Tag Archives: GGOOLLDD

GGOOLLDDen days

By Joey Grihalva

If I had to pick an ultimate Milwaukee music memory since I moved back to town in 2013, it wouldn’t be a sold-out record release show. It wouldn’t be a game-changing music video shoot. It wouldn’t be an epic house jam.

It would be the morning of Saturday, February 28, 2015. The night before, my girlfriend and I had been running around Bay View at the inaugural Arte Para Todos festival. We crashed at her place near the lake because it was close.

When her kids were dropped off the next morning I picked up her 3-year-old daughter and threw on a cassette tape I bought from Gloss Records’ Joey Peterson the night before at Tonic Tavern.

As a bright winter sun flooded the house with light, I danced with little Vera in my arms to the dreamy synth-pop sounds of GGOOLLDD, her favorite band.

In fact, GGOOLLDD was the first band Vera, at the age of 2, saw live. It was at PBR Fest 2014 when the band not even a year old shared a bill with the mighty Sylvan Esso. I had yet to meet my girlfriend then, but GGOOLLDD would become the soundtrack to our romance.

When I first heard GGOOLLDD’s infectious debut single “Gold” on 88.9 I was compelled to Shazam the song. Months later I met my girlfriend and learned that GGOOLLDD is a local band. A year later, GGOOLLDD became the second Milwaukee band in a decade to sell out a headlining show at Turner Hall Ballroom, which holds a capacity of nearly 1,000 people.

The band returns to headline Turner Hall this Friday, December 2. They will be joined by Minneapolis funk pop party band Har Mar Superstar and Detroit indie-electro act Flint Eastwood.

A few weeks ago I sat down with frontwoman Margaret Butler, bassist Nicholas Ziemann, drummer Mark Stewart and synth player Nick Schubert.

‘Twas the night after the Presidential Election. In addition to the devastating results, Ziemann’s car had been broken into and his laptop stolen.

When the band suspected a hard drive with six months worth of work was also missing they posted about it on social media, offering a hefty reward for its return. Luckily, the hard drive was back at their rehearsal space. But then Schubert’s car was towed.

Needless to say, the band had been on an emotional rollercoaster the previous 48 hours.

FROM BAR TALK TO THE BIG STAGE

GGOOLLDD was almost just another wild idea between new friends at a bar. Thankfully, Tony Hunt followed through on his drunken proposal to start a band with Margaret Butler. A service industry veteran from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Butler was inspired to take the stage after seeing Milwaukee dance trash-pop outfit Rio Turbo.

Hunt came up in the Milwaukee underground. He met Butler one night at Tonic Tavern, where Ziemann was tending bar. An Appleton-native who had been playing in bands since he was a teenager, Ziemann offered to play bass. Butler met keyboardist Thomas Gilbert through a girlfriend. A few other friends were recruited for a Halloween attic show in 2013, the band’s live debut.

Both Stewart and Ziemann hail from Appleton. Back in middle and high school, Stewart was aware of “hometown hero” Ziemann, who played in Number One Fan and The Wildbirds. Just a few months after Stewart moved to Milwaukee he heard through a mutual friend that Ziemann was in a new band that was looking for a drummer.

“We had another guy who auditioned and he was really great but Mark had this hunger,” explains Ziemann. “You know that text message that you almost regret sending because it’s too vulnerable? That was his Facebook message to me. And I was like, ‘That is what we need. This band needs heart. And we need to build off that heart.’”

Schubert was the final addition to the band. He got his start filling in for Ziemann, who was on tour with Hugh Bob & the Hustle. Most members of GGOOLLDD have spent time in other bands, but have never been so comfortable in their role.

I first saw GGOOLLDD on Halloween 2014 at Yield Bar in Milwaukee. Or rather, I saw SSIILLVVEERR that night, as Butler wore a silver wig. (Halloween is her favorite holiday.) It was a beautifully raucous show and I was instantly hooked.

Shortly after, I dropped in at Blackbird in Bay View. Butler was tending bar on a slow, snowy Monday night. We chatted, joked, shared music, and got to know each other. Upon moving to the Midwest she was turned off by how awkward and resistant to dancing Milwaukee crowds can be. Butler’s eccentric wardrobe choices and theatrics have shades of Karen O. (Yeah Yeah Yeahs), inspiring audiences to loosen up and enjoy themselves.

GGOOLLDD at Summer Soulstice 2015 [PHOTO - Joe Kirschling]
GGOOLLDD at Summer Soulstice 2015 [PHOTO – Joe Kirschling]
“Margaret never ceases to amaze the band with her ability to connect with the audience. I’ll sit there on stage and think, ‘I’m buying whatever she’s selling,’” says Ziemann.

A month after their PBR Fest 2014 performance GGOOLLDD released a catchy four-track EP, $tandard$. With radio play on three major independent stations — 88.9, 91.7, and 102.1 — and a fun live show, GGOOLLDD quickly booked gigs in and around Milwaukee.

On the first of a seven-night run at SXSW 2015 in Austin, Texas, the band received a generous donation from two tech developers who immediately got the GGOOLLDD vibe. The band has since opened for Blondie, Death from Above 1979, The Polyphonic Spree, and played festivals, benefits, colleges and venues all over the Midwest.

GGOOLLDD has played Milwaukee’s PrideFest twice and their Summerfest 2015 performance took place hours after the landmark Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage across the nation. To commemorate the event, Butler got a “Love Wins” tattoo. Fall 2015 saw GGOOLLDD’s first tour, a 10-date trip out East with Gloss Records label mates NO/NO.

BAND DYNAMICS & THE CREATIVE PROCESS

GGOOLLDD started Halloween 2013, I first saw them the next Halloween, and the following year they played Freakfest in Madison. This year, though, the band opted out of a Halloween gig.

“We stayed in, recorded and watched scary movies. And made a bomb ass veggie stir fry,” says Stewart.

I can’t blame them for taking Halloween off, as they were still recovering from a 36-hour music video shoot for their new single “Undercovers.” Inspired in part by the Netflix series Stranger Things, the video was made by Appleton-based S.C. Pictures. It was shot in Southern Wisconsin near the small town of Clinton.

“Undercovers” is GGOOLLDD’s first song since the departure of Tony Hunt, who moved to Nashville in the Fall of 2014, but continued to play with the band until earlier this year.

Since Hunt left the primary focus has been band dynamics and creating new material.

“When we started it was just me and Tony. He would write songs and I would put words to them. It was very simple. We had to figure out how to re-write together as a group,” says Butler.

The band members were at odds over the overly polished pop sound Hunt favored.

“We went from almost breaking up to now being the best of friends,” says Butler.

“We’re now tapping into resources that we had but didn’t always execute in the best way,” adds Stewart.

“If you put 10 of our newest songs together you couldn’t say which of us played what part,” says Ziemann. “There’s no control hierarchy anymore. And that’s a strange thing. I’ve never been in a band like this.”

“I’ve watched other people write together and so many times they’ll just let the other person play and play even if they don’t like it, because they don’t want to hurt each other’s feelings or step on each other’s toes,” says Butler.

That’s not the case with GGOOLLDD. Everyone’s ears must be happy. Because they are so close, and they understand and respect each other, they’re not afraid to offer each other criticism. Ultimately, it’s about serving the songs.

SPARKS IN THE STUDIO

“Undercovers” was born during a weekend at Schubert’s family cabin about six months ago. Since then the band has found a groove creating new music. They recently returned to the cabin for another writing retreat.

“We’ve always thrived as a live band,” says Stewart. “Our performances have been super motivating for us personally. Now we’re finding that same sort of spark in the studio.”

“It used to take four hours of drinking to encourage ourselves to write something. Now it’s just like, ‘Let’s start where we left off last night,’” adds Ziemann.

The band has built a makeshift studio in Ziemann’s basement, preparing for the winter. But their setup is semi-mobile in case inspiration hits while on the road. New music may be their top priority, but the band continues to perform around the Midwest.

“We’re rarely in town on the weekends,” says Butler. “We’re getting to where we’re making that radius around Milwaukee bigger and bigger every few months. When we’re on the road is when we feel most at home.”

SATISFYING THE BAND

GGOOLLDD admits they don’t have many long-term goals. The band makes plans on a week-to-week basis. While a major label may have helped cover certain expenses in the past, they’ve managed to do everything themselves up to this point. Right now, it’s about satisfying the band — and in the short history of GGOOLLDD, no moment has been as fulfilling as their sold-out Turner Hall show in January.

“The majority of the time as a musician you feel uncertain,” admits Ziemann. “But at those moments it’s so real. The energy in that place was amazing. Milwaukee has been very, very awesome to us.”

“At that point you can’t not put on a great show, because you’re just as excited as the kids in the front row,” exclaims Butler.

“We’re trying to make ourselves happy, and if it makes other people happy then it’s like, ‘Alright, I can do this for the rest of my life,’” says Ziemann.

On Stage: GGOOLLDD returns to Turner Hall Ballroom December 2. The band will be in Appleton at Mill Creek on December 8, and in Madison at The Frequency on December 9. For more visit www.ggoollddband.com.

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GGOOLLDD [From left: Nicholas Ziemann, Mark Stewart, Margaret Butler, Thomas Gilbert, Nick Schubert]

[ FULL – INTERVIEW ]

D’Angelo’s Voodoo was playing in its entirety in the background at Tin Window in Walker’s Point during my interview with four of the five members of GGOOLLDD, much to the delight of drummer Mark Stewart. For the purposes of this transcript, Nicholas Ziemann is referred to as BIG NICK and Nick Schubert is referred to as LIL NICK.

WiG
Tell me about this robbery.

MARGARET
Funny story.

BIG NICK
Funny, no.

MARGARET
We went to the cabin all weekend to write these new songs we’ve been working on and we got a new hard drive.

MARK
Probably about five or six months worth of new songs and ideas were on it. So (Lil) Nick’s dad has a cabin up north about an hour away from Steven’s Point. We played a show at the college on Thursday night and then turned it into a writing/recording weekend to finish these songs. So we had all these other ideas and went up there and spent four days straight working until the late night, just hours and hours and hours finalizing all this stuff and then we got back and these guys went to like LuLu.

BIG NICK
Yeah we got back, settled in for the night then we got up and went to lunch. Loaded up everything into the practice space, and figured we’d stop and get some soup.

MARGARET
So the night we got in town Nick was so excited to show our buddy the stuff we’ve been working on. So the hard drive was in this bag with a bunch of other stuff all, like our cables we need for recording, microphones, whatever. But this hard drive had like everything on it, everything we’ve done over the past six months. So Nick brings it inside of the building and then forgets, like we were carrying a bunch of stuff back down. And forgot that he left it in the studio. And the next morning we got our van broken into and his laptop got his stolen. And then we’re like, “Wait, where the fuck is the hard drive?! Where is this bag?” And it was just completely ironic…

BIG NICK
I called the guy first thing and said it’s either here or it’s there and he’s like, “Dude you carried it out, sorry.”

