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Madison's Sunspot

Sunspot

An Interview with the members of Sunspot
by Teri Barr
June 2014

It’s a large arena sound, from a small band with supersonic energy. A Sunspot show is tight, fast, and really fun; and while you can hear the difference in their many years of playing together as a group; you can also see it on stage.
Mike Huberty (lead singer, bass, keyboard) and Ben Jaeger (lead guitar, keyboard, singer) have gelled since junior high. Wendy Lynn Staats (drums, singer, violin) joined them in college, and the three have never looked back.

The past 14 years, in a brief discography list with much-deserved awards, look like this: Radio Free Earth (2000), Loser of the Year (2002, Madison Area Music Association Award-MAMAs Rock Album of the Year), Cynical (2005, WAMI Artist of the Year), Neanderthal (2007), Singularity (2009, MAMAs Rock Album of the Year, Video of the Year, Rock Song of the Year), Major Arcana (live rock opera national tour and DVD), The Slingshot Effect (2011, MAMAs Rock Album of the Year and Song of the Year), Arthuriana-EP (2013), Archaeopteryx-EP (2014), and now the Dangerous Times-EP, being released at a special show at The Dragonfly in July. Huberty is describing it this way by saying, “We go all out in our live show and we want people who’ve seen us dozens of times to get something new out of each experience. The Dragonfly show is going to be one of the most complex set pieces we’ve attempted. The songs link together, so it’s more of a musical than just a collection of songs performed live. We do our best to make sure that every aspect of every show has meaning. We won’t be pulling any punches for this party. We’re saying that “the fireworks are starting early for the 4th this year” and we mean it.”

And I know they do. I’ve interviewed the band before, I’ve seen their shows in all types of venues, and I’ve followed them through their many treks with technology, and to SXSW. The enthusiasm for what they do as a band, is contagious.
Read on for more from all the notes I’ve compiled and edited via past and present interviews and chats. You’ll understand how Sunspot could soon launch into the Stratosphere.


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Madison's Sigourney Weavers

The Sigourney Weavers

An Interview with the members of The Sigourney Weavers
by Teri Barr
June 2014

The four women who make up the unique band known as The Sigourney Weavers, could just as easily call themselves The Ellen Ripleys (the main character actress Sigourney Weaver plays in the Alien movies). I’ve seen an alien-faced balloon or several appear at their shows, otherwise the mystery to their musical imagination is hidden by the fact, this band rocks!

The Sigourney Weavers came together for what was supposed to be a one-and-done effort, and luckily realized they had some special chemistry. The band’s first album is just out, and more original music is in the works.
And the fun and games inspired by another universe keep you on your toes, as I learned when recently asking Sandy Kowal (drums, vocals), Ellie Erickson (lead guitar, vocals), Pam Barrett (lead vocals, guitar), and Julie Kiland (bass guitar, vocals) to share their secrets from within The Sigourney Weavers with Maximum Ink. 

Maximum Ink: How did each of you get started in music, and what brought the four of you together as a group?
Sandy Kowal:
I started drumming when I was 16. My high school boyfriend and I started a band and needed a drummer. I was elected. Pam and Ellie formed The Sigourney Weavers and had been playing together for a little while, but needed a drummer and bass player for a Girls Rock Camp fundraiser. They found me through a friend, I found Julie through another friend. We meshed well and decided to keep the band going after the fundraiser.
Ellie Erickson: I played my first gig when I turned 30 after I found, if I didn’t force myself to learn to play by ear, I’d have to stop listening to music—because if I wasn’t going to play some instrument, I’d need to go deaf. And I prefer to do that with rock and roll rather than an ice pick. Now as a band, we’re all musical freaks with a lot of different bands in the dust bin of our history, and an industrial size dumpster left to fill up if we don’t all get hit by a meteorite or upload to the alien singularity I hope we get before the bozos drive our civilization’s bus into the junkyard of history.
Pam Barrett: What am I supposed to say now, Ellie!? O.K., it wasn’t until I volunteered to play a Girls Rock Camp fundraiser and started freaking out after realizing, if I didn’t pull something together, I’d have to play it solo. So, Ellie agreed to play with me, then after a few practices said we need a drummer, and found Sandy. Then Sandy said, we need a bass player and found Julie. And we started to play together and realized, we sound damn good! And this is fun!
Julie Kiland: My background is much more serious. I started in high school with the band and chorus, then played in cover bands until I was found by The Sigourney Weavers.

