On Saturday, August 29, glistening electro-pop outfit Dream Attics will mark its impending relocation to Austin, Texas by playing a goodbye show at Linneman’s. Milwaukee bands packing up shop and heading elsewhere is nothing new, of course, but the departure of Dream Attics—a relatively new group with only an EP and a single to its name—raises the question: Why do some Milwaukee musicians leave? And, perhaps more importantly, why do others stay? We reached out to a few Milwaukee and former-Milwaukee artists, and culled pertinent quotes from previously published Milwaukee Record pieces to explore these questions.

LEAVING/LEFT MILWAUKEE

Nick Tovarek—Dream Attics
“It might seem irrational for us to leave Milwaukee at a time when the Milwaukee music scene could be best described as an unstoppable force of awesomeness. It’s an incredible feeling when half of the artists we were seeing in basement venues a couple of years ago are now headlining summer festivals, getting regular radio airplay, and being featured on influential blogs across the globe.

“So why peace out when life is good here in Milwaukee? We’ve spent close to a decade in Milwaukee and that’s a long time when you’re in your 20s. We don’t have delusional dreams of being ‘discovered’ by some industry guy who catches our set at a bar, but we’re pretty confident that surrounding ourselves with new faces and new scenery will change and challenge us in the ways that we need them to. Also, breakfast tacos. Austin has killer breakfast tacos.”

Hugh Masterson—Hugh Bob And The Hustle
“I love Milwaukee, that’s why I’ve been here for 15 years. I just need a change for whatever reason and the place I need to go is Nashville. I’m sure there are opportunities here that I’m not even aware of. For me, I know there is a lot more opportunity down there to write, record, network with people doing similar things as me, etc.” [From “Hugh Masterson talks Nashville move, Hustle’s future, goodbye,” December 3, 2014]

Nick Sanborn—Sylvan Esso, former Decibully
“I do think that there’s a weird, self-imposed glass ceiling [in Milwaukee] that I don’t feel [in Durham]. […] When I was here, I definitely felt an energy of…we all just understood that it could only get so big, and if we talked about it getting bigger, we were kind of joking. […] For whatever reason, there are less people that want to go see shows here. I’m not sure what that is. Especially local music.” [From The Disclaimer, November 6, 2013]

STAYING IN MILWAUKEE

Dan Didier—Maritime, The Promise Ring
“For me, the cost of living in Milwaukee was a big factor in staying put. On Promise Ring tours, I would chat with other bands who came from bigger cities and they’d say how much they had to work when they got home to just pay rent, and then I would get home, sit on my couch, and play Tony Hawk Pro Skater. Milwaukee is a big enough city that there is always something cool going on, but it is also small enough that I never feel overwhelmed. So, by staying here so long you inevitably get planted and roots begin to grow and houses get bought and kids get born and jobs get started, so now it is almost impossible to leave and I wouldn’t want it any other way. But maybe it was that little level of success that The Promise Ring had early on that helped make the decision to stay easier—meaning, the band never felt the need to move away from here in order to become successful. I can understand why some bands might feel like Milwaukee is a dead end street and there is only so much a band can do here. That said, there is something to be said for being a slightly bigger fish in a slightly smaller pond.”

Rory Ferreira (a.k.a. Milo)
“A lot of it for me was—have you ever sold everything in your apartment down to three bags that you own to move to L.A.? And then you get out there because you had a record deal, and then the money don’t come, you know? So I just had to come home. There was nothing else we could do. I was out in Boyle Heights in L.A., which is a horrible neighborhood, especially for a young black man to be in, and just not having a good time. I think this is a great place to hit reset and sort of re-align the vision.” [From On The Record, episode 17, April 29, 2015]

Jon Mueller—Volcano Choir
“Really, I’ve stayed here because of the deep working relationships I’ve had with people. You can’t easily start those in a new place. My family is here. Outside that, it’s also easy to try things here. I’ve watched many people with ideas build communities around them, and I suspect that’s much more difficult to do in both larger, and smaller, cities. There are a lot of human and creative components here that make it perfect for trying things.”

Christopher Porterfield—Field Report
“My wife and I have talked about this—whether to stay or go—a lot. We would need a pretty compelling reason to move. I love Minneapolis and Toronto, but lateral climate moves are off the table. We’re too old for New York. Nashville is fine to visit, but to me it seems like more about the hustle and less about community. L.A.? Maybe. But here it seems like a lot of the things that have bummed me out about Milwaukee in the last 10 years might be moving in the right direction in the next 10. I also want to show people that it can be done while living here. It can. It’s cheap here. There is community here. It’s centrally located for touring. People are leaving Chicago for here—industry people. It’s exciting. I want to be part of that shift, and grease the skids for other people to do it from here too.”

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