by Teri Barr
It’s been a great couple of weeks for the members of Altered Five. The Southern Wisconsin Blues Band’s new C.D. is just out, and already trending high on a few notable radio and on-line charts. Lead singer Jeff Taylor, guitar player Jeff Schroedl, bassist Mark Solveson, Raymond Tevich on keys, and Scott Schroedl on drums worked with a Grammy-winning producer on their latest effort, after taking home a few awards of their own this year. Somehow, in the middle of it all—- they took time to answer some questions from me about their history together, and with their music hitting a high note—what’s next for this groovy group.
MAXIMUM INK: What is the key to Altered Five’s success right now?
JEFF SCHROEDL: We all bring different musical influences and experiences to the band, and our music is really the result of that melting pot of sounds. The five of us have been able to blend our ideas and styles really well. There’s no formula; everyone is just able to create interesting parts that gel and support JT’s voice, the lyrics, and overall song.
MI: How did the five of you connect?
MARK SOLVESON: Well, Jeff Taylor is our frontman and lead singer, Jeff Schroedl on guitar, Scott Schroedl on drums, Raymond Tevich plays keys and I’m the bassist. We formed in 2002 and have performed and recorded steadily ever since. We’ve logged quite a few shows and have a pretty large repertoire of songs. We’ve always been blues-based, of course, but we’ve evolved to play many more original tunes over the past four years or so. Our music is best described as “contemporary blues.” It’s groove-based, edgy, soulful and at times really rockin’, but it’s all grounded in the blues.
MI: Are you from Southern Wisconsin?
SCOTT SCHROEDL: I live in Madison and the other four guys live in or around Milwaukee. We all have roots here in the area and enjoy being part of the Midwest music scene.
MI: Making music can be a tough gig, and you all have other obligations in your lives, too?
RAYMOND TEVICH: Yeah, we’re all committed to the band, but of course, have families and balance a lot of other things. We’ve released two albums since November of 2012, and continue to perform, so we’ve been able manage things very well. We just keep chipping away with trying to write new music, improve our live show, and make progress each week and month.
MI: Well, you are doing something right! How are you feeling about the early success of your new CD?
JEFF TAYLOR: Our new album was released October 28, and was produced by Grammy-winner Tom Hambridge, who has worked with Buddy Guy, Susan Tedeschi, and James Cotton, among others. It is called Cryin’ Mercy. We are looking forward to sharing our new music and are really proud of it. Our Milwaukee record release party is Friday, December 5 at the Milwaukee Ale House, and our Madison show is Saturday, December 13 at Funk’s Pub in Fitchburg.
MI: And having your music show up on the charts must be exciting, but what makes you most proud of the band’s efforts?
JEFF TAYLOR: We’ve been able to shape our own sound and do our own thing, and after 13 years, it’s really nice to see people take notice. We won “Blues Artist of the Year” at the 2014 WAMI Award Show, and it was great to be recognized by the voters and our peers. And yeah, our new album reaching #3 in the iTunes blues store, sorted by bestsellers, is a high-point for us, too!
MI: What have you learned as a band, and might be worthy advice for someone else?
SCOTT SCHROEDL: Take your time and hone your sound. Practice your instrument and rehearse your band as much as possible before you step out to perform and record. Don’t rush into trying to market your music if it’s not ready. And more than anything, stick to your guns and don’t give up.
MI: How have you been able to adapt to the music business roller-coaster?
JEFF SCHROEDL: The music business has changed so much, even since we’ve been together as a band. You just have to roll with the changes. We put a lot of time and thought into our music, and have to trust that it will resonate with some people but not all. Our arrow keeps pointing upward, and good things have been happening with us lately, so we can’t complain too much!
MI: What’s the next step for Altered Five?
MARK SOLVESON: We want to continue growing our fan base and get our music out there. We’re currently getting a lot of airplay on blues programs around the world, and getting great feedback on the new album. Hopefully that leads to larger festivals, more album sales, and who knows what else??
MI: Anything surprising about the band?
JEFF TAYLOR: During out first few years, we created a lot of crazy arrangements. We abandoned that direction a long time ago, but looking back, we had some very unique blues renditions of rock songs. We performed blues versions of songs by everyone from Metallica and Pink Floyd to Jane’s Addiction and Michael Jackson. Heck, we once performed a blues version of Thomas Dolby’s “She Blinded Me with Science”!
The new album is currently at #4 on the Roots Music Report Radio Chart. See this link:
• Facebook Record Label: OmniVibe Records