MARGARET
So he even said “No it’s not there, I saw you carrying it out.”

BIG NICK
Because when you get stuff stolen you don’t know, you wonder, “What was here?”

MARK
They walked out and all they saw was their van with a smashed window and for sure a laptop missing, so then you’re just running through your head.

MARGARET
And that bag is gone.

WiG
But in actuality it was at the studio?

MARGARET
Yeah.

MARK
We just found out. But the laptop’s gone.

LIL NICK
But we had a day where we were just crushed.

MARGARET
That laptop is just money basically.

LIL NICK
The hard drive is much more.

MARK
Countless, like an impossible number of hours.

BIG NICK
We actually offered a $1,000 reward and that was on the conservative side because we needed it. We’re on a time crunch just trying to move forward. We almost cancelled this weekend of shows because of it. Not to be dramatic, but because new songs are more important than anything else to us. But everything’s okay.

MARGARET
Everything is fine now.

WiG
Minus the election.

MARK
Right.

BIG NICK
Yeah, we kind of doubled down. We kind of got hit twice.

MARGARET
Well yeah that happened and then (Lil) Nick’s car got towed.

LIL NICK
Yeah, it was hilarious. Just comical.

MARK
We’ve been riding an emotional rollercoaster.

BIG NICK
Crying and laughter. Crying and laughter.

LIL NICK
But it’s going to be okay.

BIG NICK
We’re about to start an emo side project.

(The band laughs.)

WiG (to Lil Nick)
Nick you are singing in that?

LIL NICK
You know it.

WiG
You guys started Halloween three years ago now?

MARGARET
Yeah, we just had our third birthday.

WiG
Did you do anything for Halloween?

BIG NICK
We stayed in.

MARGARET
We made a music video.

BIG NICK
Not the day of.

MARGARET
Okay, not on Halloween but that was kind of our Halloween celebration. You know, we’ve always played a show on Halloween…

LIL NICK
What did we do?

MARK
We stayed in and recorded and watched scary movies. And made a bomb ass veggie stir fry.

MARGARET
We needed a day to just chill. And Halloween was on a Monday this year.

MARK
On Saturday everybody was out doing cool stuff but we were just going to bro-down and make music and watch movies.

LIL NICK
I passed out around eleven. They had to shuffle me to bed because I was passed out on the couch.

BIG NICK
Our house is like the hub.

MARK
We spent a couple days basically building out a studio room in their basement last month.

BIG NICK
Getting prepped for winter.

WiG
So you’re recording in their house as well as the cabin?

BIG NICK
Yeah we have a semi-mobile setup. It’s not beautiful but it’s enough for us.

MARGARET
The cabin is more to just get in the state of mind to create more than it is functional for writing.

LIL NICK
It’s been like a twice a year thing.

MARGARET
It’s a morale thing more than anything.

BIG NICK
When we’re in a room together or a van together or anywhere together we tend to create something, we move forward in some way. But if you get us in a cabin with no distractions something’s going to happen. Well, at least two times in a row it happened.

LIL NICK
Two for two.

BIG NICK
That’s where “Undercovers” was birthed like six months ago and that was the first song we’d written in a year up until that point.

WiG
And you mentioned the video. (Lil) Nick was telling me about the video a couple weeks ago and I saw some pictures on social media. I thought you went out west somewhere to do it. Where was that?

MARK
Clinton, Wisconsin. Sort of near Beloit.

BIG NICK
This really really amazing couple that own a beautiful 250 acres. They were just so great. We lost our original location a week before so they were like a blessing, these people were so sweet. And I mean we shot for 36 hours straight. We were up for two days. Like the end of our music video we had been on camera and hadn’t slept and I was probably about six energy drinks in.

MARGARET
We were awake for 46 hours, I counted. Because I had to know. And from the minute we started filming to the minute that we wrapped it up was 30 hours straight. Did not sleep.

BIG NICK
There was no stopping.

MARK
We had it plotted out in such a way that we had to capture certain scenes capturing certain parts of the light.

LIL NICK
I had so many Monster energy drinks that during my death scene my eyelids were like twitching.

BIG NICK
Yours and mine.

MARK
Involuntarily!

LIL NICK
We’re going to have to edit that out because we were so hopped up on Monster.

MARGARET
We had a guy drive in at what, what time did John get there?

MARK
Four or five in the morning.

MARGARET
Five in the morning. We ran out, well he wasn’t just coming for that, but we were using his drone to shoot some of the shots, but he came there at 5 a.m. to bring us more energy drinks.

LIL NICK
And they didn’t have Red Bull so it had to be Monster. Never again.

MARGARET
It’s so gross.

BIG NICK
Our teeth hate us.

(Mark groans.)

BIG NICK
It’s about 98% done. This guy Connor that shot the whole thing, drove down from Appleton and it’s looking pretty cool.

WiG
That’s a quick turnaround.

BIG NICK
A handful of people helped us but the two people that spearheaded it are just amazing. Just professionals.

LIL NICK
And they’re young and that’s impressive.

MARK
They’re like 19 or 20.

LIL NICK
It’s crazy. They’re going to have a bright future.

MARK
Massively talented.

BIG NICK
We bit off a lot for this video and I think it might work.

WiG
Was there a budget for it?

BIG NICK
I mean, as much as there’s like a budget for us to get drinks right now.

(Everybody laughs.)

BIG NICK
Like we didn’t set aside a budget. If we spend money we just ask, “Is it worth it?” Just approaching every decision like that.

MARK
We had to get what we needed to get. Ultimately pretty much everybody just kind of volunteering and working incredibly hard to try and make it awesome.

MARGARET
That’s pretty much any project we do though. It will be great if people want to work for free to make it great.

BIG NICK
But we’re all in it together at that point. It’s like, we know this is irresponsible but at least let’s make ourselves happy. And our friends and the people who surround us are half the reason that we do what we do.

WiG
Has there been the potential for getting a label involved?

MARGARET
Not to speak for the entire band, but personally I’m disinterested in having a label. We’re moving in such a way that we haven’t yet to this point needed help moving further. And so until we’re at a point where we’re like, “Oh man, we could use such and such,” I don’t find it necessary. I feel like being on a label is a lot like getting a loan. You know what I mean?

BIG NICK
I think that’s ultimately what it is.

MARGARET
Like it’s not a great business move for us.

BIG NICK
And it’s like, now you got twenty rules you have to follow.

MARK
We’ve managed to do everything on our own terms up to this point. There hasn’t been a time where we’ve felt held back. We’ve always satisfied ourselves.

MARGARET
We do what we can afford to do.

BIG NICK
Our approach is pretty intentional.

MARGARET
We treat it like a business.

BIG NICK
The music is ultimately the most important thing. We got a lot of work to do, so we might as well focus on ourselves and work on the band here.

WiG
It sounds like at this point new music is more important than hitting the road hard?

MARK
That’s exactly right.

MARGARET
Yeah.

BIG NICK
For now.

MARK
Right now creatively morale is super, super high. I think we’re all really excited about it. But we also need to do it. I think it’s super vital right now that we’re kind of making conscious choices.

BIG NICK
And we’re starting to love it. It was scary for a second but we’re starting to love it. And it’s starting to feel right.

MARK
Getting into a groove with the actual direction we’re coming from.

MARGARET
Because for a long time I was like, “Ah, we gotta get on the road, we gotta go do stuff.” And then once we started like actually getting into the groove of writing I was just like, “No, I just want to stay here and do this and work on this. I’m excited about it right now, this is what I want to be doing.”

MARK
Exactly. In terms of like a long-term result, we don’t have any super firm plans other than kind of just riding the wave of getting as much material that we’re super stoked about and then kind making a decision about the best way to put it out. I guess we’re not super concerned about any sort of concrete ideas for it.

BIG NICK
The future is definitely planned out about one week in advance. And we kind of like it that way for now.

MARK
Totally. And it’ll be one of those things I think where we’ve always done the best when we’ve sort of developed songs live also. Like we’ll come in with certain ideas and they’ll be multiple versions of songs that will be developing before we settle on a final version of a recorded track. So I think we’ll probably go that route of just keep testing the waters and flushing songs out.

WiG
So you’re not feeling any sort of pressure to make a 10+ track album at this point? We’re just writing songs as they come…

MARGARET
Right.

BIG NICK
You sometimes wonder…you know, that instinct is natural because that’s the way that music has been released over the last 60-70 years…

MARGARET
Since music has been released.

BIG NICK

But I think we’re trying to relearn as well as everybody else is kind of learning that it doesn’t have to happen that way.

MARGARET
Everything is streaming now, so why are we…I mean, if we put out ten songs over the next year and maybe we’ll put them on a vinyl for art’s sake. But I don’t think in this day and age there’s a point.

BIG NICK
We’re in that weird spot though where everybody still wants something to hold. But there’s no real medium that makes sense. Like, I don’t have a CD player. I don’t have a record player at my house or a cassette player. I have none of those. We could spend so much time thinking about a release that you could hold but what would it be? So we just write songs and make videos, yeah. If we don’t have a label there’s no point in us playing by somebody else’s rules.

LIL NICK
Just fucking create man.

(Everybody laughs.)

WiG
But you still are hitting the road obviously. Especially over the next month. Tomorrow you’re going to Kansas City for the second time, right?

MARK
Yeah.

MARGARET
We’re always kind of on the road in the sense that like between here and a 10 hour radius.

BIG NICK
That’s our market right now.

MARGARET
We’re rarely in town on the weekends. So we’re playing out a lot, I feel like we’re just kind of getting to where we’re making that radius around Milwaukee bigger and bigger every few months. But it’s not like a 10-date tour.

BIG NICK
We’re saving that for next year.

MARK
We’ve always kind of thrived as a live band. Internally our performances have been super motivating for us personally. And so now we’re kind of finding that same sort of spark in the studio. I think it will be kind of a balance thing in terms of figuring out what to do next.

BIG NICK
There are logistical issues that have kept us from doing some stuff, like we couldn’t afford a computer to record on or a decent set of monitors. We just now have started to collect some of those things and it sucks that logistics like that, maybe a label a year ago would’ve helped us there but now we’re past that point where we have enough to get out what’s in our brains. We’re able to do it justice now.

WiG
In terms of the songwriting process I think I read somewhere that now it’s a little bit more of a collaborative effort…

MARGARET
Right. When we started the band three years ago it was just me and this other guy. He was more of a DJ, so he would just write the songs and I would put words to them. It was very simple. And then we started the band. He is no longer in the band. So we had to figure out how to re-write together as a group. That’s also why we haven’t put music out in such a long time, because we were learning together.

