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Lion's Mouth

Lion’s Mouth

An interview with Lion's Mouth's singer-guitarist Chelsea Z.
by John Noyd
August 2015

Like a modern Horatio Alger times two, the musical duo LION’S MOUTH embodied the American Dream, heading West from their Wisconsin home to seek not gold but a golden dream of making music full-time. Equipped with ferocious talent and unflappable attitude, guitarist Chelsea Z. and percussionist Sara Wexler took on the challenge of making their mark in the L.A. music scene and in doing so found themselves releasing a strong self-titled debut they are happily bringing with them on their first national tour that takes them back home. Aptly titled, “The Coming Home Tour,” they play Madison’s The Frequency September 6th with area favorites HEAVY LOOKS, THE MILLENIUM and KAREN WHEELOCK. Before heading on tour, Chelsea was kind enough to talk with MAXIMUM INK about their experience in L.A. and how the move affected their music.

MAXIMUM INK: What were your notions about L.A. before you headed out there and how did they change once you got there?

CHELSEA Z.: We had heard that Los Angeles is full of beautiful, shallow people and that we’d love the weather. Though we found some people to be vapid and self-centered, we also found people who are caring and passionate about what they do. (We also thought we’d be the frumpiest and worst dressed, and that has proven to be correct). The weather is beautiful all year, but as Midwesterners we found ourselves missing a cloudy day. We were also cautioned to not get our hopes up because everyone in L.A. is trying to “make it”. At times we felt overwhelmed by the competitive, individualistic nature of the city, but despite all the negative things we had heard, we found a lot of opportunities. We landed a commercial agent who got us several auditions, we’ve met a lot of talented musicians and played great shows in a lot of famous venues.

M.I.: Did you write the album while you were out there?

C.Z.: The songs on our self-titled album were actually written about two years prior to us moving out to Los Angeles. We have another album’s worth of material that we wrote before and during our time here.

M.I.: Did being in a new stimulating environment change the way you wrote songs?

C.Z.: The songwriting since our debut has become much more collaborative. We definitely honed our sound and how we work together. We think about the structure and impact of the arrangement more than we ever have and we have both become better musicians. Our performances are tighter and our songs are riskier.

M.I. Changes can inspire but also challenge.

C.Z.: We’ve been so busy that starting and finishing songs has taken longer. We had a bumpy start and ended up moving several times before we landed in the place we are now. Because of that our practices had to become more deliberate, “what are we playing at the show?” kind of practices whereas before we would jam a lot more. For a while survival was our number one priority.


3381 ViewsPermalinkLion’s Mouth Website
Molly Ford, singer for The Civil Engineer  - photo by Mary Sweeney Photography

The Civil Engineers

an interview with guitarist Chris Castro
by Teri Barr
August 2015

Sing along, dance along, or just nod your head along; the music of The Civil Engineers will not allow you to just sit there. The 7 piece band has almost every instrument covered – Molly on vox, Chris plays guitar, Garrick has the keys, Tim aka T-LO plays bass, Carl on drums, Jason plays sax, Catherine is on the trumpet – and the groove the group lays down together, isn’t like anything else you’ve heard before with a little rock, some soul, and a lot of funk. The band is working on its debut CD, an EP they’re calling “Save the Bridge,” which is expected to be done by fall; yet even without it, The Civil Engineers have already built a strong following around the state (the next Madison show is at The Frequency on August 21). I talked with lead guitar player Chris Castro about the band’s unique sound, the funny way they got their name, and why you need to be ready for almost anything when you go to a show.

Maximum Ink: How did you find the sound that defines The Civil Engineers?
Chris Castro:
Our sound is definitely rooted in soul, since that’s how we got our start - just jamming out on Otis Redding and Marvin Gaye tunes in Molly’s basement. It’s evolved pretty far from there—and we’ve taken elements of funk, rock, hip hop, and ska – and spread it throughout our tunes. It’s music for dancing and partying, though we do throw a few curveballs in the mix.

MI: And with that mix of elements, your backgrounds in music must be diverse, too?
Garrick, Carl and Catherine all hold degrees in music. I know Jason studied jazz at some point. Molly’s powerhouse voice was formed by years of musical theater. Tim and I aren’t as formal. We’ve just played in lots and lots of bands (psychedelic jammy stuff, bluegrass, hardcore, you name it).

