They say that bad luck comes in threes, and, for a time, the superstition seemed to be manifest for Fever Marlene. Over the course of three years, three zip codes and three complete artistic overhauls, the band was still without an album.
But after settling in Milwaukee after stints in L.A. and Chicago, things started to come together for Scott Starr and Kevin Dunphy -- two musicians who, if you asked them now, might be more prone to saying that the third time's the charm. Converting a huge South Side loft into a space to live, rehearse and record, Fever Marlene has harnessed the power of three into something tangible -- its colorfully spry debut album, "Civil War," set for official release Friday, June 8, at the Historic Turner Ballroom.
Unafraid to tease the goods, the duo has spent the two years since its Milwaukee arrival playing shows to anxious audiences. Needless to say, the buildup to the release of "Civil War" has been nothing if not hyped, both by the media and fans.
"We didn't want to wait to release the album on a label since we love the way it sounds, and we'd rather not change a thing about it -- so we started our own label (Rev Pop) and released it," says Starr. "A lot of people are using the word 'finally.'"
Despite its name, "Civil War" is anything but divided. Although the influences are across the board -- the Brit-pop nods are obvious and abundant, but are also cautiously and creatively layered between morsels of mod and clashes of classic rock -- the musical marriage produces a flavor of rock that feels familiar and fun while still maintaining a certain sense of intrigue.
While album opener "Red Fire" spits the essence of rock 'n' roll at you via aggressive guitar shreds and attitude, other songs -- like "Something's Going to Carry You Down" -- haunt with plinking piano, echoed vocals and reverb. Still, there's something audibly cohesive about total package.
"Some of the songs on the record have parts that we laid down two years ago," says Starr. "Some of those same songs have sections we dubbed over only a month before the release. So the sounds really took shape over that period of time. We struggled in the beginning to figure out who we were and how our sound was going to be perceived. Being a two-piece provides very little movement, musically speaking. After all the hours in the studio and really bad shows, we learned a lot and in the process, keyed in on what our roles are and our limits as a band."
Limitations aside, the duo has no plans to open up the band to more members as it showcases with a slew of major labels this summer. For now, Starr and Dunphy (Don't they have the perfect names for rock?) are just happy to share their songs and are spending time reflecting on everything its taken to get "Civil War" off the ground.
"We listened to a lot of music, read a lot of books, and spent our time experimenting and writing a ton of music," Starr says of the final album push. "I don't think we would hesitate to do it all over again."
And hopefully they won't. Meanwhile, we can enjoy the fruits of Fever Marlene's current labor. The band plays live on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee at 5 p.m. before taking the stage at the Historic Turner Ballroom at 9 p.m. Yield Bar hosts the pre- and post-parties, as well as free rides to the show.
OnMilwaukee.com staff writer Julie Lawrence grew up in Wauwatosa and has lived her whole life in the Milwaukee area.
As any “word nerd” can attest, you never know when inspiration will strike, so from a very early age Julie has rarely been seen sans pen and little notebook. At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee it seemed only natural that she major in journalism. When OnMilwaukee.com offered her an avenue to combine her writing and the city she knows and loves in late 2004, she knew it was meant to be. Around the office, she answers to a plethora of nicknames, including “Lar,” (short for “Larry,” which is short for “Lawrence”) as well as the mysteriously-sourced “Bill Murray.”