Pale Young Gentlemen

by Joshua Miller
June 2009

Madison's Pale Young Gentleman

Madison's Pale Young Gentleman

Adventuresome, theatrical, and a pouring out deeply human emotion in their music, Madison’s PALE YOUNG GENTLEMEN come to give audiences June 14 at the Marquette Waterfront Festival a detour from the usual rock and pop songs.

“I hope people can find some emotional truth in our songs which are trying to be as honest as possible,” says lead singer Mike Reisenauer. “These songs are for people who like being alive, and want to think about things and try to understand their emotions.”

To do this, the band throws convention out the window as far as the blueprint for a typical rock or pop band. Combining the guitar, bass, drum format (which they initially started off with) with instruments such as cellos and violas, the band members have created an original sound that’s their own.

“They’re extremely expressive instruments,” Reisenauer says of their unique selection of instruments such as cellos. “You can say a lot more with those instruments musically than you can say with a straight up guitar, bass and drums.”

Reisenauer, who also plays guitar and piano, is backed by a number of musicians in the studio and a smaller core group on the road. The band includes Reisenauer’s brother Matt on drums, Brett Randall on bass, Beth Morgan on backing vocals and cello, and Gwendolyn Miller on viola and bell kit.

This unique arrangement didn’t gain too much thought when Reisenauer put the band together in 2004 and for several years. It was just a group of musicians putting together sounds they thought fit together.

“Initially it was kind of accidental,” says Reisenauer. “We didn’t pay attention to it for a long time. I just wrote songs and we fleshed them out. I guess I didn’t realize what we were sounding like or we had a sound until we started getting reviews and people started telling me. It came about in a naive kind of way.”

With the release of their self-titled debut in 2007 and Black Forest (Tra La La) in 2008, the band discovered that they had something unique. Reisenauer says his interest in music anywhere between theatrical music to Ben Folds 5 and interest in storytelling and character studies (their name in fact comes from a Dickens character) soaked in to the fabric of their music.

“Instead of copying them I try to incorporate them in a way that’s my own,” says Reisenauer.

With Black Forest (Tra La La) the band decided to take another route and had more of an idea what their sound was.

“On our second album I thought about it a lot more because it had a certain idea and theme that I was going for,” says Reisenauer. “I was trying to capture like an old German folk tale or fairy tale. When we were recording it, we were trying to make it sound contemporary but antiquated at the same time.”

When it comes to creating songs, he says he has a pretty good idea where he wants to take a song, although it can get challenging at times with getting things exactly how he wants them.

“Even if I don’t know what it is there’s something I’m going for in a song,” says Reisenauer. “If doesn’t achieve what I’m trying to achieve in the song then it gets frustrating. It gets hard to know what’s not working and what is especially after you work on it so long and listen to it so many times.”

Patience, he says has been the key to get through those tough times. He says if “you think about an idea enough of the way through that when you’re ready to know what to do to the song it’ll come to you.”

When it came to translating their songs to the live stage, he said things worked out better than expected. He said they play a mix of material including fun, upbeat songs and some down beat songs as well, making it a dynamic show.

“Before we went on tour in late fall, I was worried about how it was going to work and it wouldn’t translate really well and it would be hard to play the new album live. It ended up not being true at all,” says Reisenauer. “I think there’s some songs that work better just the five of us. It’s probably easier playing in front of people compared to the studio.”

The band desires to evolve and not be content simply with the acclaim they’ve gotten from critics and fans. For their next album, he hopes to like to channel Jim Morrison a little more with a little more rock and roll and more swagger in their music.

“Each album has been a reaction to the last album, with trying to get away from it,” Reisenauer says. “There are certain things I know work in a song but when you’re trying to grow as an artist you kind of throw those things away. You don’t want to use them too much or you’re not going to get anything from it because you’ve been there and done that. So it makes sense that I want to write something more muscular this time around.”

He says regardless of where they end up, music will have the same impact on them as it did day one.

“It’s like growing another hand,” says Reisenauer. “Once you grow it, you’re going to use it. It’s like second nature. I can’t really separate myself from music.”

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