BIG NICK
Trying to figure out what our dynamic is.

MARGARET
Yeah. Like we still want to keep this sound but we don’t necessarily love how overly poppy it was getting to be, which was the cause of the separation. The group of us and him weren’t vibing at all on the same ideology of what we wanted to create. So yeah, we just hung out, figured it out, kept writing and kept writing until we were like, “Yeah, this is it.” So “Undercovers” is our first release as us as this new group. And we’re all much happier with the direction that we’re taking.

BIG NICK
I mean, I think we’ve been happy the majority of the time. I’m proud of everything we’ve put out…

MARGARET
Of course, of course. I just mean like at the end…

BIG NICK
We’ve been growing and now I think we’ve got new shoes that we’re all really comfortable in.

MARGARET
Yeah. Right.

BIG NICK
I was comfortable in the first set of shoes and the second set. And we’ve figured it out. Like any relationship, we’re very interested in keeping communication open. And it will change everyday because we’re a bunch of adult emotional people who are together constantly. You have to be able to talk through things. We’re now learning how this group works.

MARGARET
And it’s great.

BIG NICK
We’re starting to have a blast.

LIL NICK
It’s been working out really well.

MARK

We’re just pushing one another.

MARGARET
We went from almost breaking up to being now the best of friends.

BIG NICK
That’s true.

MARGARET
When I’m not around these guys I just miss them so much.

LIL NICK
We miss you too, so much.

MARGARET
I love you.

LIL NICK
Seriously, I love you.

(Mark laughs.)

LIL NICK
I think we need a moment.

BIG NICK
Shut the cameras off!

(Everybody laughs.)

WiG
And you got Thomas as well, who I learned recently lives in Chicago…

MARGARET
No he lives in Milwaukee but he works in Chicago and he commutes four hours a day.

BIG NICK
That’s why we don’t ask him to do anything extra-curricular, because he only has like one free hour a day.

MARGARET
Like, “How important is it right now to take this from you?”

BIG NICK
We do miss him though.

LIL NICK
Yeah.

BIG NICK
He’s the best dancer out of all of us.

MARGARET
Hey now!

(Everybody laughs.)

WiG
On any given night that might change.

BIG NICK
I mean, I’m the best dancer if I have a couple more shots. But only with me as the judge.

WiG
So last year it seemed like you branched out and did some more outside of Milwaukee gigs, festival gigs. What are some of your highlights from all those gigs over the last year.

MARK
We did our actual real tour like this time last year.

MARGARET
Yeah, September.

MARK
We did an East Coast run of like 10 dates with NO/NO. That was our real first actual extended going out…

BIG NICK
Consistent set of dates.

MARGARET
That was so fun.

MARK
It was incredible. And it was a huge learning experience for us. (Big) Nick for instance has been touring and playing in bands for like a decade, but for the rest of us I know it was…

BIG NICK (In a deep voice)
Okay great, now I feel old.

(Everybody laughs.)

MARK
He started when he was 9.

LIL NICK
Before he could walk.

MARK
But for the rest of us it was our first experience really going out and getting after it so it was really awesome in that sense and the shows were really unbelievable.

GGOOLLDD at the Lakefront Festival of the Arts 2015 [PHOTO - Joe Kirschling]
GGOOLLDD at the Lakefront Festival of the Arts 2015 [PHOTO – Joe Kirschling]
BIG NICK
We were always amazed by people’s response. Because you can only do what you can do. But Margaret never ceases to amaze the band with her ability to connect with the audience. And I’ll sit there on stage and thinking, “I’m buying whatever she’s selling, you know?” And I’ve known her for a long time. We do love playing shows because it is genuine. We are so stoked and mostly because people respond so well.

MARGARET
We definitely run on morale.

MARK
It’s that energy feedback loop. That yin and yang. And I think when we all feel that it elevates us to a place that’s kind of like intangible.

BIG NICK
I mean, we’re not getting paid much for this so what does it give back to us? Hopefully that’s morale that gets us through the week and gets us through the month. It’d be awesome if we could do it constantly.

WiG
How did you all meet though? To take it back a little bit…

BIG NICK
Mark and I met a long time ago. I’ve always been in bands.

WiG
You played in Hugh Bob & the Hustle?

BIG NICK
Yeah, I was playing in The Wildbirds when we met.

MARGARET
Number One Fan.

MARK
Speaking of emo bands.

BIG NICK
If you want to see some YouTube gold…

MARGARET
Oh my God.

BIG NICK
Pun intended.

MARGARET
Check out Nick Ziemann’s 18-year-old self in Number One Fan’s YouTube video for “Come On.”

LIL NICK
If you wanna see a spicy boy…

(Everybody laughs.)

LIL NICK
…Google that.

MARGARET
Please do.

MARK
Very spicy.

BIG NICK
So we met then. Margaret’s always had star power, so the fact that you put a microphone in her hand, she just does the same thing, but it’s amplified and it’s fun.

MARGARET
Except I have an audience.

BIG NICK
But you love it.

MARGARET
Oh it’s fun as hell.

BIG NICK
We love it. So yeah I’ve been a musician the six years prior that we knew each other and she shows up and I’ve been a lead singer my whole life, but I’m like, “Oh, you got this. Your first show you’re already better than me.” Everybody kind of knows their role.

MARGARET
We got Mark on Facebook.

BIG NICK
Mark and I knew each other through at least one degree of people.

MARK
We’re both from Appleton. The mutual friend and Nick were both working at AP and I was aware of Number One Fan and The Wildbirds growing up. They were like hometown hero bands in Appleton when I was in high school and maybe even when I was younger than that. So I was very aware of what Nick had done and my friend John was like, “There’s this new band GGOOLLDD that just started and they’re looking for a drummer,” and I had just started playing drums, so I was just like, “Fuck it. I’m going to message these guys.”

WiG
Were you living in Milwaukee?

MARK
I had just moved to Milwaukee, yeah.

MARGARET
Oh, you had just moved?

MARK
Yeah. Couple months. So I messaged Nick and went in and jammed and it worked out.

BIG NICK
We had another guy who auditioned and he was really great and is still a great guy but Mark had this hunger that I was like, “This dude is putting it out there.” You know that text message that you almost regret sending because it’s too vulnerable? That was like his Facebook message back to me. And I was like, “That is what we need. This band needs heart. We need to build off that heart.” Because again, you don’t need to be doing this. You do it because you want to. Now this guy’s probably the engine of this band musically and we’re thankful for him. We’re also really lovey and very vulnerable right now because we’ve been crying and drinking for two days.

WiG (motioning towards Lil Nick)
And how’d you find this handsome man?

LIL NICK
Originally I was filling in because Nick had a tour with Hugh Bob, so I was filling in on synth bass. I was also in this band Boy Blue…

MARK
We were kind of buddy bands. We played a handful of shows together kind of like when we were just starting out and you were more established in Milwaukee.

LIL NICK
Yeah, so I did a few just like, fill-in shows. I was technically in the band.

MARGARET
And we kept saying, “Nick, so you know, you’re not in the band.”

(Everybody laughs.)

MARK
But I will take credit for being a huge advocate for him.

MARGARET
Oh yeah.

BIG NICK
You were his champion. And I was your champion. I will take credit for that. I will be proud of that until the day I die.

MARK

So if (Big) Nick is the grandpa, (Lil) Nick is the baby, then I’m the dad.

(Everybody laughs.)

WiG
I first saw you on Halloween 2014.

BIG NICK
So like a year after we formed.

MARGARET
Oh yeah it was at Yield and we were SSIILLVVERR.

MARK
Right!

MARGARET
That was our one year. That’s how crazy it has been.

BIG NICK
Holy cow.

WiG
And had you played a few gigs at that point?

BIG NICK
It was still elementary based.

LIL NICK
It wasn’t like set in stone. But I was starting to play shows with Nick on bass.

BIG NICK
And Tony, the previous member, he really wanted the sound to be fleshed out and so he was like, “Well, is there room for Nick?” And of course we like hanging out with the dude so nobody was ever like, “No, we don’t need him.”

MARK
He’s a monster.

LIL NICK
Plus that MS-2000 just sounds so good.

MARK
We’re really fortunate, I think now we’re tapping into resources that we had but didn’t always execute in the best way in the sense that pretty much everybody in the band can play multiple instruments. Especially when we’re writing we’ll be like, “Do you have an idea?” and somebody steps up, lays something down, and it’s just this constant thing.

BIG NICK
Honestly, if you put ten of our newest songs together you couldn’t say which of us played what part. There’s no rules like that.

MARK
Like Nick has a guitar and Margaret’s…

MARGARET
Let’s not pretend that I know how to play anything.

MARK
But Margaret’s singing and going, “Play this note and play this note,” and she’s literally building chords…

LIL NICK
You definitely offer musical ideas.

MARK
Yeah and we all translate for each other.

BIG NICK
There’s no control hierachy anymore. And that’s a strange thing. I’ve never been in a band like this.

LIL NICK
I have not either.

MARK
Me too.

BIG NICK
And it’s so fun and interesting.

LIL NICK
And it’s freeing. And people aren’t afraid to say, “I don’t think that’s going to work out.” No one ever gets upset or offended and we move on.

MARGARET
I’ve watched other people write together and so many times they’ll just let the other person play and play even if they don’t like it, just because they don’t want to hurt each other’s feelings or step on each other’s toes. But because we are so close and we do understand each other so much, if I’m like, “Nick, stop playing that, it doesn’t work, let’s move on,” he’s like, “Yeah, you’re probably right, let’s move on.”

BIG NICK
We respect each other.

LIL NICK
Exactly. It’s not about trying to put someone down. It’s about the bigger picture.

BIG NICK
We’re all here to serve the songs.

MARGARET
Everyone’s ears have to be happy.

LIL NICK
Everyone is capable of coming up with awesome parts but if they don’t work in the flow of the song then they’re out.

MARK
And we’re not the most technical band most of the time. I think we operate purely on feel, completely.

BIG NICK
We found this computer plug in the other day that represented our entire approach to music. I don’t remember what it’s called but you can adjust the “grit” and “emotion” and “heartbeat.” And I knew exactly what it was saying, so I turned up more of this and less of that. But we also just all love pop, so it’s not like we’re trying to write a 17-minute obscure self-serving song. We like things to be somewhat concise.

MARK
We ultimately serve ourselves by serving the song, usually the two are one and the same.

BIG NICK
Luckily we have a group of people that all agree on that.

MARK
Our tastes generally align.

