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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2014

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Sacramento musicians name band "Milwaukee"


Band names don't always express a band's composition. The Thompson Twins had three members, for instance, and no one in The Donnas is actually named "Donna," so why shouldn't a band from Sacramento call themselves "Milwaukee?" Exactly.

With this kind of logic in mind, Sacramento's John Gutenberger and Chris Robyn started a band named after a city they had absolutely no relationship with, except occasionally on screen when watching Lavern & Shirley reruns.

Milwaukee features three other members, Norm Wolfe, Mike Dugan and James Neil. The five men tapped into a sound that's becomes timeless: poppy and melancholy like the stuff thirtysomethings lost their virginity to in the '80s.

Ironically or coincidentally, critics and fans have likened their style to Paul Westerberg and The Replacements, from Minneapolis, another fine midwestern town.

But wait, the cosmic-ness continues. After interviewing Gutenberger, we discovered he was nice, really nice, and all Milwaukeeans know that "nice" is as integral to our culture as fish frys and steel-toed boots.

OMC: Is it true you named the band after reading a beer can?

JG: Yes, Schlitz is the beer we got the name from. "The beer that made Milwaukee famous."

OMC: Have you ever been to Milwaukee?

JG: No, I've never been to Milwaukee. I think our guitar player Norm (Wolfe) has been there once.

OMC: What does Milwaukee make you think of?

JG: I think of Laverne & Shirley and I picture it being a pretty mellow place, I guess.

OMC: How have Californians responded to the band name?

JG: I think our name creates some curiosity. So far it hasn't hurt our popularity, people seem to really like the name. I've heard people say that it's "perfect" for our style of music.

OMC: That's interesting, because I have been to California many times, and often when I tell people I live in Milwaukee they say, "Why?"

JG: We're mostly from Sacramento and when I tell people I'm from there they say, "Why?" Maybe that's what we have in common with Milwaukee. Some people think it's a s--t hole but it's home to us.

OMC: You just released a record, right?

JG: Yes, our album "...In Sounds" came out on Blackliner records Feb. 23, 2003. It's our first full-length. We released an EP on our own a few years back, but this new one actually has some distribution.

OMC: The Sacrament News & Reviews calls says your band, "evokes a rain-washed Midtown tableau etched with floundering relationships and the psychic ghosts summoned by Pabst-induced hangovers" but how would you describe it?

JG: Well, we're kind of an indie rock/pop sorta thing.

OMC: Have you ever written a song about Milwaukee, as in the city of?

JG: No, never written a song about Milwaukee, but I wrote one about Sacramento called "Sacramento USA."

OMC: Do you hope to gig here one day? Maybe Milwaukee could pilgrimage to Milwaukee ...

JG: I've always wondered what people in Milwaukee would think of us. I would guess that there would be a lot of people asking, "Why the hell did you name your band Milwaukee?" If a band came here called Sacramento I would probably say the same thing. Anyway, in answer to your question, I hope we do get out to Milwaukee.

OMC: So other than the beer can, there wasn't any other reason why you chose Milwaukee for your band name?

JG: When you're in a band, choosing a name is one of the hardest things to decide, but names generally don't really matter. Milwaukee for whatever reason just seemed to sound nice. It doesn't mean anything, other than the Native American translation. It's just a name. You gotta put a label on everything, I guess.

For more information about Milwaukee or to order cool "Milwaukee the band" merchandise straight outta California, go to www.milwaukeetheband.com

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