Technology has made it insanely easy to produce and share new music, as well as dig up and preserve music from the past. In Milwaukee, sites like MKE Punk and the Activities Archive have made it their mission to save obscure and half-forgotten gems from the ravages of time—especially gems that happened to come along before the advent of streaming services like Bandcamp and Soundcloud. Now, more classic Milwaukee music—the music of the once-mighty New Blind Nationals—has finally made its way to the digital world.
Active from roughly 2000-2004, NBN featured core members Kyle Altadonna (guitar/vocals), Tony Weber (guitar/vocals), Michael Marchant (guitar), and Mike Carey (bass). (The band went through drummers at a Spinal Tap-like clip.) Noisy yet melodic, abrasive yet pop-minded, NBN was a fixture at club shows and all-ages basement shows alike. Thanks to Ashley Altadonna—who now plays in The Glacial Speed with Carey—NBN’s three records are now available via Bandcamp, some 15 years after the group’s formation.
Individual tracks from 2002’s Unconscious And Standing, 2003’s Born On A Beach Blanket, and 2004’s Bury The Pattern can be streamed and downloaded for free. Full-album downloads are $1, and come with bonus demos, unreleased tracks, a video, and a full-color PDF complete with newly composed linear notes, photos, old show flyers, and other goodies. Here’s an excerpt from the PDF, in which Direct Hit!’s Nick Woods gives props to a band that helped him out in his early days:
“My first ‘real’ band got rolling when I was 18. We wanted to play a lot, and go on tour, and all the other cool-looking things that ‘real’ bands got to do. Only I was the oldest one in the group by a year, so when we first got rolling, most of us couldn’t buy cigarettes, let alone play in bars, let alone play very well at all. We were lucky that the New Blind Nationals took a little notice of us and bothered to ask us to play shows in houses and DIY spots that we never would have known about, being clueless teenagers from the suburbs. They were pretty instrumental in introducing us to DIY as a practice, and teaching us how to make things happen without waiting for someone to hand it to us.”
And here’s Altadonna, setting the overall scene:
“To me, the summer that the New Blind Nationals formed feels like a different time and Milwaukee, a different place. In many ways it was. We met a humid August afternoon at our practice space in the Sydney Hih building, which has long since been torn down to make room for a freeway. It was just five weeks later that the September 11th attacks happened, ushering in the 21st century’s global ‘war on terror.’ There was no Facebook, or even Myspace for that matter. The iPod had just been introduced, but most folks still bought their music on CD. For our part, we were just five guys, mostly in our early twenties, trying to navigate early adulthood and maybe make some noise.”
Relive that different time, that different place, and all that still-echoing noise here.