MI:  What’s your goal with the band?
SK:
I enjoy playing music and writing songs. So far it’s been fun with The SW’s. When it stops being fun is when I’ll stop. For me, it’s a good way to express myself.
EE: Mine is to keep jumping around and tripping over stuff on stage, while playing that boat anchor guitar, while also having a few thousand metric shit-tons of fun until I fall over dead. Or the band fires me because my idiot streak is getting bigger than my savant streak.
PB: Playing in a band is where it’s at for me. I’ve never wanted to play solo. There’s something special about playing with other musicians and creating something unique. It’s pleasing. It’s calming. And it’s a bonus that other people actually enjoy listening! My goal is to keep playing out and as long as people want to listen, we’ll keep creating a different performance every time we play.
JK: I just want to get out there, have fun, and play music with my talented and sometimes freaky band-mates. Oh, and I’d like to receive a cease and desist letter from Sigourney Weaver.


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Anvil

An Interview with Lead Singer/Guitar player Steve “Lips” Kudlow
by Teri Barr
May 2014

They’re referred to as one of the pioneers of heavy metal, yet many people only discovered the hard-driving music of Anvil through the documentary, “The Story of Anvil”, a few years ago. The Canadian-based band hit the scene in the late-1970’s with names like Dokken and Whitesnake, yet almost as quickly disappeared. Grit, determination, and their pure love of metal music kept them on the road and in the studio throughout the 80’s and 90’s. But the documentary created the cult-like following of fans, old and new, and the band released its 15th album to rave reviews last year.

Now Anvil, made up of lead singer and guitar player Steve “Lips” Kudlow, drummer Robb Reiner, and new bass player Sal Italiano, are on the road in support of their new music, including May shows in Milwaukee, St. Paul, and Chicago. Just before they hit the Midwest, Steve “Lips” Kudlow talked to me by phone, answering questions about the music business, the band’s “never say die” attitude, and why he still thinks the most important thing he can do is connect with fans, one-on-one.

Maximum Ink: You’re in the midst of a pretty aggressive tour; first across Europe, now the U.S. How’s it going?
Steve “Lips” Kudlow with Anvil: Well, this is our biggest tour of the U.S., ever! And it’s taking a lot of strength. I mean, we aren’t 20 years old anymore (laughs), but luckily for us there aren’t any vices, plus we’re all healthy. Still, even after 37 years of Anvil, we are a new band to some who come out to see us. So we consider this an incredible achievement. And there’s something to be said for still living the dream!

MI: So, you don’t have your regular job anymore? I recall seeing you in “The Story of Anvil” documentary trying a few different things, including delivering food for a school to support your family. 
Lips: Nope. We are a full-time band. And we are going to work hard to keep it that way. Anvil has a lot of self-belief and confidence and we feel the hoopla is just building all over again, so we need to keep creating opportunities for the band and our music. Plus, we still think we have something special to share with our fans.


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Haliewll

Haliwel

by Teri Barr
March 2014

The music is tight. The performance looks like a seasoned band on stage. And though the members in Haliwel have some years of experience between them, this Madison-based band is a new, exciting effort for all. Haliwel has been a dream of founder Shawn Streeter, since moving to the area a few years ago. But the guitar player and back-up vocalist, couldn’t find the right partners for his project. A chance encounter connected Streeter to Ryan Seney, another back-up vocalist and guitar player; later an ad led them to drummer Max Neal. This formed the core of the band, which created the sound in play today. Add inTravis Malin on guitar, and newest member lead singer Justin Schmitz, and this is five guys with a goal of ruling the music world.

They aren’t wasting time—a C.D. of original music is already written, recorded, and available. The band just signed a sponsorship agreement with Dirtbag Clothing, a company created in the memory of Dimebag Darrell. And they’re putting together a show schedule for the summer, starting with a few here this spring. I recently had the chance to ask the three main members a few questions for Maximum Ink, including what it’s like to start from scratch in a new city, and how waiting for the right members is paying off.


