In 2022, Old Pup—the pet project of Milwaukee multi-instrumentalist Will Hansen—introduced listeners to its winning mixture of psych, folk, and country with the release of Incognito Lounge. That impressive debut was followed by a steady diet of live outings and an underlying uncertainty about exactly how Hansen and his rotating cast of collaborators might possibly follow up that album. On Friday, May 3, Old Pup surprised its budding fan base by releasing a new EP with no advance notice. Even more surprising than that unannounced EP drop is the content of the release itself.

“This record was born from a collage of experiments, meditations, and mistakes on tape,” Hansen says of his latest effort. That EP, a four-track Bandcamp-only release called Lion, finds the Old Pup mastermind setting aside vocals (at least in a traditional sense) and any sonic overlap from its predecessor in favor of an experimental and whimsical approach. Instead of trying to take a stab at explaining it, we’ll just allow Hansen to describe Lion‘s concept.

“A lion falls asleep during a thunderstorm. He wakes up in his sparsely furnished studio apartment ~ sips coffee, scans through the morning radio shows, sweeps up the kitchen, becomes deeply entranced by the monotony of domesticated life. Then he heads to a town hall meeting to vent about the missing stop sign at the 4-way intersection that borders his building. He’s almost been hit 3 times just this week. Cars scare him. The alder people are all on their phones. A kind lady crocheting in the front row nods along as he roars. He returns home and fixes a drink.”

Got it? Good! Despite its unarguably unconventional theme, the lighthearted backstory helps Lion avoid taking itself too seriously, which can be something that plagues many concept albums. The stakes are low and the song structures are loose, as the majority of the 20-minute effort features slowly strummed guitar and pedal steel, along with gentle auxiliary percussion, and the occasional “roar” from the vocalist in place of lyrics.

Though the majority of the EP—with the exception of the relatively upbeat and percussive final track, “4bgdahH0#2t (fixing a drink)”—lands in the realm of ambient mood music, Hansen actually assembled quite a group of musicians to accompany him on the self-recorded work. In addition to his various instruments and sound effects he applies himself, Hansen is joined by Lee Ann Dzelzkalns (body tambora, gongs, wah-wah pipe, wave drum), Nate Kinsman (drums), Drue DeVente (bass, synth), and Ben Boehm (cello).

We’re going to go out on a limb and say Lion might be the best Milwaukee-made experimental folk EP about a domesticated jungle cat bringing a traffic signage issue before elected officials to be released this year. Concept aside, Old Pup’s latest manages to surprise listeners while simultaneously being a relaxing, creative, and altogether well-executed expansion of the project’s artistic reach. Temporarily take the form of an under-stimulated lion and check out the Bandcamp-exclusive EP now.

About The Author

Avatar photo
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.