Tag Archives: Jay Anderson

Local Coverage challenges and unites Milwaukee musicians

By Joey Grihalva

A few years back Milwaukee’s arts and culture scene lost an important voice with the demise of the local branch of The Onion A.V. Club. Thankfully, city editor Matt Wild went on to team up with freelance writer Tyler Maas and launched the website Milwaukee Record in April 2014, offering a unique brand of “music, culture, and gentle sarcasm.”

Since its inception, Milwaukee Record has produced a signature benefit event called Local Coverage. The idea is simple: local bands and rappers cover each other’s material. Proceeds from the event are donated to worthy local organizations like Girls Rock Milwaukee and COA Youth & Family Centers.

On the surface the event might seem a bit like “inside baseball” something only the musicians and critics such as myself might enjoy. However, after attending Local Coverage 2017 at Turner Hall Ballroom last Friday, I learned that the event has a surprisingly broad appeal.

The fact is that good musicians are good musicians, no matter what material they are performing. Not to mention, as someone who covers local music, it’s always refreshing to see an act perform new material rather than run through their usual set. In addition, the event brings together a diverse cross-section of the Milwaukee music scene, exposing the musicians both to each other and to a wider audience. The musical pairings are chosen at a draft a few months before the event.

VIncent VanGREAT (Photo: Kristy Tayler, Milwaukee Pit Pass)

Like David Ravel’s Uncovered series which I featured in the last issue of WiG and the next installment, Tribe UNCOVERED, takes place tomorrow at Turner Hall  Local Coverage is a one night only event. As such, my girlfriend and I made sure to arrive promptly. Kicking things off was Americana band Devil Met Contention covering hip-hop artist Vincent VanGREAT, which they previewed on an episode of 88Nine Radio Milwaukee’s 414 Live.

Vincent VanGREAT followed with his rendition of Abby Jeanne’s soulful rock music, with help from his band Ninja Sauce and SistaStrings. VanGREAT teased his singing skills on the excellent 2016 album UnGREATful, but VanGREAT’s performance at Local Coverage put even more of a spotlight on this additional talent. The emcee/singer brought out Abby Jeanne who was leaving the next morning for India — to join him on a song, a move that he assured the crowd was pre-approved.

Some acts like Devil Met Contention and Abby Jeanne presented their covers through the lens of their own musical sensibility. Others — like Midwest Death Rattle — did more true-to-form covers. The art rockers did an incredible job rapping along to D’Amato’s sexy and thought provoking lyrics.

Midwest Death Rattle (Photo: Kristy Tayler, Milwaukee Pit Pass)

“I’ve wanted to rap since the first time I saw 2 Live Crew,” exclaimed John Dykstra of Midwest Death Rattle after catching his breath. The band’s earnest rendition of D’Amato’s funky rap songs was a highlight of the night. Even their drummer couldn’t help but dance as they played the final song.

From the looks of her, you wouldn’t expect gentle folk singer Marielle Allschwang to absolutely own the rap stylings of Lorde Fredd33. But after learning about Allschwang’s penchant for hip-hop and R&B, along with the dark, hypnotic tone in each of their music, this was far and away our most anticipated performance of the night.

After a few sets I ran into Nathaniel Heuer who plays bass in Allschwang’s band as well as another project, Hello Death and I mentioned that most of the musicians seemed to be taking the challenge quite seriously.

“Oh yeah, we take this very seriously. We’ve rehearsed a bunch. At this point we know it as well as we know our own material,” replied Heuer.

Allschwang’s set was nothing short of a revelation. Her confident, controlled delivery of each and every one of Fredd33’s obscure lines of poetry was glorious in and of itself, but her band also created a mesmerizing soundscape that bounced between doom folk and alt hip-hop. Her set contained a political subtext as well, with Allschwang wearing a solidarity with Standing Rock t-shirt and closing with “MWME,” which contains the chorus, “Trynna turn the Midwest to the Middle East.”

With all of our hype centered on Allschwang’s set, I hadn’t thought about who would be covering her fantastic songbook. That task went to power-pop garage rockers Midnight Reruns, who delivered the best surprise of the night. Allschwang’s folk soul spoke directly through their jangly, crackling guitars. Every time I see the Reruns I love them more and more.

The Pukes (Photo: Kristy Tayler, Milwaukee Pit Pass)

Another takeaway from the night included Jay Anderson creating synth sounds with his tiny saxophone via an effect pedal during Lorde Fredd33’s loose covers of Midwest Death Rattle. I also learned that while I’m not a fan of country music, I can get into country songs performed by a punk band. At least when that band is (two of the three members of) The Pukes covering the music of Buffalo Gospel.

D’Amato closed the show as only D’Amato knows how with bravado and style, turning The Pukes snappy, punk tunes into his own sensual brand of get down. Between ticket sales, raffles and an exclusive beer made by Company Brewing, Local Coverage 2017 raised over $3,000 and counting, as the delicious sweet and spicy porter is still available at some local establishments. The audio from Local Coverage 2017 will be online later this year, but until then you can listen to and purchase recordings from past Local Coverage events here.

 

David Ravel’s UNCOVERED finds a new home

By Joey Grihalva

Nostalgia is a powerful force, especially as it pertains to music. Tune in to many of our radio stations or check out the latest Summerfest lineup and you’ll notice that Wisconsinites particularly have a penchant for the “oldies.” Not to mention, cover bands. While that identity has suited us just fine for years, there are those pushing for more progressive and more local music.

In 2012, Alverno Presents artistic director David Ravel hatched an idea that married iconic songwriters with contemporary regional talent. The resulting Uncovered series presents reinterpretations of quintessential American music, curated and performed by homegrown artists.

Last year — after 56 years of Alverno Presents — the college shut down its renowned performing arts series in order to allocate more resources to student services. When the news broke, it was also announced that Ravel had formed a partnership with the Pabst Theater Group that would allow Uncovered to live on.

The first performances will be January 20 — Tribe UNCOVERED — and April 14 — Wonder UNCOVERED — at Turner Hall Ballroom.

I recently sat down with Ravel, Tribe curator Kellen “Klassik” Abston, and Wonder curators Dave Wake (De La Buena, Aluar Pearls) and Tarik Moody (88Nine Radio Milwaukee).

The genesis of Uncovered

David Ravel and his wife moved to Milwaukee in 1997 when she was hired as a theater professor at Marquette University. They had been in New York City, where they ran Brooklyn Playworks, producing work by new American playwrights. Ravel got his job with Alverno Presents in 2003.

“When I was hired we assessed what the series was doing and looked around and said, ‘What’s happening in Milwaukee? What’s not happening in Milwaukee? Let’s do the stuff that’s not happening.’ Initially that was world music, jazz, and contemporary dance. Over time that evolved and some things ended up getting more attention than others,” says Ravel.

As the head of Alverno Presents, Ravel brought world-class performers to the Pitman Theatre. During that time he also developed relationships with Milwaukee musicians. Ravel admired how the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago and the Walker in Minneapolis worked with local artists in their series and he searched for interesting ways to do the same.

One morning, while in his car listening to a re-released demo by the McGarrigle sisters, a line from “The Work Song” sparked an idea. There was a direct reference to Stephen Foster — “the father of American popular music” — whose songs have been recorded by musicians in a variety of arrangements over the years. Ravel enlisted Juniper Tar’s Ryan Schleicher to curate a show that would present reinterpretations of Foster’s songs. It would be the prototype for Uncovered and was titled Beautiful Dreamer: The Foster Project.

Architect-turned-radio DJ Tarik Moody began his Unlooped series in 2010 as a way to highlight Milwaukee’s electronic music scene through collaborations with popular musicians from other genres. The performances operated in a complementary fashion to what Ravel and Schleicher did with the Stephen Foster show. Ravel and Moody teamed up for a Marvin Gaye show centered on his 1978 album Here, My Dear.

“We placed a lot of different interpretive lenses on that material and the show went really well. After that, the template revealed itself to us and the idea of calling it ‘Uncovered.’ Because we’re not doing covers of this material, we’re reinterpreting it,” says Ravel.

“It’s this question of what is the American songbook? What merits inclusion and why? We started playing around with the idea that we can tell the strength of a song by how many different ways it can be successfully reinterpreted,” he adds.

After Unlooped vs. Marvin Gaye, Ravel invited Betty Strigens of Testa Rosa to curate an Uncovered show. She chose the songs of Patti Smith. Next, Jordan “DJ Madhatter” Lee of 88Nine Radio Milwaukee decided to mine the work of legendary producer Quincy Jones. Later that year, Alverno Presents staged arguably the most intriguing Uncovered pairing — dark folk quartet Hello Death unraveling the music of Prince. This revelatory performance stuck with me for months. Upon hearing the news of Prince’s passing I immediately experienced a desire to relive the one night only event. 

The final Uncovered performance at the Pitman did not fall under the official moniker, but had a similar execution.

“The show that (Christopher) Porterfield did was really an Uncovered show, but with a musician no one had ever heard of,” says Ravel. “Charles K. Harris wrote a song that was the first to sell something like 10 million pieces of sheet music, and he wrote that in Milwaukee.”

Harris ended up moving to New York City, where he was one of the founders of Tin Pan Alley and had an active career from the late 1880s to the early 1930s. He wrote a book called How to Write a Popular Song, which Porterfield used as the foundation for his show. Musicians reinterpreted Harris’ songs and followed the book’s instructions to create their own song.

Blame it on the jazz — the roots of ‘Tribe UNCOVERED’

The first time my girlfriend and I visited the Pitman was for the Jones Uncovered show in April 2015. It was a special evening full of surprises and marvelous music. One of the standout moments was hip-hop artist Kellen “Klassik” Abston taking the lead on Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature.”

Considering the popularity of that performance and the fact that Klassik’s biggest single — “Boogie” — samples The Jacksons’ “Blame it on the Boogie,” it seemed logical that he would eventually stage Jackson UNCOVERED. In fact, that was the initial idea when Ravel first sat down with Abston in the summer of 2015 to discuss an Uncovered show.

Kellen “Klassik” Abston

“This was an artist that I grew up with and have a lot of admiration for, but A Tribe Called Quest was always my second thought,” says Abston. “Doing an MJ show eventually started feeling like a cop out. Where is the challenge? What am I saying with this show?”

“With Tribe there are all these parallels between my own upbringing as far as musical growth with jazz and hip-hop. I started as a saxophone player and then was introduced to Tribe and classic ‘90s hip-hop growing up. And there’s a lot that hasn’t been said as far as hip-hop being a part of the American songbook,” adds Abston.

For Abston, Tribe UNCOVERED allows him to put a spotlight on the art of the sample. The lyrical content was actually the final piece of the puzzle. In effect, Tribe has become a vessel to make a larger point about sampling and where classic hip-hop albums stand among classic albums of all genres.

“Sampling is not just taking somebody else’s idea and copy and pasting it. It’s listening to hundreds of thousands of records and finding those two second snippets from this record and that record and making something completely new and beautiful,” says Abston.

“Tribe is the embodiment of this ever present, constantly progressing lineage of jazz, funk, and hip-hop. It’s my story, it’s their story, it’s hip-hop, it’s jazz,” adds Abston.

With Tribe member Phife Dawg’s passing last March and a new Tribe album released in November — their first in 18 years — Abston saw these as reassuring signs. While hip-hop had been used in Uncovered shows as an interpretive lens for existing material, Ravel originally had trouble wrapping his head around the idea of using hip-hop as the foundation.

“All the curators who are involved in the Uncovered shows have pushed me and my understanding of the American songbook into far deeper considerations than I would’ve had by myself. I think Kellen and the artists that he’s assembled are making a very compelling case for how that material gets reinterpreted and it’s place in the American songbook,” says Ravel.

‘The elusive perfect album’ — the roots of ‘Wonder UNCOVERED’

As the bandleader of Afro-Cuban/Latin Jazz outfit De La Buena, Dave Wake first became involved with Alverno Presents by providing the marching band for a Trisha Brown contemporary dance piece. Later, Jordan Lee enlisted Wake to be the musical director for Jones Uncovered. After the show, Wake’s sister came up to him and exclaimed, “You know the next one needs to be Stevie Wonder, right?”

Dave Wake (at ‘Jones Uncovered’)

“Emotionally, Songs in the Key of Life is just an album that reminds me of my youth,” says Wake. “It was on at our house almost constantly when I was growing up. And I think the night of the Jones show it came up in conversation between Tarik and I. Plus, I like that he’s into doing full albums.”

“It’s what I call the elusive perfect album,” says Moody. “Stevie was way ahead of his time on Songs in the Key of Life. It’s hard to repeat that kind of stuff. He had good albums, but I think that was his pinnacle.”

Wonder UNCOVERED is still a work-in-progress, but Moody and Wake have found a similar sensibility with artistic choices and arrangements.

“We’ve been thinking about the elements of the songs, stripping them down to the essential parts and then building up a total reinterpretation around that. We approach it like, ‘But what if we knock that out completely? What if we take this one thing and build the song up from a fringe element?’” says Wake.

Residual effects

Tribe UNCOVERED will be the fourth time Abston is involved in an Uncovered show. The first time he ever sang in front of an audience was at Unlooped vs. Marvin Gaye. Abston describes each show as a unique and transformative experience.

“I’ve witnessed myself and the artists involved in these shows grow exponentially as far as artistic maturity, being able to listen better, taking on different skill sets and challenging ourselves in new ways. They’ve opened up a whole world of possibilities and broadened my perspective of what I listen to and what I demand of myself as an artist and as a producer,” says Abston.

Moody and Wake have enlisted Thane and Q the Sun — two of Milwaukee’s top producers — to help brainstorm Wonder UNCOVERED.

A key component of the series is to gather together a group of musicians who would not normally work together. This was inherent in Moody’s Unlooped series and carried over into Uncovered. In the months after the Jones Uncovered, I noticed many of the same players from the house band hanging out and jamming with musicians both young and old at saxophonist Jay Anderson’s Riverwest home. Also, Prince Uncovered served as the introduction of Abston to Chris Rosenau, who will be playing guitar at Tribe UNCOVERED.

“When I was living in Minneapolis I was surrounded by collaboration,” says Moody. “It’s ridiculous how many musicians crossed genres naturally in that scene. If you want a strong and supportive scene, collaboration is very important. People tell me, ‘Oh Minneapolis just has more talent.’ No. Milwaukee probably has more talent. It’s just Minneapolis intermingles more.”

