN: “This is even more sour than the other one.”

SAM: “I was waiting for this one.”

CHARLIE: “Then what was that last one?”

JAKE: “Hamm’s.”

CHARLIE: “No the first one was Hamm’s.”

JAKE: “First one was High Life. Because the first one was good and High Life is good.”

SAM: “High Life is just so straight ahead. I’m going to say this one is Schlitz and the last one was Hamm’s and I’ll give this a one. I don’t like this so much.”

SEAN: “I know I’m wrong, but I gotta play the game. I’ll say this one is Hamm’s and I’ll give it a two.”

CHARLIE: “You are so full of s*** Sean.”

SEAN: “No I’m trying to play the game. If we all have the same answer then who’s going to win?”

CHARLIE: “Okay, wait, wait, wait. Blatz, Hamm’s, Schlitz, PBR, and High Life.”

SEAN: “Are we missing one?”

WiG: “There may be a wild card.”

SEAN: “Old Milwaukee maybe.”

CHARLIE: “A Busch?”

SAM: “Oh, that could be an Old Milwaukee.”

WiG: “No Anheuser-Busch products.”

JAKE: “Oh s***, Old Mil.”

SEAN: “I’m gonna say Old Milwaukee for this one.”

CHARLIE: “That first one was Old Milwaukee! F***!”

JAKE: “No way Old Milwaukee is more bitter than that and it’s not that smooth.”

WiG: “It’s totally cool to change your guesses.”

SEAN: “I’m going to say that this one is Old Milwaukee.”

SAM: “The last one was Old Milwaukee. This is still Schlitz cuz it wasn’t bitter enough to be a Hamm’s, but it still has some bitterness to it.”

SEAN: “I’m so confused.”

JAKE: “I don’t know anymore. I’m going to say this is Old Mil and see what happens.”

CHARLIE: “Okay so my final verdict is the first one was Old Milwaukee. High Life is in there somewhere, it has to be.”

JAKE: “Unless MGD is in there.”

WiG: “No, no.”

JAKE: “Oh yeah. It’s not old enough. It came out in the ‘70s I think.”

CHARLIE: “I didn’t guess High Life for any of them, did I?

WiG: “No you didn’t.”

CHARLIE: “It has to be there somewhere, f***.”

SEAN: “There could be a freaky omission.”

(They all zone out on a scene in Rick and Morty. Charlie is pumped for the third season.)

CHARLIE: “I’m definitely going to say that this one is Schlitz. The question is what do I switch the last one to? Schlitz, five. Give Old Milwaukee a five too.”

SEAN: “You know they say not to change your answers on multiple choice tests.”

WiG: “One thing we’ve learned so far is that you guys definitely know Blatz.”

SEAN: “Yeah, I’ll take that.”

SAM: “I was sipping one before you got here.”

CHARLIE: “Leinenkugel’s could be in there too, f***!”

WiG: “No Leinie’s. Alright, I’ll reveal the beers now. Not in this order, but we had Schlitz, Blatz, High Life, PBR and Old Milwaukee. So we don’t have a clear winner. But if Charlie had went with his gut, he would’ve won. The first one was…PBR.”

(The guys gasp and shout. Charlie makes a strange guttural sound.)

CHARLIE: “I knew, I knew, I knew right away from my first sip!”

JAKE: “I am shocked.”

SAM: “That is shocking.”

CHARLIE: “F***! I knew it was PBR!”

SEAN: “That’s sweet, sweet justice.”

CHARLIE: “PBR. Man, you come back. Every time you think you hate PBR, you come crawling back to PBR. Every time dude. They cornered the f****** market on domestics.”

SAM: “What was that second one?”

WiG: “The second was Old Milwaukee.”

CHARLIE: “Oh God!”

WiG: “Third one was Blatz, obviously. Fourth was High Life. And the fifth was Schlitz.”

SAM: “Okay, I got two right. I feel good about that.”

JAKE: “I don’t think I got any right.”

WiG: “So I think Sam and Charlie tied, both got two.”

JAKE: “I might fall into a deep depression.”

CHARLIE: “That was fun.”

