Siblings playing together in a band isn’t an altogether unique concept in Milwaukee music. Acts like Juniper Tar, Ugly Brothers, and Calamity Janes (among many others) have shown that great things can come of familial collaboration. Still, Milwaukee rock quintet Eagle Trace is probably the only act in town right now with four brothers among its ranks. Before the young band of brothers releases its second EP, Milwaukee Record spoke to three of the four Bogardt siblings and outlier Brody Coning about the group’s (literal) homegrown origin, the difficulties of playing with relatives, and Eagle Trace’s beyond-its-years effort, Off In The Night.
Milwaukee Record: I want to get right into the fact that four of you are brothers. You’ll see two brothers now and then or a brother and sister, but there must be a backstory behind four siblings in one band. What’s your musical background? Were you exposed to music early on? Was it in your household?
Jackson Bogardt: Our dad was a singer, but we were never really exposed to it. Until about five years ago, none of us brothers played any instruments. We just kind of all started playing. We all slowly started around my senior year of high school. Max picked up a guitar in college. I started playing, and then Cass started playing drums and joined me because he thought it would be fun. Then we got Brody next…this was 2011. Our teacher is the one who actually introduced us to Brody over at Cascio and he thought it would be fun to play with someone. That’s all it was supposed to be, just a jam.
Cass Bogardt: It was mostly just out of necessity. The reason we started playing together was because we were learning about the same time and we were close together.
JB: We all just kind of fell in [to place], and the first practice where Brody and I got together, we actually wrote our first song. My first song ever written. Then Max came back from college and started playing with us. Then we needed a singer, so we got Mitch, who’s actually a really good writer. We originally just asked him to write lyrics…
Mitch Bogardt: I didn’t even want to do it at first.
CB: It was one of things where, out of necessity, he stepped up and said, “I’ll do it.” But it worked out. We didn’t even necessarily think it was going to stick with Mitch in it, we just kind of screwed around. We were still kind of tentatively looking for a singer after we had Mitch, but everything kind of fell into place.
MR: What are the inner workings of the band? With most of you being brothers, I’m sure there can be some heated fights sometimes.
JB: It depends on what’s going on.
Brody Coning: I think a lot of our songs have been written through fights.
MB: We’ll fight a lot over arrangements.
CB: And I think because we do that because we’re so used to it from growing up together, so we get over it quickly. Every problem that we have is out in the air. And mostly it’s due to songs because we all write equally, so it’s one of those things where one of us will have a vision and want it to go a certain place and sometimes it’s tough collaborating.
BC: It’s not just one main writer. Even when someone brings an idea to the table, it becomes the band’s song. They might have an idea of how they want to shape it, but it’s up to the other four guys as well.
CB: But we’re also really, really close, so when we don’t like something, we won’t hold back. We’re not afraid to be honest.
MR: Yeah, if a person walks out of your band, they have to be in your life still. You’re going to see everyone at Thanksgiving around the dinner table. Except with you, Brody, but have you almost felt like you’ve been adopted into the Bogardt family? And are you the alternative voice when the rest of the family gets too locked in their own ways?
BC: I’m over there a lot, so I think I have been accepted into the family a little bit. I think once we get down to the basement, all the family stuff goes out the window and we just become one working machine.
MB: Brody’s first [Bogardt family] fight experience was the funniest thing. He’s an only child, so he’s not used to brothers just attacking each other.
MR: When did you guys write the EP?
JB: The songs “Last Call” and “Kalypso” were written probably a year and a half ago, maybe longer. We tried to record it all ourselves, then finally last September we were like, “Let’s spend the money and do it right. Let’s go work with Shane [Hochstetler of Howl Street Recordings].” So we had two old songs and two songs that were brand new. “Steel Black Ties” wasn’t actually finished until about a week before we went in.
CB: Even though they were still so new, we felt they’re good songs and we wanted to have them be perfect.
JB: We’re very proud of this, and I think it shows.
Eagle Trace’s Off In The Night EP release show is Saturday, February 21 at Anodyne Coffee Roasters (Walker’s Point). Central Standard and Jay Matthes will play in support. The all-ages show begins at 8 p.m. and costs $10 at the door.