One of the best CDs of 2013 seems to have been swimming under the radar for a few months. Released last summer, The Margots’ "Pescado," is a mash up of jazz, samba, rock and poetry that reflects the diverse talents of its main creators.
The band is named for the mother of songwriter and singer Adrienne Pierluissi, who many know as the co-owner of Sugar Maple and The Palm Tavern in Bay View. In many ways, "Pescado" is her record, reflecting her vision for the songs she wrote for it, but I suspect she’d be the first to campaign for recognition for her musical collaborators Ken Vandermark and John Dereszynski, along others.
Recorded in Chicago with Bob Weston (bassist for Volcano Suns and Shellac, and a respected engineer and producer), "Pescado" also features a recitation by legendary jazz saxophonist Joe McPhee.
We asked Pierluissi about the creation of "Pescado" and where The Margots go from here.
OnMilwaukee.com: Many of us know you via Sugar Maple, but maybe didn't realize you had a musical, poetic side. Can you tell us a bit about that aspect of your life?
Adrienne Pierluissi: I gave up painting for five years to be present for my two sons. When I returned to painting, here in Milwaukee, I did a series of 30 rectangles. The pressure of "coming out" as an artist was diverted into song. My first son was at his first sleepover, and my emotions came out with full lyrics and melody. It was a terrible song, but then, other songs formed, and I couldn't forget them. I knew that if I did not confront these things, they'd continue to eat away at me. I never wanted to be a singer, I get super-flustered performing, but it just happened, and ignoring the songs wasn't a healthy option.
OMC: How did Margots come together?
AP: The margots began as a "studio" project as a means to fully-realize these songs I wrote. Ken expressed interest in helping me with this project, and I've worked with John before, so he was a natural choice. Rick's been a friend for years, as has Tim, and Tim brought Nick to the band.
OMC: Is it a one-off project or an ongoing thing?
AP: It was our intention to be a one-off project. But then, to raise funds for the project, I auctioned off 35 paintings, and I thought it would be a good idea to play some pieces for the audience. We all really enjoyed it! The songs continue to pour through me, so we're now working on our second album, and we're talking about a mini-Midwest tour.
OMC: The music on the disc is a really interesting mix of rock and jazz. Was that the vision from the start or did the sound evolve more organically?
AP: The development of the songs is a thoughtful process. Ken and I discuss each piece's intention and the mood we want to set. We listen to a lot of music to see what direction he'll go in with the arrangements. On my end, I didn't have a vision from the start, just a sure sense of timing and melody. Ken then arranges music with all of these ideas in mind, and John writes the chords that further express the song's intentions. When the band plays the pieces, sometimes they're tweaked, and the entire band pipes in!
OMC: Two words: Joe. McPhee. How did THAT come about?
AP: I've seen Joe in various bands since 1999. I met him through my husband, Bruno Johnson. Joe writes beautiful poems. He sent "echoes of memory" to me – not for me – a while ago, and I loved it. His voice is so rich and I thought it would sound great on this album. I asked him if he'd read his poem for the album, and he said yes. Sometimes, you just have to ask.
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.