Milwaukee's premier alternative progressive rockers The Danglers have long been one of the city's most interesting bands.
But because all three members -- drummer John Sparrow, violinist/guitarist Jason Loveall and bassist Dave Gelting -- all play in other situations and bands, too, we don't hear as much from The Danglers as we should.
Since the group recently debuted an outspoken new single, "Ascend," online and has a gig Friday, July 25 at Points East Pub, we decided to pitch Sparrow five questions:
OMC: What's been up with The Danglers these days? Is there a new record coming soon?
JS: We've been playing music for music's sake, exploiting a style that only we can produce. There are recordings taking place, however with the industry in sad flux reproducing music seems a fruitless venture. Our current batch of songs that we're writing will probably end up on a collectable 12" and released online. It seems the CD has played out. It's telling that our first release was a cassette tape.
OMC: Is it challenging to make time for the band when all three members are so active outside the group?
JS: Musicians make music. Jazz may not have had its significant impact had the players created group wars. Granted, doing a session today might not be the same a going from Monk to Miles but challenging oneself is an important component to musical growth. It only can become problematic if you regard your group as a session.
Time is always a challenging factor and for certain we'd all be better bands if we were allowed to practice as a group every day. I guess we just play with the hope that someday we can be afforded the time to be as good as we should be.
OMC: Tell us about the new single, "Ascend." It's a strong statement.
JS: It's more a condensed statement through the looking glass of a left eye. Frankly, in my opinion, the situation in the United States is just sickening. I wouldn't even know where to start. I'm surrounded by brilliant people with little recourse but to live paycheck to paycheck with hope fading over the horizon, mine included.
We can't afford to tour, no labels will have anything to do with us and even if they did they'd just send us the bill. Simply, we're victims of greed and all I can do right now is state the obvious in frustration. I hope more musicians will do the same. Let's make music relevant again.
OMC: What do you hope listeners will take away from the song after hearing it?
JS: If you agree with the song, hopefully vindication. If you disagree with the song, a sense that there are a growing number of people that will not sit down while a neo-con agenda unfolds to our detriment.
OMC: In light of the Stevie Wonder show at Summerfest after which some fans complained that he expressed support for Barack Obama from the stage, do you expect to run into fans who will disagree with "Ascend"? What's your take on musicians using the stage as a soapbox instead of simply a place to entertain?
JS: The people that can afford to see Stevie probably don't want to hear about endorsements from the stage. Fortunately, I've never done any duets with Paul McCartney or made millions for Berry Gordy, so my soapbox is reasonably less scrutinized. But realistically, where else can Stevie Wonder state something that he feels very strongly about?
He's probably not going to sway the opinions of voters this way, but maybe he will and can sleep knowing that he tried to do something good for his country. For the people that have a problem with him voicing his opinions at a show, there are albums. A live show is an interactive experience, not a dog and pony show.
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.