Tunic is a noise rock machine.
The Winnipeg band’s recently-released debut album, Complexion, is a nuanced assault on your senses. The dissonant guitars and shouted vocals collide with a thick rhythmic pulse as the band flows through 11 tense songs. Their growing swell of popularity is built upon a foundation of relentless touring. Currently, their touring cycle includes 62 shows from February to May, which will bring the band to Europe, parts of Canada, and all around the U.S.
Guitarist-vocalist David Schellenberg recently gave Milwaukee Record a moment of his time to talk about the band’s fondness for Milwaukee, working with a renowned producer, and the reality of being an adult playing punk music. Tunic plays X-Ray Arcade on April 20.
Milwaukee Record: How many times have you played Milwaukee? What keeps you coming back?
David Schellenberg: I think this will be our fourth or fifth time playing Milwaukee. Lucky Cat, High Dive, High Dive, Cactus Club and now this one coming up. So yeah, fifth. Mostly Schlitz [keeps us coming back], but also of course how great the shows have been. We love Milwaukee. The Midwest is a wonderful place for noise rock.
MR: What prompted the band to start, and how has your dynamic developed since the beginning?
DS: The band started when I became extremely frustrated playing bass in other people’s project and committing myself duly to someone else’s project and getting burned by that. So I wanted to create a project where I was the songwriter, where it could be run as I’ve always dreamed a project running, and playing music across the world with my friends. And so far, it’s going pretty well.
Originally this was sort of suppose to be a band that hardly plays live and never tours and was suppose to be a harder indie rock and art rock band. So we have shifted significantly. It was the natural progression of everyone who has come in and out of the project imprint on the project.
MR: For Complexion, you worked with notable producer Jace Lasek. How was that experience compared to previous recordings with more punk-based producers?
DS: Working with Jace was a dream. He totally got the project, knew exactly the vibe and tones we were going for. He was extremely relaxed and made the studio feel like just anyone’s basement, just goofing around recording. [It was the] best case scenario for someone like myself, who can be a bit over-dramatic and stress out too hard on things. In comparison to working with the more DIY and punk folks we recorded with, it was extremely similar—good people all working on music they love together.
MR: Is there any song or aspect of Complexion that you’re particularly proud of?
DS: I’m proud of it all. But the bridge in “Pores” is one of my favorite things on the record. The swelling of all the chorus pedals and the skronky sax, that song was so far from done when we brought it to the studio, and it came out great.
MR: Your current touring schedule is quite grueling. How do you manage to tour the U.S. more than most bands that are from here?
DS: Touring is part of being a band—especially in a punk band. We have to play 100-plus shows a year. That’s a minimum we set for ourselves, and we make sure to do that every year.
MR: As adults making punk music, what motivates you to stay the path versus settling into the typical full-time adult life?
DS: I think there is nothing more adult than dedicating yourself solely to your adult-chosen career, even if we don’t make any money.
MR: Has anyone ever mistaken you for the American rock band Tonic?
DS: No one ever has, but a lot people to like to call us that when we arrive for load-in.
Tunic will play in support of Blessed at X-Ray Arcade on Saturday April 20. The all-ages show begins at 8 p.m. and costs $10.