WiG
So you don’t get caught up just listening to your own music? It sounds like you’re listening to a lot of different stuff…

MARGARET
I don’t think we ever listen to ourselves.

LIL NICK
That is not us.

BIG NICK
Sometimes to a fault we don’t. I think we can forget that we make music for a couple weeks at a time.

MARGARET
I do when I’m working out, but the problem is I just never work out.

(Everyone laughs.)

MARK
But at the same time we all have day jobs, disposable hours throughout the day and we all love music.

LIL NICK
I make monthly Spotify playlists. I’m always listening to new music.

MARK
And it’s all different stuff. Like I’m good buddies with the Close Up of the Serene guys and they’re so deep into the most incredible, forward-thinking club music and techno and all this stuff that I don’t even know where to begin looking for it. So I use them as my librarians to find all this stuff.

MARGARET
Who found that “Bad Blood” song? Or is that just on the radio?

BIG NICK
That song’s just been kind of coming up lately.

MARGARET
That is like the best song right now.

LIL NICK
I played it in the van when I was driving that one time and we were just all super into it…

WiG
Is this different than the Taylor Swift “Bad Blood”?

LIL NICK
What’s that?

BIG NICK
Does she have a “Bad Blood” song?

MARK
She does. But it’s not that one.

MARGARET
No we really get amped up to Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber, on the reg.

BIG NICK
Or this Niki and the Dove song. We usually have a band song every two months.

MARK
Yeah Niki and the Dove kind of hung around.

LIL NICK
That Nao song.

MARK
Nao’s been a big one.

LIL NICK
She is incredible.

MARGARET
Oh my god, so good.

LIL NICK
That’s the “Bad Blood” song, listen to that. I think you’d really dig it.

MARK
Super cool like psych-soul shit.

(We take a break to get drinks and then talk about schedules.)

MARK
Wednesday through Saturday now we all have a lot of the same time together to work. Aligning our schedules has been super nice for work flow.

BIG NICK
We’ve kind of broken the seal now where we just have 15 minutes of hanging then we start work. Whereas it used to take four hours of drinking to encourage ourselves to write something. Now it’s just like, “Let’s start where we left off last night.”

MARK
It’s hard especially when you only have a couple hours. There were times where it was like we would get done with work, come over and then (Big) Nick and Margaret would both be working at night, so we’d have like two hours to work. But you can’t get into a groove. So now we have blocks of time to settle into it.

WiG (to Margaret)
When you and I first talked at Blackbird it seemed like you had grown tired of the winter and just the Milwaukee vibe in general. But the band has obviously picked up…

MARGARET
I mean I’m still tired of Milwaukee and the winter, but if it wasn’t for these guys I wouldn’t be here. They are my home, no matter where we are. That’s all that matters.

BIG NICK
And that’s why we just want to go on the road.

MARGARET
Right and I honestly think that I can speak for the band when I say when we are on the road is when we feel most at home.

MARK
That is true.

LIL NICK
Absolutely.

MARGARET
When we are in a hotel room or when we’re all in the same space, that’s when we’re home.

BIG NICK
We’re also just the best to each other. We’re the best versions of ourselves on the road.

MARGARET
The more time we spend together the better we get along.

(“Untitled (How Does It Feel)” by D’Angelo comes on and we reminisce about the sexy video.)

MARK
Our buddy works for React. They do like North Coast Festival and Summer Set. He got me and our buddy Jason front row tickets for D’Angelo. It was the most life-changing experience at Union Park where they do Pitchfork.

LIL NICK
I remember Jason saying he was backstage looking at you in the front row and he said, “I’ve never seen someone so happy.”

MARK
It was like a religious experience. It was insane.

WiG
Ya’ll are playing at First Avenue this month, right? First time at the main room?

BIG NICK
Yeah.

LIL NICK
So excited.

MARGARET
We just played there for the first time. We had never been to Minneapolis ever, and we just played a Minneapolis show. We opened for Born Ruffians at 7th Street Entry. And now we have this show with Har Mar and Tickle Torture, who are both from Minneapolis so it’s going to be huge for us.

LIL NICK
We are so excited.

BIG NICK
Yeah, we’ve been dying to go to Minneapolis. We love that city. Har Mar is playing the show with us at Turner and we didn’t expect re-payment…

MARK
We were just so excited to have him.

BIG NICK
But then a week later he asked us to open up that show.

MARK
Me particularly, I went to school in Minneapolis.

LIL NICK
I did as well.

MARK
So I’ve been to like 25 shows at First Avenue. It’s like a dream level venue to play.

WiG
I went to school there too.

LIL NICK
Cool. Yeah me and Mark both went to school in Minneapolis at the same time but we didn’t know each other. We’re super pumped to play that room.

WiG
And like going back to Turner Hall…

MARK
That’s going to be incredible.

WiG
Tell me about that show in January.

BIG NICK
Oh man.

MARK
I think we’re still processing it.

BIG NICK
It felt like we got on a stage that someone else should’ve been on. I mean we were going to do our best but…

MARK
It was so beyond.

BIG NICK
…we hoped for decent and we got amazing.

WiG
From each other or from the crowd?

MARK
Everything about it was just…

LIL NICK
Everybody involved…it was an incredible experience.

MARK
We never would’ve anticipated the response that that many people would’ve shown up and hang out and stuff.

BIG NICK
It was an awful winter, shitty day.

LIL NICK
It snowed that day.

BIG NICK
The energy in that place was amazing. It was like, “Wait, we get to get on this stage?”

MARGARET
We’ve been a band for what? Two years.

MARK
Just a little over two years.

MARGARET
We’ve all been together for not even a year and a half. And we sold out the show before the doors opened.

LIL NICK
I think it was at sound check that we found out.

MARK
It was like, “You’ve gotta be kidding me. This can’t be real.”

MARGARET
And at that point you can’t not put on a great show, because you’re just as excited as these kids in the front row.

BIG NICK
You’ve got this like massive emotional hard-on. What you’re doing, it means something. You know, the majority of the time as a musician you feel uncertain. But at those moments it is so real. It was awesome. Milwaukee has been very very awesome to us.

WiG
I know my girlfriend and her friends when they first caught wind of you, I think it was at PBR Fest maybe, they were totally on board.

MARK
That’s super cool.

MARGARET
What’s the word that you always use?

BIG NICK
Me?

MARGARET
It’s contagious.

BIG NICK
We’re trying to make ourselves happy and if it makes other people happy then it’s like, “Alright, I can do this for the rest of my life.”

MARGARET
It’s contagious because we make other people happy because they’re making us happy and that just keeps…

MARK
It’s this constant energy loop.

LIL NICK
We feed off of that, absolutely.

BIG NICK
That and sandwiches.

MARGARET
And soup.

MARK
Especially if it’s bottomless.

(We get off topic and start talking about Miley Cyrus and the time I saw her at the Bradley Center.)

WiG
Last question, if GGOOLLDD had a huge budget to do a big arena show, what would it look like?

MARGARET
There would be white horses.

LIL NICK
There would be unicorns everywhere.

MARK
There would be soup for all.

BIG NICK
Everybody gets a tiny unicorn under their chairs.

LIL NICK
There’d be a Pamplemousse La Croix for everybody.

MARK
LaCroix’s on ice.

BIG NICK
We’re very democratic. It’s like a socialist concert, you can have a big unicorn, you can have a medium sized unicorn. It will grow into a big unicorn if you treat it right.

(Everybody laughs.)

BIG NICK
Hug it everyday.

LIL NICK
Basically unicorns and LaCroix.

BIG NICK
That’s the name of our next album.

MARGARET
Unicorns and LaCroix.

BIG NICK
Well maybe after that LaCroix will sponsor us.

MARGARET
We’ve been asking.

LIL NICK
We did email them.

MARGARET
They can say “No.”

MARK
I emailed LaCroix trying to get an endorsement and they passed. Hard pass.

(Everybody laughs.)

LIL NICK
But we move forward, that’s all you can do.

ggwide

Wisconsin Sound #6

 

WHIPS, REYNA, AND GGOOLLDD A FEM-FALL STORM

At the beginning of 2015 two of the most buzzed about Milwaukee bands were fronted by females. GGOOLLDD’s feel good earworm single “Gold” quickly made its way on local airwaves, while Whips put out arguably the best Wisconsin record of 2014, Turn It On, which garnered heaps of critical acclaim.

Before Margaret Butler of GGOOLLDD (GG) and Ashley Smith of Whips came on the scene the leading ladies of Milwaukee music were the sister duo of Vic and Gab (Victoriah Banuelos and Hannah Gabriela Banuelos). Vic and Gab’s catchy indie pop landed them a showcase at South by Southwest (SXSW), as well as a gig opening for President Obama.

GG headed into 2016 hot on the heels of a successful EP and a string of summer festival appearances. They would become one of two local bands to sell out Turner Hall Ballroom in the last decade. Whips mostly went on hiatus, as members focused on other projects and businesses. Meanwhile, the Banuelos sisters reinvented themselves as synth pop trio Reyna, taking a few pages out of GG’s playbook.

Whips at AM/FM.
Whips at AM/FM.

All three bands in question were at the center of a storm of local music these past few weeks. On September 16 my girlfriend and I went to Madison to see UK/US rock band The Kills play Live on King Street, a free summer concert series outside the Majestic Theatre. The Kills combine the hard-driving guitar of Jamie Hince and the beautifully brash vocals of Alison Mosshart, who reminded me of Whips’ Smith during her badass performance.

Though Whips and The Kills are far more similar, GG was the first opener at Live on King Street. It’s a testament to GG’s consistency, whereas Whips has only played a handful of shows over the past year. To their credit, Whips have been working on a new record.

Scottish electro-pop trio CHVRCHES was scheduled to play The Riverside Theater on September 25 and an opener wasn’t announced until the week of the show. I figured GG was a shoe-in, but Reyna ended up taking the guest spot. Coincidentally, GG played a surprise show the night before at the old Hotel Foster space, sharing a bill with non other than Whips.

The AM/FM pop-up event at the old Hotel Foster space was a huge success. The crowd was well beyond capacity. Whips ran through a tight set that included new songs, which I’m happy to report are really good. Later in the night GG kept the party going. They played a song that I mistook for a cover of The Kills. Turns out it was their new single “Undercovers.”

Reyna at The Riverside (Courtesy of the Pabst Theater Group).
Reyna at The Riverside (Courtesy of the Pabst Theater Group).

The CHVRCHES show was my first time seeing any iteration of the Banuelos sisters live. When I first heard Reyna’s debut single “Spill Your Colors,” I mistook it for a new CHVRCHES song, so it was fitting that they opened. But their set left me unimpressed. Their cover of “Flesh Without Blood” by Grimes was a noble effort in an otherwise mediocre performance. They seem to be copying GG’s sound and style, as one of the sisters wore a glittery green jacket. What’s next? If Whips’ new album thrusts them to the forefront of local music, will the third Banuelos sister band be hard rocking?