SEAN: “We definitely know our Blatz, whether we like it or not.”

WiG: “So I was just on a road trip for ten days and we missed a lot of shows that happened here in Milwaukee. The bulk of Summerfest. But I’d say one of the shows me and Kristina were most sad about missing was the second annual Soul Surf.”

SoulSurfPoster
Soul Surf 2016 Poster.

JAKE: “Oh man that went stupid well.”

CHARLIE: “We topped last year, which was awesome.”

SAM: “More people this year and the covers were on point. We had “Dancing Queen.” We did some Weezer.”

SEAN: ““Twist and Shout.””

CHARLIE: “We did “Here Comes Your Man,” by the Pixies.”

SEAN: “Did we end up playing the Violent Femmes?”

CHARLIE: “No we didn’t do any Femmes.”

SAM: “That was a great show.”

CHARLIE: “We covered this old classic called “Sleepwalk.””

SAM: “Surf tune.”

CHARLIE: “I wouldn’t call it a surf tune.”

SEAN: “It’s like a ballad. It’s very jazzy.”

CHARLIE: “Johnny and Santo were the two brothers who wrote that one back in the day. You’d recognize it if you heard it.”

WiG: “There’s nothing like the concert cruise. Last year we saw Group of the Altos on there.”

CHARLIE: “How was that?”

WiG: “It was amazing. They took up about half of the performance space. The lineup for the Vista King this year isn’t that great. You guys and Canopies were the only two shows I wanted to see and both were when I was out of town. It’s a lot of old guy bands, no offense.”

SEAN: “The Revomatics are good.”

JAKE: “It makes sense because those old guy bands bring in a lot of people willing to pay the $20 ticket.”

CHARLIE: “A great old guy band is The Mosleys.”

JAKE: “They played before us at Locust and they destroyed. Their guitar player is stupid.”

SAM: “Their bass player and their guitar player played on SNL.”

CHARLIE: “One of the craziest moments from their Locust set was that they asked for requests and some girl was like, “Play a Beatles song.””

JAKE: “And they played every Beatles song at once. It was stupid!”

CHARLIE: “They absolutely nailed the harmonies. It was perfect.”

WiG: “Is this going to be your first Chill on the Hill?”

SAM: “The first one as Soul Low. Me and Sean’s middle school/high school band Informal Blues played Chill on the Hill but I was out of town. Justin Gawkorski filled in. That was probably in 2006 or 2007.”

(Charlie is quoting Rick and Morty.)

WiG: “Couple last questions, this was submitted by Kristina. Who is your favorite member of New Age Narcissism (NAN)?”

JAKE: “Lorde Fredd33.”

SAM: “Going to have to say Lorde Fredd33. (His album) Dead Man’s View is the most impressive thing to come out of that group so far.”

CHARLIE: “Lorde Fredd33 is on fire right now.”

SAM: “He killed it and Kiran (Q the Sun) killed it with the production. Each song just flows very well.”

JakeNAN
Jake in NAN?

JAKE: “I think that’s the best record to come out of NAN for sure. But I think Lex Allen as a performer is f****** on point. And he’s got great energy. He’s got the whole attitude and alternate personality down.”

WiG: “What happened to getting Jake in NAN?”

SAM: “Dude they wouldn’t let Jake in.”

JAKE: “I’m still trying. I just don’t think they like my flow and what I have to offer. So far it’s just been a bad Photoshop job.”

WiG: “My girlfriend’s 11-year-old son Julien wants to know what upcoming album you guys are looking forward to the most this year.”

CHARLIE: “Got to say Midwest Death Rattle.”

SAM: “Frank Ocean.”

CHARLIE: “Oh, not Milwaukee music?”

WiG: “Whatever.”

JAKE: “I’m not really aware of what’s about to come out. I just kind of listen to them whenever they are out.”

SAM: “The one album I really was looking forward to coming out is by a band called Weaves out of Toronto. I’ve been obsessed with them for the past couple of months, but the album came out a month ago. Now it’s definitely Frank.”

CHARLIE: “I am going to get some s*** for this but I am very, very excited for the new Tool record. Tool has not put out a record in over ten years.”

