As great as Sylvan Esso is, you have to think at least some of the reason for Durham-based duo’s Pabst Theater sellout Friday had to do with Milwaukee being the hometown of Nick Sanborn. Prior to starting the wildly popular project, the local boy done good also outsourced his talents to Champaign, Illinois indie outfit Headlights, and another Durham band, Megafaun. Sanborn is not even close to being the only musician with Milwaukee ties who plays in a project based elsewhere. From other local expats to touring support and long distance replacements, Milwaukee Record has gathered 13 more bands with tangential connections to our fair city.
1. Talking Heads
Talking Heads are the world’s band. Technically, the seminal group is considered a New York band, but anybody in Wisconsin who’s aware of the tidbit is quick to remind you one member of the iconic outfit hails from Milwaukee—or Shorewood, to be exact. Jerry Harrison played keyboard and guitar for the new wave pioneers. Harrison also is credited as a producer on albums by Live, No Doubt, The Verve Pipe, Rusted Root, and fellow Milwaukeeans The BoDeans and Violent Femmes. He’s set to return home to present Take Me to the River (which he produced) at this year’s Milwaukee Film Festival.
2. The Modern Lovers
Prior to joining the Heads, Harrison was one of numerous members of the influential Jonathan Richman-fronted protopunk project The Modern Lovers. We didn’t think it was possible, but Shorewood is actually starting to seem kind of cool.
3. Poison The Well
You might know Brad Clifford as the guitarist for great-though-sparsely-active Milwaukee hardcore band No Future. You may also be familiar with his work as a touring guitar tech for countless notable bands (most recently Against Me). Yet from 2006 to the band’s (likely permanent) 2010 hiatus, Clifford played rhythm guitar with longstanding Miami hardcore purveyors Poison The Well. By the time Clifford enlisted, Poison The Well had only two funding members left and 15 former members in its wake. The Milwaukeean was taking over for Jason Boyer, who had replaced eventual Sleigh Bells founder Derek Miller.
4. Paul Collins Beat
As frontman and eventual namesake of Los Angeles-originated The Beat, cult power-pop legend Paul Collins and his band have played a steady stream of shows since the band’s 1977 outset…not counting the work stoppage between 1989 and 1994. With the consistent tours, Collins and company have seen more than 10 members splinter off through the years, but there’s always somebody eager to take a vacant spot in the lineup. One such spot is presently held by Milwaukee’s own Tim Schweiger (The Obsoletes, Yesterday’s Kids, Tim Schweiger And The Middlemen). Moreover, ex Benjamins and current Trapper Schoepp & The Shades drummer Jon Phillip was brought in to drum on a recent Paul Collins Beat tour.
Speaking of Phillip, before he took the Shades’ throne and following his memorable runs with The Benjamins and The Obsoletes, the drummer slapped skins for notable Orange County-stationed alt-country act Limbeck. He was brought in to replace original drummer Matthew Stephens in 2005, and stayed until they called it quits (excluding occasional reunion gigs) in 2010.
6. Josh Berwanger Band
Finally concluding our traipse through Jon Phillip’s impressive musical résumé, we come to Josh Berwanger Band, a project named after the former frontman of early 2000s Vagrant Records band The Anniversary. While Phillip is not technically a member of Berwanger’s eponymous project, he served as his touring drummer on a jaunt this spring. After all, he knows the material well. Berwanger is on Phillip’s label, Good Land Records.
7. Screeching Weasel
For being a band whose most famous song is about an exclusive club, suburban Chicago punk band Screeching Weasel has sure let a lot of people join over the years. One of the 25 people (and counting) to collaborate with polarizing bandleader Ben Weasel was former Yesterday’s Kids and The Obsoletes bassist Justin Perkins, who filled a spot once held by Green Day’s Mike Dirnt. As part of Weasel’s fourth revival, Perkins played on the band’s 12th album, 2011’s First World Manifesto. When Ben Weasel punched female audience members during a show in March of 2011, Perkins and the rest of the backing band resigned. Perkins now plays bass in Space Raft and is the owner/operator of Mystery Room Mastering (save 15 percent with discount code MKEREC15 through the end of September!). If you’re keeping count, all three members of The Obsoletes went on to play with notable non-Milwaukee bands.
8. Dashboard Confessional
If you’re between the ages of 25 and 31, there’s a pretty good chance that when you either gave or received your first over-the-pants handy in the back of your mom’s Plymouth Neon, Dashboard Confessional was the soundtrack. In the early aughts, Floridian singer-songwriter Chris Carrabba’s cluster of sad-sack songs held lofty spots on sappy mix CD-Rs and prime position beside hearts and the name of that cute guy or gal from third period chemistry in a library’s worth of dog-eared diaries. In 2002, Carrabba called upon a part of a previous emo heavy-hitter The Promise Ring to fill out his rhythm section. Local bass master Scott Shoenbeck has served as the backbone to otherwise barren, sappy songs since. Since Dashboard Confessional isn’t especially busy these days, Schoenbeck has also kept active locally in Snowbirds and Jayk since.
9. Cap’n Jazz
Speaking of The Promise Ring, before the band led the charge of emo’s second wave, Davey von Boehlen was an outsourced add-on to beloved Chicago band Cap’n Jazz in the final two years of the Kinsella brothers project. He started The Promise Ring the same year Cap’n Jazz called it quits, and has since led Maritime as well.
Though not quite the household name that Talking Heads and Dashboard Confessional are, Spitalfield was near top billing in the stacked Chicago pop-punk scene roughly a decade ago. Near the end of Spitalfield’s original run, the Victory Records-signed act called upon Jeff Meilander (Bosio, Seven Days Of Samsara) to spell departed guitarist Daniel Lowder on the road.
11. The Academy Is…
Take the last entry and multiply it by 10. When the Fall Out Boy-touted Chicago band The Academy Is… sought a replacement drummer in 2oo4, they turned their attention to the north, and enlisted former Last Place Champs percussionist Andy Mrotek. He continued playing with them until early 2011, departing a few months before the entire band called it quits. Mrotek now drums in Milwaukee rock juggernaut Whips.
12. Eric & Magill
With one member in Brooklyn and the other in remote Kenya, international dream-pop duo Eric & Magill doesn’t call any specific city home. However, the last time Eric Osterman and Ryan Weber lived in the same area code, those numerals were 414. The former Camden collaborators got their start in Milwaukee, and Weber also played with The Promise Ring and Decibully before heading to Africa.
13. Chester French
Chester French was terrible. One of its members grew up in Milwaukee. Whatever.