Pipitone's spry pop is perfect "Music for Minivans"
Although he's from South Beloit, a suburb of Rockford, Ill., Nick Pipitone has been involved in the Milwaukee music scene for nearly two decades. If you don't remember him from True Cain, Cover Operation, Fruit Ranch or Frances Gumm, all is forgiven.
Don't even worry if you didn't hear the solid disc his previous band Sugarsmack recorded before guitarist -- and former Milwaukee Art Museum curator -- Dean Sobel packed his Rickenbackers and took a job in Colorado.
But, listen up, Pipitone now fronts a band that carries his surname and the quartet's debut disc, "Music for Minivans," is worth a listen. Up 'til now Pipitone's biggest claim to fame was the Children's Hospital song he wrote (he calls it, "the closest I may ever come to knowing what it's like to have a hit record"). "Music for Minivans" could change that for good.
The disc's 10 spry tracks capture Pipitone's love for Squeeze, Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe, Crowded House and Teenage Fanclub. That means they're all sing-along-able and fueled by jangly guitars.
"Pipitone has been together for about two years now," the singer, guitarist and songwriter says. "It was almost four years ago when my band Sugarsmack was recording some of the songs you hear on "Music for Minivans." When that band broke up, most of this album was in the can, in limbo."
Pipitone tried to put together a static line-up, but without luck. Now he's happy to have some folks on board that are talented enough to do double-duty with Pipitone and their other projects. Guitarist and crack harmony singer Jack Rodee runs his own studio and fronts Spill, one on Milwaukee's best unsigned pop bands. Bassist Noel Crowder and drummer Steve Comeau have been playing together for more than a dozen years as the rhythm section in Feet of Clay.
He took the band into the downtown studio run by long-time collaborator Rob Probst and "Music for Minivans" is the result.
"I wanted the new lineup to make it's mark somehow so we recorded "Gwyneth" (a tribute to Ms. Paltrow) to add to the list of songs. It helped that the new guys were very receptive to the pre-recorded stuff. I really want to make it my priority to get another CD recorded with the new Pipitone lineup. I don't want Pipitone to be perceived as me and a group of hired hands. We are definitely a band. I want the camaraderie and relationships that go along with being in a band, and I want everyone to feel some ownership to the material, even though I write all the songs."
The result was alluring enough that Pipitone landed a deal with Kool Kat, a New Jersey independent label, without even really trying.
"We simply sent our disc off to Ray Gianchetti, owner of Kool Kat, he really liked it and wanted to release it," recalls Pipitone. "It's really that simple. We did not do a blanket mailing to internet power pop labels. Ray listened to it, liked it and took it from there. It was really lucky."
If you want to hear the songs live or see how the fellers move while playing them, Pipitone plays at the "Thoughts for Food" benefit for the Racine Food Bank at Coaster's, 1301 N. Main St., in Racine on Sat., March 1. The show starts at 7 p.m. and The Other Side, EZ Livin', INC and Lyden Moon also perform. In the meantime, check out www.pipitone.org.
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