When we last caught up with Krol-Scharber—the Milwaukee composing team made up of local music vets Justin Krol and Quinn Scharber—the duo was discussing its soon-to-air Super Bowl commercial for Busch Light. During that interview, they also mentioned a feature-length film, The People’s Joker, for which the pair wrote and recorded the original score.

Well, due to copyright concerns, the controversial Vera Drew film featuring Krol-Scharber’s music was indefinitely shelved. Now that the dust has settled, Drew’s passion project (and by extension, the music of these local composers) is ready for public consumption once more. Prior to The People’s Joker making its return to the Oriental Theatre (where it was featured in a secret screening during the 2023 Milwaukee Film Festival), Milwaukee Record asked the Krol-Scharber namesakes how it feels to have their work back on the silver screen, the “full circle” feeling with the film being shown at the Cactus Club in May, and what else they’re working on at the moment.

Milwaukee Record: During our interview in early 2023, you had mentioned The People’s Joker was coming out soon. Well, there have been some hiccups that have delayed and changed the terms of its release. Can you talk about that more?

Justin Krol: The first cut of the film originally debuted at TIFF—Toronto International Film Fest—in 2022, but was pulled after the first showing due to copyright concerns…which may or may not have included a letter from Warner Bros. We don’t really know much about the correspondence that followed, but ultimately it’s been released as “fair-use” due to the parody law.

MR: With the film’s release being in limbo for much of 2023, were you two ever worried a feature you’ve put some much time and work into would never get its moment in the sun?

Quinn Scharber: Yes, definitely. Not only for us, but we know how much the project means to Vera and everyone else that worked on it. We were cautiously optimistic that it would get some sort of wide release or distribution, but we really had no idea where it would end up.

MR: I know it was actually shown at a previous Milwaukee Film Festival, but how does it feel knowing it’s going to be showing again at Oriental Theatre this weekend?

QS: It’s great! The last showing was a secret midnight screening, so I don’t think people were as aware of it then as they are now. So we’re very proud it’s playing here at home for anyone to see.

MR: It’s also going to be screened at Cactus Club in May. As musicians who have played that stage more times than I’m sure you can recall, is that like a “full circle” moment of sorts?

JK: Totally! It’s wild. And we had nothing to do with that, funny enough. It will be a fun and entertaining way to watch the film. This is definitely the type of film that is great to watch with a group of people—it’s like watching with a live laugh track. Also, I should mention that they just added a second screening and we’ll be doing a talkback that night, along with writer Bri LeRose.

MR: Though The People’s Joker is the focus right now, is there anything else you’ve either recently worked on that’s now out in the world or any projects you’re busy with presently that you want to talk about?

JK: We actually just finished a record that will be out via Bibliotheque, APM, and KPM, like, this week for a new band we started with our good friend Hayward Williams called The Desert Diamonds. The album also heavily features the vocals of Bonnie Drinkard as well. There will be more to that story soon, but we’re happy to get that out into the world for now. In terms of film projects, there’s always something in the hopper.

MR: Lastly, with festival season coming up quickly, will either of the two of you be playing out anywhere?

QS: We’re always doing commercial work and lately we’ve been completing more albums for licensing. It would be fun to perform some of our work in some way, but I’m not sure we can stay up that late anymore. We’ll see!

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About The Author

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Co-Founder and Editor

Before co-founding Milwaukee Record, Tyler Maas wrote for virtually every Milwaukee publication (except Wassup! Magazine). He lives in Bay View and enjoys both stuff and things.