Whips will headline the Beet Street Harvest Festival at Cactus Club in Milwaukee on October 15.

GGOOLLDD will headline Turner Hall Ballroom in Milwaukee on December 2 and The Frequency in Madison on December 9.

VIDEO VILLAINS GO BIG

Speaking of the AM/FM pop-up event, one of the many cool aspects of that night was the Video Villains. The Milwaukee-based visual art projection duo of Michael Britton and Adam Kuhnen have made a name for themselves by creating dynamic backdrops for live music performances. Originally working as DJs and promoters, the duo switched over to video projection after attending an eye-opening party in Minneapolis.

Ad Rock Music Series (PHOTO - Bigshot Robot).
Ad Rock Music Series (PHOTO – Bigshot Robot).

When indie pop rockers Dream Attics made their live debut in May 2015 at Mad Planet Video Villains created a beautiful set with synchronized table lamps, smoke machines and back-projected visuals. That summer they brought their brand of sensory art to the open waters of Lake Michigan on the Noh Life Cruise.

This summer I noticed that I wasn’t seeing their name on local shows as much. That’s because the duo has expanded their vision, collaborating on larger scale events and some that aren’t music related. I emailed Britton to see what the guys have been up to over the past year.

“We still do local shows but have switched our focus to more well thought out events that can help facilitate our creative vision. We are doing Planned Parenthood’s 80th Anniversary party at Potawatomi Casino this Fall, along with the infamous Zombie Pub Crawl in Minneapolis.”

“Some of the highlights of our summer include teaming up with Beauty Bar and Red Bull for an awesome Lollapalooza after party with LCD Soundsystem. We also teamed up with Visit Milwaukee for national tourism week for a two-night projection mapped building installation downtown on the Marcus Performing Arts Center.”

On September 2 my girlfriend and I went to the newly-opened Adventure Rock indoor climbing center/condominiums on Milwaukee’s East Side for the first Ad Rock Music Series event. Having already been involved with the Brookfield location, the Villains created an installation for the Milwaukee site’s grand opening. After that, Adventure Rock was all ears for the prospect of a music series.

“The Ad Rock Music Series is something we have wanted to tackle for a while now. We are always looking for opportunities to host concerts in a non-traditional setting and the climbing gym was the perfect chance for us to transform a space into something Milwaukee has never seen before.”

And indeed it was something unique for not only Milwaukee but Wisconsin. During sets by Boom Boom Klap, Chris Siegel, Strehlow x Ian Ewing, and Win + Woo, the Villains projected custom visuals on an off-white, forty-foot climbing wall. With the padded floor below the climbing walls and the huge open space, it was an awesome environment to experience live music. The Villains are currently planning the second Ad Rock Music event and promise more surprises and bigger names.

MFF 2016 HIGHLIGHTS & LGBT FILM FESTIVAL

The bustling crowds at the 8th installment of the Milwaukee Film Festival put our cinephile tendencies on full display. Though the largest local film fest has wrapped, another beloved celebration of cinema is just around the corner. The 31st Milwaukee LGBT Film/Video Festival officially kicks off October 12. Before previewing some of those films, let’s take a look at some highlights from the MFF.

On Friday September 23 local music and filmmaking luminaries gathered for the second Milwaukee Music Video Show. A few videos made their debut at the festival including Maritime’s cheeky “Roaming Empire,” Fox Face’s eerie “Teenage Wiccan,” and the touching “Doctor My Own Patience” by Serengeti. The entries were cinematic, silly, trippy, haunting, and overall impressive.

Menomonee Falls-native Richard Riehle of Office Space fame appears in Trapper Schoepp’s video for “Settlin’ or Sleepin’ Around.” During the Q & A Schoepp told the crowd how he landed this Hollywood actorby following him into Comet Cafe one afternoon and asking him politely.

Canopies “Getting Older” utilizes infrared structured light imaging. During the Q & A we learned that this technique was achieved by hacking an Xbox Kinect camera and using open-source hardware and custom software. In Fabian James & Treyy G’s “See You” the dynamic moves of breakdancer Andrei Duka Antipov were captured by a homemade camera rig that spun around Antipov. Interestingly, director Quinn Hester randomly met the singer during a visit to an Apple Store.

The first time I saw Group of the Altos’ video for “Coplights” it was an emotional experience. The texture and imagery are both beautiful and bleak, perfectly matching the song. All dozen-plus members of the group appear in the video. Seeing “Coplights” on the big screen at the Oriental was ten times as emotional, considering the band is currently on hiatus. Whether GOTA returns or not, the video stands as a testament to one of the greatest ensembles in Wisconsin music history.

Throughout the Milwaukee Music Video Show two camps emerged as the premier local music video makers: Sane Crew and Cody LaPlant/Damien Klaven, each with three entries. While the Sane Crew video for WC Tank’s “27th & National” was a worthy contender for best video, LaPlant/Klaven took home the award for their work on WebsterX’s “Lately.”

The Milwaukee LGBT Film/Video Festival will unspool at the UWM Union Cinema next week, save for the Opening Night film, which will be at the Oriental Theatre. Kiki (October 12, 7 p.m., Oriental) kicks off the festival by revisiting the NYC scene where LGBTQ youth-of-color found agency and inspiration in the Kiki balls profiled in the landmark 1990 documentary Paris is Burning.

Another loosely music-related film is Spa Night (October 15, 7 p.m.), about a first generation Korean-American young man struggling with homosexual desires, set principally in the nocturnal world of spas and karaoke bars in LA’s Koreatown. Actor Joe Seo won the Special Jury Award for breakthrough performance at Sundance.

The legacy of the oldest Black owned disco in America is featured in Jewel’s Catch One (October 17, 7 p.m.). The film is rich with music from the last forty years, plus exclusive interviews with the likes of Madonna, Sandra Bernhard and more, as it chronicles Jewel-Thais Williams’ four decades of music, fashion, celebrity and activism. Williams and director C. Fitz will be in attendance.

As part of the Closing Night program Who Wants Cake?: An Evening of Community Shorts (October 23, 7 p.m.) there will be a short about the first and only gay-themed country music album. Forty years after its release Patrick Heggerty’s Lavender Country (1973) is being heralded as “resonant and wonderful…a rare act of bravery and honesty.” The short documentary (These C*cksucking Tears) explores Heggerty’s unlikely personal journey.

FOX FACE IMPRESSES WITH WITCHY WAYS

In the last issue of WiG I wrote about the ladies of New Boyz Club, who celebrated their debut EP release on September 30 at Company Brewing. For that performance they put together a lineup of supporting acts featuring talented females, including Sista Strings, Hello Death and the power punk quartet of Fox Face, the only band on the bill I hadn’t yet seen.

Hot off the release of their first vinyl pressingthe Teenage Wiccan 7-inchand the debut of their video for “Teenage Wiccan” at the Milwaukee Music Video Show, Fox Face thoroughly impressed in a live setting.

Back in April during the Arte Para Todos festival I heard that Fox Face’s abrasive volume elicited noise complaints from a neighbor of Brenner Brewing Company, where the show was being held. Allegedly, the neighbor had a decibel level App on his iPhone that he used to prove how deafening the sound was.

Indeed, Fox Face plays loud and fast, but with plenty of skill and charisma to back up the big decibels. During their set Fox Face did an awesome cover of Britney Spears’ “Toxic,” which they hadn’t performed since PrideFest. “We’ve got a wiccan set up by our merch table,” bassist Mary-Jo mentioned. “Stop by and we’ll have a séance.” Their witchy sounds and style have made Fox Face one of the best punk bands in Wisconsin.

NEW MUSIC FROM SIREN, El-SHAREEF, and GGOOLLDD

"Priestess" artwork by Janice Vogt.
“Priestess” artwork by Janice Vogt.

Since taking the city by storm last year with their rapturous live performances, the New Age Narcissism collective has put out some of the best music in Wisconsin. Q the Sun released two excellent projects with WebsterX (KidX) and Lorde Fredd33 (Dead Man’s View), while Lex Allen put out the Social Me Duh EP and the excellent single “Cream and Sugar (ft. WebsterX).” Though she often steals the live show with her magnetic voice and presence, Siren has only released a few songs, including “Queen Medusa.” There have long been talks of an EP, but so far nothing has stuck. That is, until now. “Priestess” (produced by Mic Kellogg) is the first single from Siren’s forthcoming project. Fingers crossed.

Siren will perform live in support of Gosh Pith on October 7 in the Back Room at Colectivo in Milwaukee. Also sharing the bill will be NO/NO and Liquid City Motors.

El-Shareef, the author of one my top six Wisconsin hip-hop projects of the year, is back with an uncharacteristically upbeat Derelle Rideout produced joint called “Uniform Souls.” It’s the first single off Reef’s forthcoming debut album that will be released on vinyl through Germany’s Radio Juicy. Give it a listen here.

img_7552Two weeks after they rocked a packed house at the old Hotel Foster space for the AM/FM event (mentioned above), synthpop heavyweights GGOOLLDD dropped a new song and announced they’ll be returning to headline Turner Hall Ballroom on December 2 with Har Mar Superstar and Flint Eastwood. The new track, “Undercovers,” marks a turning point in the writing process for the group, as all five members provided input. It was recorded with Ben H. Allen in his Atlanta recording studio in August. It is GG’s best use of guitar to date and another banger for their repertoire. Listen to it here.

NEW VIDEO FROM SOUL LOW

Though it’s a couple months later than I originally reported in my feature on heavy surf pop rockers Soul Low, their new video for “Be Like You” has finally been released. As they mentioned in our interview, it’s “like Pee Wee Herman suburban insanity,” and a nice example of the Soul boys tendency to perform in drag at house shows. Also, it’s somewhat of a preview for their Gloss Records presents: Halloween Spooktacular show at Cactus Club on October 28. Last year on Halloween they performed in full KISS costumes. What will the boys be this year?

Wisconsin Sound #4

As summer winds down Wisconsin music fans soak in the last sun-drenched and moonlit hours of outdoor music. The threat of rain held at for the inaugural Milwaukee Fringe Festival, where Tigernite and Milo turned in powerful headlining sets. The Underwear Bike Ride in Milwaukee’s Riverwest neighborhood threw another epic after party. Hear Here Presents, an independent video performance series, moved into a new studio space. Christopher Porterfield (Field Report) tells me about Argopelter, his improvisational rock trio. Plus, a new video from Milwaukee rapper AR Wesley featuring Von Alexander, and WiG recommended events.

