Long before Wilco and Neko Case and even long before Uncle Tupelo and The Jayhawks, there were Rank & File and Milwaukee's own EIEIO. Dubbed cowpunks, EIEIO mixed country inflection with punk edge to create high-energy Midwestern rock and roll.
The band burned brightly for a while -- even opening for The Clash at the Auditorium in 1984 as Ol' Blue Eyes played for our parents next door at the Arena -- before splitting a couple years and a couple records after forming in 1983.
The band -- which featured guitarist Mike Hoffmann (who had previously been in Yipes! with Pat McCurdy) -- released "Land of Opportunity" and "That Love Thang" on Frontier Records, a national indie, has reunited for gigs over the years but now issues a long-overdue, self-titled third record.
We asked Hoffmann about the band and the new record.
OMC: So, the original EIEIO is back?!
MH: It is not the seminal EIEIO lineup but the core: Steve Summers (on) lead vocals, Rob Harding (on) guitar and vocals, Scott Gorsuch on drums, is intact. We added bassist Mike Gorman (Pezband, Off Broadway) in 2001. He along with the rest of us really have known each other and toured for years and represent the fine early middle american Power Pop tradition which emerged from Milwaukee and Chicago in the early to middle '70s when we were all starting out.
OMC: It's interesting how a band that existed for two or three years, basically, has remained so alive in the collective consciousness.
MH: It still amazes me we all found each other and are still doing it today. EIEIO wont go away, fans and the music industry have seen to that.
OMC: Tell us a bit about the new record.
MH: The new CD is a mix of new and old. The old songs we loved and mined for this were ones that weren’t selected for our landmark debut album "Land of Opportunity," as a result we toured based on the album material and left a great body of work behind, until now. Reconnecting with these songs was journey that gave me an epiphany ... we are what we were, only better.
OMC: Did you record it at your studio in Milwaukee?
MH: We produced this CD together in various Midwest studios and I mixed it in Milwaukee at my studio The House. We started in 2000 and finished in 2006 (and) within that time period we figured we had 40 days of production.
OMC: Why is that?
MH: Because our lead singer Steve Summers lives in L.A., Scott Gorsuch and Mike Gorman live in Chicago, I live here, and Rob Harding lives near Lake Geneva. In the grand tradition of EIEIO we have never lived in the same city or state for that matter. Like the Violent Femmes or BoDeans we all busted out around the same time and were linked by management, booking agencies, and record labels. At Warner Bros. they called us The Milwaukee mafia ... we did a lot of shows together.
OMC: What happened to EIEIO back in the day?
MH: I left EIEIO to continue playing with Semi Twang which was about to sign with Warner Bros. It was getting harder to play with both bands, I would play a festival in Chicago with Semi Twang in the afternoon then jump a plane to the East Coast to catch up with EIEIO's tour out there, maddening.
OMC: But the band didn't split when you left, right?
MH: EIEIO did one more album without me then took and break for a few years. I was continually approached to reunite EIEIO all the time through those years and finally Scott and I got the ball rolling in 1998-'99. We needed new product etc. And here we are.
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.