“The coolest thing for me from the Marvin Gaye show was that Porterfield and Barry Paul Clark met, Clark joined Field Report, and they started an improv group together. So I think what Uncovered is doing for the scene is really beautiful and I hope it inspires people,” adds Moody.

Purchase tickets for Tribe UNCOVERED and Wonder UNCOVERED here: http://pabsttheater.org/show/tribeuncovered2017

 

[ FULL-INTERVIEW ]

WiG
Tell me about the genesis of the Uncovered series?

RAVEL
It started in the parking lot of the Colectivo in the 5th Ward. I was in my car listening to the re-released demos of the first two McGarrigle sisters albums. So there was no production, just guitar, voice and piano. I knew both of those albums very well and loved them very much. As is often the case with something that you get to hear a second time in a stripped-down way, in a fresh way, I was really taken with “The Work Song.” It has the line, “Back before the blues were blues, when the good old songs were new, songs that may no longer please us, about the darkies about Jesus.”

It’s a very direct reference to Stephen Foster and parlor music. Also, it’s a reference to their family and how they shared music with each other. This got me thinking about how the American popular song developed. I started obsessing about this and talking about it with a lot of different people including Ryan Schleicher, who’s an old friend. Eventually I decided I wanted to do a show about Stephen Foster where his material gets reinterpreted.

WiG
Had you seen shows like that where the music is being reinterpreted? Did you ever experience that template?

RAVEL
No. Not to say that it doesn’t exist, but I wasn’t familiar with it.

WiG
About what time was this?

RAVEL
This was 2012. The Stephen Foster show went really well. And as that show was about to happen it was very clear that Alverno Presents needed to follow up on this idea. Tarik and I started talking. I wanted to do something about Marvin Gaye and I really wanted to do something about Here, My Dear, because it’s my favorite album. But Milan (Zori) said, “Don’t limit somebody like that, it’s such a great catalogue. Why do you want to limit them to one album?”  

Tarik and I started talking about Marvin Gaye and listening to a lot of it and then Tarik said, “You know what my favorite Marvin Gaye album is? Here, My Dear.” And I said “Yes.” So we focused on that and we did the whole album, placing a lot of different interpretive lenses on that material and that show went really well.  After that the template revealed itself to us and the idea of calling it “Uncovered.” Because we’re not doing covers of this material, we’re reinterpreting it. It’s this question of what is the American songbook? What merits inclusion and why? We started playing around with the idea that we can tell the strength of a song by how many different ways it can be successfully reinterpreted. And we went on from there.

WiG
How long had you been working with Alverno Presents prior to that?

RAVEL
I started there in 2003, so this was like 9 years later.

WiG
What was Alverno Presents known for at that point?

RAVEL
Well, over its 56 year history it was known for a lot of different things. When I was hired we assessed what the series was doing and looked around and said, “What’s happening in Milwaukee? What’s not happening in Milwaukee? Let’s do the stuff that’s not happening.” Initially that was world music, jazz, and contemporary dance. Over time that evolved and some things ended up getting more attention than others.

WiG
What were you doing previous to being hired by Alverno Presents?

RAVEL
I worked for Theater X for two years and prior to that my wife and I lived in New York for 14 years.

WiG
What precipitated the move to Milwaukee?

RAVEL
My wife got a job. She was chair of the Theater Department at Marquette University, so we came for that job and I did what I could.

WiG
So Tarik, tell me how you wrapped your head around the Marvin Gaye show?

TARIK
Well, Here, My Dear is a concept record. It’s basically a divorce settlement for his ex-wife. At first he didn’t really take it seriously, he was just going to do some BS. But then he thought back and decided to put all of his emotions in it. The album covers a range of emotions. So I approached first from the lyrics and then the music. Each song is almost a different genre. I wanted to have different ensembles for each song. To approach the song from a completely different way.

One of our favorites was Martha Cannon from Lady Cannon. She took the song “When Did You Stop Loving Me, When Did I Stop Loving You” and turned it into a country song. My secondary goal besides putting on a good show was to connect different artists together that I like. It’s my selfish reason for doing these shows. It’s kind of what I did with the Unlooped series. I love Chris Porterfield and I like Kiings, so I want to put them together. A lot of people who worked on Unlooped had never met each other. That was the fun part of the show. That was kind of my ulterior motive to get different artists I appreciate and respect and see what happens when they come together.

WiG
Can you explain the Unlooped series?

TARIK
It started back in 2010. It was basically to highlight the electronic scene. Because since I felt that people in the city didn’t really appreciate electronic music. So the idea was basically to highlight electronic musicians and I felt the only way to do that was through collaborations with other musicians that people like. That’s how it started. Then I took a hiatus and I brought it back in the form of reinterpretation. So the first one was Dilla and the second one was Justin Vernon and the third one was the Marvin Gaye show.

WiG
So Dave, was the Jones Uncovered show the first one you became involved with?

DAVE
I had done…I don’t remember when we first met…

RAVEL
We had done that Trisha Brown thing. That was so wonderful.

WiG
What was that?

RAVEL
Trisha Brown is the foremost postmodern choreographer. She has a piece that involves a marching band happening around the building so you can hear the marching band not in the theater but around the theater. So we got De La Buena to be the marching band. The dance company was thrilled because they normally get high school marching bands. And so they had first of all somebody with a very good sense of rhythm, which the dancers really appreciated  and we marched them around the theater and through the orchestra pit. It was a lot of fun.

DAVE
We brought a bunch of percussion to it. David emailed me when they were asking for a marching band asking if we could do something. We started dialoguing via email and I said, “What about a Samba band type thing with a bunch of second line horns?”

RAVEL
Which is not the idea of their piece but they were open to it.

DAVE
So we got like New Orleans second line horns with a Samba group, just like sight unseen. There’s no part of the show where we’re seen. It’s just a point of reference where the sound was coming from and it ended up being amazing and then we played either at the break…

RAVEL
That piece was the end of the first set and when the audience went out of the theater De La Buena with outside playing. That was how many years ago?

DAVE
That was maybe 2013/2012. I remember we were backstage at the show and you said, “There’s this Marvin Gaye record, Here, My Dear.” So that was a really great experience working with David and then for the Jones show, Jordan Lee just called me up and said, “Hey, do you want to be the musical director for the show?” It was a little different in that Tarik is sort of into this…you know David was saying about not being limited to one album? But I do like the concept of taking one album and really dissecting it. So Jordan and I took on Quincy Jones. I mean his catalogue is insane. My wife was in India with Painted Caves and we sat at my kitchen table for like three or four hours listening to the Quincy Jones songbook. I think we narrowed it down to like 83 songs.

RAVEL
He has 50 years worth of work.

DAVE
We were like, “Okay, let’s just narrow it down a little,” and our list was like four pages long. Then we brought that down to like 13-14 songs at the end of it. It was really daunting, but it was an incredible experience. We took a little different approach with it because we did feature performers with a house band. And then we brought in Painted Caves to do some really different stuff.

RAVEL
Like the Lady Cannon piece where they took a Marvin Gaye song and turned it into a country song, Painted Caves took Lesley Gore’s “You Don’t Own Me,” which is kind of classic early ‘60s white girl pop, and turned it into something with a really intense Middle Eastern vibe. I don’t know the name of the male vocalist…

DAVE
Ali.

RAVEL
Ali took the lead vocal, which is the persona of the young girl. Ali took it and just cracked it open. And Holly was able to sort of jump into that sweet spot. It’s one of my most satisfying moments of the Uncovered shows.

DAVE
Yeah that show I think was like…it’s something we’ve been dialoguing about, those moments of having a clean house band and then bringing something totally out of left field. The counterpoint of that worked really well in that show. That’s one thing that in hindsight I would have liked to have done more with Jordan on that show. More of having these really nice tight arrangements with great singers, letting them do their thing and then all of a sudden something out of left field just comes in and knocks your socks off. That’s sort of been something for the Stevie Wonder show that we’re discussing. Using the device of sharp contrast and counterpoints.

WiG
So Kellen, I know you were involved in that show and Prince Uncovered. Were you involved in any others?

KELLEN
I was in the Marvin Gaye show.

WiG
So what was your experience like performing in all these shows?

KELLEN
My experiences with Uncovered up until the present day have all been very unique and transformative experiences. I’ve witnessed myself and the artists involved in these shows grow exponentially as far as artistic maturity, being able to listen better, taking on different skill sets and challenging ourselves in new ways. To take something that’s recognized on its own right and then turn it on its head is something special.

I’ve learned a lot about where I want to go as an artist, finding my strong suits. Find the things that are super new, that I’m not as sure of and tackling those kinds of things head on. Like the Marvin Gaye show, I had never sung in front of people before I did Marvin Gaye show. It’s still something that I’m coming to terms with. These shows, they’ve opened up a whole world of possibilities and broadened my perspective of what I listen to and what I demand of myself as an artist and as a producer.

WiG
So I’m familiar with the Jones Uncovered show, the Prince Uncovered, the Marvin Gaye show, what other Uncovered have there been in the series?

RAVEL
Stephen Foster, Marvin Gaye, Patti Smith, Quincy Jones, Prince, and the show that Porterfield did was really an Uncovered show, but with a musician that no one had ever heard of. So if we were to call it Charles K. Harris Uncovered people would have probably been scratching their heads. But it was in effect an Uncovered show. There were people reinterpreting Charles K. Harris and he wrote a song that was the first to sell something like 10 million pieces of sheet music, “After the Ball,”  and he wrote that in Milwaukee. Then he left Milwaukee and became in essence one of the founders of Tin Pan Alley in New York and had a very active career from the late 1880s to the early 1930s. And he wrote a book, a very strange book, called How to Write a Popular Song. What Chris did was invite a bunch of musicians to reinterpret Charles K. Harris’ songs and then follow Charles K. Harris’ instructions to write a popular song. So it was an Uncovered show, we just didn’t call it that.

WiG
Did you know that Alverno Presents was going to end before it was announced?

RAVEL
Yes, they gave me a heads up. One of the things that I wanted to do was that I had a number of projects in development that I wanted to find homes for including these two upcoming Uncovered shows. So I went to talk with Gary and Matt [at the Pabst Group] and they had a lot of enthusiasm for the Uncovered shows. So it was a very natural home for these things to go to. And I am told that we have a commitment to doing two Uncovered shows a year for the next three years. So this will go on.

WiG
So it’s not just a trial run?

RAVEL
I thought it was a trial run until I read in the Journal Sentinel that we’re doing two a year for the next three years. I suppose this could change, but for now this is my information.

WiG
Looking at the first one that’s coming up, how did A Tribe Called Quest get selected?

(Ravel and Kellen both laugh.)

RAVEL
Let me start with saying every curator I’ve ever worked with we started on one idea…

TARIK
Hey, I kept mine.

RAVEL
Okay, you kept yours.

DAVE
My sister walked up to me on stage after the Jones Uncovered show because my dad played Stevie Wonder growing up and she said, “You know the next one needs to be Stevie Wonder, right?” And it’s so funny because that same night the next conversation I had was with you (looking at Tarik) and you were like, “Stevie Wonder.”

RAVEL
Yeah, but Tarik was also saying after the Jones show that it would be a long time before he did another one of these things, which is another thing every curator has said. “It was great. I had a good time, but I need a break.” It’s a lot of work. But pretty much every curator changed their mind midstream. We started with one idea and went to another one. I’ve always gone with it because the work that the curator has to do it so intense. I mean, they’re living with this for like a year and a half, in some cases two years. It has to be something that you can live with for that amount of time. So Kellen was going to do a Michael Jackson show.

WiG
I had heard that…

KELLEN
This had to be summer 2015 I feel like when we first sat down and talked about this. My immediate thought was MJ. Of course, I’m gonna do a Michael Jackson show. Duh.

WiG
I feel like people were saying that after the Jones show…

KELLEN
I think that was kind of the inspiration. And there was this growth and that’d be like a challenge because we did this one song and what if I just really dug into his catalogue? Obviously, this is an artist I grew up with and have a lot of admiration for, but A Tribe Called Quest was always my second thought. It was, “MJ, but then I could also do Tribue…but I’m gonna do MJ.” And for sure like with Phife passing, it was right before then that I was really moving strongly towards changing it. Because MJ was just like equally…

RAVEL
I think we made that choice before Phife passed.

KELLEN
Yeah, but I think his passing was a sign…there were some things that happened since the change that were reassuring. It was like, “Alright, MJ is equally as difficult and easy. This could go one of two ways.” Doing an MJ show eventually started feeling like a cop out. I probably could do a really good MJ show, but where is the challenge? What am I saying with this show? What am I arguing besides the obvious?

With Tribe there are all these parallels between my own upbringing as far as musical growth with jazz and hip-hop. I started as a saxophone player and then was introduced to Tribe and classic ‘90s hip-hop growing up. The story kind of just unfolded and unveiled itself once we made that decision and immediately it was like, “Yeah, there’s a lot more to say with this, there’s a lot that hasn’t been said as far as hip-hop being a part of the American songbook. And there’s a lot that hasn’t been said as far as the art of the sample and what that takes and the type of ear.”

Sampling is not just taking somebody else’s idea and copy and pasting it. It’s listening to hundreds of thousands of records and finding those two second snippets from this record and that record and making something completely new and beautiful. So that’s what this show became.

RAVEL
All the curators who are involved in the Uncovered shows have pushed me and my understanding of the American songbook into far deeper considerations than I would’ve had by myself. Jordan’s idea of working with a producer rather than a songwriter, I didn’t understand it when he suggested the idea. But he made a really compelling case for it. And while past Uncovered shows have used hip-hop as an interpretive lens for existing material, we’ve never looked at hip-hop before. And the first question I had was, “How does this get reinterpreted?” I didn’t understand that. Then Kellen explained it to me. And I think Kellen and the artists that he’s assembled are making a very compelling case for how that material gets reinterpreted and it’s place in the American songbook.

WiG (to Kellen)
I think you kind of already answered this question, but what has Tribe meant to you?

KELLEN
Tribe is the embodiment of this ever present, constantly progressing lineage of jazz, funk, and hip-hop. When I started rapping it was because in high school and a little bit of college, I was making beats as a side thing, as a hobby. But my main thing was going to music class for five hours a day. I was a 50-year-old jazz guy who was actually 16. That was my life. Practicing every single day. The art of improvisation, as I started getting more into hip-hop, I saw very early on that jazz improv and freestyle rap are literally the exact same thing.