MI: What brought your current line-up together?
We sorta knew each other from here and there, but it took a mutual friend who said to us “yo you guys are all really talented! You should form a band” to make us act on it. The first version was Molly, Garrick, Tim and I, along with a different drummer. We gathered in Molly’s basement one night and started slammin’ some PBRs, and jammin’ some Motown tunes. We had fun so kept on doing that for a few months, and then at one point a friend of ours asked us to come out and play at his house party.

After that we just started playing wherever people would have us - parties, bars, backyards, you name it. Carl then joined us in late 2014, and then our horn players, Catherine and Jason, joined in early 2015.


2944 ViewsPermalinkCivil Engineers Website
Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers

Madcity Nights - August 2015

What's happening around the Madison Music Scene for August 2015
by Max Ink
August 2015

Find out what’s gong on around Madison’s Live Music Scene for August 2015


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Negative Example

Negative Example

An interview with Madison hardcore legend, Bucky Pope, and his new band, Negative Example
by Mike Huberty
August 2015

Bucky Pope will always have an established place in the Madison music scene as part of the 80s hardcore movement that birthed his band, the Tar Babies, and took them to SST Records (home of Black Flag, the Minutemen, Hüsker Dü, Sonic Youth, etc…) and national acclaim. After the breakup of that group (and before their *ersatz* reunion as the Bar Tabbies in the early 2000s) , Bucky Pope took time off music, but has now returned with a new band, Negative Example. Their new self-titled release just came out in July and I asked Bucky a few questions about his history, his new band, and their upcoming Madison shows.


2696 ViewsPermalinkNegative Example Website
The People Brothers Band - photo by Jonah Westrich of Isthmus Media Group

The People Brothers Band

All People Are Brothers, Live Your Life Like A Song
by Sal Serio
August 2015

I had been speaking to members of The People Brothers Band for a couple months about doing a feature for Maximum Ink, and we agreed that August would be the right time, since their 7th annual “People Fest” music and camping festival was coming up on August 6, 7, & 8 at The Bullpen in Hillsboro, WI, showcasing the largest and most impressive collection of bands to date, from a multitude of genres, and featuring activities scheduled for attendees of all age groups. But what we didn’t know at the time was how apropos the timing really was. The 8-piece group was also just recently recognized for their superb studio release “Middle Of The In Between”, which won the 2015 MAMAs Award for “Pop/R&B Album Of The Year”. People Brothers are truly a group that embody the best and most beautiful things about the Madison music scene: community, collaboration, mutual support, representation, respect, and commitment were all prominent themes in the conversation I had with singer Teresa Marie Scrivens and drummer Greg Schmitt. Rounding out the band are: Robert Gronna - vocals & keyboards, Tim Lochner - guitar & vocals, Scott Lochner - bass, Chris Peters - lead guitar, Anitra Hovelson - saxophone, and Andrew Traverse - trumpet.


Wifee and the HuzzBand performing AtwoodFest on Saturday, July 25

AtwoodFest 2015

AtwoodFest 2015 July 25-26
by Rökker
July 2015

AtwoodFest comes back to Madison’s east side on July 25-26 and organizers have put together an amazing list of activities including the Eastside Eats Raffle, Little Library community art project, more crafts and food vendors, and even a parade to kick it all off called “Convergence”.

A new website was launched at that is optimized for a smartphone. Everything,  including stage schedules, can be accessed with your thumb. Just click the yellow button at top right. Click on an artist’s name in the schedule and you’ll be taken to a profile page that has pictures, video, audio, descriptions, links and more. You can easily have your beer in one hand and AtwoodFest in the other!

The Harmony Bar Stage and Alchemy Cafe Stage will feature blues, funk, rock, country, hip-hop, reggae, disco, and indie artists from Nashville, Chicago, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Boston, Sturgeon Bay, as well as some of the best Madison based artists. The KidsFest stage will feature acts that will appeal to both kids and adults alike.

AtwoodFest 2015 Artists:

SheShe - SHESHE is a contemporary folk-rock band featuring bold ensemble vocals and driving improvisational instrumentals.  SheShe is Julia McConahay (fiddle/vox), Shannon Callaway (drums), and Dana Perry (guitar/vox). SheShe made a stunning and very well received cameo appearance at AtwoodFest 2014 filling in for a band facing a late arrival.


