By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Jun 14, 2008 at 5:18 AM

Although the band was from Madison, Appliances-SFB was a fixture on the Milwaukee music scene at the dawn on the 1980s.

More than Tar Babies and more than Swamp Thing and other Mad City bands, Appliances could reasonably be called part of the Brew City alternative rock and roll scene, playing regularly at The Starship, Niko's, The Palms and later at Café Voltaire and The Underground.

"The Appliances SFB were this amazing progressive yet edgy band from Madison who slipped into the Milwaukee scene like a nerdy A-Team, kicking ass at their shows, then leaving town before anyone knew what happened," remembers veteran musician Ron Faiola, who is now Webmaster of "In the early '80s Milwaukee didn't have an 'alternative' band with as many good musicians like the Appliances."

The band's Milwaukee connection continues well over a decade after its demise. In 2004, Rusty Olson of Rockhaus Guitars on the Southwest Side issued the band's third and final disc, "3rd and Long," on Rockhaus Records. It was the label's first release.

Now, Olson has reissued the band's definitive musical statement -- its eponymous 1984 debut -- on CD, too.

Olson says that the reissues came about thanks to the music store.

"I get to meet and talk to lots of musicians every day at the shop," he says. "Often times discussion is spent on gear, repairs, shows and recording projects. On just such a occasion I had been talking to (drummer) Meredith Scott Young about a recording his band Appliances SFB had done some years back. It had been recorded, mixed and mastered and never released."

"3rd and Long" was recorded at Madison's now-legendary Smart Studios in the early 1990s with Butch Vig, Steve Marker and Duke Erikson who are three-quarters of the band Garbage.

Despite the fact that Olson's expertise was in guitars, not in releasing CDs, he decided the music was too important to pass up the chance to issue it.

"I thought this was a shame to see hard work and time spent on something just to have it on a shelf and never heard, so I asked him what they were going to do with it, we came up with the idea that Rockhaus should put it out.

"It could have seemed like an odd idea at the time for a guitar shop to do this, I couldn't think of a good reason not to do it and the idea rather appealed to me anyway."

Where "3rd and Long" is a fairly traditional, edgy post-punk rock and roll record, its roots are decidedly more engaging. And those roots are best experienced on the 1984 "SFB."

The manic vocals of singer Tom Laskin recall nothing less than the earliest work of Nick Cave with The Birthday Party. And if the music is a little more traditional post-punk on tunes like "Nothing" and "The Pest," other tracks, like "Mr. Ugly" and "Neo-Fascist" are firmly in the vein of that landmark Aussie band.

Olson says he's thrilled to reissue a disc that's as important to him as "SFB" is. ("SFB," incidentally, stands for 'sh*t for brains" and the band tagged it onto its name when it learned there was another band called The Appliances.)

"This one was one of my personal favorites," he says. "To have my name anywhere near it would have been an honor really. Most of all They were nice enough to let me do it. It was out of print and getting hard to find. I thought it would be nice to still find it on record store shelves.

"You know, for kids' sake," he adds, referencing a song title from "3rd and Long."

The disc has been mastered from the original ½-inch master tape, which Olson says was, fortunately, still in good condition.

"Its great having the reissues because back when an Appliances 45 or LP would come out," says Faiola, "if you didn't buy a copy right away, it would disappear -- either sold out or suddenly unavailable for some seemingly sinister reason." 

Although Appliances-SFB broke up years ago, all of its members are still musically active, Olson says. Bill and Ed Feeny are in The Reptile Palace Orchestra andEd is also in the Motor Primitives. Laskin writes for Madison's Isthmus newspaper and plays guitar with a band that does experimental recordings. Guitarist Bill Siebecker still plays guitar and works as a stage actor and drummer Young plays with Bad Dates and The Subliminal Overtones.

Olson says he hopes Rockhaus will continue to release CDs and has his sights set on two more Appliances discs for a start.

"There is the second record ‘Green Door / Them' that has not been put out on CD yet. I also took in a reel of (unmixed) 2-inch tape of a live recording to Smart Studio a few weeks ago to be mixed down. Who knows, might be a busy year For the Appliances SFB.

"There is lots of really interesting music that is out of print or unreleased for whatever reason from the Midwest. If I can do something about it, I think I should. My business depends on local music to survive. I think the two go hand in hand."


Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in an episode of TV's "Party of Five," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.