With jazz improv you learn certain licks and runs and then you learn them in every single key and eventually you build up this vocabulary. It’s a language in a very literal sense. You can better convey and more efficiently share ideas and emotions and thoughts if you have the vocabulary. You’re not thinking about it. Even speaking to you right now, I’m not thinking about every single word that’s coming out of my mouth per say. I’m thinking about the larger thought, and the rest just happens. So the greatest jazz improvisational players are the ones who sat in their rooms for like 12 hours a day and practiced the same pattern over and over and over again, until eventually they’re not thinking about it and they’re just “talking to you.”

Freestyle rap is even more literal than that because now I am talking to you with words, but I’m making them rhyme, and I’m keeping it in time. And I’m having complete thoughts with this level of self-awareness that there are patterns and phrases that if you know, they’re couplets and certain rhyme schemes that you can go in and out of. You get to a point where you’re so comfortable you’re not thinking about it, you’re just talking in a different way. If you’ve got a saxophone and you’re doing a solo, you’re not thinking about it, you’re just talking to the audience. If the DJ throws a beat on, I’m not sitting there in a corner thinking about what I want to say. No, it moves you to speak. And so what Tribe represents for me is the embodiment of that parallel. The marriage of jazz and hip-hop. The records that they sampled and the reasons that they sampled them and why they worked together. It’s my story, it’s their story, it’s hip-hop, it’s jazz.

WiG
And did the new Tribe album have any impact on the direction and vision of the show?

KELLEN
Actually no. All of this was in motion well before they announced the album. It was just another one of those reassurances. It was another sign. Didn’t really effect the show that I’ve constructed.

RAVEL
We won’t be looking at any material from the new album?

KELLEN
There may or may not be one song from it towards the end. But…without giving away too much…

WiG
It can be off the record.

KELLEN
No, it’s not super secret. But yeah overall the new album didn’t alter the course of the show.

WiG
It sounds like with the Stevie Wonder show, the roots of it go back a few years.

DAVE
Emotionally, Songs in the Key of Life is just an album that reminds me of my youth. Again, my sister came up after the Quincy Jones show and said “Stevie Wonder!” It was on at our house almost constantly when I was growing up. And I think the night of the Jones show it came up in conversation between with Tarik and I. Plus I like that he’s into doing full albums. But I do think it’s a daunting task that we’re taking on the entire Songs in the Key of Life

TARIK
Which is a double album.

RAVEL
We’re investigating the idea of a dinner break.

TARIK
It’s what I call the elusive perfect album. I mean it’s everything you want in an album. It’s beautiful. When I first heard it, it was like…I’m more of a music guy, sonics and sounds, and I feel like Stevie was way ahead of his time on Songs in the Key of Life. It’s hard to repeat that kind of stuff. He had good albums, but I think that was his pinnacle.

DAVE
It takes you on such an emotional journey too, it’s such a story. Each song in it’s own stands alone and as a work of art it’s such an incredible journey. It’s such an incredible work.

WiG
So was that a pretty easy consensus?

DAVE
I think so. I think we sort of came to it a little bit individually as well and so when we started talking about it we were kind of already on the same page. It’s been really interesting with us combining our artistic sensibilities, because we’re coming from two different worlds. It’s been really cool. It’s just like feeling it out and starting to put the thread together in how we approach something like that and where we’re coming from as artists and musical minds. It’s really starting to develop nicely and again, we’ve had a couple great moments where we’ve individually come to a couple of conclusions then we’ve checked in with each other and been like, “This song would be great as that,” or “This person would be really great on this song.”

I think both of us have had individual revelations like that and when we check in we’re like, “Wow, I was thinking that too.” Some of the other collaborators we’re bringing in are really really bright and have great perspective. Like Thane, who put out a really great record this year and is young, he brought some really great, fresh ideas. He’s really thinking about it. And Kiran as well. Those are the two people we brought in really early to help brainstorm with us. And it just feels like there’s a really cool collaborative vision going on, which is important.

TARIK
And plus the album was released forty years ago.

WiG
This question can go to either of you guys. How do you start putting together a show like this?

TARIK
There’s bourbon first.

(Everybody laughs.)

DAVE
Yeah.

KELLEN
Why was I going to say the same thing? Buy a bottle of bourbon…

DAVE
Lubrication of some sort, in this case bourbon.

TARIK
For me, I go through the songs first. You just start listening to records. Have a drink. And hopefully ideas will spark. Like “Oh, I’d love to have that singer,” or “That drummer would kill on this song.” You start brainstorming while you listen to records. I listen to them over and over again. Try to think of other ways, what would be interesting. That’s how I approached Marvin Gaye and this next one.

DAVE
And in the spirit of the re-interpretative nature of it and personally, I consider myself first and foremost an arranger.We’ve been thinking about the elements of the songs, stripping them down to the essential parts and then building up a total reinterpretation around that. We approach it like, “But what if we knock that out completely? What if we take this one thing and build the song up from a fringe element?

We’re looking at different angles of arrangement and how a different pairing of artists might look at it. Getting people together that wouldn’t normally work together and seeing how they are going to interpret it. You give them the artistic freedom to do their thing and interpret it in their own way and sort of hold a place for them. Cuz I’m also thinking as an arranger, how does the show tie together? What are the common elements where you can get a thread throughout the show? Something that really makes it a complete show. So it’s like, “What are the things you can keep in place to keep it feeling like a real show that has a thread that flows with tons of room for interpretation between it?”

KELLEN
Same. Also, this is something that I’m like actively combating now, the beauty and the controversy of what I’m doing. Meaning I’ve had old heads, like die hard hip-hop fans, in public forums just basically question my credibility. Like, “Where is your knowledge of this?”

DAVE
Your authority.

KELLEN
“You were two years old when this happened, why are you doing this?” Well, first of all…

RAVEL
I’m a musician. Second of all, I have ears.

DAVE
And third, you’re bitter.

KELLEN
Right. And then the thing that I was able to eventually get across is that none of these are supposed to be cover shows. And this for sure, the way that we approached this, from de-constructing the samples themselves and replaying them, and recording those, and then re-sampling that. There’s so many layers. The lyrics are almost, ironically enough for this, gasp, all the hip-hop heads are going to hate this, but the lyrics are the last thing that are even a part of this Tribe show. Tribe has become more of a vessel for a larger point that I’m trying to get across about the art of the sample and the parallel of jazz and hip-hop. They just happened to be the fucking best to do it.

It’s not specifically about your favorite lines. It’s definitely more of a musical exploration as far as expectation, as far as records that were used and how that laid the foundation for a new iconic piece of work on top of that. And so taking that whole process and putting it on the stage for everyone to see, like, hear the original sample played by a live band and then watch this guy sample this record on stage. At least that’s what it’s going to look like to people. It’s really putting front and center the art of creating a classic hip-hop record and where classic hip-hop records stand amongst classic records of all genres.

(We then discuss the Tribe/Pharcyde mash-up album Bizarre Tribe and Dave recalls a Hieroglyphics show at Stonefly Brewing, which is now Company Brewing.)

WiG
I guess my last question, well I guess it’s more of a comment than a question, and I think we touched on it before, but one of the residual effects of these Uncovered shows is a community building effect in the Milwaukee music scene. Bringing together people who’ve never worked together to collaborate on something larger than themselves. I felt like being at the Jones Uncovered show and then seeing some of the house jams at Jay Anderson’s place with some of the same musicians coming in and mingling, a mix of older heads and younger players. You know, hats off for that aspect.

RAVEL
One of the things I was thinking about for a long time when I was at Alverno Presents was I always admired how the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago and the Walker in Minneapolis worked with Chicago and Minneapolis based artists in their series. And I wanted to do that. And it took me a long time to figure out a meaningful way to do that.

It never made sense to me to book somebody who’s going to do their Cactus Club set at Alverno, because we can see that at Cactus Club. Why is this special? As this idea with Foster started to develop I realized this is how I’ll get to work with the artists in Milwaukee I want to work with and give them an opportunity to do something they haven’t done before and give audiences an opportunity to see them in a different light. That part has been especially meaningful and I’m glad it’s worked out.

TARIK
I mean with Unlooped that was basically the whole reason I wanted to do that. Because living in Minneapolis I was surrounded by collaboration. It’s ridiculous how many musicians cross genres naturally in that scene. There was this cross-pollination and I guess the idea sparked when the group Gayngs, which was started by a bunch of Minneapolis people as a joke, 26 people based on one funny concept, it was kind of a loose tribute to yacht rock and 10cc and they got all these different artists together, plus a couple people from North Carolina, and they put this album together and had this prom in Minneapolis at First Avenue. Prince was backstage.

I mean you see that kind of collaboration and local support in Minneapolis. A lot of local artists sell shows out at First Avenue and I wanted to see that here in Milwaukee. And I knew the only way I could get that done is that artists had to get out of their comfort zone and intermingle. If you want to have a strong scene and a scene that is supportive, collaboration is very important. Just seeing that and watching that and knowing those people when I was living there and watching them grow, now that I’m on the outside it’s just amazing. And the thing is people tell me, “Oh Minneapolis just has more talent.” No. Milwaukee probably has more talent. It’s just Minneapolis intermingles more.

DAVE
Amazingly insular talent, Milwaukee has.

WiG
And I would say Minneapolis has stronger leaders like Prince, Rhymesayers…

TARIK
Yeah, Prince was very supportive. And Rhymesayers helped out Doomtree and P.O.S. so much. They kind of brought each other up. Now Doomtree’s helping other people out. When you go to Eaux Claires you see all the Minneapolis people just hanging out and stuff in the back. That intermingling seems like such a natural thing. I don’t know why it happened, maybe because of the legacy of Prince, the legacy of The Replacements, the legacy of all those bands might have something to do with it. It’s a beautiful thing.

DAVE
Austin’s got that vibe too. I think they set it up with Austin City Limits and that festival is set up as such where the artists village is like, they specifically build it so that artists are hanging out and exchanging ideas. They have a bunch of different backstages but everyone goes in one area to eat. They’re basically like, “Here, all you artists eat together. You’re standing in line waiting for your food, start talking.” Not to knock Summerfest, so I won’t, but it’s a very different experience where you’re being shipped in a van and it’s like, “Don’t look at the other artists! Turn your head away.” But with Austin City Limits they’re like pushing you together. Which can really foster some cool ideas and bands forming out of it.

WiG
You see that at Eaux Claires, which is new but…

DAVE
Yeah, I haven’t been to that one yet, but I’ve heard that it’s really…

TARIK
Justin Vernon is basically inspired by Minneapolis.

WiG
I’m pretty sure he has an apartment there.

TARIK
He might be a Wisconsinite, but he takes a lot of cues from Minneapolis. And he sees that collaboration and he brought it to Eaux Claires. Jay’s doing his house parties. That’s a great start and I hope it continues. I’d like to see more local artists on each other’s albums. Maybe Klassik gets Tenement on his album. Or De La Buena gets Reyna on their album. That needs to start happening as well, not just performing live together, but starting to feature each other on albums. I think what Uncovered is doing is really beautiful and I hope it inspires people. The coolest thing for me from the Marvin Gaye show was that Porterfield and Barry Paul Clark met, Clark joined Field Report, and they started an improv group together. They had never met each other. That was the coolest thing ever.

Never Mind the Patriarchy, Here’s New Boyz Club

The day Johanna Rose and Katie Lyne met outside of Bremen Cafe they began singing together — even before learning each other’s name.  Shortly thereafter they went on an adventure, biking to an abandoned building in the rain with a bottle of whiskey and ending up at a gay bar, singing all the while. Their friendship blossomed and it wasn’t long before Rose and Lyne were developing the songs Rose had written.

“We’d just be playing and our friends would come over and be like, ‘Can I sit in?’,” says Lyne of New Boyz Club’s genesis.

“I wanted New Boyz Club to be like a punkier Arcade Fire. We just turned everything up as loud as we could for our first shows, because we had no idea what we were doing,” says Rose.

New Boyz Club received press coverage even before their debut. The band quickly gained traction. “There was an appreciation for the songs I did with the Janes and then to have all us folk kids playing super loud instruments was a thrill in itself,” says Rose.

“I’ll never forget what you said when I asked you how we should describe ourselves,” says singer/keyboardist Katie Lyne to her “musical soulmate” and fellow New Boyz Club singer/upright bassist Johanna Rose.

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Katie Lyne and Johanna Rose (PHOTO – Amanda Mills)

“You told me, ‘Just say we’re a nudge at the patriarchy.’ And in the beginning that’s what we were. We had to be gentle. Now it’s a ‘Fuck you!’ to the patriarchy. Middle fingers up,” adds Lyne.

“We were sick of being called ‘cute,’ which is what happens to girls in the folk scene. When I started writing my own songs I knew I wanted to rebel against my folk roots and play really loud music,” says Rose.

I sat down with Rose and Lyne over drinks on the Company Brewing patio on the eve of their first official release, G l O r Y g L o R y, the initial “Trilogy of Trilogies” and one of the most highly anticipated Milwaukee music projects in recent memory.  

BASEMENTS AND CHURCH CHOIRS

Johanna Rose was a classically-trained, punk-rock inclined child. Her parents house was part of a “bizarre Shorewood basement scene” that saw the likes of Juiceboxxx and Doom Buggy (members of Dogs in Ecstasy).

Rose’s ancestors are Jews from Ukraine who joined the Communist worker’s struggle upon arriving in the United States. Subsequent generations took up the civil rights cause. Her parents instilled a strong sense of social justice in both Rose, her sisters and their brother Will.

Johanna and Will were influenced by two uncles who started playing in ‘80s bands and touring at the age of 15. In high school Will was drumming in punk bands and began a hip-hop project while in college in Madison. When Will moved back to Milwaukee his sister accompanied him on bass. It was her first taste of playing loud.

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Airo Kwil

Rose first gained recognition in Milwaukee playing with indie-folk group the Calamity Janes and the Fratney Street Band and Will’s hip-hop project Airo Kwil. In November 2014 she was asked to play a solo show based on songs she had written and recorded herself and put online. Rose showed up with an 8-piece genre-defying band called New Boyz Club, who have quickly become one of the most electrifying forces in Wisconsin music.

Katie Lyne grew up in Green Bay, but her appreciation for music comes from her French-Canadian family in Montreal. She learned how to play piano from a “really angry Polish woman.” Before performing in dive bars and clubs around Milwaukee the young Lyne was singing in front of thousands in church choirs. A lapsed Catholic school girl, Lyne studied jazz and opera vocal performance in college, which is when she met Rose.

