By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Feb 25, 2004 at 5:15 AM

{image1}Let's face it, rock and roll has branched out in lots of directions, but most bands can still be pretty easily described and, sadly, pigeon-holed. So, it's fun to stumble upon a band that, while not rewriting the rock and roll canon, offers at least a little challenge when it comes to being described. Even better when it's a local band.

Formed at UW-Madison by brothers Ryan and Casey Stang, Dustworks -- which also includes keyboardist and laptop guy Adam Dingeldein, keyboardist Tim Larsen, guitarist Joe Muth and drummer Brandon Palmer -- might sound rootsy at first and you'll be tempted to lump them in with Wilco. But then you'll be walloped with a cascading electric guitar glissando and Joy Division's "Atmosphere" will spring to mind. Adding found sounds like crickets and airport public address announcements adds another dimension.

What accounts for this diversity?

"Casey writes most of the material," says Ryan Stang. "He usually comes up with lyrics, melody and an acoustic guitar part. At that point, I take it and arrange it, and figure out what instruments we need to achieve the sound we're looking for."

But with that foundation, according to Stang, the experimentation begins and everyone is involved.

"We've got a ton of guitars, amps, and keyboards, so it's pretty easy to test different sounds as we're trying out new material, and everyone in the band is so good on their instruments, that it's sometimes ridiculously easy to get a song into a finished form."

Despite that ease with writing, Dustworks is still holed up in its studio in Eagle putting the finishing touches on an EP, which the band hopes to release soon, and then will focus on completing a full-length disc, which it aims to release in summer. In the meantime, you can sample some demos on the band's Web site,

"We kind of record in weird ways," says Stang, who also performs with Stick Pony. "Whoever is around, we record the songs that we can get those parts done, so some songs are more done than others from week-to-week. We've also gotten a lot better at recording, so the EP and album will be better-sounding recordings (than the demos), while still retaining that feel. Those demo songs will be on the finished album as of right now -- albeit re-recorded -- but we're still writing stuff that could bump them out, you never know."

The band will take time out from recording this month to play some gigs, including one at Points East Pub, 1501 N. Jackson St., on Fri., Feb. 27 at 9 p.m. with Chicago-based Big Buildings. This will give fans the chance to see how the band approaches live performance of songs that are often awash in effects.

"The finished record is turning out to be a lot more organic-sounding, and not so processed as the demos, which is usually the opposite of how bands do things," Stang says. "But, while the tracks may be turning out to be more 'rootsy' or 'country' or whatever you'd call it, they're also getting weirder, with more found sounds, noises and synths and stuff.

"We played a lot more (in the past) than we have lately because we weren't sure if this stuff would even work live. Then, when we figured out it does work, we hunkered down to explore what we could do with it, and played out less often. Now, we're ready to play more, since we've figured out what the possibilities of this are. I think people like hearing and seeing things that they don't usually get to see. I can't think any other rock band around here that uses Moog, laptops or pedal steel on-stage, much less all three."

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 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 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.