2539 ViewsPermalinkAtwoodFest 2015 Website
Bird's Eye at the High Noon Saloon - photo by BMB Graphics

Bird’s Eye

interview with Joe Waldbillig
by Teri Barr
July 2015

This is one sneaky band. Bird’s Eye lures you in with its positive energy, which is driven by some great live musicians. Then, wham; you are hit hard with a positive hip hop vibe, delivered with a funky, fresh beat. You’ll get the chance to check out this group at this year’s two-day AtwoodFest. Bird’s Eye plays the Alchemy Stage on Sunday, July 26th.  I recently asked guitar player Joe Waldbillig what to expect during the band’s AtwoodFest show, how they find time for music, and why their busy lives have led to a divide and conquer attitude.

Maximum Ink:  You have some multi-talented musicians! Six people singing and playing almost ten different instruments?
Joe Waldbillig:
Yeah, Bird’s Eye consists of Ra Fury, and yes that is his real name! He is our emcee/vocalist/lyracist. I’m on electric guitar, Evan Nelson plays bass guitar, Lauren Johnson covers vocals, saxaphone, and piano. We have Sean Peyton on drums, and Hannah Larson is also a vocalist, plays piano, and auxiliary percussion.


1572 ViewsPermalinkBird’s Eye Website
The Orange Peels

The Orange Peels

An interview with The Orange Peels leader Allen Clapp
by John Noyd
June 2015

As the mastermind behind California pop-rockers THE ORANGE PEELS, guitarist-songwriter ALLEN CLAPP works magic within classic formulas, sorting and transporting pre-assigned designs into unforeseen regions populated in bracing ocean-sprayed melodies atop beautiful six-string maneuvers and electric kinetic harmonies. With Clapp and his musical companions touring the Midwest with alt-rock troubadour MATTHEW SWEET promoting their sixth studio album, the refreshingly fetching, “Begin the Begone,” MAXIMUM INK had the opportunity to toss Allen a few questions in anticipation of The Orange Peels landing in Madison for the very first-time, July 12th at the High Noon Saloon.

MAXIMUM INK: What originally drew you to your particular musical style?

ALLEN CLAPP: I suppose the framework for my idealized version of a pop group came out of the bands in the mid-1980s who were navigating this massive push forward in technology while still being influenced by the melodic dominance 60s and 70s radio. Bands like the Three O’Clock, Camper van Beethoven, XTC, and REM definitely had a foot in both realities, and sort of became templates for how you could put a band together that could evolve and still hold on to your melodic roots. The other thing is, as a child of the 70s, I’ll always remember listening to Top-40 radio on my transistor radio and the feeling of freedom that gave me. I guess it’s a combination of music that frees you somehow, along with being able to evolve.

MI: As a songwriter/pop artist is there a life-long search for hooks, rhymes or harmonies?

AC: Oh, sure! And I’m grateful when those things just fall out of the sky into my path. I’m not very intentional about trying to make those kinds of things happen, and I realize that if I tried harder on that front, I might write more songs. I’ve always had people try to get me into these exercises where you write a song a day, or force yourself to do something creative every day, and I just don’t actually come up with anything good under those circumstances. I have to wait for hooks, rhymes and harmonies to find me, and you never really know when that’s gonna happen, unfortunately.

MI: What is your holy grail in song-writing, the most elusive element in the process for you?

AC: Lyrics take me forever to write. A melody can just hit me on the head and be written in a few moments, but the lyrics always keep me guessing. In the case of our last two albums, we’ve written most of the music together at the house—just stuff that came up in the moment that we crafted into verses, choruses, and bridges—and then I sit with the music for a while until some idea springs to life. On, “Begin the Begone,” I remember having the words to, “Satellite Song,” “Wintergreen,” and, “9,” come rather quickly, while others like, “New Moon,” “Fleeing the Scene,” and, “Embers,” weren’t finished until early last fall. Sometimes it helps to see the direction an album is taking. Late last summer, I already could tell the kind of album this was going to be, so it kind of gave me permission to fill in some of the blanks with these ideas of starting over, escaping some past situation or coming to some sort of realization.