JAKE: “Absolutely not.”

SAM: “That will not represent the Soul Low brand.”

CHARLIE: “Tool is awesome and Dan Carey is a phenomenal drummer. I really like that band. This has been entirely anticipated. They keep putting it off and putting it off. It might not even come out this year. Also the new Radiohead record is phenomenal. There’s been a ton that have already come out. David Bowie’s new record.”

SEAN: “Oh yeah. But I don’t know about what is supposed to come out.”

WiG: “Julien had a couple more questions. What’s the best thing you’ve found at a thrift store?”

JAKE: “We’ve thrifted some good stuff, a strobe light for one.”

SEAN: “We’ve found some amazing dresses.”

SAM: “Tons of dresses.”

CHARLIE: “We like to do this thing at house shows sometimes where we’ll wear dresses.”

SEAN: “We go to Goodwill like right before the show and find a bunch of dresses that like match a certain color scheme.”

CHARLIE: “Only dirty basement shows.”

JAKE: “We found all of the suits for the “OMG STD” video in a thrift store. Those four matching powder blue suits. The Value Village on North Avenue. I was looking for something like that for a while and then two days before the video I went in and found those babies.”

WiG: “Yeah I found this Movado watch at that Value Village for six bucks and multiple people have told me it’s worth over $500.”

SAM: “Can’t say the same about my Timex.”

WiG: “Joey Turbo is responsible for me finding this watch. I was waiting for Kiran outside their house and he was running late and Joey was on the patio chilling with his girl. I was telling them how I recently lost a beloved watch and he encouraged me to hit up the Value Village while I wait.”

SAM: “Nice. Love Joey.”

WiG: “I have to commend you guys on the lineup for the release show at Miramar, getting milo and The Pukes.”

JAKE: “It’s really good.”

SAM:  “I don’t mean to take full credit for that.”

SEAN: “We’ve been talking about that show for a long time. It’s been in the works for a while.”

SAM: “I’ve been a big fan of milo for like three years. Just like obsessively listening to his music. And I saw The Pukes at High Dive in the spring and was just blown away.”

JAKE: “Gotta sell out the Miramar. That’s the goal. We have not played there.”

SEAN: “What’s the capacity?”

SAM: “450.”

JAKE: “Such a weird place.”

CHARLIE: “I am very, very familiar with the Miramar. I’ve played the Miramar a jillion times. I know everyone who works there and everything and yes, when they had that little fire and a portion of it burned down and they remodeled it, it got better. Stage Right is like a sidebar.  They brought the middle bar out better and they got an incredible sound guy. It isn’t swelteringly hot anymore.  It’s gotten a lot better now compared to my freshman year of college.”

WiG: “Who did you play with when you play there?”

CHARLIE:  “I play with another band called Conundrum. It’s like a psychedelic rock band and we play there all the time.”

SAM: “I was going to shoot for Turner but I like the intimacy of Miramar. I played with Kellen (Klassik) there opening up for Sidewalk Chalk and I thought, “Oh s***, this place is actually pretty good.””

WiG: “I’ve been to some Turner shows with national headliners and there are only 80 people.”

SEAN: “That’s the thing. It’s so hard to make it feel comfortable.”

SAM: “I feel like you have to make it more of a performance and an experience because it’s so big of a space.”

SEAN: “And you’re so removed from the audience being that high up.”

WiG: “To bring it all together with Julien and Kristina, one of the first times Julien saw you was that Turner show when you opened up for Lady Lamb.”

CHARLIE: “That was a great show.”

SEAN: “Yeah that was our first time at Turner.”

CHARLIE: “She is really good.”

SEAN: “Super nice too.”

WiG: “Last question courtesy of Julien. He’s really into basketball right now. Who’s your favorite NBA player and if you don’t follow the NBA, who is your favorite athlete?”

SAM: “Lejames Brown.”

CHARLIE: “Dennis Rodman.”

JAKE: “I am going to answer for everyone and say Kevin Garnett.”

SEAN: “Didn’t Durant go somewhere?”

