Faces For Radio

by Joshua Miller
July 2009

Faces For Radio featuring members of Rapscallion and Last Crack

Faces For Radio featuring members of Rapscallion and Last Crack

With a sleek, venturesome and well worn presence in the Madison and national music scene, the members of the capital’s resident rock supergroup FACES FOR RADIO see every show as a chance to show off their skills. Skills they’ve picked up over the past decades in some of Madison’s most successfully produced bands, namely Rapscallion and Last Crack. 

“Any opportunity we are given to play we appreciate it 150 percent,” says Chris Havey, who handles drumming duties. Havey is joined by an experienced lineup of musicians including singer Tod Schwenn, guitarist Jayme Poster, and bass player Todd “Reno” Winger.

Even though they started in 2006, their friendships are decades long. Faces for Radio marks a crossroads of the paths each of the members of the bands have taken. Winger and Havey enjoyed success in the widely popular Last Crack, which was signed to Roadracer/Roadrunner Records a label that now touts names such as CKY, Nickelback, Dream Theater and more. Last Crack enjoyed critical success nationally and worldwide, playing on and off over the last two decades, with classic albums such as Burning Time and Sinister Funkhouse 17, MTV videos, and shows that attracted thousands of people.

This band was close friends with a fellow Madison band called Rapscallion, which had Schwenn and Poster as members. They were signed onto Red Decibel Records, a hip indie label in the late 80s/early 90s that owner Jake Wisely created. Wisely ironically had been the person who had heard Last Crack and helped convince Roadracer/Roadrunner to sign the band. Rapscallion experienced much success as well, with popular albums and songs that were used for films. They were offered a management deal with the Los Angeles based Steve Moir Company and a publishing dealing with Warner/Cahppel. They played big shows such as the “Whiskey A Go Go” in Los Angeles, The “Off Ramp Cafe” and “RCKCNDY” in Seattle, as well as many an assortment of cities from coast to coast.

Jump a decade or so later. With a hiatus in the fall of 2005 of Last Crack, Winger and Havey decided to go over and do a casual jam with Schwenn and Poster who were still writing together. Even with each member’s long resume with the aforementioned bands, it came as an unexpected jolt when things started clicking so well for them.

“It was more or less was like, ‘Let’s see what happens,’” says Havey. “I don’t think any of us were planning to be in a band or anything. We automatically locked in and had chemistry. It’s nice with this band there’s no arguing, you might get that in other bands but we all get along pretty well.”

That night they wrote the song “Drama,” which is one of their popular songs live. Since then, the band’s chugged along with rapid pace, creating a whole new vibe for this new band, which they decided to call Faces for Radio.

“Every time we play, there seems to be twice as many people,” says Havey of the Faces for Radio’s emergence. “It seems like every show we’re doing that we’re getting bigger shows.”

Of those shows, opening for Pop Evil at Scatz Sports Bar and Night Club in Madison holds significance for the band as they discovered how popular they’re getting.

“Man, that was a good show,” says Havey. “We had eight or nine hundred people there and there were people lined up down the road.”

Many venues’ bookers, such as the High Noon Saloon’s Cathy Dethmers, were familiar with the members from the bands so it’s an easy band to book.

“I never heard them personally, but know some of the guys from the ‘old days’ of Last Crack etc., so booked them based on that past relationship,” says Dethmers.

The band’s 2009 schedule is building for a busy and prolific summer. They play July 25 at the Maximum Ink stage at Atwood Summerfest (along with Magic 7 which includes an almost Last Crack lineup), Badger Bowl July 11 with Paper Cut Massacre, High Noon Saloon Aug. 21 and Scatz Sports Bar and Night Club with Saliva Aug. 29.

Their fluid chemistry has certainly helped them get this far, Havey says. Writing music comes naturally for them and the band gets a lot done in a short time. 

“A lot of times we’ll write a song in five minutes,” says Havey, who included “Wreck Me” as one of those songs. “Half of our music we write on spot. It just happens.”

Havey says that Schwenn is a bit of a poet and sometimes he has his own musical language. 

“He’ll have the melody but he’ll mumble through the words,” says Havey. “And a lot of times we’ll go back and listen to what he’s mumbling and you can almost make out the words he’s saying. So sometimes we decipher what he’s saying into the lyrics for a song. It’s like a different language and we translate it into English.”

Havey said that their live show is even better than what is on their EP they released at the end of last year.

“Our live show is better because of our tightness and our strictler nature of everything sounding exactly like on our cd,” says Havey. “We’re particular who’s running our sound.”

The band hopes that when they’re not playing shows that they’re writing new songs. Havey doesn’t think it really made sense for the band to release an album on cd since the band doesn’t have a label supporting them. Instead, they bring 50 to 100 copies of their EP to give away for free every show. Their focus is to keep improving the band.

“We’re trying to stay at the top of our game and write some new stuff,” says Havey. “And we figured we do the shows and tighten the band even more and let some of the newer songs settle in a little bit and create themselves. Then go into studio at the end of the summer and do like five more songs or whatever we have at that time.”

The band often gets compared to bands such as Soundgarden and Nickelback, two bands that they list among their influences. Havey describes their sound as “a heavy, solid groove with a lot of hooky melodies” which may lead to these comparisons. While the songs are simplistic but intriguing, with lyrics about relationships and good and bad, Havey says it’s so catchy that listeners don’t mind. 

“With the Last Crack music you had to listen to it a few times to catch onto it and it sticks after awhile. But the music we write, it seems to be at least most of it anyway is that it impacts you right away and you like it right away,” says Havey. “We’re real strictlers on keeping it tight and keeping a groove. The groove’s the thing that drives the whole thing from bottom up.”

The band’s ambitions are humble despite their long resume: create music, don’t worry about money or popularity, and enjoy the fans that see you.

“We don’t consider ourselves the best band around by any means. We just do what we do and enjoy what we do,” says Havey. “People are there because they like our music and that’s a beautiful thing.”

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