Last weekend, Milwaukee pop-rockers The Gufs played an acoustic show in Indiana. It was a benefit that helped raise money for flood relief. This weekend, the band is back home for a very special show that celebrates their first 20 years in the music business.
The Saturday show at Turner Hall Ballroom also marks the release of the band's first DVD, a compilation of a 2007 show at The Pabst Theater. The DVD is an up-close and personal look at The Gufs on stage (via more than an hour of concert footage) and off (with interviews and some behind-the-scenes footage).
As they prepared for the show, I caught up with drummer Scott Schwebel and bassist Dejan Kralj. Here's five questions for two Gufs.
OnMilwaukee.com: 20 years! Wow. What are the highest and lowest band moments from the past 20 years?
Scott Schwebel: Highs: 20 years together is definitely a high point of its own. Hard to believe we have been part of something collectively with a 20-year legacy. We are very proud of this and the body of work we have to represent our history as a band. The release of our first album. Being on the road. Playing in most of the greatest rock rooms in the country.
Lows: Leaving the major label experience behind; great for learning, tough on the band. Personal-life toll it took as a result of being in the music business.
Dejan Kralj: Obviously, I'm speaking from my own experience and not for everyone else and after 20 years, there are too many highs and too many lows to list, but here are a few that stick in my mind. Highs: still being together after so long, recording our first album in 1991, playing New Rock Fest in 1995, eight months in Toronto recording "Holiday from You." Lows: dealing with the industry after leaving Atlantic (Records) in 2000, stopping touring and playing regularly in 2002; 2005 (was) the only year in our history where we didn't play a single show.
OMC: What can fans expect from the DVD?
SS: This is really the first time we have given a great live product. It's a concert DVD with some fun extras.
DK: I feel we've put together a great live recording, the first for the band, that captures not only this specific moment in the bands history but also captures the energy of the live experience. Fans will also appreciate some of the extra footage that gives a little more insight into who we are and what we're really like as musicians and as people.
OMC: Are their plans for another album? And, are you guys pleased with the response from "A Different Sea?"
SS: We are going to change our focus to writing new music after this show. Take a break from touring. We'll see what happens. Yes (we are pleased with the response to) "A Different Sea." (It) was an interesting record to make. It gave us a reason to reconnect with the fans of the band and a few tunes have made their way into our permanent set list.
DK: After this show, we're planning on taking some time off and figure out what our next move will be. We still want to record and release new material but we're not absolutely convinced -- with the current state of technology and the industry -- that it has to be in an album format.
Overall, I think we'd all agree that the response for "A Different Sea" was incredibly positive. A lot of fans were simply content with having us put out another album but most really appreciated the message and the overall tone on the album compared to our earlier work
OMC: What are you listening to today? What's on the iPod?
SS: Soft. The latest Nada Surf, Band of Horses, The Kin.
DK: Currently, my favorite is Band of Horses. Both of their albums are so inspiring to me as a musician and as a fan of music. I've also been listening to Sigur Ros a lot and revisiting my Pavement collections.
OMC: Your general thoughts on the state of the Milwaukee music scene.
SS: Having radio support for the scene is amazing. It creates awareness for bands that would never have a chance to get the broader exposure that broadcast provides. This is going to build a stronger scene as the years move on.
DK: Overall, I think that the scene is at its healthiest and most exciting point since we started playing in the late '80s. There seems to be a renewed focus on playing out and the live scene keeps on getting better. There is also such an incredible diversity of sound and styles that for me has been the hallmark of Milwaukee music throughout its history.
A life-long and passionate community leader and Milwaukeean, Jeff Sherman is a co-founder of OnMilwaukee.
He grew up in Wauwatosa and graduated from Marquette University, as a Warrior. He holds an MBA from Cardinal Stritch University, and is the founding president of Young Professionals of Milwaukee (YPM)/Fuel Milwaukee.
Early in his career, Sherman was one of youngest members of the Greater Milwaukee Committee, and currently is involved in numerous civic and community groups - including board positions at The Wisconsin Center District, Wisconsin Club and Marcus Center for the Performing Arts. He's honored to have been named to The Business Journal's "30 under 30" and Milwaukee Magazine's "35 under 35" lists.
He owns a condo in Downtown and lives in greater Milwaukee with his wife Stephanie, his son, Jake, and daughter Pierce. He's a political, music, sports and news junkie and thinks, for what it's worth, that all new movies should be released in theaters, on demand, online and on DVD simultaneously.
He also thinks you should read OnMilwaukee each and every day.