TEMPO CHANGE

New Boyz Club’s music is characterized by multiple tempo and genre changes. For example, the first song on G l O r Y g L o R y, “The Police State,” goes from a choral piece to a blues walk to a punk jam. It is anthemic, cathartic music well-suited for shouting at the heavens. For Rose, there is someone in particular she is singing to; her late father — David William Rose.

David Rose.
William David Rose

“The project might have ended completely after my father passed in May 2015. But I found it so ironic that our next show was in support of Hello Death’s album release. So I said ‘Fuck it,’ and we carried on,” says Rose.

“First thing I did was go nuts and not sleep for a week. I was skateboarding around and spray painting messages to my father on surfaces that were open to the sky. I think the only way me and Will could have gotten through that was by spending shit tons of time playing music together. That’s all we did. We just jammed it out. We just played music, constantly. And we’re still going,” says Rose.

Five months after the patriarch of the Rose family passed, Lyne and Marcus Doucette were blessed with a baby boy, Django, who Rose calls her “new best friend.”

“Pre-pregnancy performing was really emotion oriented and I almost left my body during those shows,” says Lyne.

Katie Lyne and Django

“During my pregnancy I was so focused inwards because I was creating a life. I remember feeling this beautiful cycle of energy flowing out through the audience and then back in. After having a baby, I don’t have the same energy that I did when I was partying and going crazy. There’s a balance of inward and outward energy that I can give to the audience.”

Like the ups and downs in their music, the New Boyz Club family has gone through major life changes throughout their two years as a band and as friends. Guitarist Joshua Backes was recently married and Rose and violinist Ernest Brusabardis IV played the wedding. Lyne, Brusabardis and Backes played Rose’s father’s funeral.

The first time I saw New Boyz Club was at the Jazz Estate in June 2015. Rose wrote a song for her father that was only performed at that show. After their set Rose folded up the paper and tossed it inside her bass, where it is to this day.

THE CHARM

When I arrived at Company Brewing for our interview the first thing Rose and I discussed was how both of us were in a negative head space.

“That’s perfect. The New Boyz Club trilogies are not about being in a good head space. Cheers!” says Rose as we clink our glasses.

In fact, when she first wrote the songs that would become New Boyz Club’s material Rose was bedridden for two months. In the winter of 2013 she tore her ACL and got a blood clot from the surgery. Later while performing onstage her leg began internally bleeding and she was forced to start her recovery process over again. With a piano at her bedside she created some of the songs that will finally see the light of day in a form that she is proud of.

G l O r Y g L o R y is the result of a tedious recording process marked by Rose’s neuroses. It is actually the third attempt at recording her songs. The second attempt was nearly finished, but Rose scrapped it because she wasn’t satisfied with the energy. This time around she enlisted the help of Ian Olvera and Liam O’Brien.

“The Police State” was recorded above Company Brewing with a 24-person choir that included members of Gauss, Foreign Goods, Ladders, Zed Kenzo, D’Amato,Wavy V, and Sista Strings, conducted by Lyne with Django strapped to the front of her body. “Taxes” was written in the midst of a manic episode. In trying to capture that spirit Rose recorded her vocals drunk and naked.

Rose has a visual art background and has created lyric zines for her songs. She is working on a large booklet that will be available at the G l O r Y g L o R y release on September 30 at Company Brewing.

“There’s a storyline that will build across all three trilogies. It’s talking about how systematic oppression plays out in interpersonal relationships. The trilogies will touch on racism in America, economic struggle in America, but at the end of the day I can only really speak as a woman in America,” says Rose.

“And it’s not just being called ‘cute’ at folk shows. I’m talking about being pushed around or facing domestic abuse or rape. The kinds of things that women face on a daily basis that are not commonly addressed because people don’t feel comfortable talking about them. This music is talking about that. And the intimate details of it will have to be up to the listener,” adds Rose.

“I remember being afraid to tell people I was in this band,” says Lyne. “Because it’s kind of radical.”

“Now we do whatever we want happily,” says Rose.

A version of this story appeared in the September 22, 2016, print edition of the Wisconsin Gazette.

New Boyz Club will play the G l O r Y g L o R y release show on September 30 at Company Brewing with Hello Death, Fox Face, and Sista Strings.

Watch below for a taste of their live performance, courtesy of Hear Here Presents.

Below is my full-interview with Johanna and Katie.

(When I sat down on the Company Brewing patio a couple weeks ago to talk with Johanna the first thing we discussed was how both of us were in a negative head space at that moment. I had a dark beer and she had a whiskey on the rocks.)

JOHANNA

That’s perfect. The New Boyz Club trilogies are not about being in a good head space. Cheers!

(We clink glasses.)

WiG

Granted I’ve only been back in Milwaukee for about three years now. But as far as New Boyz Club goes, there’s not another band that I’ve seen out as much, that has impressed me as much, and that still hasn’t put out a proper project. It feels like it’s been quite the incubation period.

JOHANNA

Right now in Milwaukee it seems like every weekend someone’s having a release show. Oh! (Johanna looks at her phone.) Katie Lyne’s on her way! She’s hard to get ahold of right now because she lost her phone in Ecuador. And I was recording earlier so I forgot that there was a world outside.

But shit, it took a lot of work just to do those three songs. I wanted to do them right. And that was the third time I attempted to record them. Technically, we started as a band in November 2014.

WiG

How did you all get together? I mean you and your brother Will have obviously been playing music forever…

JOHANNA

We were playing together in a band called Calamity Janes and the Fratney Street Band. Will was drumming in that. It was a collaborative project between Lizzy Altman, Krystal Kuehl, myself, Allison Darbo, Ernest Brusabardis IV, and William.

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Calamity Janes and the Fratney Street Band

Me, Krystal and Lizzie were the songwriters. It was very folk and I love that project. I still play with Krystal in Thistledown [Thunders]. But the Janes went on hiatus for a little while. Lizzy went to New York, Krystal went to Central or South America. And then Myles Coyne asked me to play a solo show because I had these songs that I had put up on SoundCloud that were too rock-y or weird to play with the Janes. They weren’t Janes songs really.

WiG

Were you playing upright bass with them?

JOHANNA

Yeah. I felt like I was always playing folk music. As I started writing more myself, which didn’t really happen until 2013, but I knew that I kind of wanted to rebel against my folk roots and play really loud music. New Boyz Club was my version of a punk band, that’s what it is. I was asked to play solo and I showed up with an 8-piece band, that’s basically what happened.

WiG

Where was that?

JOHANNA

At Public House. November 2014. I guess it’s been two years, just about. It was really fun. The lineup for that first show had Jack Tell on banjo. Ernie played violin and Josh played acoustic and electric guitar. Palmer was on electric guitar too. Katie Lynn was on piano and Will was playing really hard drums and that was a big thing, that Will was getting to rock out.

WiG

Is he doing his rap project by that point? I know Airo Kwil had a different name before…

JOHANNA

Airythmatic. But that was more when he was living in Madison. When I started playing upright in Airo Kwil that kind of led the way to New Boyz Club in that it showed me I could play the bass loud. It was part of the exploration of playing bass in different genres. And I have to be really, really loud to play with Airo Kwil.

WiG

So that was your first step outside of the folk trajectory?

JOHANNA

Right. And I realized how loud I could get the upright and that was killer. Then we kind of stepped back and said, “Okay, we got this together for this one show but who wants to make this a project? Who wants to commit to practicing and developing these songs?”

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Aytan Luck (PHOTO – Andrew Feller)

We broke it down to a cast of Aytan [on trumpet], because I also knew I wanted strings and horns. Ernie was really busy with school so he stepped out for a minute but eventually he ended up in New Boyz Club. Aytan, Palmer, Josh, me, Katie and Will. I had string aspects by being on the bass and having the horns but then we kind of grew with a small horn section adding Jay and the small string section with me and Ernie.

Originally I intended to stick more to the basement scene. I feel like the emergence of folk, hip-hop, punk and rock, like how we have such eclectic bills now, that hadn’t quite happened yet. So I would go to punk shows and I really wanted to have a band that I could play with at those shows.

WiG

So you were going to punk basement shows?

JOHANNA

Yeah and I feel like that has dwindled down a little bit. There was this band Brat Sounds, they were part of the first FemFest, which was really punky. That was one of our first few shows too actually.

JOHANNA

You said this is going to be out like next week sometime? The flyer is almost done.

WiG

Did you make it?

JOHANNA

No my friend Alyssa did the flyer but it’s my concept. (Shows me the in-progress flyer on her phone.) Those are police officers parachuting on sunflowers.

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Poster by Alyssa Wiener

WiG

It’ll be next week Thursday in print.

JOHANNA

Cool. I’m really excited. With all the other art that I’m doing I needed help. And she’s an old high school friend so we know each other from advanced art class at Shorewood.

WiG

What other art projects are you working on?

(She picks up one of the song zines I asked her to bring.)  

JOHANNA

These are the original versions of the zines, but I’m working on a big, thicker one for the release. I haven’t printed it yet so I can’t show it to you. I’m probably not going to  give it to anyone before the release show. “What if I?” is on this trilogy and “I Don’t Believe in God” will be on the next one.

WiG

Did you make one for “We All Go to Heaven on a Sinking Ship”?

JOHANNA

I did. But I couldn’t find a copy of it today.

WiG

I remember looking through it the first time I saw you at the Jazz Estate.

JOHANNA

Oh yeah! That was a great summer.

WiG

So the first FemFest was 2015?

JOHANNA

Yeah.

New Boyz Club on 88Nine's "414 Live"
New Boyz Club on 88Nine’s “414 Live”

WiG

First FemFest and first Arte [Para Todos]. Kristina heard you on 88Nine doing a 414 Live before I saw you live.

JOHANNA

Yeah we did that really quick after we started playing as a band.

WiG

But most of you had notoriety from being in other projects.

JOHANNA

Yeah I mean Milwaukee Record ran an article about our first show. Something like, “Johanna Rose let’s New Boyz Club out of the room or closet,” or something like that.

WiG

So there was a bit of anticipation?

JOHANNA

I think that there was an appreciation for the songs that I did for the Janes and then to have all of us folk kids playing these super loud instruments was a thrill in itself.  Now we’ve toned it down a little bit. I think we just turned everything up as loud as we could for our first shows, because we had no idea what we were doing.

WiG

But that’s the vibe you get at a New Boyz Club show. It’s anthemic. It’s music you scream at the heavens.

JOHANNA

That’s nice. It’s a passion project to the T. Recording it was a headache though.

WiG

To try and reign it all in and make it sound just right?

JOHANNA

Yeah and I was just a mess the whole time.

WiG

Where you were in your life or dealing with the process?

JOHANNA

John Larkin and Ernest Brusabardis IV (PHOTO - Andrew Feller)
John Larkin and Ernest Brusabardis IV (PHOTO – Andrew Feller)

Dealing with the process mostly. Like I said, it was the third time I attempted to record these songs. The second time I had a lot of it done but I didn’t like the energy so I started all over. I’m very neurotic. Recording is hard. So I got a team and the third time was the charm. Besides thinking about trying to record it myself, which would have been even worse, I got Ian Olvera and Liam O’Brien and they worked together to record it. We worked out of Ian Olvera’s studio. The ladybug studios, that’s what I call it.

WiG

Oh yeah on Water Street.

JOHANNA

And we also recorded at lots of different places all over.

(Katie Lyne shows up.)

JOHANNA

Oh my God, you’re home! (Turns to me.) I haven’t seen her yet.

(Johanna gets up and gives Katie a big hug.)

KATIE

So my wallet was taken in a mosh pit. It was called Fiesta de Guapulo and there were these fireworks. It looked like Burning Man. There was this huge wooden structure spitting fireworks. Literally you had to duck and cover. People were running around in a circle around this huge fireworks structure and someone just jacked it.

JOHANNA

That sounds worth it.

KATIE

It was worth it. It was dope.

WiG

I’d like to take it back for a second. I’m curious about what you were listening to in high school and what you were getting up to while in high school here in Milwaukee.

JOHANNA

I’m actually going to do an ode to one of my favorite high school bands at the [release] show, but that’s a surprise. I played classical music and Will was always drumming in punk bands and we had shows in my parents basement. There was kind of a bizarre Shorewood basement scene were like Juicebox played in my parents basement. And Doom Buggy. A couple of the members of that band, if not all, are now in Dogs in Ecstasy. So I was connected and exposed to that music scene and I hung around here a lot when I was a teenager. Because there was a great basement scene here. I don’t know what kids do these days.

KATIE

Go to The Rave and take Molly.

JOHANNA

I guess.

WiG

I grew up in the city but I wasn’t like a hip East Side-Riverwest kid. I was just going to The Rave to see hip-hop shows pretty much.

JOHANNA

I was doing that too. I went to like five Atmosphere concerts in a period of like two years or something like that.

KATIE

Same here. And then I had a Phish period.

JOHANNA

I skipped that.

WiG

Alpine Valley?

KATIE

Yeah and then I went on tour, like five shows in a row. It was so stupid. I was in love. It was my first.

JOHANNA

Naturally. But yeah I loved At the Drive-In and Fugazi and that kind of stuff. And then I loved Atmosphere and the whole slew of Minneapolis rappers.

WiG

Did you go to that Turner Hall show during the God Loves Ugly tour?

JOHANNA

Oh yes. That was amazing!

KATIE

I was there too.

WiG

Really? You would have been a baby. Because I’m like six years older than you and I was about 15. This was 2002.

KATIE

Oh no. I guess I went to a different one at Turner Hall.

JOHANNA

I went to that one and there were still holes in the ceiling, weren’t there?

WiG

Oh yeah. It was wild. That was my first time in Turner Hall.  

Will Rose (PHOTO - Andrew Feller)
Will Rose (PHOTO – Andrew Feller)

WiG

Was Will with you?

JOHANNA

No he was too young. He’s two years younger. He was at home, probably playing video games.

WiG

So Katie, I’m interested to hear about your musical background. How’d you get on the keys?

KATIE

It started when I was really young.  My whole family on my mom’s side, my French Canadian side, they are almost all musicians in Montreal. my godmother and my aunt are music teachers at McGill. My grandmother is a classical music lover. So my mom introduced me to piano first.

I was five and I started taking lessons with this really angry polish woman name Dorota Zak. She straddled a fine line between being really aggressive and being really encouraging. She saw that I had talent. I kind of hated it and I loved it at the same time. So piano first, then I started singing in the church choir. Like hardcore, because I went to Catholic school. there was a phase in my life when I was going to church every day. I was super into God.

