While the band’s unpolished, distorted, and often self-deprecating songs routinely put its name in close proximity to the term “slacker,” Midnight Reruns aren’t lazy. In fact, they work really hard. Lately, the band’s efforts are starting to pay off, with increased national attention and local respect coming on the cusp of second album Force Of Nurture‘s release on Friday. No, the guys in Midnight Reruns are not slackers. They’re just not very good at the whole business and marketing side of things.
“We’ve moved really slowly because none of us know what we’re doing at all in the aspect that’s not playing music,” singer-guitarist Graham Hunt says. “We’re all really bad at it, but we’ve never gone backwards.”
Things have moved pretty slowly. Though the rock quartet first came to local consciousness in late 2013 with its great self-titled debut full-length, the Reruns have actually been a band since 2010. Technically, the story stretches much further back, as Hunt has been playing in bands with drummer Sam Reitman since they were in middle school.
“He was the only person that I knew back then that was kind of on the same level musically,” Reitman says. “We were right at the same level and we were into all the same shit. We felt comfortable playing whatever together.”
They played together in punk bands like Last In Line, Counterfeit Five, Stilettos, and The Sleazy Beat—the last of which essentially transformed into Midnight Reruns. Along the way, Hunt left Trapper Schoepp And The Shades to focus his creative efforts on this passion project. By the time Midnight Reruns was out, the band was already writing new material and playing it live. Last November, the band—which is so often compared to The Replacements—went to Hudson, New York to record in the home studio of Replacements bassist Tommy Stinson.
“We played a show the night before right down the street from his house. Tommy came to that to see what the songs were all about,” Reitman says. “He was just like, ‘I want you guys to do what you did when I saw you last night.’”
The 10-song effort was tracked and recorded over the course of just four days in Stinson’s living room with no isolation booths. They recorded live with vocals and minor overdubs added later. Hunt says the unorthodox setup lends to the band’s live sound.
“It seems like a professional engineer’s nightmare to do it that way, but we did it that way and it’s kind of cool, I think,” Hunt says. “There’s bleed everywhere on all the mics. [Stinson] wanted it that way.”
Whatever Stinson did worked. Force Of Nurture is not only a continuation of the first record, it’s an improvement on it. It’s rife with big and blistering solos, undeniable hooks, and timeless pop appeal contained with jagged and sloppy packaging. Like Midnight Reruns, the sophomore record is tough to reign in stylistically. “There’s An Animal Upstairs” (which got a favorable nod from Nerdist) could be in regular radio rotation, as could the ultra-catchy “Canadian Summer.” The two-and-a-half minute “Ain’t Gonna Find” could win over an all-ages punk crowd. In fact, it has.
Direct Hit! singer-guitarist Nick Woods included Midnight Reruns on the lineup for his inaugural Dummerfest in June. Though they were something of an outlier on the punk- and hardcore-heavy bill, Woods wanted them to be part of it because they’re one of his favorite bands in Milwaukee.
“I knew they were more concerned with writing cool songs and playing cool shows than just looking cool,” Woods says. “I like Graham’s voice, I think the songs are catchy in a slacker-y kind of way, I like that they’re not easily pigeonholed, and I like that they don’t care too much, but don’t aggressively not care at the same time.”
Midnight Reruns care. Toting an impressive arsenal of accessible and, yes, “slecker-y” songs, the band is poised to push the project as far as they can. Starting Thursday, Midnight Reruns will embark on a two-plus week tour through the Midwest, east coast, and the southeast before returning to Milwaukee for a November 14 local release show at Cactus Club. Hunt also says the band plans to tour extensively this winter.
“Touring is definitely the plan. There’s so much territory we haven’t conquered yet,” Reitman says.
As slow and uncalculated as the build up was, the band has done things any slacker would be proud to do. With its best record (arguably the best in Milwaukee this year, at that) just days from being released, Midnight Reruns is ready for whatever comes.
“We’re just trying to be around longer,” Hunt says. “If we’ve come this far in five years, we can probably do some awesome stuff in 10 years. We just want to keep going and see where it goes.”
Midnight Reruns will release Force Of Nurture on Dusty Medical Records this Friday. You can pre-order the album now. The band will plays its Milwaukee release show at Cactus Club on Saturday, November 14.