By Matt Mueller Culture Editor Published Sep 09, 2014 at 9:16 AM

For fans of the late ’90s, names like the Sugar Ray, "TRL," Surge and Chris Gaines will sound very familiar (OK, maybe not that last one). For local music fans around in the era, another name might sound a little familiar: The Buzzhorn.

In the days right before and after Y2K, the Milwaukee-based rock band was set up to be a big name. The group signed a contract to Atlantic Records, released a studio album and even had a song attached to a popular video game. Alas, rock fame and fortune were not in the cards for The Buzzhorn, and the band slowly drifted out of existence.

Now, 10 years after their last show together and after some speculation, the members of The Buzzhorn get back together for a reunion show at The Bottle on Saturday, Sept. 13. Oddly enough, it’s actually a different anniversary that’s bringing the boys back together.

"It’s the 10-year anniversary for the place we’re playing," said lead singer Ryan Mueller. "I’ve known the guy since we were about 8 years old. He was having this big party, and he asked me if there was any chance of getting these guys back together. I said the least I can do is ask. I called one guy in the band who I was pretty sure was going to be an emphatic no, and he was super excited about it. It’s been great since we’ve gotten back in a room together."

The Buzzhorn started up in 1996, going through a few early members and finding the right fits before self-releasing two well-received independent albums, "A Complete Package of Action-Packed Tragedies" and "The Buzzhorn." The two buzz-worthy albums were enough to get the attention of Atlantic Records, which signed the local rockers at the turn of the millennium and brought them out to California to put together a record.

"We spent a good four months out there," Mueller said. "It was unbelievable and very cool. I had never been anywhere, so it was really cool to be out there and just doing music."

The album, "Disconnected," eventually came out 2002, along with a song placement in the popular video game "Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit 2." However, things quickly took a turn for the worse for Atlantic Records and The Buzzhorn.

"The timing couldn’t have been worse," Mueller recalled. "At the end of 2004, they dropped a ton of bands and big acts; their record department was cut in half. We thought we were going to be on the chopping block, and they kind of left us hanging on. It was pretty hard for the band."

The Buzzhorn tried to keep going on and living the dream, but with little to no support coming from the struggling label, the experience became a drain – emotionally and financially – for the band members.

"We were kind of touring out of pocket, and we were going out with big bands – we had a great booking agency putting us in front of people – but it just didn’t pay the bills," Mueller said. "We couldn’t cover the rental van; we couldn’t cover a hotel room. We were really scraping. We went to Canada, and they said they were going to give us $500, and it was $500 Canadian. It didn’t pay for a hotel room!"

After doing everything they were told to do and thought they should do, eventually it became clear things weren’t moving forward anymore. The Buzzhorn played its final show at the Harley-Davidson 100th anniversary celebration in 2003. Soon after, the band came apart, mutually, going in different directions. Some began work on other projects; others started families. Like many early on in the recession, Mueller struggled to find work before going into construction and framing houses, which he still does now.

"We were all pretty burned out," Mueller said. "We had tried so hard, and the label wasn’t coming through for us, so we were pretty bummed about that. I kept on trying to keep in contact with some of these guys and tried to get it to work out, and I think some people were bitter it didn’t work out better than it did."

Mueller doesn’t seem particularly bitter about the band’s close graze with fame, laughing off the story about the bungled trip to Canada and generally sounding content with what The Buzzhorn accomplished.

Though some reunions were rumored over the years, Mueller said that The Buzzhorn never really got too far in terms of getting back together. Band members were spread across the country, each working on different side projects and careers. However, thanks to The Bottle’s upcoming anniversary, a reunion finally gathered some steam starting about a month and a half ago. A couple of calls and several practices later, The Buzzhorn is happily back in action.

"It’s been great since we’ve gotten back in a room together," Mueller said. "It’s really nice to work with the same guys. It’s nice to work with professional guys who don’t take it personally when you tell them they’re not doing a good job (laughs). It’s been really nice. Everybody’s on the same page, and it’s like we picked up right where we left off. There’s no management, no label, no nothing. We’re just playing for us just to play. It’s very refreshing."

Mueller admitted they were a little rusty at first, but after a couple of songs, they soon fell back into their glory days form – much to their own amusement.

"When we started playing again, I think the whole room was just cracking up; we were just laughing because it’d been so long," Mueller recalled.

It’s gotten to the point that the reunion show is looking like the potential beginning of something for The Buzzhorn.

"We’re going to get through this show and see how everything goes and see how everyone feels," Mueller said. "It’s a great group of guys to work with. I’d love to try to make an album with these guys, make one more and whatever. We’ll see."

As for now, though, The Buzzhorn will be content rocking and partying Saturday night at The Bottle like it’s 1999. 

Matt Mueller Culture Editor

As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.

When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.