WiG

Your family was all about that too?

KATIE

No, just my school. It was brainwashing basically.

WiG

What school?

KATIE

I’m from Green Bay, so it was Notre Dame Academy. It was very strange. And then I had one teacher who was like, “You need to question your faith. Is this really what you think?”

WiG

This was at Catholic school?

KATIE

Yeah. He was like the hippie world religions teacher who taught Buddhism and Hinduism and Native religions. And I became pretty close with him and he was like, “You should explore other things.” And then I stopped singing in church choir because I was like, “Fuck it. I’m an atheist.” Then I was super into musicals.

I still continued with piano, so I was doing classical, playing Beethoven’s sonatas, just super into it. When I realized that singing was more my passion after high school I went to Columbia College in Chicago and studied jazz there. And then I was like, “Fuck it, I want to sing opera.” So I went to UWM and I graduated with my music BA in vocal performance.

WiG

So you transferred?

KATIE

Yeah. I transferred because it was too expensive and Chicago was weird.

JOHANNA

You’re going to be doing a lot more opera on the next trilogy…

KATIE

That’s my thing. So I was a junior in college and I met Josh Backes and I met Johanna…

JOHANNA

Well, what happened was…

KATIE

I don’t really remember, I may have been drunk some of that time.

JOHANNA

We went on an adventure.

KATIE

Oh yeah!

JOHANNA

We went on a bike ride to…what is it? The building that was torn down recently for the new water research school site. We rode our bikes there…

KATIE

In the pouring rain.

JOHANNA

…and there’s crazy graffiti on these torn down buildings.

KATIE

Had a bottle of Jack.

JOHANNA

Also singing.

KATIE

Definitely singing.

JOHANNA

And then we just started singing…

KATIE

And we never stopped.

Katie and Johanna.
Katie and Johanna (PHOTO – Andrew Feller)

JOHANNA

That was the first time we hung out. We met each other singing outside of Bremen beforehand…

KATIE

Didn’t even know her name.

WiG

You started harmonizing together randomly?

JOHANNA

Yeah.

KATIE

And I was already into the Grasping At Straws, which is like a folk band. So that was my first introduction to the Riverwest scene and that’s why I went to Bremen, because of that band. Then I met you. And you were in the Calamity Janes then…

JOHANNA

So our bands played some shows together.

KATIE

And basically I was still studying opera and voice and I was like, “Wait, this is really amazing. The energy in this music scene is more me.” So I kind of put that on hold and jumped into this scene.

JOHANNA

It wasn’t so unfamiliar now that I think about it…

KATIE

Right.

Young Johanna and Will Rose
Young Johanna and Will Rose

JOHANNA

…when you said your family was into music. Me and Will come from an ‘80s hair band rock family. Our uncles started bands together. One of my uncles is a keyboard player and singer and his brother plays drums. And they started going on tour when they were 15 and just did that for like 20 years. They played throughout all the genres of the ‘80s. They did them all. Even a little bit into the ‘90s, they even did some rap rock. Remember when rap rock happened?

KATIE

Oh yeah. Jesus Christ.

WiG

For my middle school talent show me and my friends did Limp Bizkit’s “Nookie.” I was the DJ pretending to scratch on one lone turntable.

JOHANNA

Exactly.

KATIE

Adorable. In 7th grade my friend and I sang “Stairway to Heaven.” We had a foreign exchange student from Korea…

JOHANNA

You know they ripped that song off?

KATIE

No. But it was him on electric violin and some little kid, 12-year-old on drums, and me singing. No guitar, nothing else. The foreign exchange kid was like a savant, so it was awesome. That was strange…Catholic school talent show.

WiG

Was that your first time on stage?

KATIE

No. The church choir I came from, you’d sing in front of thousands of people. And they had little concerts they’d put on. Our school had about 30 people in each class so I was like the only one who could sing. I was always the soloist. I was kind of pushed by everyone: my teachers, my parents, my parents friends. It’s kind of annoying. When I’m at family gatherings people always want me to sing. I get so embarrassed when people ask me that. Did you ever have your family do that?

JOHANNA

Are you kidding? I didn’t sing until I met you. I sang on my bedroom recordings and then I kind of sang with the Janes, but I was always told my voice was so weird.

KATIE

People said that?

JOHANNA

Especially that I didn’t have a country or folk voice.

KATIE

No, no, no. Well yeah, now you do.

JOHANNA

Maybe.

KATIE

When you sing bluegrass now you do.

JOHANNA

Yeah cuz you practice and you pick it up. But I was always really embarrassed of singing. I think the first time I sang on stage it was right before I got my knee operation. I was bedridden for two months basically.

WiG

When was that?

JOHANNA

It was in the middle of the Janes. And this is how I started playing my songs with the Janes. It would be January 2013. I tore my ACL and then I got a blood clot from surgery. Then one day during a show, because I still played of course, just on one leg. So during the show my leg started internally bleeding and I had to go to the ER at three in the morning and they were like, “If you hadn’t come in you would’ve lost your leg.” I had to restart my whole rehab of my leg and I was literally in my bed for a month.  That was when I really started writing most of these [New Boyz Club] songs.

KATIE

Bedridden. On pain killers.

JOHANNA

On pain killers. I had a piano on my bed. I had a double bed and I slept next to the piano and just started writing songs.

KATIE

That’s how you do it.

newboyzclub_garibaldi_ccandrewfeller_00007-1
Johanna (PHOTO – Andrew Feller)

WiG

And when was that bike ride adventure?

KATIE

2014.

JOHANNA

During the Janes hiatus.

KATIE

We went to this gay bar after the weird abandoned warehouse. There was like shirtless men there.

JOHANNA

It was the perfect welcoming environment for us actually.

KATIE

Then we just bar hopped and road home in the pouring rain.

JOHANNA

Then we hung out forever.

KATIE

And now I have a baby.

JOHANNA

Now you have a baby! And I’m going to Germany. And that’s how life happens.

WiG

So Katie, do you know the French-Canadian curse words? Like “Tabarnak?” “Câlisse?”

KATIE

Tabarnak!

WiG

Nice. I lived in Montreal for about three years.

KATIE

Oh my God!

JOHANNA

I love Montreal!

KATIE

Where?

WiG

My ex is French-Canadian. We lived in the West End. I went to Concordia. Got my graduate degree in journalism.

JOHANNA

Me and William spent the best 24 hours of our lives in Montreal.

KATIE

What did you do?

JOHANNA

We went and we saw this crazy band that…

KATIE

There’s a beautiful music scene there.

JOHANNA

Such a great music scene, that’s like really horn-centric. Or at least it was 10 years ago when we went on this crazy adventure. And I always kept that in my mind for later. We saw the trumpet player for Arcade Fire’s other project, Bell Orchestre or something.

KATIE

Yep.

WiG

There’s a lot of Arcade Fire side projects.

JOHANNA

I bet. I bet they’re brilliant too.

WiG

My friend and I went to a loft party and saw The Luyas, which Sarah Neufeld of Arcade Fire plays in that band. There were a few other Arcade Fire members at that crowded, hot, sweaty, fantastic show.

JOHANNA

I wanted New Boyz Club to be like Arcade Fire. Like a punkier Arcade Fire.

KATIE

That’s what I imagined when we started writing these songs.

JOHANNA

And we were just so sick of being cute.

KATIE

Yeah!

JOHANNA

We were so sick of like being called “cute.” Because there’s something about playing folk music as a girl that people kept saying, “Oh you’re so cute.” And you get that a lot as a woman musician, that you’re supposed to be pleasing and adorable.

KATIE

Still to this day I hear people, grown men usually, that come up to you and are like, “Oh my God. A woman on upright bass, that’s so fucking hot.” Okay, sure.

JOHANNA

Actually what they say is, “Oh my God. A woman on the cello.”

(Both laugh)

KATIE

And you’re like, “Go fuck yourself.” It’s just so bizarre, but also not surprising.

JOHANNA

We felt very unwelcomed from doing what we wanted to do with New Boyz Club in the beginning. I don’t know if Tigernite was happening yet. We wanted to be really loud. That’s why we called ourselves New Boyz Club. And there’s no way this would have happened if Katie Lyne hadn’t like sat next to me the whole time and been like, “You sound good! You can sing. No, just be loud…”

KATIE

Just do it!

JOHANNA

Totally.

KATIE

Like semi-vocal coaching her in this subtle way.

JOHANNA

One hundred percent vocal coaching me, the whole time.

KATIE

I was like, “Nope, you can do it better.” So yeah, it was really interesting to use the skills I learned in these collegiate formal settings, but in a very natural, real place.

Joshua Backes (PHOTO - Andrew Feller)
Joshua Backes (PHOTO – Andrew Feller)

JOHANNA

All the music we had been playing, you with Grasping at Straws, me with the Janes or Thistledown, and then our duo exploration in jazz, because we would just spend hours and hours on one jazz tune, the two of us dissecting it and figuring out how to play this music, we used all of those influences for New Boyz Club.

We would insert little parts of each into our songs. Like “The Police State Will Fall” will go from a choral piece to a blues walk to a punk jam. We didn’t even try to do that. It was a result of incorporating all the things that we’ve learned on our different musical journeys to come up with the shit show that is New Boyz Club.

KATIE

Because how it happened was it was just us two and we’d be playing and our friends would come over and be like, “Can I sit in?”

JOHANNA

Is that how it happened?

KATIE

Yes.

(Both laugh)

KATIE

Palmer was living at your house so he was just sitting there like, “Um, can I play?” And then Jack Tell…

JOHANNA

So we didn’t like invite eight people…

KATIE

No! They just came to the house when we were playing.

JOHANNA

I have no proper recollection. Okay, Katie Lyne has a much better grasp on reality than I do.

KATIE

On some things.

JOHANNA

I was busy like drawing pictures of what we were playing. So Katie Lyne probably knows what actually was going on.

KATIE

Maybe.

JOHANNA

And then we toured and you were seven months pregnant.

WiG

I remember seeing dispatches from that tour.

KATIE

Yeah that was fun.

WiG

Busking in Pittsburgh…

KATIE

That was the best part of it!

Busking in Pittsburgh (PHOTO – Maggie Iken)

JOHANNA

Busking was the best part.

KATIE

Yeah, because all the shows we booked were very strange. Some of them were good, but some of them were…

JOHANNA

The one in Pittsburgh was cool.

KATIE

Cuz those were our people. They were like crusty little…

JOHANNA

Gremlins.

KATIE

I think it was a commune though.

JOHANNA

It was like a punk commune…

KATIE

There was a leader. That really attractive guy with the long hair and the beard.

JOHANNA

I saw no attractive guys there.

KATIE

I did. But it was just like this weird vibe when I walked into the house. It seemed like he had this harem of girls just fawning over him. If we were in Roman times they would all be fanning him and feeding him grapes.

JOHANNA

I didn’t catch on to that!

KATIE

I did. I was sober the whole time.

WiG

Pregnancy sober, naturally.

KATIE

And the rest of you were all over the place. And he was like, “You’re a goddess, pregnancy!” I mean, thank you. But that was so weird. It was the best show though.

JOHANNA

That was the best show. Madison was cool too. It was just fun being on the road with our best friends. Ernie and Stephanie came so it was like…

KATIE

Family.

JOHANNA

…and my brother and Josh and Aytan and Palmer. That was fun as hell.

WiG

So you went out East and then back through the Midwest?

KATIE

What did we do? Chicago, Ohio…

JOHANNA

Again, I never really know what’s going on.

KATIE

…Pittsburgh, Madison, Milwaukee.

JOHANNA

Green Bay.

KATIE

Oh yeah. (Laughs)

JOHANNA

And then some shit town. Like Whitewater, but it wasn’t Whitewater.

KATIE

Appleton too.

JOHANNA

It was an experience.

KATIE

Cleveland? No! Columbus.

JOHANNA

Illustration by Stephanie Brusabardis.
Illustration by Stephanie Brusabardis.

It was kind of like learning how to survive with our busking. Because we were playing mostly house, punk DIY shows so we weren’t really making mad cash. But those shows tend to try and take care of touring bands more so. The punk scene is really good at that, taking care of touring bands. That’s why you have shows, because people are traveling and playing music. So you center all your shows around touring bands. I love that about punk bands and the punk scene and I think that’s how it should be with club shows too.

The shows that I have lined up before I leave outside of the release, and Cree Myles birthday party, and a fundraiser to end gun violence, everything else is centered around sweet touring bands that are coming through and just trying to make sure they have a good time. I think every show I’m playing is at Company Brewing almost. Pretty much.

KATIE

Yeah, now I work here.

WiG

Company is quite the…

KATIE

I rehearse upstairs…

JOHANNA

It’s the mothership.

KATIE

Now it is, yeah. Because George is the shit.

JOHANNA

Yeah because Katie is in Ruth B8r Ginsburg now too. That happened early summer. So…musical soulmates.

WiG

What you were saying before about the genre-bending that happens on New Boyz Club songs is interesting because the first time I saw you was at the Jazz Estate. You totally fit at the Jazz Estate, because you have these jazz elements. But you could also fit at a punk basement show, or on an indie rock show at Public House, or at an Alverno Presents Prince Uncovered show. It all works.

KATIE

I didn’t get to do that show.

JOHANNA

She was having a baby.

KATIE

I gave birth a week later. I opted out because I knew the baby was going to be on time. He was born on his due date.

JOHANNA

And the rehearsals for that were brutal.

KATIE

And I knew it. Because I knew exactly what the rehearsal process would be.

JOHANNA

We talked about it.

KATIE

And there was no time. I had to just fucking sit on my ass on the couch.

Django and Johanna
Django and Johanna

JOHANNA

You had the most beautiful wonderful life to create. Katie Lyne is my best friend. But then she had Django. And now I think Django might be my best friend.

KATIE

I think so too, especially in how they interact. He took his first steps in her arms.

JOHANNA

I love that baby! He’s the best. I think he’s a drummer.

KATIE

Oh yeah. He claps now.

JOHANNA

See, that’s the thing. You miss two weeks of a child’s life and they’re clapping suddenly.

KATIE

I go, “Dance Django!”

(Katie acts out how Django bobs up and down while clapping.)

JOHANNA

No!

KATIE

And he twerks his little butt.

JOHANNA

We’re hanging out tomorrow.

KATIE

Of course.

JOHANNA

I’m coming over.

KATIE

I have leftovers in my fridge already.

JOHANNA

Haha…on it!

(Both laugh)

WiG

Do you think your playing changed at all pre-pregnancy, during pregnancy and post-pregnancy?

