Two years after Milwaukee’s Eric & Magill issued its acclaimed debut disc, "All Those I Know," and a year on from the first of a proposed series of covers EPs, "Kick The Covers Vol. 1," the duo is back with another EP.
This time the material is new, and Eric Osterman and Ryan Weber are working to complete a second full-length disc, "Night Singers," due later this year.
Maintaining the band’s organic mix of alternative rock and roots music, with ethereal vocals and an otherworldly vibe, the EP is called "Two Travelers," presumably a reference to the pair’s long musical relationship – they were in Camden together years ago – and to the fact that while Osterman relocated to Brooklyn, Weber departed for a stint in the Peace Corps in Kenya.
Weber’s coming home and Osterman, in the words of a press release, "has his eye on the Midwest."
We caught up with the globetrotting musicians via email to discuss the new EP and the upcoming full-length:
OnMilwaukee.com: Tell us a bit about the new EP. Is it a taster of the new full-length or is it a stand-alone project?
Ryan Weber: It’s more of a stand-alone. The two projects were completed quite some time apart so they’re more like cousins than siblings. It’s a taster, however, in a way that it’s really the second batch of original songs we’ve released in a while.
OMC: It feels more, I hate to say anthemic, but, maybe less intimate – more outgoingly celebratory – than "All Those I Know." Do you see it that way too and if so, was that a conscious thing or do these things just happen?
RW: I’d like to think that there are still some pretty intimate moments on the EP too, but we might have included a few less than we otherwise would have on a full-length, because, well, there is less space. I’m a huge fan of simple short songs that capture a feeling or thought quickly without enormous production.
Eric Osterman: Ryan and I don’t typically to set out to write songs/records that sound a certain way…it happens randomly, which is why our albums are fairly eclectic. We write what we are feeling and songs often change dramatically as they evolve.
OMC: I think a big part of why I get that sense is that the vocals feel more forward; a bit less drenched in reverb. Have you guys always been comfortable as singers?
RW: When we started writing songs for Eric & Magill I was just assuming we’d find someone else to sing, but as it turned out, it was a challenge to find someone interested in working on the material, so I said, "The heck with it, I’ll sing myself." I was certainly less comfortable with it at first. Perhaps that is a reason the vocals on "All Those I Know" are the way they are. Then again, I’ve been accused of mixing vocals low and reverbed out on other projects like Decibully, which I never sang on, so I think it has more to do with my own stylistic preference.
I think with "Two Travelers," I’ve become more comfortable with the idea of being a lead singer and wanted to challenge myself a bit more vocally and see what I could do. I think I found my voice a little bit more so; that’s why it sounds like it does. Really, though, it just depends on the songs.
I think with the next record, "Night Singers," that’s coming in May there is a vast differentiation of vocal production between songs. Eric has always been a great and creative vocalist. I don’t know how I ended up with the lead singer gig, but there were a few discussions early on in the band’s history that he should sing lead. Though neither one of us consider ourselves exceptional vocalists, it’s something that we’ve grown into and enjoy doing.
OMC: I really enjoyed the covers EP last year. Is that something you'll revisit or was it more a one-time thing?
EO: The idea initially was to keep putting these out until we have "thanked" all of our friends and contributors that made "All Those I Know" possible. We hope to release a few more when time permits.
OMC: Though there are always some Milwaukee bands making waves, it seems like more area bands are getting broader attention these days. Is that encouraging to you guys?
EO: It is always amazing to hear of Milwaukee bands getting recognition. Milwaukee has always had one of the tightest-knit music scenes and, even though I have not lived there for over a decade, I know that there is still a massive amount of camaraderie, respect and support among local musicians.
RW: Milwaukee has always had an incredible and largely under-appreciated music scene. It would be incredible to see more of these talented people gain the recognition they deserve. I’m not sure if us being associated with Milwaukee necessarily encourages us to do what we do, but if some of my friends or musicians I know are gaining a larger audience, that makes me happy.
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.