By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Oct 04, 2004 at 5:14 AM

{image1}Last summer we introduced you to The Saltshakers, a Milwaukee quartet that had recently released its debut, "Poptastic." Well, The 'Shakers have been back in the studio -- this time with Justin Perkins of The Obsoletes, who runs Simple Studios in Green Bay where Number One Fan also recorded its latest disc.

We recently caught up with singer, guitarist and main songwriter Chad Curtis to ask him about "A Beautiful Mess," the new five-track disc by The Saltshakers.

OMC: How has the response been to the new record?

Chad Curtis: The response to the new record has been overwhelmingly positive. I think it's going to help us branch out more now, because we have a quality recording of what we're capable of as a band. I always seem to be thinking ahead, though, and I am already thinking about how great the next record will be with our new drummer.

When we recorded our demo, we were all fairly new to playing our instruments, and I was new to songwriting -- and I think we've grown a ton in the year between the two recordings, and it shows -- which is why this EP is being fairly well received so far.

OMC: Justin Perkins seems to be the hot new producer in the state. What was it like working with him?

CC: I'd known Justin for about a year or so before we decided to record with him. I just found some songs he had on and really liked them and then sent him our demo CD. We started talking and I heard a few things that he recorded, mainly Obsoletes recordings -- and I thought he would be perfect for the job.

We recorded the EP over two weekends in Green Bay. Justin's not only a musical genius, but he also knows his way around the recording studio. We've been really lucky so far with who we've worked with because I don't want a producer that just sits there and says "OK, that's good." Justin offered advice on how to make the songs better, and we appreciated his input.

He was very active in the process, and I like it that way. The reason a lot of people want to record with him is not just because he's an amazing musical talent, but because he's easy to get along with and knows what he's doing.

OMC: Did you record more tracks and cut them or save them or was the plan to do an EP all along? Are you going to be the EP-only band or will there be a full-length disc sometime?

CC: We only recorded the five songs we had. And that was simply because we only had five songs we felt strongly enough about to record. I really like all the songs we did. I write a lot of songs, and I throw away a lot. I hate "filler", we're not putting filler on our recordings -- we're not wasting time and money on filler. I would rather record five songs I really loved than 10 tracks that I don't feel that great about.

I would love to do a full-length. But we need the songs first. I can't just churn out songs I like; they just come and go in streaks. I wrote four out of the five "A Beautiful Mess" songs within two or three weeks of each other. I go through massive strides of writer's block, so it's hard. When we have 10 or 12 tracks we think are strong, we'll record them. We're a young band, we're growing, the best is yet to come, and when it's ready, it's ready.

OMC: Have you been venturing outside the Milwaukee-Madison circuit for gigs?

CC: Our number one goal when releasing this EP is to play out of town. We did the Milwaukee thing for the last year and I think we have built up a decent following -- but it's time to branch out. I hope to get us playing in Minneapolis, Chicago and Detroit regularly, if at all possible.

It's hard to establish connections in other areas. I've been trying to establish relationships with bands in Chicago and Minneapolis and hopefully we can help each other out. We have played in Minneapolis and Chicago already but we went through the venue to do so ... I think we might be more successful working with bands themselves.

OMC: So, what are the touring plans, then?

CC: We're going to do a week-long tour of the East Coast in either spring or summer of 2005. I'm putting it together myself -- which is going to be really challenging. We all have jobs, but we're just going to all take a week off work and do it. Hopefully it'll work out and we can do it more often. I just didn't want to tour until I knew we were ready -- and we're ready.

OMC: What's next for the band?

CC: New songs, good songs, songs that people will remember. Our new drummer is taking our musicianship up to a new level now, and I now feel like I have more freedom as far as the songwriting process goes. And hopefully we'll be playing all over the Midwest over the next year.

"A Beautiful Mess" is out now on Top 5 Music. The Saltshakers Web site is

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.