KATIE

Yes. Pre-pregnancy it was really emotion oriented and I almost left my body during the shows. During my pregnancy I was so focused inwards because I was creating a life. I just remember feeling this beautiful cycle of energy flowing out through the audience and then back in. It was just like some other worldly shit.

JOHANNA

Django went on tour with us. He practically wrote the whole album.

KATIE

But now after having a baby, I don’t have the same energy that I did when I was just partying and going crazy. So now it’s a balance of inward and outward energy that I can give to the audience. It’s really cool seeing the spectrum of it.

WiG

I think with your music and the lyrics, songs like “The Police State Will Fall,” they seem to be very aware of and concerned for the future and like what the world will be and could be for Django and everyone else.

KATIE

Yeah!

JOHANNA

There’s a storyline that will build across all three trilogies. It’s talking about how systematic oppression plays out in interpersonal relationships. So “The Police State Will Fall” was a direct reaction to Ferguson. I was in Portland, Oregon when that happened and it was an acapella effort at first.

When Katie and I got together she pointed out it was a blues walk, the vocal line when it does the switch. (Johanna starts singing “the police sta-aaate.”) Then I knew that I wanted to have this punch at the end. And we recorded it with a choir of 24 people. Gauss was there. All of Ladders was there. Zed Kenzo was there. George was there.

WiG

George sings on it?

JOHANNA

Oh yeah. Django was there.

KATIE

I was conducting…

JOHANNA

Yeah, she was conducting with Django strapped…

KATIE

He was in a woven wrap strapped to my body.

JOHANNA

And she conducted the whole thing.

KATIE

That’s where I put my degree to use.

JOHANNA

It was really tricky. There was only a few headphones so there were only so many people within the choir who had headphones who were helping keep the tempo, because it speeds up.

KATIE

And it’s like a reverb chamber up there.

JOHANNA

The minute I walked up in that room I was like, “This is going to happen here.” And I can’t believe it actually happened, but it did.

WiG

Was it in the front room upstairs?

KATIE

Yeah. In that big open space.

Jay Anderson (PHOTO - Andrew Feller)
Jay Anderson (PHOTO – Andrew Feller)

JOHANNA

There were so many awesome people there. Klassik was there. D’Amato was there. Great artists that we work with. Jay Anderson. Ernest Brusabardis. Aytan is in this other band called Wavy V and they were there. Sista Strings of course. It was so gorgeous. We had this half barrel of beer and just got the drunken ruckus choir that we needed for that track.

KATIE

We sang it for about an hour or two and it was so affirming. Saying it over and over and over again like, “Glory fucking glory!” It’s really uplifting.

JOHANNA

We were so pumped.

KATIE

We had hope. We left that recording with so much hope.

JOHANNA

I felt something in the air. It was right at the beginning of this summer that we just had with police brutality being what it is. So afterwards, I think it was Klassik, Trecy from Ruth B8r Ginsburg, Yasmine, Chauntee, D’Amato, I don’t know if anyone else did…mainly those people. But so we had an open session where we played it back, they listened to the choir, what they had just did, and then we asked them to shout out what the police state means to them.  

If you listen closely to “The Police State Will Fall” you’ll hear little intermittents of like, “Shut it down!” “We want justice!” Those clips are from people reacting to the choir they just recorded. They are just letting out what the police state means to them. There’s some really intense stuff. Chauntee shouted “I can’t breathe,” which we put through a delayed fuzzed out amp and then laid it under the whole thing to capture the energy of her amazingness. So there’s a little bit of witchcraft in the whole thing. A lot of superstition.

KATIE

Questioning.

JOHANNA

We weren’t just recording these sounds. We were recording these moments. It’s not all clear what we’re doing but there’s different ways that things had to be recorded in order for it to be right. But maybe I’m just crazy.

KATIE

No.

JOHANNA

Like I did all of “Taxes” naked.

WiG

The recording of it?

JOHANNA

Yeah.

KATIE

The vocal recording.

JOHANNA

The vocal recording, not the bass. That would be weird…but it’s such a vulnerable song, “Taxes.” I wrote it in the midst of a manic episode where I was freaking out about financial struggle. I was supposed to do my taxes but I got screwed so I owed all this money. I was like, “How is the proletariat supposed to survive and exist in this universe? There’s no place for us.” That song came out and it mixes with all these other things that were happening in life and this idea at the end where it’s like, “Don’t look at me, I don’t feel right.”

In a way, that’s how you feel whenever you go on stage. Or maybe just being a woman. So I guess in order to do that vocal take correctly, to capture the original intent and feeling of the song, I got naked and drank a lot of whiskey before the last part, the “Don’t look at me” part. It was all recorded with me laying on the floor at the end of my literal wits for the night. It was like two in the morning and there was nothing else that could have happened besides me trying to finish that song. And we did.

KATIE

And it’s very beautiful.

WiG

It’s so beautiful. You sent me those songs and I couldn’t believe it. There’s so much power. And it’s like I was telling Johanna before you came Katie, I don’t know if there’s another band in Milwaukee that I’ve loved as much before hearing a recorded project from. And now for this to be the project…it just fucking nails it in so many ways.

KATIE

Thank you. That’s why we didn’t rush it.

JOHANNA

It was super tedious. I was super nit picky.

KATIE

And when it comes down to it, recording depends on our emotional state. Recording was hard.

JOHANNA

We’re such moody assholes.

KATIE

It was in the middle of a really hard time for you.

WiG

Was it mostly recorded this summer?

JOHANNA

Heidi and David Rose
Heidi and David Rose

I mean, New Boyz Club might have ended as a project completely when my father passed away a year-and-a-half ago. The next show we had scheduled after my father passed was with Hello Death, who is playing our release as well. If I hadn’t found it so ironic that we were going to play a show with a band called “Hello Death,” I wouldn’t have done it. I really love them and we hadn’t done the Prince Uncovered show yet, which only bonded us even more with that band. But it just seemed right. So I said, “Fuck it, let’s carry on.”

KATIE

It’s real and it’s truth.

JOHANNA

I mean Josh from New Boyz Club and Ernie and Katie Lyne all played my father’s funeral. We’re not just connected as musicians, we’re all really good friends. We’ve triumphed and celebrated the different things that have happened in our lives. Like Josh just got married, me and Ernie played his wedding, and Katie Lynn having Django, all these giant life events we have gone through not just as musicians and as a band, but also his friends. It’s been incredible.

KATIE

It’s pretty cool. We’re pretty lucky.

JOHANNA

Yeah we are.

WiG

I was going to ask you about your dad…

JOHANNA

Yeah, I’m trying to think of where in all of this that happened because it was May 2015…it just happened so quickly. Because he was sick and then he was really sick and then he was okay and then he got really sick all of a sudden again. We had just gone through FemFest and Arte Para Todos and then I was on my way to take my ridiculous dollhouse to an art show and I got the call that my father had had a stroke. I think I just spent the next month or so of my life in the hospital until May 18th when he passed.

I think that the only way me and Will could have gotten through that was by spending shit tons of time playing music together. That’s all we did. We just jammed it out. We just played music, constantly. And we’re still going.

KATIE

Well you never stopped. With grief, that’s how some people cope.

13495107_10208630981684502_4098821722165669244_n
David, Will, and Heidi Rose

JOHANNA

It’s also a point for our family to rally around. My mother comes to all of our shows and our cousins and sisters and aunts and uncles, it’s a reason to get together for us as a family. It does that for us in a way. After someone passes sometimes you see families drift apart, especially such a key member of the family.

KATIE

And your dad was always so supportive. He was so cool. Like he came to Quarters.

JOHANNA

My father, with stage four cancer, came to Quarters for Arte Para Todos.

KATIE

He always had this look of approval and he was so happy. Seeing him watch his children was amazing.

JOHANNA

He liked seeing us play together.

KATIE

And he’s not going to bullshit you either.

JOHANNA

He especially loved the bluegrass-y, folk-y stuff.

WiG

Was that his jam?

Young Johanna and her father
Young Johanna and her father

JOHANNA

He loved Johnny Cash, Van Morrison, Bruce Springsteen, “The Boss” of course. But he also loved Van Morrison & the Chieftains. He loved really old music too. Some of the stuff that me and Carl have been working on we have picked a little bit from the jams he liked. I try to think about the songs that he likes.

KATIE

That’s the beauty of being a musician though. You get to have that outlet.

JOHANNA

The first thing I did was go nuts and not sleep for a week. I was skateboarding around and spray painting messages to my father on surfaces that were open to the sky and my bedroom wall. Naturally, I am not perfect at handling grief. But I wrote a song which we played at the Jazz Estate and that was the only time we ever played it. I wrote that song three days after my dad passed away. After we played it I folded it up and I put it inside of my bass and it’s still inside there.

I won’t take it out. There was one day that I thought maybe I should take it out and Ernie was like, “Why?” And Ernie takes really good care of his instruments and probably would never do something like that. So if Ernie thinks I shouldn’t take it out then it’s staying in there for life. Just rattling around. Sometimes I have to shake it around so it doesn’t rattle during recordings. Totally worth it. Who knows? Basses  have a lot of space and things just collect in there.  

WiG

You might have some other things in there.

KATIE

Food from the co-op.

JOHANNA

Cigarette butts. But actually I’ve taken an iPhone flashlight to it and I’m pretty sure it’s just the song in there. Maybe a guitar pick from the one time I tried to play my bass like a guitar.

(Johanna goes to order another round of drinks while Katie tells me about her time in Ecuador.)

JOHANNA

I had to teach Mike Swan and Rosco how to do shots in Ukraine. I’ve been practicing.

KATIE

Oh yeah?

JOHANNA

I think I should switch to vodka. All they drink over there is vodka.

WiG

It’s a lot of clear liquors in Eastern Europe.

JOHANNA

I know and I’m such a whiskey girl…because of the folk scene!

KATIE

They’re not going to have that there for you.

JOHANNA

It’s okay, I’ll adjust.

KATIE

I can’t drink vodka, oh my God.

WiG

Only in bloodies.

KATIE

Right!

(We share stories about our first time becoming sick from alcohol and more about Katie’s trip to Ecuador.)

KATIE

The family we stayed with was so close knit and amazing but in general they weren’t very warm to tourists, they spot you right away.

JOHANNA

I’m hoping that dragging an upright bass behind me helps with that in Romania. It’s a real ice breaker.

WiG

There’s so much music in Eastern Europe, especially folk-y gypsy busking and classical music. There’s such an appreciation for it. When I was in Prague and Vienna there were concerts and buskers everywhere.

KATIE

It’s my dream to go to Prague. I want to sing classical music in some beautiful hall there.

WiG

You know how in New York City there are aspiring comedians walking around Times Square handing out little flyers for what’s called “bringer” shows? It’s like that in Prague but with classical music concerts.

KATIE

I’ve never been to Europe, but it’s so alluring to me.

JOHANNA

You gotta come visit me is what you have to do.

(Johanna plays us a recording she and her lover Carl made earlier that day. They are called “Nickels & Rose.” It’s a preview of the music they will be playing on the streets of Europe. Carl, who I’ve only seen play guitar with New Age Narcissism, is singing and sounds terrific.)

KATIE

Is this original?

JOHANNA

Yeah.

KATIE

Oh shit.

WiG

I can already picture it on the streets of Berlin.

(When Johanna’s voice comes in and they sing together it’s devastatingly beautiful.)

JOHANNA

So I’m going back to folk.

KATIE

Gypsy folk.

JOHANNA

I didn’t know that Carl existed. But I really hoped for a long time that Carl existed. That I would find someone that I could play music with as like a duet and we would also be in love.

KATIE

Love fuels it.

JOHANNA

I’ve dated enough of my band mates and ruined bands over my lifetime…

KATIE

This girl…

JOHANNA

It just happens, you only want to date people who play music because…

KATIE

Because it’s hot and it’s beautiful.

JOHANNA

Also it’s the only thing I can talk about.

KATIE

Me too!

(Both laugh)

JOHANNA

I dated one person who didn’t play music, but they were a big music lover so still we talked about music.

KATIE

Me too, but still we argued all the time. That was the Phish head. He tried to explain to me that Phish was the greatest and I was like, “I don’t think so.” He told me I was “an entitled classical bitch.”

JOHANNA

The minute he called you a “bitch” is the minute he was out.

KATIE

Yeah, that’s when I said goodbye.

(The song ends.)

WiG

That is fantastic.

KATIE

What?!

JOHANNA

Yeah and I still have to fix it tomorrow.

KATIE

I like how Carl always sings about the devil.

JOHANNA

He does! About a woman who’s taking him to the devil…

KATIE

Is that you?

JOHANNA

I wonder who the fuck that is..

(Both laugh)

JOHANNA

We’ll get into arguments and then write a song about it.

KATIE

Jesus Christ.

JOHANNA

I know, it’s so cheesy.

KATIE

You guys are a fucking movie.

JOHANNA

We’ll have verses where we’re playing out our argument through song, but then we resolve it in the end and then we’re on a high and we’re happy because we wrote a song.

KATIE

It’s perfect. Then you forgot about what you did.

JOHANNA

Like, “Do we need to song this out?!”

WiG

Oh, the mechanisms for managing arguments…

JOHANNA

And he doesn’t sing in Milwaukee.

KATIE

He’s very humble.

WiG

Is he from Milwaukee?

JOHANNA

Yeah. He’s from the North Side. The night of Sherman Park we had been jamming when we heard about it. Then we got in the car and drove down there. We drove through all the neighborhoods that were burning. I have no conclusions from it or I do or maybe I don’t. I guess we went and drove there because we wanted to see exactly what was happening with our own eyes instead of whatever the media was reporting.

My family lives on the East Side, yet so many of them, including myself, were getting text messages from people who know us around the country asking if we’re okay. But Sherman Park is such an isolated neighborhood.

WiG

It’s so crazy to me that that happens, as if this one neighborhood touches all of the city.

JOHANNA

Right and that was the night that the Strange Fruit festival was happening. To have all these people throughout the nation texting their East Side white relatives, they just have no concept of how segregated Milwaukee is. Whereas it was so relevant for Carl’s sister to text him and ask if he was okay. There’s a lot of Milwaukees.

WiG

No doubt. It’s even crazier because my parents live seven blocks from that gas station. I grew up there, yet their house is on this informal border between the Hasidic Jewish neighborhood to the west and the black neighborhood to the east.

