The members of power pop trio Verona Grove have just finished a couple shows in Los Angeles and are driving north to play a couple more in San Francisco. They're on the first leg of their lengthy U.S. tour, which, right now, is taking them all over the West Coast in support of this year's release "The Story Thought Over."
Meanwhile, back at their hometown of Fond du Lac, a snow and ice storm is turning major roads into slushy skid zones.
"My girlfriend lives there -- she says it's really bad," says frontman Tony Anders, hearing of the weather conditions back home. "I'm glad I'm not there," he adds with a laugh.
Last August Anders, bass player Charlie Wilhelm and drummer Josh Helm relocated from their Midwestern homes to L.A. at the request of their label, Pat's Record Company. A subsidiary under the Universal Records umbrella, the Hollywood-based label was once home to Appleton's now-defunct Number One Fan -- members of which have since re-grouped as the dusty rock foursome The Wildbirds.
Anders says the band's West Coast label attention is all thanks to one of Wisconsin's own in-demand studio engineers and prolific musicians, Justin Perkins of Madison's Smart Studios.
"God bless him, he sent a demo of "Small-Town Celebrity" to (Pat's) because he'd recorded Number One Fan, who was also on the label," says Anders. "We followed up with them and they were actually interested -- so it was one of those amazing things where it was like, not only do they answer their phone, but they actually want to talk to us."
The band spent seven months writing and recording the poppy, super slick "The Story Thought Over" in L.A. before returning home and launching the tour with Juliet Dagger and Shonen Knife.
"I think we could have just as easily done it in Wisconsin -- or anywhere in the Midwest -- but it's just how it fell into place. The label wanted us there to be close to them," says Anders. "But it wasn't like nothing in Wisconsin was good enough. Maybe on the next record we'll do it at home."
The band agrees that things are now moving, albeit at lightning speed, into place.
"Being at home is really unproductive," admits Anders -- except, perhaps, for the time he was bored enough to pen a Christmas song called "Guided By Lights" and make a video to boot, which you can watch here.
"You want to be on the road, doing shows and meeting people. The money is tight, but you make the most out of it, you figure out what you can and can't do and you have fun with it."
So maybe you've seen Anders and crew at Summerfest -- they've played at the U.S. Cellular Connections / Leinenkugel's / FM 102.1 stage the past few years. Then again, maybe you've caught a glimpse of them on one of their two recent segments on "E! Entertainment." Suddenly, it seems Verona Grove is all over the place. Still Anders keeps it in perspective.
"I would never consider us a big band. We've played some bigger shows where we played with Lifehouse and The Goo Goo Dolls and had two little segments on 'E! Entertainment.' But the next day, we're back to playing for 15 people, or even five people, so there's a long way to go."
OnMilwaukee.com staff writer Julie Lawrence grew up in Wauwatosa and has lived her whole life in the Milwaukee area.
As any “word nerd” can attest, you never know when inspiration will strike, so from a very early age Julie has rarely been seen sans pen and little notebook. At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee it seemed only natural that she major in journalism. When OnMilwaukee.com offered her an avenue to combine her writing and the city she knows and loves in late 2004, she knew it was meant to be. Around the office, she answers to a plethora of nicknames, including “Lar,” (short for “Larry,” which is short for “Lawrence”) as well as the mysteriously-sourced “Bill Murray.”