WiG: “Yeah, he went to the Warriors.”

SAM: “I don’t follow sports.”

SEAN: “Wasn’t there talk of him going to the Bucks at some point?”

JAKE: “Steph Curry!”

WiG: “What sport do you follow the most?”

JAKE: “I don’t really follow it, but I like football.”

SEAN: “It’s hard not to be a Packers fan.”

SAM: “I played hockey for like five years and I’d be lying if I said I followed it, but I do like to watch it.”

CHARLIE: “I have a sports confession to make. Both of my parents were born and raised in Chicago, so I am totally a Bears fan.”

JAKE: “Ah God. He’s going off about Tool and the Bears. It’s his birthday so he’s expressing himself. He’s 25.”

SAM: “Quarter life crisis.”

CHARLIE: “I’m also into baseball. My mom is a huge White Sox fan. When the White Sox won the World Series that was crazy.”

SAM: “No one gives a s***.”

JAKE: “Where are the White Sox again?”

SEAN: “They’re in Chicago.”

JAKE: “Oh.”

CHARLIE: “It’s Northside and Southside. Northside is the Cubs and Southside is the Sox.”

WiG: “Did you see Chance the Rapper is an ambassador for the White Sox now.

SAM: “Yeah, I knew he repped the White Sox.”

JAKE: “Ambassador, what does that mean?”

WiG: “Like Drake is the ambassador for the Toronto Raptors. Basically helping to sell the Raptors brand.”

CHARLIE: “I would really, really like to see the Cubs win the World Series. I really want to see that happen.”

WiG: “You should watch Back to the Future 2 again.”

CHARLIE: “Yeah, yeah! And they came close last year too. They’ll do it eventually.”

SEAN: “Who’s Julien’s guy?”

WiG: “I think Steph Curry. All the kids love Steph Curry.”

SEAN: “He’s a tiny guy but he swooshes in those threes non-stop. I’ve heard that from my co-workers.”

WiG: “Anything else you’d like to add?”

SAM:Nosebleeds is a good record. We’ve been working on it for like three years.”

"Be Like You" video shoot.
“Be Like You” video shoot.

SEAN: “When is the new video coming out?”

SAM: “Sometime in August.”

CHARLIE: “A new really, really funny awesome video for “Be Like You.”” 

SEAN: “It’s pretty weird. We’re just hoping it’s not too weird. Because it’s like Pee Wee Herman suburban insanity.”

CHARLIE: “It was a blast to shoot. It was ridiculous and I’m very excited to see it.”

WiG: “Very cool. Cheers guys.”

Nosebleeds Tour 2016

Nosebleeds is out now. You can stream it and buy a digital version here, vinyl/vinyl + cassette bundle here, and CD here.

Soul Low will play The Sky Bar at The Edgewater in Madison on Thursday August 11, and the Veggiehouse in Stevens Point on Friday August 12. On Saturday August 13, they play a record release show at the Miramar Theatre in Milwaukee. The “Nosebleeds Tour 2016” includes another stop in Madison (September 1 at The Frequency) and Green Bay (September 3 at Gasoline). Click here for more tour and ticket information.

The music video for “Be Like You” will debut August 16.

 

MOWA presents the ads that made Milwaukee beer famous

Many still remember when Schlitz was “The Beer That Made Milwaukee Famous,” a longstanding tagline and a central part of the former Milwaukee brewer’s marketing boast.

In reality, however, it was the entire beer industry and the marketing and printing innovations it fostered in the late 19th and early 20th centuries that helped make Milwaukee famous as a brewing and industrial powerhouse. Beer aficionados — and even those who aren’t — can get a taste of vintage brewery advertising and study its impact on the way beer was and still is marketed at an upcoming exhibit at the Museum of Wisconsin Art in West Bend.

Art on Tap: Early Wisconsin Brewery Art and Advertising opens July 9 in MOWA’s Hyde Gallery and runs through September 25. The display, which contains “breweriana” (collectable items featuring a brewery’s name and logo) from the 1880s up to Prohibition, gives MOWA an opportunity to venture into new territory, according to curator Erika Petterson.