HEAR HERE PRESENTS MOVES INTO NEW SPACE

Back when I was a college radio DJ and video student in Minneapolis I occasionally helped shoot the “Live on Radio K” in-studio performances. These are intimate recordings with up-and-coming bands, similar to the “Live on KEXP” series. While both 91.7 WMSE and 88Nine Radio Milwaukee host in-studio sessions with local and national bands, these performances are not video recorded for the public.

Hear Here Presents, an independent series produced by local comedian and music lover Ryan Holman, is filling that void in Milwaukee. The series is inspired by Audiotree Live, NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts, La Blogothèque, Live & Breathing, and Live on KEXP. In their first year Hear Here Presents has captured over 20 performances with local and national bands including Soul Low, Foreign Goods, and BUHU. This summer they moved from a loft on South Second Street across from Purple Door Ice Cream to the Lincoln Warehouse on South First Street.

Hear Here’s new home is shared with eleven other tenants, one of them being Milwaukee band The Cavewives. Their audio engineers use it to record music, while Holman’s girlfriend Jenny Vanderheiden uses it as a studio for her painting, making it a multi-purpose space.

GGOOLLDD performs at the new Hear Here Presents studio space. (Photo: Katelyn Hoffman)
GGOOLLDD performs at the new Hear Here Presents studio space. (Photo: Katelyn Hoffman)

I visited Hear Here’s studio on a recent Sunday for a shoot with local dream pop darlings GGOOLLDD. A crowd of about forty people were mingling and snacking. The space is filled with vintage furniture, band tour posters, plants and framed landscape paintings behind the performance area. Vanderheiden has added bright, colorful rivers to the paintings.

Hear Hear Presents uses high-end equipment to record both audio and video. It is currently a self-funded and volunteer-run endeavor, but Holman’s goal is to eventually be in partnership with a larger media outlet that can provide funding and distribution, though he’d like to maintain a curatorial role.

I spoke with Holman before the GGOOLLDD shoot.

RH: The new space is more professional, it feels more sharp. The last place was great but the building was kind of falling apart. This feels more like an actual recording studio than a loft. It’s a little bit bigger than the last space and the layout is different. The audience had to be off to the side in the last space, whereas now they can kind of wrap around.

GGOOLLDD began their performance with a stripped down version of “Younger Days.” Keyboardist and guitarist Thomas Gilbert played an acoustic guitar. After a change over the band returned fully electric, and Holman’s team fired up a smoke machine. He announced it was the first time they’ve used one, which elicited cheers from the crowd. The band then played “City Lights,” followed by their signature single “Gold.” After the cameras stopped rolling they played a few more songs for fun.

Because of their move Hear Here’s backlog has grown. It will take a few months before the GGOOLLDD video is out. In the meantime click here to check out their video library and music recommendations.

ARGOPELTER AT BOONE & CROCKETT

Field Report is one of the most successful Wisconsin bands of the last decade. The folk rock outfit has garnered praise from Rolling Stone and Billboard magazines. In celebration of their sophomore release, Marigolden, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett proclaimed October 22, 2014, to be “Field Report Day.”

As part of Arte Para Todos 2016, a festival that raises awareness and resources for struggling arts and music programs in Milwaukee Public Schools, I brought Field Report frontman Christopher Porterfield and bassist Barry Paul Clark to Escuela Vieau School.

Porterfield regaled the Vieau middle schoolers with road stories and told them how a failed commercial jingle turned into one of his biggest singles. For the actual festival Porterfield performed a daytime solo set at Lux Bar and Lounge, a small black owned establishment that doesn’t typically host singer-songwriters.

Argopelter at Boone & Crockett (Photo: Joe Kirschling)
Argopelter at Boone & Crockett (Photo: Joe Kirschling)

No stranger to non-traditional venues and arrangements, Porterfield and Clark, along with prolific jazz drummer Devin Drobka, began playing improvisational rock sets at a small bar in the Bay View neighborhood under the moniker Argopelter. The sets take place once or twice a month on Mondays at Boone & Crockett. The trio first met playing at the “Alverno Presents: Unlooped vs. Marvin Gaye” concert.

On a recent Monday I went to see Argopelter. Porterfield told me that he’s happy with the progress of the new Field Report album and that it’s being recorded locally at Wire & Vice with engineer Daniel Holter. Porterfield actually had to leave the previous Argopelter performance early because his wife went into labor with their first child.

Argopelter tunes feel like extended, epic introductions to a Field Report song. Towards the end of the second set Porterfield heavily employed pedal effects to the point where one song sounded like the soundtrack to a superhero movie trailer. Their last song brought to mind Led Zeppelin’s “When the Levee Breaks,” with Porterfield throwing in some faint vocals at the end. Overall, Argopelter is heavier and headier than what Field Report fans might be used to.

I emailed Porterfield and asked him what he likes about Argopelter.

CP: Argopelter really stretches me out. Most of what I do in other groups is composed and considered beforehand. Argopelter forces me to listen and trust. I love playing with Barry and Devin, and I’ve grown to trust myself as a player more from playing with and trusting them.

What we do is improvised, but it’s very different from jamming. It’s more meditative. It’s more moment-sensitive. It reacts and supports, and only injects point of view when one of us has something to say. We’re ok with a piece stalling out. There’s a lot of trust between us, the wonderful people at Boone & Crocket, and the audience we’ve developed. We’d all love to transcend, but we all know you can’t get there every time.

Some of the audience we’ve carved out is from the jazz community, and sometimes we invite someone to sit in on our second set. That’s always interesting. The three of us have become pretty sensitive to one another, and are hyper-aware of different energy. Sometimes it’s an exciting fit, and we all hear each other and blast off in new directions. Other times the vibe isn’t right. But every exploration yields some moment of discovery.

The next Argopelter performance at Boone & Crockett will be Monday September 12.

UNDERWEAR BIKE RIDE AFTER PARTY

Milwaukee’s Riverwest neighborhood has a number of uncanny traditions. A few of those include bike riding. The annual “Riverwest 24” attracts riders from all over the city to compete in a 24-hour bike relay and communal hang. A smaller, but no less enthusiastic crowd gathers once a month in the summer for the Underwear Bike Ride (UBR). This celebration of positive body image, originally founded by Steve Roche in 2011, has grown organically over the years and regularly turns out over a hundred riders, especially when the weather cooperates.

June 2016 Underwear Bike Ride
June 2016 Underwear Bike Ride

The Underwear Bike Ride is followed by an after party concert. There have been some wild after parties, including Foreign Goods debut last summer at Bremen Cafe. Lorde Fredd33 opened the show, which took place shortly after the racially-charged South Carolina shooting. Fredd33 walked out in a ripped Confederate Flag tank top, which was eventually thrown into the crowd and lit on fire. (And then safely stomped out by Roche.) This June the Nashville-based, perpetually touring, immersive DIY dance party Terror Pigeon headlined the UBR after party at Company Brewing.

Last week Gloss Records label heads Harrison Colby and Joey Peterson got to play together at the UBR after party at Mad Planet. Their respective bands, NO/NO and Platinum Boys, opened for Baltimore’s Ed Schrader’s Music Beat. The show was originally scheduled for Quarters Rock ‘N Roll Palace, but Roche reached out to Peterson about making it the official UBR after party and moving it to the larger Mad Planet.

I wasn’t able to make it to the Underwear Bike Ride, so last Friday I went to High Dive to talk to Peterson about the show. When I arrived bartender Connor LaMue told me Peterson had just taken off for an early show at Bremen Cafe. Before leaving I chatted with LaMue, a member of the band Bad Wig, and he told me about a new noise band he’s in with Colby from NO/NO and two other people. They haven’t played out yet but they have three songs, they’re called Sex Scenes, and LaMue feels good about it. He was just getting over his hangover from the after party at Mad Planet and managed to take a tequila shot with me before I left to talk to Peterson.

Platinum Boys play the Underwear Bike Ride After Party (Photo: Ryan Patrick Ross)
Platinum Boys play the Underwear Bike Ride After Party (Photo: Ryan Patrick Ross)

JP: I was extremely pleased with the participation of the riders. It was cool to expose them to Ed Schrader’s Music Beat. There was probably 200 more people. It was a nice mix of people who were going to the show and the underwear riders. The riders bought merch and were into the bands. They had all that adrenaline after going on a cruise like that, plus they’re in their undies. That’s like taking care of three steps of the party. Ideally that’s where it gets by three in the morning, but if you’re starting that way at 9:30 p.m. you’re in good shape.

Peterson, better known as Joey Turbo, is also the singer/leader of trash dance pop outfit Rio Turbo, who will be playing the Mondo Lucha! “When Worlds Collide” event at Turner Hall Ballroom on September 9. Mondo Lucha! is an annual wrestling event inspired by the “Lucha Libre” form of professional Mexican wrestling. The event was founded by Andy Gorzalski in 2008. This year’s Mondo Lucha! will also feature burlesque dancers and a performance by Rio Turbo.

JP: I’m fucking stoked. That’s what kicked off the whole Rio Turbo thing. Not to play a wrestling event, but that idea of obsessing over professional wrestling as a child.

WiG: So you’re hitting a Rio Turbo benchmark?

JP: Yeah. I’d say all that’s left is a bowling alley and a strip club.

The final Underwear Bike Ride of 2016 will be on September 16, with an after party featuring Juiceboxxx (MKE/NYC) and Show Me The Body (NYC).

Mondo Lucha! “When Worlds Collide” is September 9, at Turner Hall Ballroom.

MILWAUKEE FRINGE FEST MUSIC HEADLINERS

In addition to producing Hear Here Presents, Ryan Holman helped out with the inaugural Milwaukee Fringe Festival’s outdoor music stage. Early morning showers on Saturday August 27, were concerning, but the rain cleared up and stayed away for the entirety of the Fringe Fest’s outdoor music series.

Held at the Pere Marquette Park gazebo, the lineup included Milwaukee stalwarts Platinum Boys, ZED KENZO, Mark Waldoch, Abby Jeanne (Rebel Love), Piles, Ruth B8r Ginsburg, Ugly Brothers, and Light Music. It also featured out-of-towners Oh My Love (Madison), Seasaw (Madison), plus lesser known Milwaukee acts like LUXI, Zhivago, and Lady Cannon.

I visited the park, where the Wednesday night summer music series River Rhythms usually takes place, to catch the each headliner: Tigernite on Saturday and Milo on Sunday.

Tigernite is one of those bands that you couldn’t not hear about if you’ve been paying attention to Milwaukee music these last couple of years. They were the feature band at the 2015 Milwaukee Film Fest opening night party. This year they played just about every street festival and were one of the standout acts at Arte Para Todos. Fringe Fest would be my first time seeing a full set from the energetic glam rock band.

