In the spirit of The Jayhawks, Neenah-based quintet Blueheels saw the smooth edges of country music and infuse some harder guitars to create a twangy rock and roll sound that brings together the best of both worlds.
The key element, however, is the vocal interplay between Rebecca Kraft and Robby Schiller and that is perfectly exhibited on the band’s self-issued debut disc, “Long Gone,” released as 2006 came to a close.
Although the band has only made two forays into Milwaukee clubs to date, another is planned for May. In the meantime, we caught up with Blueheels drummer and manager Adam Cargin to ask him a bit about the band and its record.
OMC: Can you give us a quick history of the band?
AC: Robby (vocals/rhythm guitar) returns to Neenah after some time in New Mexico with intentions of starting a band that would rock his proverbial mismatched socks off. High school pal Brett Jannusch enlists to cover the low frequencies, Rebecca Kraft decides it would be fun to sing in a band and all three of them decide that Robby and Rebecca's voices sound pretty awesome together.
Justin Bricco muscles his way in with red hot guitar shredding, and Tim Schweiger (Yesterday's Kids/The Obsoletes) decides to rock some drums to round out the group. Blueheels is officially born. Shortly after recording “Long Gone” Tim decides to focus on writing and performing his own music, as he is an amazing guitarist/singer/songwriter and leaves the band to form Tim Schweiger and the Middlemen. Adam Cargin is then hired on as manager of drums and cymbals and becomes happier than a pig in feces due to the fact that he had been a huge fan of the band since the beginning.
OMC: Tell us a bit about the new record; who wrote the songs?
AC: “Long Gone” was recorded at Smart Studios in Madison in May of 2006 by Justin Perkins, and released by the band in December. Robby writes the main framework of the songs and brings them to the band where they go through a series of facelifts and tummy-tucks and breast implants. The finished product is what we like to call Blueheels.
OMC: Did you have a good experience recording at Smart with Justin?
AC: If we never work with another engineer we will all die very happy human beings.
OMC: Was he a producer in the traditional sense that he helped streamline the songs or did he focus more on getting a good sound on tape?
AC: Justin didn’t really do a lot of traditional producing other than continuing his tradition of producing great sounding records.
OMC: Working on new material for another record yet?
AC: New material has been written and continues to be written. We have been performing most of what will be the next record live for the past six months or so. We are currently in search of a recording label to help us foot the bill to get it all on tape as we envision it. Hopefully this process will be completed by the fall of 2007, but we all know how hard these things can be to pinpoint. There is a 100 percent chance that Justin Perkins will be engineering said recording when the time is right.
OMC: Is there a good scene up in Neenah? Enough places to play and that?
AC: Cranky Pat’s Pizza is the coolest place to play in Neenah. The band sort of got its start there, and so we consider it our "home base" of sorts. The all-ages scene has taken a bit of a hit in the past years, but Rock Island Cafe is holding it down.
OMC: Does the band play in Milwaukee a lot? When can we see The Blueheels here next?
AC: The band has played in Milwaukee twice. Once at Mad Planet with The Championship, and once at The Cactus Club with The Championship. We will return to Milwaukee anytime your fine city will have us. Saturday, May 12 at Riverwest Commons is the next show we have confirmed in Milwaukee, though there may be another on before that if things go as planned. Keep checking myspace.com/blueheels for the latest dates.
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 episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," 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 OnMilwaukee.com 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 has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.