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7 Seasons Deep

7 Seasons Deep

An interview with Shawn Anthony Brown
by Max Ink Writer List
March 2014

If the bands “Last Crack,” “Faces for Radio,” or “The Viskus Circle” sound familiar; then the recent combination of some of the groups various members ensures their new project, “7 Seasons Deep,”won’t be a stranger for long.

Four well-known, well-honed Madison-based musicians—lead singer Shawn Anthony Brown, along with Jayme Poster on lead guitar, Denny Carney playing bass, and Tim Schmitt on drums—are the heart and soul of what’s described as the straight forward, bluesy, hard rock sound of “7 Seasons Deep.”


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 - photo by McDaniel Photography

Mighty WheelHouse

An interview with the members of Mighty WheelHouse
by Teri Barr
December 2013

Start with some strong original music. Add in sponsored or self-labeled libations. And if the Madison-based band Mighty WheelHouse is any indication; it’s the beginning of a recipe for long-term success.

Mighty WheelHouse is on a roll. Though officially together just a few months, their success is being plotted, starting with the ingredients of the group. This project pairs up members from two of the areas most awarded, skilled, and popular bands:
Frank Busch (vocals, guitar, harmonica), Nic Adamany (vocals, guitar), and Joel Brantmeier (drums) from Mighty Short Bus; Kenny Leiser (vocals, fiddle, guitar) and Mark Noxon (vocals, bass guitar) from The Lucas Cates Band.

And Mighty WheelHouse has wasted no time. The group’s first CD, The Comeback, was released in November, 2013. It’s an all-original mix of a little bit folk, bluegrass, Americana, and country. But they’re already back in the studio working on a follow up album. 
There have also been shows. The former bands averaged 200+ a year. Mighty WheelHouse may easily break the number after kicking off its efforts over the summer, traveling throughout Wisconsin, the Midwest, Western, and Southern parts of the country. Spoetzl Brewery in Texas, and its ‘Shiner Bock’ brand of beer sponsored 35 dates.  Tours are in the works for 2014, along with an invitation to play the “Shiner Big One” at South by Southwest in Austin in the spring. Before that festival, the band recently learned they’ll be headed to Nashville to compete for a spot on a national TV show in the production called, “American Talent Hunters.” Mighty WheelHouse beat out thousands of others to make it into the top ten finales scheduled for January 25, 2014.
But why just market your music, if you can have your own whiskey? The band’s been working with a distiller, and “WheelHouse Whiskey” is expected by the end of the year. 

I recently had the opportunity to ask them, individually, a similar set of questions.  And it’s probably no surprise when I say their answers show that the success they are planning really is right in their “wheelhouse.”

Maximum Ink: What’s your musical background?
Frank Busch:
My brother, father, uncles, cousins, grandfathers were all musicians, bandleaders. My brother is now a high school band director in Northeast Wisconsin.  I played saxophone, but quit in 8th grade. I didn’t play guitar until college.
Kenny Leiser: My parents are music educators so there were many instruments around for me to experiment with and play. I started with 4th grade strings, and added guitar in 8th grade because I thought it was cool.
Nic Adamany: My dad has been involved in the music industry and is an excellent keyboard/piano player, so I started with piano when I was 5-years-old. But when I was 11, I got the surprise of a guitar for Christmas and instantly fell in love with it!
Mark Noxon: My dad was a band director, and I started on drums, then clarinet, saxophone, and finally the bass when I was 13. I’ve played in a big band and jazz band, but have had my own bands since middle school.
Joel Brantmeier: My parents loved music and luckily it wore off on me! I got a miniature smurf drum set when I was 4 or 5, but quickly upgraded after it.

MI: When did you decide music could be a career?
FB:
I made it my goal 8 years ago, but the first thing I did was save for an emergency fund. It has long since been depleted!
KL: I became a full-time musician in 2007 by playing enough gigs to leave my job at a music store.
NA: There’s been many twists and turns, but I knew when I learned to play guitar and started writing songs, this is all I wanted to do.
MN: As a bassist, I’ve been fortunate to fall into some really great projects, but never planned to be a full-time musician. I had a low-level management job when I was asked to join The Lucas Cates Band and realized I could make the same money by playing in a band and teaching bass, so I jumped on the opportunity.
JB: It’s always just seemed like the right thing for me.


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