MI: The new album came together after a near fatal car accident, did your survival bring on a life re-evaluation? What surprised you the most in its aftermath?

AC: Yeah, there was a pretty major life re-evaluation in the months following that accident. There are a lot of things we’d been wanting to change, but life’s momentum was just kind of keeping us in our old patterns. Jill and I had been talking about moving to the Santa Cruz Mountains for years, and we’d also been thinking about trying to disengage from our careers a little bit so we could spend more time on creative endeavors. Getting out of Silicon Valley was a way to do both. So we sold our place in Sunnyvale and bought a hexagonal house in Boulder Creek on a couple acres. At the time, I couldn’t believe we were actually doing it, and then when we had to actually put our house on the market and move all our stuff, it was pretty overwhelming. I think surviving the accident kind of empowered us to get through it.


July explodes with musical options this year

July’s Live Music Overload

A Brief Overlook of Live Music Options this July
by John Noyd
June 2015

July lights up its musical skies with fireworks all month long as festivals, free shows and rare appearances fill the month with incredible choices. Halfway through July, the 17th fires up three festivals within a few hundred miles of each other. Eaux Claires’ inaugural festival features an impressive line-up ranging from world-class acts SPOON, SUFJAN STEVENS and THE NATIONAL to regional heroes BON IVER, PHOX and FIELD REPORT. Highland WI’s second annual Bluelight Festival focuses on local experimental musicians such as JULIAN LYNCH, TAR PET and NEENS as well as touring bands SCAMMERS and CROWN LARK. Finally, Chicago’s long-established hipster haunt Pitchfork Festival scores appearances from established acts like WILCO and SLEATER-KINNEY plus rising stars such as punk-busker COURTNEY BARNETT and blistering Canadians VIET CONG.

If festivals aren’t your scene, fear not, the assembling festivals mean Madison catches fabulous acts stopping in as they pass through. Club dates for radioactive-crackerjacks MELT-BANANA, precious folk-messenger JESSICA PRATT, feisty feminists EX HEX, indie-folk pioneers INDIGO GIRLS and sultry singer-songsmith NATALIE PRASS orbit various festival schedules. Bargain-hunters should delight in several free shows from mega-spectacular pop-robbers THE NEW PORNOGRAPHERS and ferocious alt-rockers BULLY taking over downtown to all-star powerhouse NO BS! BRASS BAND, indie-disco brainchild SHAMIR and bedroom-soul patrollers MR TWIN SISTER lighting up campus.

If only the weeks before or after allowed any down-time. As Milwaukee’s Summerfest winds down, the first half of July has Stoughton’s Catfish River Music Festival heating up with Madison’s Le Fete du Marquette hosting slide-bluesman SONNY LANDRETH along with Cajun party-king CJ CHENIER and swamp-stompers THE REVIVALISTS. The last half presents folk-maelstrom LADY LAMB on campus, lofty pop-sophists SAN FERMIN and CLOUD CULT Live on King Street, Nashville blues-rockers SIMO playing Atwood Fest, Cambodian-fronted psycho-surfers DENGUE FEVER at Olbrich Park and country-rock doctors THE MASCOT THEORY at High Noon’s Summer Patio.

The already overstuffed month brings two anniversary tours to Madison; post-rock apostles THE APPLESEED CAST celebrates the fifteenth anniversary and vinyl reissue of their classic, “Mare Vitalis,” while alt-pop iconoclasts CLAP YOUR HANDS AND SAY YEAH revisit their pivotal self-titled debut from ten years ago. The month also sees rare sightings of California power-pop dreamers THE ORANGE PEELS, psychotropic guitar-rock prophets LAZYEYES and rainbow-pop Aussie LENKA while returning conquerors MATTHEW SWEET, DICK DALE and THE MELVINS also manage to find suitable venues. Sorry all we overlooked, but rock on, it will be over before you know it.


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Brian Koenig of Lords of the Trident - photo by James Pederson

Madcity Nights - June 2015

by Rökker
June 2015

Madcity Nights is a monthly column previewing live music shows in the Madison, Wisconsin area, with unique descriptions, information and sometimes a good tip to help you make your entertainment choices.


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