“This is the type of collection you don’t typically see in the fine art world,” Petterson says. “The pieces are beautifully done and beautifully put together in terms of the advertising and marketing of an important Wisconsin product.”

images - wigout - 063016 - MOWASchlitzMilwaukee’s biggest brewers — Blatz, Miller, Pabst and Schlitz — are central to the exhibit, which has been assembled thanks to the help of individual breweriana collectors around the state. Items also were selected from the former G. Heileman Brewing Company in La Crosse, Stevens Point Brewery, Leinenkugel’s Brewery in Chippewa Falls, and other smaller Wisconsin brewers, some of which are only memories.

Ad imagery runs long on buxom beer maidens pouring golden lagers, an approach still popular in modern beer advertising. But what makes the older ads unique, Petterson says, is how their time period dovetails with the latter part of the Industrial Revolution.

In the late 19th century, large Milwaukee brewers were finding new and more efficient ways to brew and bottle beer, meaning their output far exceeded local consumption demands. The growth of the railroad system meant distant markets with larger populations became more accessible.

But beer had always been a local commodity, and outsiders were suspect. The big brewers knew they had to generate interest in their products if they wanted to sell in other markets, so Milwaukee, as both a brewing community and a selection of brands, set out to change the way beer was marketed and sold, Petterson says.

“These are some of the earliest examples of product branding,” Petterson says. “They had to make their beers seem appealing and better than other beers, and I think they did a really good job of that.”

Pabst didn’t always have “Blue Ribbon” attached to its name, the curator explains. That was a marketing ploy to get the beer to stand out and above the local competition so that the brewery could charge more for its product. The same goes for Miller, which added “High Life” to its brand name and “The Champagne of Bottled Beer” as its tagline to appeal to society’s upper crust and imply that only the best people drank its beer.

Color lithographs were the primary means of this advertising, Petterson says, with an emphasis on beautiful illustration and rich colors to make the ads more attractive and, presumably, give them a longer display life. The increase in demand helped make Milwaukee a center of the lithography industry, which literally blossomed in the shadow of the breweries in a uniquely symbiotic relationship.

“Well-known lithographers Gugler, Beck & Pauli, Louis Kurz, and Henry Seifert’s Milwaukee Lithographing & Engraving Company produced a wide range of advertising materials from trade cards to labels to large-scale tavern pieces,” Peterson noted in MOWA’s recent newsletter. “These images were a beautiful, vibrant, and visually appealing foray into modern marketing.”

The brewery ads offered some of the first instances of celebrity endorsements, something we take for granted today. They also were among the first to develop themes that attempted to tie various beer brands to desirable traits.

One of the rarest pieces in the exhibit is a 9’ x 12’ billboard reproduced on linen depicting a racing yacht against a backdrop of the Pabst Brewery name stitched into a nautical flag. The tagline, “Blue Ribbon Winners on Land and Sea,” underscores the image’s message.

images - wigout - 063016 - MOWAMillerThe period produced some of brewing’s most enduring images, including the long-standing Miller “Girl on the Moon” which still remains as one of the brewery’s key visuals. The collection represented by MOWA’s Art on Tap offers not only a lesson in brewing and marketing, but also the chance for individuals who don’t normally visit art galleries to immerse themselves in an exhibit that will ring a lot of familiar bells for Wisconsin residents, Petterson says.

“Even if you don’t drink beer, and a surprising number of breweriana collectors don’t, you will still find the images appealing,” Petterson adds. “There really is something for everyone here.”