Tigernite at Fringe Festival (Photo: Joey Grihalva)
Tigernite at MKE Fringe Fest (Photo: Joey Grihalva)

The most prominent aspect of Tigernite’s music is lead singer Molly Roberts voice. Love it or hate it, Roberts voice is a little Pat Benatar, a little Lita Ford, turned up a few notches. Their music sounds like something from the late ‘90s/early 2000s alternative rock scene. Guitarist Maxwell Emmet has long flowing rock star hair, and he plays the part well. At one point he hopped off-stage and ran through the crowd. Roberts one-upped him and poured a jar of glitter on her head, which stuck to some of the paint she smeared on her face and arms beforehand. She was a spark throughout the set, bouncing up and down, whipping her bi-colored (one half white, one half black) hair around, and even donned shiny black wings at one point.  Between the band’s showmanship and Roberts powerful pipes, Tigernite delivered a hard-hitting, entertaining performance.

There has been much talk of the bubbling Milwaukee hip-hop scene in the last few years. In my first feature for WiG I wrote about the best rap albums (so far) of 2016. When it comes to artistry, Milo is on a level all to himself. This surely has something to do with the formative year he spent in Los Angeles with the Hellfyre Club collective. Not to mention, Milo has logged more tour miles than any other rapper in Wisconsin under 30. His stage presence has elevated considerably since I first saw him at Arte Para Todos 2015.

When I arrived at 8:55 p.m. on Sunday August 28, Milo’s signature sparse production could be heard echoing through the park. I worried that he had started early and I missed most of his set. But he was merely sound checking. Turns out, a Milo sound check is better than most rappers singles. Once he felt good about the levels he invited the modest crowd to come closer to the stage.

“It takes a lot of precious energy to rap in the park. It’s been a minute since a brother rapped in the park,” Milo told the crowd.

Milo at Fringe Fest. (Photo: Joey Grihalva)
Milo at MKE Fringe Fest. (Photo: Joey Grihalva)

Throughout his set Milo repeated the refrain, “Thanks for coming to my job,” and “Glad you could make it to my place of work.” His white painter outfit emphasized this “blue collar rap” theme. Whereas some rappers see their music as a hobby, a get-rich-quick scheme, a way to get laid, etc., for Milo rap is simply his profession. When you see him live you can tell he puts in the hours, carefully crafting his art.

When I spoke with Milo earlier this year he told me he had been thinking about how to add theatrical elements to his live performance. At his Fringe Fest set there weren’t overt “bits,” but his movements were far more expressive. His interaction and appreciation for the audience was incredibly genuine. Where most musicians connect with the audience during eruptions of noise, Milo and his audience commune in those quiet moments between songs.

Early in his set Milo showed love to the festival and the audience for embracing the fringe spirit, of which is music squarely fits into. With that spirit in mind, he debuted a new song that he created the day before. Later in the set he brought intense ferocity to an unreleased BLM-themed song with lyrics about how “David Clarke hates himself” that was so powerful it gave me goosebumps. Considering the intimacy of the park setting and the free admission, it was a very special evening. Milo’s next performance will be this Friday at the sprawling, expensive, weekend-long Hopscotch Music Festival in Raleigh, North Carolina.

WiG RECOMMENDED EVENTS

SEPT 8: Athletic Supply with Iron Pizza, Apollo Vermouth, and Proud Parents (Madison) at High Dive in Milwaukee. For more on Athletic Supply see my upcoming feature on Close Up of the Serene in this issue of WiG.

SEPT 10: The Movement V2: I Am Milwaukee – This unique, family-friendly, outdoor/indoor event will take place at the Beerline Trail in Milwaukee from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. From their Facebook event: “Using a series of compilation albums and events, “The Movement” demonstrates the power of musical talent at work in our city. Volume 2 highlights a pool of extremely talented Milwaukee producers. The release event brings together a diverse selection of our skilled hip hop, house and techno producers/djs, pushing against genre division, segregation, and building community.” For more information click here.

SEPT 10: 91.7 WMSE Backyard BBQ – In its 7th year, but first under the Humboldt Park Bandshell, Milwaukee’s favorite college radio station throws their free end of summer barbeque bash. Featuring performances by national acts Balkun Brothers, Sonny Knight and The Lakers, plus local bands Trapper Schoepp, Midwest Death Rattle and Doghouse Flowers.

SEPT 17: Rock the Green – After taking three years off, Southeastern Wisconsin’s premier sustainability-themed music festival is back. This year it will be held at the Reed Street Yards along the Menomonee River in Milwaukee. The mainstage lineup features international indie heavyweights Lord Huron, Best Coast, Robert DeLong, The Heavy, and Thao and the Get Down Stay Down. Local favorites New Age Narcissism, NO/NO, Eagle Trace, Foreign Goods, Evan Christian, and Great Lake Drifters will be play a pedal-powered side stage. Each ticket comes with a reusable water bottle. For more information and tickets click here.

SEPT 17: Rusty Pelicans album release –  Of my picks for the six best Wisconsin hip-hop albums (so far) of 2016 only one was forthcoming, Apartment 7 by the Rusty Pelicans. With two decades in the game, the Pelicans reunited their original lineup and brought in some of the best local talent to assist them on the new album, a return to form for Milwaukee’s longest-running hip-hop group. Sharing the bill at Company Brewing will be Mammyth, AR Wesley, Bo & Airo, and DJ MadHatter.

SEPT 17: Foreign Goods EP release – Gloss Records celebrates their first live recording cassette/digital release at Mad Planet in Milwaukee. Taken from their headlining set at Summer Soulstice in June, this live recording captures the dynamic performance of jazz/soul/funk/hip-hop supergroup Foreign Goods. Sharing the bill will be Lorde Fredd33.

SEPT 17: Jazz at the Jazz Gallery – Between 1978 and 1984 the Jazz Gallery on Center Street in Milwaukee was one of the premier jazz clubs in the country. Owner Chuck LaPaglia brought in the likes of Chet Baker, Art Blakey, Dizzy Gillespie, Stan Getz, Sonny Stitt, and Wynton Marsalis. Today the Jazz Gallery Center of the Arts hosts a variety of events, but are keeping their jazz legacy alive. Next Saturday features the Ryan Measel Quartet at 5 p.m., followed by the Billy Johnson Trio at 7 p.m., which features Milwaukee jazz legends Manty Ellis and Victor Campbell.

NEW AR WESLEY VIDEO

Directed by Rob Randolph and Raphael Roby, one of the best tracks off AR Wesley’s 2015 EP Time is Millmatic, “Here iGO ft. Von Alexander,” gets the slick visual treatment. The track is produced by Mike Regal, who appears in the video alongside another Milwaukee heavyweight, Reggie Bonds, and probably a few more rappers.

Wisconsin Sound #2

Wisconsin music makers have been busy these last few weeks. Appleton’s Mile of Music pulled off their fourth festival. One of the most anticipated Wisconsin albums of the yearNosebleeds by Soul Lowwas released on August 5. For more on Soul Low see my upcoming feature in WiG.

The attention of the international media will be on Eau Claire this weekend, as Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) and friends host the second Eaux Claires Music & Arts Festival. I will bring you my report in the next issue of WiG. Now I offer my rundown of Mile of Music, the Milwaukee Public Library’s inaugural “Library Loud Days,” a couple Company Brewing shows, and the latest addition to Milwaukee’s impressive roster of festivals.

Synth Fest MKE

A new Milwaukee festival debuted last month in the Bay View neighborhood. Produced by the people at Acme Recordsa music store on S. Kinnickinnic Avethe inaugural Synth Fest MKE put the spotlight on electronic music. Barry Paul Clark, bassist in several Wisconsin bands including Field Report and the mind behind adoptahighway, told me that what made the festival unique is it provided an outlet to artists who don’t often perform live.

Synth Fest MKE

The experimental, electronic music scene in Milwaukee can be very introverted. It is usually one person spending a lot of time working with different recording technologies and machines in isolation. The festival was really special because it showed us that we’re all kind of speaking the same language and living in the same universe, so there can be a community around it.”

One of those people who rarely plays out is John Goezler, who performed as BTS.WRKNG on the second night of the festival. Clark was happy to see Goezler, as he was one of the first people Clark met in the electronic scene after moving back to Milwaukee from New York City. Synth Fest MKE comprised two nights of music at Cactus Club and two days at Acme Records on July 23 and July 24.

I caught Clark as adoptahighway on the first night and he delivered a powerfully haunting set. On my way out of Cactus Club I ran into a guy who looked like but was not Nick Schubert of GGOOLLDD, which made me sad he wasn’t playing the festival as his Holy Visions side project. Maybe next year.

“Library Loud Days” inaugural event

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In an attempt to redefine Milwaukee’s concept of their library, the Central Branch became a lively, interactive destination on July 28. Out front on Wisconsin Avenue there was a block party with V100 DJs, food and beer vendors. Inside there was an instrument station, a music video display, free popcorn, a photo booth, spoken word, and a headlining performance from New Age Narcissism (NAN), Milwaukee’s premier hip-hop collective. The stage was set up inside the Schoenleber Reading Room. The packed audience, from toddlers to senior citizens, gave NAN a warm reception, feeding off their infectious energy. It was a beautiful night of music in a place where I never thought I’d get the chance to chant, dance, sing and stomp.

The Lion’s Ball and Strange Fruit

Company Brewing in Milwaukee is usually closed on Monday, but when Milwaukee saxophonist Jay Anderson requested that his birthday party fall on his actual birthdayMonday July 25owner George Bregar gladly complied. After all, Anderson helps book Company’s Wednesday night jazz supper club series. “The Lion’s Ball” also honored Tarik Moody of 88Nine Radio Milwaukee. It was quite the social affair, with some good music thrown in.

The Lion's Ball poster by Rachel Hughes.
The Lion’s Ball poster by Rachel Hughes.

D’Amato turned in an inspired set with a smaller backing band than usual and dedicated a cover of Amy Winehouse’s “I Heard Love Is Blind” to Anderson, who is a huge fan of Winehouse. The headlining band featured Fred Boswell Jr., arguably the best drummer in town, and Angie Swan, an accomplished guitarist from Milwaukee who is spending some time back home before another high profile gig elsewhere. They jammed along with Quentin Farr, Alan Harris, Terry Harris, and B-Free.

This weekend (August 12 – 14) Anderson has co-curated the Strange Fruit music festival, which seeks to “explore the thoughts and emotions of local musicians, regarding the current climate of racial relations both in Milwaukee and the country as a whole.” It was inspired by a community dinner that included Anderson, Chauntee Ross (SistaStrings) and others. It is co-produced by Tarik Moody and David Ravel (former director of Alverno Presents), will be held at the Hotel Foster, Company Brewing, and Cactus Club, and features a very strong lineup of hip-hop, jazz, folk, rock and poetry performances.