JOHANNA

And that’s what Carl was saying when we were driving around and he was like, “Now we’re in the Jewish neighborhood.” And I was like, “How do you know they’re Jewish?” And he’s like, “Because they wear the hats and how they dress.” And I was like, “Oh, they’re like super Jewish! I got you.”

WiG

My friends used to call them “Amish zombies.”

KATIE

Oh!

JOHANNA

Don’t put that in your article.

WiG

I mean, we were kids and they didn’t know better. My friends came over for sleepovers on the weekend during the Sabbath when they can’t drive or use any electrical things and so they’d be walking all around late at night.

JOHANNA

Yeah, you can’t do shit on the Sabbath. You light your candles, you eat your food and you chill. I grew up across from a synagogue and my Jewish family were super liberal Jewish. But it’s kind of been honed in because my sister and her wife are moving to Tel Aviv in 15 days. She’s really connected to her Jewish faith in a way. Our family came to America around 1901 and moved to New York because they were persecuted.

WiG

From where?

JOHANNA

Ukraine. Which is why Carl and I are going to Ukraine on this journey. I’m going to try and find some kind of roots. There’s no roots because World War II pretty much wiped out all the roots. But I want to and Carl’s been awesome and supportive in trying to go to the neighborhoods where we can try to kind of pinpoint where they were. And so we’re going to Ukraine to chill there. There’s a great art scene there too. DakhaBrakha is there, they’re an amazing band. Dakh Daughters are there. The Dakh underground is amazing.

Then there’s like parts of Lithuania, because Ukraine has such a crazy history of being a part of Russia and then not and then Lithuania. It was constantly being conquered and redefined. My mother pulled out a map last night and tried to trace our journey and I was like,  “Mom, this map has Ukraine being a part of Russia. Get the Internet out!”  

commiegrandma
Johanna’s great-grandmother being hauled off by the police.

But I want to see these things. I can feel it in my family and I see it in my family where if they hadn’t left when they left they would have been totally screwed and probably murdered for their faith or for what they were born into. Then they came here and they joined the worker’s struggle. They became Communist union organizers and then the next generation joined the Civil Rights struggle. They identified with that because of the struggle they came from. They saw themselves in the struggle of Black America fighting for their rights and their freedom in this country. They saw the similarities from where they came from and then kind of saw religion as a crutch in that fight. Religion can separate you from people and that’s why I think Marx said, “Religion is the opiate of the masses.” My family made a clear point to say that religion doesn’t fucking matter when we’re talking about human rights. It’s too messy.

KATIE

It’s too emotional.

JOHANNA

Because then you’re getting into the rights of the Holy and the Unholy. You have to understand that all people are worth something because they’re human. And so they became civil rights activists. My grandfather was actually blacklisted during the McCarthy era.

Johanna's grandfather (holding the "CHOICE" sign).
Johanna’s grandfather (holding the “CHOICE” sign).

My original ancestors that got here were like the people who kicked people’s asses for not joining the union. They were like union thugs. And then the next generation were speakers. Like [my great-grandfather] William Winestone is in textbooks for his union activism. So is my grandfather. But it took a lot of ass kicking to make things happen. And shit, they have been torn to pieces, the unions. And factory jobs are horrible.

KATIE

And the chemicals they’re inhaling.

JOHANNA

Right.

KATIE

I used to live across from a factory and I could smell it in my house sometimes. It was a tannery across the street.

JOHANNA

They have to do something about it. Unions…there needs to be a revolution. There needs to be something. The state of America is ridiculous right now.

KATIE

Especially Wisconsin.

WiG

I agree and I don’t meant to play devil’s advocate, but you look at the abuse within unions, the gangsterism…

JOHANNA

Of course, it can be completely corrupt.

WiG

But it’s like any institution that becomes an institution is liable to become corrupt.

KATIE

Yeah, that’s power.

JOHANNA

We have never realized a perfect state of being. However, we have been on a constant cycle of exploitation since the beginning of time. And that needs to change.

KATIE

I remember in high school my French teacher was from Ukraine. I was raised in a conservative family so we were taught to hate Communism and Russia. But hearing her side of it, she was like, “You know, it is utopia. It is perfect. If everyone is equal.” And I was just like, “Whoa. What?” It was just these opposite views that I grew up with.

JOHANNA

Ukraine is not a utopia.

WiG

Berlin now is pretty great.

JOHANNA

Berlin is not perfect. Western Europe has all this money and these societies that seem perfect…

KATIE

But they’re not.

JOHANNA

But where did they make this money? They made this money from colonization. They colonized the shit out of Africa and South America. When people have such a free society it’s usually at the expense of a whole other people. And like NGO’s are the new colonialism. There are a couple good intro films on Netflix like Poverty, Inc. That’s a good one.

It’s just like Europe arranges a really good deal for themselves and flood poor markets with free rice and totally fuck all the farmers in these Third World countries. And who’s benefiting from this? And that term “Third World” is so gross because it was made up by the exploiters. So is anyone benefiting? Are you going to be happy in your so-called perfect society knowing it was at the expense of another nation?

WiG

I remember being super stoned in Amsterdam and taking a light rail train to the end of its line. It dropped me off by this inlet of water. I sat down on the dock and rested my feet on this boat and let my body sway and I was like meditating. Then it hit me; that was where slaves first came like 500 years ago.

That was the spot where the Transatlantic Slave Trade began. That was so heavy. Because I realized that the society I had been enjoying those few days—eating great food, drinking great beer, smoking great weed, riding bikes along the canals, seeing great art—it was so great, but it was at the expense of millions of slaves.

JOHANNA

There are good and bad points in these communities where like how Germany has put up constant reminders of the Holocaust and the genocide of these people. Whereas America has nothing like that.

WiG

We used to have that [Black Holocaust] museum here.

JOHANNA

But there should be so much more.

WiG

American hates to admit its original sin.

JOHANNA

Yeah, America hates to admit it. And that’s why you get tons of Facebook posts like, “Why are black people still upset? Slavery is over.”

KATIE

Did you see that article Cree posted?

JOHANNA

Yes! This black woman wrote an article that basically said, “I’m not going to tip white servers anymore,” and the Internet exploded and it went viral and people said all sorts of terrible things about her. And what she was doing was showing exactly the context of what white privilege is.

KATIE

Because she wasn’t actually making that claim. She was proving a point about how white people would react.

JOHANNA

It was so clever of her. But even if she was dead serious I wouldn’t care. My first reaction was, “Yeah, redistribution of wealth.” That’s what America needs. There really needs to be some major change otherwise we’re going to stay on the slow train to hell.

WiG

Well, we started this interview on a such an upbeat tone and now we’re ending it on another positive tone. I’m being sarcastic obviously.

JOHANNA

Well, I mean, there is hope in songs like “The Police State Will Fall. This trilogies will touch on racism in America, economic struggle in America, but at the end of the day I can only really speak as a woman in America. So when I say it talks about systematic oppression and how it plays out in interpersonal relationships I’m talking about being a woman and how those things affect you.

Not just being called “cute” at folk shows, I’m talking about being pushed around or facing domestic abuse or rape. The kinds of things that women face on a daily basis that are not commonly addressed because people don’t feel comfortable talking about them. This music is talking about it. It will talk about it more.

I would say the first trilogy is somewhat light compared to the next one. Then the third one has a resolve that certainly doesn’t resolve domestic violence or rape culture in America, but those are the things I can focus on the most because that’s the point of view I’m speaking from. The intimate details of it will have to be up to the listener. There will be solid messages throughout the trilogies that you know, “This isn’t okay. We have to learn how to respect women. We have to learn how to treat women like people.”

KATIE

I remember being afraid to tell people I was in this band. Because it’s kind of radical. And I was like, “How should we describe ourselves?” And you said, “Just say we’re a nudge at the patriarchy.” The fact that I felt fear in being in a band that was against…

JOHANNA

The harassment of women.

KATIE

Patriarchy, right! It’s like we feel fear all the time.

JOHANNA

Constantly.

KATIE

There’s no way around it. And we have to be gentle about it. It’s a nudge to the patriarchy…no, it’s a “Fuck you!” to the fucking patriarchy.

JOHANNA

Thank you.

KATIE

It’s not just a nudge. That’s how we were at the beginning. It was a nudge. Now it’s middle fingers up.

JOHANNA

It was scary. And maybe it’s not scary for other people initially, but it was scary for us at first.

KATIE

It was for me. I’ve never done that before. I’ve never questioned my existence as a woman.

JOHANNA

We felt like we had to fit our gender roles and we were so compelled. We were successfully fitting our gender roles, but we felt so uncomfortable with it to a degree that we rebelled against it and it came out as this.

KATIE

And culturally, women or “womyn,” however you want to spell it, it’s being redefined to be very inclusive and welcoming.

JOHANNA

And this was before the first FemFest when we came about this. After FemFest was when we realized there was a whole bunch of people who felt the same way. But we had no idea before. We were just kind of in the dark about everything. Things have blossomed and there’s much more support for women in music here these days. But a couple years ago it was kind of nuts.

KATIE

It was weird. It was uncomfortable. Like, “Am I a sex symbol? Am I just a cute girl?” I remember feeling so satisfied when someone would come up to me, and this is when I was single, and say, “You’re so beautiful up there.” And I would think, “Yes!” But then I was like, “Wait, is that my goal?” And I started questioning why I was on stage. Am I on stage just to be this object? What? Now I don’t give a fuck.

JOHANNA

Now we do whatever we want happily.

13147643_10208262698877662_1854216394230813014_o
Johanna Rose (PHOTO – Andrew Feller)

Wisconsin Sound #5

MILWAUKEE FILM FEST GUIDE

Official MKE Film Fest 2016 poster.
Official MKE Film Fest 2016 poster.

Returning for its 8th installment, the Milwaukee Film Festival is simply one of Wisconsin’s finest cultural institutions. This year 282 films will be screened between September 22 and October 6, plus a number of panels, speakers, guest appearances, post-film conversations, education screenings, and happy hours. In the spirit of this column I’ve compiled a guide for the best of the festival’s music-related films.

I must admit that my adoration for the Film Fest is colored by the fact that I met my girlfriend on the red carpet walking out of the Opening Night party two years ago. As such, the Opening Night party is a can’t miss event. This year Milwaukee’s premier music collective—New Age Narcissism (NAN)will perform at the party on September 22 in the Kenilworth Building.

The next night—September 23—you can catch three videos from NAN members at the Milwaukee Music Video Show (9:45 p.m., Oriental). There will be 16 entries in total, from the likes of Canopies, Busdriver, Group of the Altos, WC Tank, Devil Met Contention, Fox Face, Rio Turbo, and more, plus a video premier from Maritime.

A Song For You: The Austin City Limits Story
A Song For You: The Austin City Limits Story

The centerpiece of the fest’s music movies is the much beloved Sound Vision program, which features eight films his year. They include subjects such as the blues (I Am The Blues), a legendary writer and producer (Bang! The Bert Berns Story), a soul singer’s triumph over cancer (Miss Sharon Jones!), a viral sensation (Presenting Princess Shaw), PBS’ long-running concert program (A Song For You: The Austin City Limits Story), an Afghan girl rapper (Sonita), a notorious Madison alternative recording house (The Smart Studios Story), plus the dance party tradition that is Jonathan Demme’s seminal Talking Heads concert film Stop Making Sense.

Speaking of film fest traditions, the Alloy Orchestra will accompany the classic 1927 sci-fi silent film Metropolis. Alloy Orchestra’s performance will be inspired by the Milwaukee Art Museum’s upcoming “Haunted Screens” exhibit.

Two Trains Runnin’ is not the first documentary about the summer of 1964 to play at the Film Fest. Rather than focus on the Freedom Riders who bused into the segregated south to register voters, Two Trains Runnin’ tells the story of a group of young blues fans who also head into unfriendly territory in search of mysterious blues musicians, with hopes of bringing their music out of obscurity.

The Violin Teacher
The Violin Teacher

An aspiring classical musician blows his audition for the Sao Paulo Orchestra and finds his calling teaching the youth of Brazil’s largest favela in The Violin Teacher. This film is part of one of the fest’s newest programs, Cine Sin Fronteras, which showcases the rich and vibrant Latinx diaspora.

Christopher Darling is a Milwaukee-made dark comedy tracking the escapades of a self-destructive leader of a modestly popular rock band. Local actor John Glowacki takes on one of his most interesting roles in Scott Cary and Martin Kaszubowski’s feature debut.

Afghanistan’s first rock band are scheduled to play with Metallica on a San Francisco-based Iranian radio station in Radio Dreams. Things don’t go as planned in this droll comedy as the staff waits for a jam session that may never happen.

Carmin Tropical
Carmin Tropical

Carmin Tropical is an edge-of-your-seat murder mystery noir centering on a Mexican transgender nightclub singer investigating her best friend’s death.

Closing Night film, Morris from America, centers on an American boy living with his dad in Germany who relies on his love of hip-hop to cope with his outsider status.

Apart from the music-minded films, there are many excellent features and shorts to see. For theater locations and showtimes pick up a Film Fest program or visit their website. The box office is now open and located inside the Oriental Theatre.

Think of the MKE Film Fest as the first part of a double feature, considering the (31st) Milwaukee LGBT Film Fest follows right after from October 12 to the 23. In the next issue of WiG I’ll have a guide for its music-related films and events.  

And though it’s not officially part of the Film Fest, members of the Ruby Yacht label will be performing in the Moon Room at nearby Landmark Lanes on September 22.

SUPPER CLUB JAZZ AT COMPANY BREWING

During my first visit to our nation’s capital my friend took me to the Bohemian Caverns, a renowned jazz club. We arrived in time for the late set by a trio from Paris. The plates had long been cleared, but the (now-closed) Bohemian Caverns featured dinner as part of their entertainment experience.

miles-davisCompany Brewing in Milwaukee has brought this time-honored tradition to the Riverwest neighborhood. Their Supper Club Jazz series features a free performance and an exclusive menu on Wednesday nights. They also have special editions of Supper Club Jazz every so often on the weekend.

While jazz has been relegated to background music in hotel lobbies and restaurants around the country, Company’s series is reminiscent of jazz’s heyday. The performance is the main attraction, along with an artful meal prepared by head Chef Rosy Rodriguez.  

“We wanted to have live jazz be a part of what we do at Company Brewing, but we wanted to do it the right way,” owner George Bregar tells me.

“We reached out to Jamie Breiwick to pick his brain. He was very helpful in that he knows the jazz scene really well and knows what it needs. Then we brought in Jay Anderson for some extra positive energy. Personally, I like it so much that we schedule our brew nights around it,” adds Bregar.

