We've been following Milwaukee heavy rockers Well Informed Citizens since the band first landed on the scene not quite four years ago. In that time, the group – fronted by singer and guitarist Daniel Nathan – has issued three CDs.
That's pretty prolific for a self-financed Milwaukee band. In advance of the record release party this weekend for the new disc, called "Swindlers and Thieves," we caught up with Nathan to ask about whether or not the band can keep up that pace and about WIC's latest line-up, which also includes bassist Zach Steiner and drummer Antonio Ninham.
OnMilwaukee.com: So, will you be able to keep up the pace?
Daniel Nathan: I think so. It’s always nice to get a song out when it’s fresh, you know, like right after you write it. Sometimes if you let a song sit around for too long, you lose some of the emotion that surrounded the song while you were writing it. So, I think of it like a diary or a snapshot of life. It’s really good to get it out and move on.
One of the things we try to focus on is keeping the whole Well Informed Citizens project sustainable. It’s never simply make the best record possible, it’s make the best record possible with a set budget and time constraint. Now that we’ve had some experience in the studio, we have a good idea of what we can do with a certain amount of time and resources.
It really helps to have an experienced engineer/producer in Jack LeTourneau who knows exactly what to do to get the big sound we are looking for, without wasting any time. We plan to keep cranking ‘em out as they come.
OMC: This one was written and recorded pretty efficiently, wasn't it?
DN: It was an extremely efficient process. You know, going back to the first couple records we did with The Daniel Nathan Band, we always pretty much just did those live and overdubbed the vocals and maybe a solo. Then for the first two Citizens records we really took our time. And I mean really, really took our time. Re-recording and overdubbing and scrapping and starting over.
All stuff that is not uncommon in the process of making a record, but it’s also stuff that can kind of mess with your head. It’s like you get that studio tan going and after a while you can’t even tell what sounds good anymore. And the fact that you’re throwing money at every session really puts the brain in a frying pan.
The records did turn out great, but for the "Swindlers and Thieves" recording we went back to the live approach. Get the songs written, play ‘em out live a few times to make ‘em real, and then just go do what you do in the studio. We cranked this one out in seven days, and I couldn’t be happier about that.
OMC: How did it go with the new line-up? There's a new drummer, right?
DN: Yeah, the lineup has been through quite a few Citizens, as we call them. We like Antonio because he’s been jamming with Zach for a really long time. Those guys have a mental connection where one knows where the other is going before they play it. Those dudes are just tight, that’s the only way to put it. We’re a band that likes to jam a bit, so having that tight rhythm section laying down the groove can be more powerful than the melodies at times.
OMC: Do you think the band has settled into a pretty stable line-up for now?
DN: Yes and no. The Citizens concept has always kind of had that New Orleans spontaneity where we’ll jam with anyone that can play. We love adding an organ in the mix or a second guitar, maybe a horn or a conga, get someone up to sing. That’s all stuff we really enjoy and it was so much fun to do that with the "Leaders of the Revolution" album. Right now we are having a lot of fun as a trio, so we’ll rock that out for awhile.
OMC: The EP is coming out on Record Store Day, do you have anything tie-ins planned?
DN: Funny you should ask. Releasing it on Record Store Day was actually an afterthought. I originally had it scheduled for April 28, for no particular reason, except that it worked. Then I realized Record Store Day was nine days earlier so it made sense to bump it up. That’s it, nothing else special about it, just thought we might get some extra juice.
OMC: Will there be a release party?
DN: We are really excited about this one. We have two amazing bands doing the show with us at Club Garibaldi. Joining us will be The Cavewives and The Pink Lipsticks and I’m here to tell you today that The Cavewives are THE Milwaukee band to keep an eye on. No shit. Lipsticks are from Sheboygan and I’ve always loved their gritty Rolling Stones influenced style since they released their first album awhile back. This is going to be one hell of a rock 'n’ roll show.
OMC: Details, please.
DN: Club Garibaldi, Friday May 9, at 9 p.m.
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 an episode of TV's "Party of Five," 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 can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.