Siamese and the new Nightgown lineup

Company Brewing hosted another special event on Tuesday August 2, as Dallas, TX glam rock band Siamese visited Milwaukee. This weeknight show also saw the debut of Nightgown’s new lineup, Milwaukee singer Gina Barrington’s latest project. She was joined by Amelinda Burich, Thomas Gilbert (GGOOLLDD) and Erin Wolf (Hello Death, WMSE). Local artist Kristina Rolander created her fourth custom, hand painted backdrop for the Company stage. (Full disclosure, Rolander is my girlfriend.)

Nightgown at Company Brewing. (Photo by Joe Kirschling)
Nightgown at Company Brewing. (Photo by Joe Kirschling)

The glittery, neon, geological rock inspired backdrop flowed seamlessly with Siamese’s outfits and face paint, elevating the young band’s gorgeous, groovy sound. Milwaukee’s Marielle Allschwang, who made one of the best Wisconsin records of 2015Dead Not Donefinished the night with a spirited set. At one point she improvised a song with fellow Hello Death member Nathaniel Heuer in which she sang, “I want to be the dirt.” The sentiment seemed morbid until she followed it up with, “I want to help it grow.” It was a magical midsummer evening with an excellently curated lineup.

Cory Chisel and Mile Of Music 4

Appleton-native Cory Chisel has carved himself a nice place in the music industry, splitting time between his hometown and Nashville, TN. On July 29, his “World Tour of Wisconsin” stopped at the newly-opened MobCraft Brewery in Milwaukee. The sound wasn’t great as it reverberated between the brewing tanks, but Chisel and his band had an enthusiastic crowd. The vocal talents of J-Council were a highlight of the performance, part of a nine-city tour sponsored by USA Today that takes Chisel and his band to non-traditional venues representing what they love most about our state: breweries, barns, bookstores, supper clubs and riverboats.

Four years ago Chisel founded Mile of Music, an Americana/roots festival that has attracted thousands of visitors to downtown Appleton. The 2016 installment featured over 800 performances by more than 200 acts at 70 venues over four days on one mile. I visited “Mile 4” on Saturday August 6, staying at the Radisson Paper Valley Hotel right in the heart of the action on College Avenue.

The festival can be overwhelming, with so many performances in bars, storefronts, alleys and outdoor stages. During my time I discovered the sweet, nervy indie-folk rock of Idle Empress (Eau Claire), the saintly-voiced Paul Otteson (Madison), and the derivative electro-hop of Oh My Love (Madison). It was no magic trick when Milwaukee favorites GGOOLLDD got Houdini Plaza dancing and debuted an uncharacteristically dark new song (working title “Undercovers.”)

The highlight of “Mile 4” for me was the festival’s first hip-hop showcase, curated by Milwaukee’s Lex Allen of New Age Narcissism. His collective headlined the five-hour block, which also included Milwaukeeans Fivy, Queen Tut, Mic Kellogg, AUTOmatic, Chakara Blu, Zed Kenzo, Rahn Harper, Cree Myles, Bo and Airo, and Chicago’s Ric Wilson.

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The showcase was held at Lawrence University’s Stansbury Theatre, which was somewhat hard to find on the east end of the mile and had no beverage service. Even so, it was a success in that it exposed interested festival-goers to an underrepresented and often misunderstood genre of music, and some of its most talented local creators. After his show at MobCraft Brewery I spoke with Chisel about the hip-hop showcase.

“I’ve loved Lex for about two years. We played Summerfest and he was on the stage across from me. When I saw him I was like, “Who the hell is that?” So I tracked him down and we’ve become really good friends. He comes up to Appleton and visits. When I had the opportunity to expand the mind of our town with some new programming I immediately thought of Lex. The singer-songwriters are great but I think the festival needs what he brings.”

New videos by NO/NO, The Fatty Acids, and Airo Kwil

The last couple of weeks saw the debut of videos from one of the best Wisconsin albums of the year (NO/NO’s “Television” off Sound and Light), one of the best Wisconsin albums of the last 20 years (The Fatty Acids’ “Little Brother Syndrome” off Boléro), and the first single, “Run Away Now,” from Airo Kwil‘s upcoming album Best Served Cold.

 

Wisconsin Sound 1

Salutations, WiG readers, and welcome to Wisconsin Sound, a new column that will explore the state’s thriving music scene. My name is Joey Grihalva, and I’ll serve as your intrepid guide, focusing on recent and upcoming events and releases from local musicians.

It’s been my pleasure to cover local music for various media outlets over the past few years, and I’m honored to continue my journey at Wisconsin Gazette.

Milwaukee raised me. After high school, I traveled for most of my 20s before returning home in late 2013. I came back to discover a more vibrant city than ever and a local music scene that’s driving a cultural renaissance.

We live in a world where 1,500 streams are equivalent to an album sale on the Billboard charts, and music videos can be seen by millions without ever being broadcast on TV. The internet has allowed musicians to reach an international audience without living in a major market or depending on a corporate network.

Touring is now the primary source of revenue for most musicians, elevating the importance of great live performances. Wisconsin has begun to carve out a place within this ever-evolving, globalized music industry.

This debut column will recap some of the major moments in Milwaukee music that I’ve experienced since returning home:

• The first time I heard “Gold” by GGOOLLDD on the radio.

I immediately Shazamed this dreamy, infectious single, but didn’t learn the group was from Milwaukee until months later. GGOOLLDD’s synth-pop sound and stylish, theatrical look is more than ready for late night TV. The sold-out audience who attended its January performance at Turner Hall Ballroom would agree. The group is one of just two local bands to headline and sell out Turner since 2000. (The other being Kings Go Forth.)

NAN performs at Siummerfest 2016
NAN performs at Siummerfest 2016 —PHOTO: Mahdi Gransberry

• Klassik releases “YRP” at Fire on Water on Dec. 13, 2013. Klassik was the golden child of Milwaukee hip-hop at the time, hot off the success of his funky single “Boogie.” He went on to redefine himself as both a powerful soloist and a member of two of the city’s finest supergroups — Group of the Altos and Foreign Goods.

But the primary significance of Dec. 13, 2013 was the birth of New Age Narcissism. That night, WebsterX met Q the Sun and together, along with Lex Allen, Lorde Fredd33, Siren, Christopher Gilbert, and a gang of affiliates, they ultimately created NAN — the vanguard of Milwaukee music. The collective’s intimate, all-ages debut on Jan. 30, 2015, at the Jazz Gallery Center for the Arts is a recent highlight of Wisconsin music history.

• Arte Para Todos 2015 and 2016. This benefit festival, founded by The Fatty Acids frontman Josh Evert and Made in Milwaukee’s Chuck Watson, took the city by surprise in the winter of 2015. The weekend long event, spread out over three neighborhoods, showcased a uniquely collaborative spirit throughout the local music scene. It also raised awareness and resources for struggling arts and music programs in Milwaukee schools.

Milo (aka Scallops Hotel)

APT 2015 was also my introduction to critically acclaimed rapper Milo (aka Scallops Hotel). It was his first show since relocating to Milwaukee from Los Angeles. APT 2016 expanded into an additional neighborhood and brought more musicians into schools for private, interactive performances just for students.

• Rio Turbo’s self-titled release show at Linneman’s Riverwest Inn on March 27, 2015. Linneman’s was definitely at capacity that night. The delirious, throbbing crowd was led by Joey Peterson (aka Joey Turbo). The beloved singer, bassist, label owner, bartender and party boy is a staple of the Milwaukee scene. Gloss Records, his label with Harrison Colby, is a leader in defining and supporting Milwaukee’s emerging sound, including NO/NO’s fantastic new record “Sound and Light.”

Jan. 22, 2015, was for me another significant night at Linneman’s — my introduction to Gloss artist Soul Low and Whips, two of the best rock bands in town. It also happened to be the day WebsterX’s game-changing video for “doomsday (feat. siren)” debuted.

• Jam sessions at Jay Anderson’s house. Saxophonist Jay Anderson was on his way to a rehearsal for Alverno Presents: Jones Uncovered when we first met. That production brought together multiple generations of Milwaukee musicians and since then Anderson has hosted informal jams at his Riverwest home on Humboldt Boulevard.

The warm, plant-lined space, packed with friends and musicians, brings to mind the St. Albans house jams that spawned the era of the Soulquarians (J Dilla, D’Angelo, Erykah Badu, Common, Mos Def, and others) in late 1990s/early 2000s Philadelphia, as described by Questlove (of The Roots) in his memoir Mo’ Meta Blues.

• Inaugural Eaux Claires Festival, July 17–18, 2015. Grammy-winning indie rock outfit Bon Iver, fronted by Eau Claire native Justin Vernon, is internationally adored and the most recent group to put Wisconsin on the music map. Vernon’s inaugural hometown festival, co-curated with The National’s Aaron Dessner, attracted fans from all over the world.

Wisconsin’s Eaux Claires Festival

The lineup relied heavily on Vernon’s circle, which is more Minnesota-heavy than Wisconsin, given Eau Claire is closer to the Twin Cities than our state’s urban areas. Milwaukee’s Field Report and Jon Mueller took part in EC 2015 and Appleton’s Tenement will play EC 2016. Like Arte Para Todos, a collaborative spirit characterized this Chippewa River-adjacent camping festival. In two weeks I will “Return to the River” and bring you a festival recap.

• Group of the Altos on a boat, Sept. 16, 2015. At one point GOTA had as many as 16 members. Even with their recent restructuring, they remain the most interesting band in Milwaukee. GOTA creates beautifully epic indie rock that builds and explodes. What better way to hear GOTA than on Lake Michigan and the Milwaukee River?

The combination of our scenic waterways and music scene makes for magical evenings aboard the Vista King and Voyageur. It is one of the things that make Milwaukee a special place. With concert cruises, cheap rent, local labels, a pair of supportive non-commercial radio stations, and an abundance of festivals, the Milwaukee music scene is ripe. This column will keep you connected to music and bands from all over Wisconsin.

 

 

Yum Yum Fest

Summer may be coming to an end, but Madison has at least one more party left in the season. The annual Yum Yum Fest, organized by the Madison Area Chefs Network, will give chefs from 24 restaurants a chance to highlight their creative cuisine. The event also hosts regional and national music acts, including Milwaukee synthpop group GGOOLLDD and alternative hip-hop artist Lizzo.

At Central Park, 202 S. Ingersoll St. Tickets are $10, with $5 food and drink tickets. Visit yumyumfest.org for more details.

3 p.m. Aug. 23