By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Feb 28, 2005 at 5:12 AM

{image1}Last fall, OnMilwaukee.com brought you up to date on the latest disc, then still in production, by Milwaukee rock quintet El Oso. We're glad to announce that the disc is out and well worth the wait.

Melodic and experimental -- but not so much that it veers into the esoteric -- and with a nice mix of traditional and electronic sounds, "Whichever Chapter Covers Now" (Contraphonic) is one of the best debuts to come out of Milwaukee in recent memory.

The band celebrates with a release party Saturday, March 5 at Mad Planet, 533 E. Center St., and in honor of that, we subjected guitarist and vocalist Jim Hanke to five questions about El Oso and "Whichever Chapter Covers Now." There is a 5 p.m. all ages show and a 10 p.m. show that is 21+. Both shows also serve as a CD release party for Decibully, too.

OMC: The disc is finally done. Is the band letting out a sigh of relief?

JH: Yes, we're extremely relieved as well as excited that the album is complete. I don't think any of us thought that within a year's time of us being a functioning band that we'd have a full-length out, let alone on a label or that there would be people who'd even care that we'd have a record out, so we're very grateful for all the opportunities and good luck that has come our way so far. In many ways, it seems like 2004 went by in a blink, but yet it feels like we've been working on this album for a decade, too. We're just glad to have it in our hands, and we're eager for people to hear it.

OMC: "Whichever Chapter Covers Now" starts with a pretty even-keeled, almost low-key tune, "Country Radio." It's an unusual choice for a location that often goes to an uptempo tune. How much did the band think of things like sequencing the disc?

JH: We mostly had an idea in our heads all the way through the recording of how the album would flow or what songs would go good right after one another. I think "Country Radio" is just a short, sweet intro to the album as a whole. We considered having a more aggressive song open the album, but I think it just works too well as the first song to go anywhere else. But we did consider spacing and other aspects when finishing the record, such as the instrumental interludes and the pre-roll track before "Country Radio," as to give the record a concise feel as opposed to just a handful of songs lumped together any which way.

OMC: Even before this record was done, you told OnMilwaukee that you were looking ahead to the next one. What's the status of the follow-up to your about-to-be-released debut?

JH: Honestly, it's a double-edged sword being in a band where we write as much as we do. We are proud of this record, for sure, but we already have about six or so new songs that we've been playing live lately that we're even more ecstatic about. We're certainly going to be playing the majority of the songs on this album for a long while, but it's fun to grow and keep challenging yourself. Hopefully that comes across.

OMC: What if we told you "Whichever Chapter Covers Now" is the best debut -- nay, the best disc -- we've heard in Milwaukee in quite a while? How would you explain that?

{image2}JH: Well, you'd probably be either lying or being far too generous. I know we're not reinventing the wheel or anything, but we are proud of who we are and what we bring to the table. We just aim to keep people from being bored. We don't do that by smashing up our gear or doing high-jumps but we like to have fun live and we think the album has a decent enough variety of songs to keep someone on their toes.

OMC: Your record release party is also Decibully's record release party. Will there be some sort of new CD cage match?

JH: Good god, no. Decibully are in a whole other league. They're such an amazing band. After we played with them in Chicago last fall, their drummer Aaron Vold and myself have kept in touch and it just so happened that our CDs were coming out really close together, so we decided to combine our efforts and do it the same night. But as far as a cage match goes, we'd get utterly schooled. Seriously.

El Oso's Web site is eloso.net.

Read another story about El Oso here.

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 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.