For every Milwaukee project that has a well-publicized last show, knowingly puts out what’s to be its final album, or crafts a long and respectful farewell to those who have supported them throughout the years, many more local bands silently call it quits. With little-to-no public acknowledgement, zero fanfare, and no true goodbye concert to speak of, many projects end in ways that leave people uncertain if it’s done or if its merely on an indefinite hiatus.
With Milwaukee Record‘s “Broken Up Band Bazaar” benefit for Arte Para Todos coming to Black Husky Brewing on Saturday, we thought it would be fitting to, once again, give a bunch of bands that quietly came to an end a proper sendoff. From accomplished acts that slowly ground to a halt to short-lived projects that called it quits before reaching their full potential, here are 10 Milwaukee bands you maybe didn’t know broke up.
1. Boy Blue
While the other entrants on this list were confirmed via research and/or asking a member, we’re just going to call this one. Apologies if we’re wrong, Boy Blue, but the synth-pop project hasn’t appeared to have played a show in three-plus years. The last update they had on Facebook was a February 2015 post promising an album was coming soon. We can’t find evidence it ever did. Also, the band’s website now redirects to the site of a New Jersey punk band that’s also called Boy Blue. Before their probable conclusion, Milwaukee’s Boy Blue was one of the more popular local bands in the early ’10s, with frequent shows, and a few high-profile opening slots.
2. Heat Death
In April of 2016, Heat Death released its dour, damn good 9 Steps To A Happier Life. Sadly, it turns out the first full-fledged album (which cracked the top 15 in our best album rankings that year) by the bleak and bleary electronic-leaning project will also be its last. Bandleader Ken Sabbar confirmed the project performed together for the final time in late 2016 or early 2017. Like many quiet conclusions, Heat Death’s demise can be blamed on members moving away. Sabbar—who has since started a well-received solo project, Tarek Sabbar—can be counted among the departed, as he recently relocated to Madison. He still frequents Milwaukee stages, and he says he started “the spiritual successor to Heat Death,” a new project called Telechrome.
3. I’m Not A Pilot
Since the band’s 2008 formation, I’m Not A Pilot has managed four releases, a mess of local awards, various impressive opening slots, and a significant Midwestern following. Along the way, the quartet has championed school music programs, including a 2014 live record the band performed with the Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra. “Milwaukee’s guitar-less rock band” split up on amicable terms last August with a final show at Anodyne. The band’s conclusion came in part because singer Mark Glatzel’s semi-recent trip to New Zealand winded up turning into an extended stay, and was followed by a move to Los Angeles.
4. Kate Moths
We hardly knew ye, Kate Moths. For a short time, the spirit of ’90s era Midwestern emo was alive and well in the form of the hilariously-named quartet. It turns out the group’s excellent debut, Reverse Earth After Birth, was also its swan song. Triple Eye Industries (which put out the band’s album) confirmed the band is no more. Though their time was tragically brief and the body of work is limited, Kate Moths gave us a taste of vintage Cap’n Jazz, Joan Of Arc, and Nothing Feels Good-era Promise Ring, with their own flare also thrown in to forge something special, and a record that will enjoy a longer shelf life than the band itself.
5. Mercy Company
Don’t be embarrassed if you’ve never heard of Mercy Company. The band didn’t play out often or manage much material in their brief existence, but we eulogize them nonetheless because of the potential they presented. After Herman Astro called its quits in 2014, everyone but the band’s singer (who moved away, hence Astro’s end) formed Mercy Company with the added boost of accomplished keyboardist Nick Berg (Great Lake Drifters) and Sugar Ransom handling vocal duties. However, life got in the way of the young band. Some members got married and bought homes, some changed careers, different projects took over, and the band silently subsided. At least we’ll always have “Untouchable.”
This one really stings. Though members of Midwives continue to be tight and the hardcore quartet’s material only seems to be getting better with each release, distance between collaborators has registered yet another casualty in the Milwaukee music scene. Though the band’s latest, No, made the top 10 in our best Milwaukee albums of 2017 list, the record didn’t even get a release show. Drummer Sahan Jayasuriya moved to Colorado. Meanwhile, guitarist Graham Hunt has kept busy in a variety of other projects, and vocalist Shaun Stacey has put his musical interest into his new record label.
Not be confused with the pluralized, and much better-known rap group with a similar name, MIGO was a tough band to pin down stylistically. Though it was tough to determine exactly what you were hearing—the band’s “Lost Dog Fan-Fiction” and “Piñata Rock” descriptions weren’t very helpful—when you listened to the Milwaukee quartet, you still enjoyed it. Sadly, MIGO’s bonkers debut, Napkin Back, is all we got to hear in the group’s limited run. Production halted in 2014, letting other projects take priority. Singer Jay Joslyn put his focus into Ugly Brothers, which also called its quits of late, and currently writes dozens upon dozens of songs with Lifetime Achievement Award. That band will play Arte Para Todos this weekend.
8. New Red Moons
Like MIGO, Milwaukee [insert one of 50 types of music]-rockers New Red Moons were tough to define musically, but easy to enjoy. With influences ranging from rock to roots to a myriad of other genres, the project made its few releases and its limited run of shows count. On December 30, the band had one more EP and one last performance, when they put out their final movement, Give Up, Give In, at a Circle-A Cafe release show. The largely overlooked band was good up until the end, but ultimately decided to say goodbye on account of “irreconcilable geographical differences.”
Though far down this (alphabetical) list, the loss of Piles is an especially notable shot to Milwaukee music. The sludgy, moody, punk-tinged material the trio managed over the course of about four years includes some significant output, including the “On The Record” theme song (“Blue Glue”). Like many of these other projects, Piles’ end wasn’t swift or immediately certain. Rather, the writing was on the wall following a year without a show and in seeing members’ other projects (Dorth Nakota, Nastos) take focus away. Last month, on the year anniversary Piles releasing Expeller, drummer Drew Gricar thanked everyone who supported the band, saying, “This was something I really had a good time being a part of. So long and thanks for all the fish.”
10. Seven Days Of Samsara
Okay, so you probably either heard about this one or (like us) assumed the band had ended like 10 years ago. But since the farewell show was so recent, we’d be remiss to exclude Seven Days Of Samsara from this list. With frequent tours and a heft of releases in the late ’90s and early aughts, the seminal local screamo/metalcore hybrid technically never stopped attacking, but they did take extended breaks to form bands like Get Rad and Bosio, start successful screen printing businesses, invent a holiday, and begin families. The band recently resurfaced for a pair of true farewell shows last month, which doubled as release shows for a record of songs spanning the group’s 20 years of existence.