Yipes! They're back!
Before Citizen King and the Gufs, before the Bodeans and Violent Femmes, there was Yipes!
The Milwaukee power pop quintet got together, fortuitously, right as labels were eager to snap up the best of the "new wave" and these five hard-working musicians -- Pat McCurdy, Mike Hoffmann, Pete Strand, Teddy Freese and Andy Bartel -- were primed and ready to go, having been rehearsing hard and performing even harder, racking up 250 to 300 gigs a year in Milwaukee, in Wisconsin and beyond.
Millennium Records inked Yipes! to a deal and the band recorded two LPs for the label. At the same time, the group toured with the likes of Jefferson Starship, Cheap Trick, Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, and others.
Yipes! burned brightly but briefly. In 1981, the year after the group's second LP, "A Bit Irrational," was released, Millennium dropped the band and its members dispersed. McCurdy to a successful career as a solo performer, Hoffmann as an active musician and producer and Strand as a music attorney in Chicago.
Last year, Yipes! was inducted into the WAMI Hall of Fame and performed a short set at the awards ceremony. Now, the reunited Yipes! headlines the Johnson Controls World Sound Stage at Summerfest at 10 p.m. on Thursday, June 26. Just before the band takes the stage, there will be sets by reunited Milwaukee bands Bon Ton Society (6:30 p.m.) and The Wigs (8:30 p.m.)
We caught up with most of the members of Yipes! to ask about the band's history and the reunion this week at the Big Gig.
OnMilwaukee.com: For folks to young to remember, tell give us the quick history of Yipes!
Teddy Freese: Pete and Mike were in Slick with Steve (Summers) and Ernie (Conner), later to be in EIEIO with Mike. Pat and Andy were in The Rings, hating it for the most part and dying to do something new, like "It's All right" by Adam Faith. Then in Kenosha I had just met Bill, a great friend of Andy's, about a radio thing and he asked me to audition for the new project. We won a "Battle of the Bands" contest at The Palms and won time at Shadetree Studios in Lake Geneva at The Playboy Club.
Mike Hoffmann: Well, three of us started playing out together back in high school, Pat, Pete, myself. Pete and I go back to first grade! We started back in the era when the drinking age was 18 there were thousands of clubs schools parties you name it, we had booking agents, manager from the start and played a couple of hundred shows a year at least. Pat left the nest for a year meeting Andy which led to Teddy then they added Pete and I with the intent of hitting the big time. We had five years of touring and most likely our 10,000 hours served, so we were ready.
Pete Strand: Yipes began in November of 1977 when the band took over Pat's parents' basement and began three weeks of rehearsal. We took the show live around Thanksgiving and were off, playing 250-300 shows per year.
Andy Bartel: Pat and I were living in Sheboygan, playing in another band together. Our spare time was spent listening to records and drinking Mountain Dew. We started kicking around the idea of a new band, that would play original material, and also include the reworks of the music we loved, girl groups, lesser known British invasion, that kind of stuff. Pat immediately suggested Mike and Pete, and I knew Teddy. This was always it, there were no auditions.
The band was set from the first rehearsal. Everything came together very quickly, and we hit the road. Our manager got us heard by Jimmy Ienner at Millennium, and things took off from there.
OMC: Did it seem like folks -- at least folks outside the music scene here -- forgot about the Milwaukee bands of the '70s that had a national profile, like you guys and even Bad Boy?
MH: Probably, but I've been so busy in EIEIO, Semi-Twang, Carnival Strippers, Victor DeLorenzo, revivals of two of them, now playing with The Delta Routine -- making records plus touring plus producing -- guess I just haven't noticed.
AB: People don't really forget, they just move on to new music and things that are current. Sometimes, they just need a gentle prodding, and they remember quite easily.
PS: I don't think they forgot about us or Bad Boy or the other bands that packed the clubs back then. I think fans moved on when we all scattered but I think they remember. I meet someone every now and then in Chicago that like Yipes and remembers the Milwaukee and Wisconsin scene. Now Summerfest is a like a high school reunion for me. I see so many musicians and music industry friends and fans whenever I'm there.
OMC: What was it like to be a hard-working band gigging around the state practically every day and then suddenly finding yourselves signed and in New York and sharing stages with Kansas and Starship?
PS: The hardest part was cutting the show down to one 45-minute set. We'd been playing four or five 45-minute sets a night for a few years. We cut down to three 60-minute sets leading up to the record deal. So, we had a ton of material, both originals and covers. The other hard part was finding a way to burn off all of the extra energy we had since we were only playing one short set. We found a few ways to do that. The rest of it was pretty cool: opening in arenas and stadiums, meeting musicians we admired, having a road crew, traveling all over the U.S. and even making a few stops in Canada, having fans who first bought the record and then came to see us live.
AB: All the road work made us ready for anything that was thrown at us. We found our pacing and groove on the big stages quite easily. Plus, Pat is a great frontman. He came into his own with a large audience to work with.
MH: We toured more than just this state, we peppered upper middle America playing four sets in our first year and stacking up around 300 dates before being discovered. Jumping on a national tour was great only having to play one opening set -- 40 minutes sometimes 35!!! We toured with Southside Johnny, Triumph, Cheap Trick (and) countless others, some you mentioned. It was super fun.
OMC: Were you guys ready for that, not so much musically but on a personal level? Could you handle the stress?
MH: We were disciplined already so adjusting wasn't hard at all. However, the pressures of writing and cranking out world class recordings was soooo different ... very stressful indeed. Record companies are hard-asses for sure, but we loved it.
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