The first Supper Club Jazz special edition took place in April. It was a tribute to Miles Davis featuring the illustrious Russ Johnson on trumpet, easily one of my favorite concerts of the year.

“The Miles Davis show was the archetype of what the series can be,” says Bregar. “We had a full dining room of people eating, but there was also this jazz show happening that definitely delivered.”

The second special edition performance took place on September 10. It was a tribute to saxophonist Ornette Coleman, an innovator of the free jazz movement of the 1960s. Lenard Simpson played saxophone along with Jamie Breiwick on trumpet, Tim Ibsen on bass, and Devin Drobka on drums.

A Tribute to Ornette Coleman (PHOTO - Mahdi Gransberry)
Lenard Simpson (left) and Jamie Breiwick (right) perform at A Tribute to Ornette Coleman (PHOTO – Mahdi Gransberry)

For the Ornette Coleman show my girlfriend and I made dinner reservations. The entree for the Supper Club menu was lake trout. Since we had gone to Seven Seas on Nagawicka Lake for fish fry the night before, we ordered off Company’s standard dinner menu. The roasted pork shoulder with Puerto Rican rice and plantains was incredible.

Our delicious meal was matched with a fantastic live performance. As the band took the stage host Jay Anderson brought a painting of Coleman and hung it onstage. The painting was done by an Iowa artist named Wayne Deutsch and brought by Kevin Lynch, former jazz writer for the Journal Sentinel. The band, dubbed The Century Quartet, performed Coleman tunes including “Dee Dee,” “The Blessing,” “Broadway Blues,” and an original arrangement by Breiwick dedicated to trumpeter Don Cherry.

img_7259This Friday—September 23—will be the third Supper Club Jazz special edition. Though it is being presented on the day of John Coltrane’s birth, rather than pay tribute to the jazz icon, 88Nine’s Tarik Moody (producer of the Unlooped series) presents “Jazzmatazz 414 – Hip Hop to Bebop,” a tribute to hip-hop classics performed by Milwaukee jazz musicians.

Other upcoming Supper Club Jazz performances at Company Brewing will feature MRS. FUN, Rick Aaron, Caroline Davis (NYC), Eric Jacobson, Neil Davis, Stomata, and Mitch Shiner. Special editions will be led by Cecilio Negron Jr., Reel Feels (NYC), and Andrew Neesly. Plus, Jamie Breiwick’s Lesser Lakes Trio will do two live recordings, the first of which is tonight—September 21.

AM/FM POP-UP NIGHT AT FORMER HOTEL FOSTER SPACE

Two issues back I wrote about the closing of the Hotel Foster (or “HoFo” as it is lovingly referred to). For five years HoFo was one of the best bars and occasional music venues on Milwaukee’s East Side. It hosted many unforgettable performances, especially during the 2014 Milwaukee Film Festival.

amfmrevord
John Revord’s AM/FM.

John Revord, owner of Boone & Crockett and one of the original owners of HoFo, will reopen 2o28 East North Avenue for one night on September 24. It turns out HoFo’s liquor license doesn’t expire until the end of the month. Revord reached out to his old business partner Doug Williams and they came to an agreement that will bring one night of live music, specialty cocktails, tap beers, DJs, and projected art to the space.

The night is being called “AM/FM.” When I first saw the event I was suspicious about its resemblance to the online magazine “amfm” produced by Milwaukee-native Ciera McKissick, to which I have contributed. I wondered if it might be one of McKissick’s events. When McKissick stumbled upon a Milwaukee Record article about the event she actually thought they were writing about her project.

Ciera McKIssick's amfm magazine logo.
Ciera McKissick’s amfm.

Initially McKissick was perturbed and started a Facebook conversation about it on a friend’s wall. As the feed grew Revord became aware of it and reached out to McKissick. Revord says he felt bad and was unaware of McKissick’s project, which has been based in Chicago for about two years. They talked and decided to work together.

“The event aligns with the things I do, so it was no question to collaborate,” McKissick wrote me in an email. “It actually turned into a dope opportunity. And I have been saying for quite some time that I wanted to do an event back home since it had been so long. I think this was the universe’s way of making that a reality.”

The bar is currently empty, stripped of the decor that defined the Hotel Foster. McKissick will be curating a pop-up art gallery in the downstairs space, with a live painting element on large canvas upstairs. She has reached out to some of her former Milwaukee artist friends including Mikal Floyd-Pruitt, CK Ledesma, and the From Here to Her collective.

The music lineup for the event includes DJs Asher Gray, Why-B, and Slim Brit, with performances by Whips, Rusty Pelicans, and a secret band. Video Villains will project visuals. Revord and Chef Mitch Ciohon’s Gypsy Taco truck will become Weezy Burger for the night and will be parked out front. All told, it will be another eclectic and electric night at 2028 East North Avenue.

FREESPACE RETURNS FOR A SECOND YEAR

All-ages venues are a key component to a healthy music scene. While Milwaukee’s music scene is the most vibrant it has been in decades, a dearth of all-ages venues limits its potential. Much of this is due to our antiquated, restrictive liquor laws, which could be changed. (Wink, wink. Nudge, nudge.)

Freespace
Freespace

Last year saw the demise of three important all-ages DIY spaces: the Cocoon Room, Lucky Cat and Borg Ward. However, 2015 also saw the rise of FREESPACE, a monthly (mostly) hip-hop showcase and interview series featuring up-and-coming youth musicians and established artists. It was recently featured on FOX6 and WUWM’s Lake Effect.

FREESPACE is the brainchild of high school English teacher Vincent Gaa and hip-hop artist WebsterX (Sam Ahmed). It provides an opportunity for youth to learn from and interact with professional musicians, as well as their peers. In its first year FREESPACE brought in renowned artists like IshDARR, Wave Chappelle, and Lili K., plus youth artists like Vital E$$ence, Riqo, and LeanBeatz.

The FREESPACE team also includes KaneTheRapper (Darius Briggs) and artist Janice Vogt. I emailed Vogt about what stood out for her from the first year of FREESPACE and what she is looking forward to in year two.

freespace“What amazes me the most about FREESPACE is the community. We’re all a huge team – Kane has referred to it as family, which I like – and we support each other, appreciate each other and hold one another accountable. I never thought FREESPACE would become so tight knit. It’s a blessing!”

“We are looking forward to pushing more limits and breaking more barriers! There is so much to tackle. At the same time, we’ve been taking opportunities and learning lessons as they come, so while we have visions for the coming months, I think we will leave more than enough room for surprises,” wrote Vogt.

FREESPACE returns tonight—September 21—with Von Alexander, Ar Wesley, and Wayward. The event begins at 5:30 p.m. inside the Jazz Gallery Center for the Arts in Milwaukee’s Riverwest neighborhood.

VINCENT VANGREAT APPEARS AT GOLDA MEIR SCHOOL AND ERIC ANDRE LIVE!

Back in April the second annual Arte Para Todos festival took over four Milwaukee neighborhoods over a four-day weekend, bringing almost 100 music acts and artists to 24 venues. The festival began in 2015 as a way to raise awareness and resources for struggling art and music programs in Milwaukee schools.

As one of the organizers of Arte Para Todos 2016 my primary responsibility was coordinating our in-school performance series—six concerts and Q&As with local musicians just for students. We originally had an in-school lined up at Golda Meir but it fell through. Administration asked if we could reschedule for the beginning of this school year. Assistant Principal Deb Causey even put in an artist request—her former 6th grade math student Vincent Wallace-Haygood, better known as hip-hop producer/rapper Vincent VanGREAT.

Vincent VanGREAT performs at Golda Meir School.
Vincent VanGREAT performs at Golda Meir School.

In my first feature for WiG I wrote about Queen Tut and six of the best Wisconsin hip-hop releases of 2016 so far. VanGREAT’s long-awaited album UnGREATful sits squarely among the six. The SAFS Crew member’s joyful spirit and hunger for success can be heard throughout the 15-track project, which includes well-crafted live instrumentation. For his performance at Golda Meir on September 16 VanGREAT brought his drummer and keyboard player.

Before he addressed the middle and high school students VanGREAT was greeted by his former teacher backstage. It was beautiful to see a teacher embrace her former student and hear VanGREAT share his journey with the students at Golda. They responded with tons of enthusiasm. One aspiring rapper was even invited onstage to freestyle.

“That was awesome. The kids had a lot of energy. Honestly, we never had musicians come to our school and perform for us. I’m very grateful that they had me here and this auditorium is beautiful,” said VanGREAT after the performance.

Vincent VanGREAT and Eric Andre.
Vincent VanGREAT and Eric Andre.

A few days before the Golda Meir in-school performance VanGREAT was invited to appear on Eric Andre Live! Originally tapped to be a guest on the Milwaukee stop of Adult Swim’s wildly subversive and hilarious anti-talk show The Eric Andre Show, VanGREAT had a scheduling conflict and was instead added to their show in Pontiac, Michigan.

“I had a ten minute segment up there with him. He was asking all types of crazy ass questions and doing a bunch of crazy stuff. Then he started crowd surfing and I just used that time to steal the show and get the crowd turned up. It was an epic experience,” said VanGREAT.

VanGREAT will perform at Cactus Club on September 29 as part of their hip-hop showcase series “MKE Live,” and again at Cactus Club on November 11 in support of AUTOMatic’s album release show.

NEW MUSIC FROM LEX ALLEN, AUTOMATIC, AND SYLVAN ESSO

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WiG favorite Lex Allen released a new song entitled “Keep It Movin” last week. The track is produced by Q the Sun and engineered by Daniel Holter from Wire & Vice. It has more of a deep, dance club feel than previous soul-pop offerings from Allen. The song was written as Allen was coming out of the depression he fell into following his mother’s passing. Allen says about the song, “The message is to tell people to push through any situation and see the brighter things to come, while shaking their ass happily.” Listen to it here.

Milwaukee hip-hop duo AUTOMatic recently announced they will be putting out their first full-length album in four years. Marathon will be out November 11, with a release show at Cactus Club featuring Vincent VanGREAT, El Shareef, and DJ Optimist. The first single, “Talkin Bout Love,” is out now. The track “identifies the need for more love in this world and takes time to express love for people of all walks of life.” Listen to it here.

Okay, electro-pop luminaries Sylvan Esso are not technically a Wisconsin band. The duo is based in North Carolina. However, producer Nick Sanborn is a Middleton-native who cut his teeth in beloved Milwaukee band Decibully. Not to mention, Sanborn first met singer Amelia Meath when they were sharing a bill at Cactus Club. For those reasons we will continue to hold Sylvan Esso as one of our own. Their incredible debut album remains one of the best records of the last decade. During their live performances last summer they introduced a badass new song entitled “Radio.” A year later a recorded version is out and it is fan-fucking-tastic. Listen below.

NEW VIDEOS FROM RUSTY PELICANS, DAD, AND LORN

September 15 saw the release of two Milwaukee hip-hop music videos. One is for the song “We Like” from local hip-hop legends the Rusty Pelicans, off their recently released album Apartment 7, which is another one of the six best Wisconsin hip-hop projects of the year so far. The video is directed by Kelly Anderson.

The other hip-hop video released on September 15 is the first visual offering from one of Milwaukee’s most intriguing new characters, Dad. The lovable father figure crashes a Civil War reenacted for his Mammyth produced track “17th Century.” The video is directed by Dad and edited by Cellar Dweller.

Underground electronic mastermind Lorn—who relocated from Milwaukee to the woods somewhere outside Eau Claire a few years ago—released a new video for his song “Anvil,” off his 2015 album Vessel. The animated video is set in the year 2100 and fuses Japanese and Belgian comic influences, providing haunting visuals for Lorn’s visceral sound.

The video is directed by Hélène Jeudy and Antoine Caëcke (aka Geriko), with design and animation by Antoine Caëcke and Hélène Jeudy, plus character animation by Anthony Lejeune and Manddy Wyckens.

BON IVER PERFORMS ON THE TONIGHT SHOW

The pride of Eau Claire, Bon Iver, appeared on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon on September 14 to perform the song “8 (Circle).” Watch the performance here. The song is off Bon Iver’s forthcoming third album 22, A Million, which was debuted in its entirety last month at the Eaux Claires Music and Arts Festival

WiG RECOMMENDED EVENTS [click hyperlinks for more info]

SEPT 21: Freespace (all ages) with Von Alexander, Ar Wesley, and Wayward at Jazz Gallery Center of the Arts.

SEPT 21: Supper Club Jazz at Company Brewing with Lesser Lakes Trio (live recording).

SEPT 21: NO/NO + Fire Retarded + The Rashida Joneses at Bremen Cafe.

14352078_10210898853177170_5166804781792231411_oSEPT 22: Milwaukee Film Festival Opening Night party featuring New Age Narcissism and Rio Turbo at the Kenilworth Building.

SEPT 22: Ruby Yacht label night featuring Scallops Hotel, Antilia Raid and s.al in the Moon Room at Landmark Lanes.

SEPT 23: Jazzmatazz 414 – Hip Hop to Bebop featuring Klassik, Mike Regal, Ar Wesley, Olen Franklin, Afton Johnson, Quinten Farr, B-Free, and Jay Anderson at Company Brewing.

SEPT 24: AM/FM pop-up night at former Hotel Foster site with amfm Magazine, Video Villains, Whips, Rusty Pelicans, a secret band, plus DJs Asher Gray, Why-B, Slim Brit.

SEPT 24: WebsterX’s Golden Gala birthday bash at secret all-ages location.

SEPT 24: Tacocat w/ Dude York + The Pukes at Cactus Club.

SEPT 25: CHVRCHES at The Riverside Theater.

SEPT 25: Count Bass D // Q the Sun // Jay Anderson at Bremen Cafe.

SEPT 29: MKE Live ft. Mike Regal, Vincent VanGREAT, 3rd Dimension, Camb Music, Cleo Fox II, Sam Rothstein, DJ Markus X.

SEPT 30: Sat. Nite Duets record release at Villa Terrace with Negative/Positive.

SEPT 30: New Boyz Club EP release at Company Brewing with Hello Death, Fox Face, and Sista Strings. (More on New Boyz Club in my upcoming feature in this issue of WiG.)

SEPT 30: Bremenhain: DEEP DARK DANCE at Bremen Cafe.

OCT 1: B-Free album release at Company Brewing with Abby Jeanne, D’Amato, Kyndal J., Klassik, and DJ Moses.

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.