It's been 9 1/2 years since we first profiled Milwaukee band The Saltshakers and, like you, we've watched the quartet grow into one of the best power pop purveyors of hook-laden, guitar-fueled rock and roll in town.
The band – fronted by Chad Curtis and also including drummer Jon Strelecki, bassist Jamie Owart and guitarist/keyboardist Chris Holoyda – has released two EPs and two full-lengths during its tenure, but now, as it prepares to celebrate its 10th anniversary, the group is launching a series of CD singles.
The first, which matches the woozy-Moog of "Halley" with "Amplified" and "Mystery Girls" – think part Fountains of Wayne, part Teenage Fanclub – is out now and can be had free with admission to The Saltshakers' 10th anniversary bash Saturday, Dec. 1 at The BBC. Also on the bill are The Delta Routine and Icarus Down.
We asked Curtis about the CD singles and the motivation behind them ...
OnMilwaukee.com: "The Singles Collection Disc 1"?! What's that all about? Is it a means to celebrate the 10th anniversary?
Chad Curtis: We're going to be releasing limited edition singles from this point forward. Three songs will be on each disc. There will be a limited pressing of 200 CDs per release, and once they're gone they'll only be available via digital download.
We're giving a copy away with each admission to the Dec. 1 release party, so they won't last long. The second single in the collection will be released in spring of 2013.
OMC: Is it an expensive proposition for a band to release a series of three-song CDs rather than one full-length or a series of download-only singles?
CC: It's definitely not as cost-effective to do the singles thing, but if we were doing this thing to make money we would become a cover band. We discussed doing iTunes-only, but I just love having a physical copy of a CD. I love opening it up, smelling it – is that strange? – and looking at the liner notes and packaging. I know some people just want the mp3s, but I like that whole "CD experience." Hopefully other people still feel that way, too.
OMC: What are the upsides?
CC: Part of me thinks our ADD-stricken society would prefer singles to albums because they are easier to absorb quickly, so in that way we're just adapting to the current state of the music industry.
Because a lot of people think they are entitled to all music for free, selling albums can be tough nowadays, so I'd rather just press a limited amount of discs and make sure the people that really want them can get a copy.
An upside is that we will be releasing new material more frequently, which I hope will make our friends and fans happy. Our last album came out in 2009 – and I can guarantee that it won't take three years for the next single to be released.
OMC: Does it give you more time to focus on fewer songs?
CC: As a songwriter, I no longer feel the pressure to write 10 good songs over a short period of time. I guess it's a "quality over quantity" approach that I'm trying to take from now on.
I remember feeling creatively exhausted after we'd finish each full-length, and both times I thought I was out of ideas and would never be able to write another good song again. I like taking it one-song-at-a-time now. I'm finding songwriting more fun with this approach.
OMC: Tell us a bit about the songs on the new disc.
CC: "Amplified" is a favorite among our friends – and because we were new musicians when we initially recorded it, l've always felt it deserved a better recording. When it was time to record this past summer, I had already been thinking about the 10-year anniversary CD release show, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to put an old favorite on the tracklisting.
"Mystery Girls" ended up being a favorite of mine. It's named after one of my favorite live bands that I used to go see when I first turned 21. I would see them at Cactus Club and I remember being really inspired by the authentic energy they displayed.
I had written "Halley" as a guitar-pop song, but it eventually evolved into a more synthy version after our new lead guitarist Chris began bringing his Moog (synthesizer) to band practice. It could be about a girl or a comet – nobody knows.
OMC: I thought the phrase, "Lately, all I see are constellations," under the tray was interesting, especially since, arguably, a single is more a star than a constellation. What's it all mean?
CC: I never even thought about it that way, actually! Stars make up constellations like singles make up albums – Katy Perry albums at least – so I guess I would like to see this new way that we're releasing our music help each song to "shine" a little brighter. Is that a cheesy enough way to end this interview?
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.