— MOWA Brews A Tall Draught of Summer Activities —

Lectures, music and even a series of beer tastings are on draft in support of Art on Tap: Early Wisconsin Brewery Art and Advertising. Mark your calendars for the following museum events:

LECTURES AND OPENING EVENTS

  • July 16 – “Roll Out the Barrel” and dance to the live polka music of The Squeezettes from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.  at the Art on Tap Opening Party.
  • July 21 – “Fermented Photography”, a 6:30 p.m. lecture by photographer Paul Bialis, who shares images and experiences he had in working in abandoned breweries.
  • August 11 – “Bottoms Up”, a lecture by Wisconsin Historical Society State Historic Preservation Officer and Director of Outreach Jim Draeger about the architecture and history of Wisconsin’s saloons.
  • August 25 – “Pabst Brewery and the Artistry of Advertising”, a 6:30 p.m. lecture by Pabst Mansion Executive Director John C. Eastberg will discuss how the brewery used advertising to shape its iconic brand.
  • September 8 – “A Sudsy Heritage: Milwaukee’s Rise as Beer Capital of the World”, a 6:30 p.m. lecture featuring historian John Gurda’s take on Milwaukee’s rise to brewing prominence.

BEER TASTINGS/LECTURES

  • June 30 – Pre-tasting talk from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. by Randy Mosher, author of The Brewer’s Companion and other books; tasting from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. with beers from Door County Brewing Co., Potosi Brewing Co., Karben4, Madison, and others. Music by Frogwater.
  • August 6 – Pre-tasting talk by MillerCoors pilot brewer Megan Mares discussing proper beer-tasting techniques; beer samples from 3 Sheeps, Sheboygan; Lakefront Brewery, Milwaukee; Lithia Brewing Co., West Bend; and more. Music by Evan Christian.
  • September 10 – “Weird and Wild Flavors: A Craft Brewer Panel Discussion” looks at unusual blends in today’s beers; samples from Ale Asylum, Madison; Milwaukee Brewing Co.; Sweet Mullets Brewery, Oconomowoc; and others. Special tasting by Milwaukee-based BitterCube and music by The Latchkeys.

Tastings are $18 each for MOWA members, $30 for non-members and includes a level-one MOWA membership; $55 VIP packages contain all three beer tastings and a level-one membership. Pre-order tickets at wisconsinart.org/artontaptastings.

Milwaukee LGBT Center pays off debt

The once-beleaguered Milwaukee LGBT Community Center has eliminated its largest debt, which originally amounted to $500,000 for back rent and remodeling costs owed to the organization’s landlord.

After new leadership took control of the center early in 2012, negotiations began with Siegel-Gallagher, the building’s management company, to reduce the amount of space occupied by the center in the former Blatz Brewing Company building. That successful move eliminated the cost of future rent on unneeded space.

Interim executive director Karen Gotzler led a team that included center treasurer Peter Larson and attorneys Kass Hume and Jan Pierce to negotiate a deal reducing the center’s debt to the landlord to $93,000, with the stipulation that the amount would be paid in full within three years.

The center’s leaders were able to eliminate that debt by borrowing $50,000 from several supporters and offering to pay it immediately to the landlord in exchange for canceling out the center’s debt altogether. The landlord agreed.

Center board co-president Paul Williams said the $50,000 borrowed from supporters will be paid back in three years at an interest rate of 1 percent.

“(They’re) helping the center at a critical time so we can move forward toward our goals more quickly and save significant money in the process,” Williams said.

“These supporters saw the logic and the benefits to the center and the community – in terms of reducing overall debt, and in terms of further increasing the confidence of the broad community in the center,” said center board co-president Anne Perry Curley.

Williams praised Siegel-Gallagher for its role in facilitating the negotiations that brought the center so far from the fiscal cliff it faced just 18 months ago. “This is an amazing nonprofit turnaround story,” he said.

Center officials said they believe the debt elimination will enhance confidence in the center’s future and fuel enthusiasm for the “Believe in the Center” fundraising campaign that’s currently under way. The campaign aims to raise money that will expand support for programs such as SAGE Milwaukee and provide for basic resources, such as heat and light, which are not covered by direct program grants.

Next up on the center’s agenda is hiring a new executive director through a nationwide job search. CenterLink and the Johnson Family Foundation provided a $30,000 grant to conduct the search and support the hiring process.

“We have a job description out and we’re accepting applications now,” Williams said. 

“We’re getting a very strong response. It’s very exciting.”

In other developments, the center reported that its 2012 audit was completed on time, with a clean “non-modified” rating.  Copies of the audit are available at the center.

On the web: For more, or to donate to the center, go to www.mkelgbt.org.