By OnMilwaukee Staff Writers   Published Jan 22, 2002 at 5:52 AM

The Yell Leaders, featuring our very own Bobby Tanzilo on drums, is one of Milwaukee's most well known and well-respected bands. In 1997, VH1 declared them to be the best unsigned act in the entire Midwest, one of their songs is featured on a "Party of Five" episode, and they play to a sizeable audience at Summerfest every year. Their latest album, "Noxajoy," was recently released.

The band's singer/guitarist Joe Vent (Mary Brown completes the trio) was kind enough to answer some questions for us. Here's what he had to say:

OMC: What's the best thing about being in The Yell Leaders?

JV: Having a creative outlet; a way to ply the craft of songwriting, recording and performing with people who share your tastes and visions. Being able to use that forum to get your music to anyone in the world who might like to hear it.

OMC: And the worst?

JV: Not being hugely successful, international superstars. Always having the nagging feeling that Milwaukee bands are cursed, and you're one of them!

OMC: Do you still enjoy playing live as much as you used to? Does the fire still burn?

JV: Playing live has always been one of my favorite things, for the 45-120 minutes that you're playing. Almost everything else surrounding that time is horrible, absolutely sh*t. I've never had a real hard time enjoying myself on stage, sometimes to the utter dismay of my bandmates, but getting to the gig, setting up for it, breaking down gear afterward, loading in/out. All bullsh*t.

Does the fire still burn? Yes, I'm screwed because despite everything I just mentioned, I've got some unreasonable urge to get in front of people and make a nuisance of myself, at the expense of others. I'm not sure why. Truly, the "fire" for me burns hotter for writing and recording music, and releasing it to the world. I guess I've just done this long enough that I'm in it for good. I'm sure that if I ultimately stop playing altogether, I'll have extreme emotional and physical withdrawal, like with any addiction.

OMC: If Bobby were to take lead vocals on a song, would it be the end of the band?

JV: I guess it depends on where he took the lead vocals! I can only imagine that Bobby would have to be extremely intoxicated or have lost his mind completely to grab the mic and have a go. That's certainly not to say that he wouldn't be a good singer, he's a great musician, but I don't think he'd ever do it. It's the one thing he's been rather proud of exempting from his resume. I seem to remember he did a scream or a squeal or something on one song on our last CD, and it was the first time he'd ever had his voice recorded. I could be wrong. So, in conclusion, I guess the answer is yes, because if Bobby ever decided to start singing lead, hell would have frozen solid and one of the residual results would be the end of the Yell Leaders.

OMC: You guys had a song on the popular show "Party of Five." Was that episode the only one you ever saw?

JV: No, because I didn't watch the whole show! Our song ("Windchill") was used as feature music for the opening scene, so after the first five minute of the show, I could stop watching. I think I went in the kitchen and washed the dishes right after. No offense to the show, but the dishes weren't going to do themselves, were they?

OMC: What was it like hearing your song, knowing millions of people around the country were hearing it at the same time?

JV: It was real f**king cool. Especially when I thought about how probably a very small portion of the PO5 viewership would have qualified as candidates to become true Yell Leaders fans. It was like a trick was played on all these mopey teenage girls to listen to the mighty Yell Leaders in prime time! Plus, I seriously didn't believe Sony Tri-Star was really going to use the song, until I heard it for myself.

OMC: How has the band's sound evolved over the years?


JV: We've really developed more of a vocal interplay between Mary and myself that I think is one of our signature aspects. Bobby has been much more involved in songwriting and guitar playing on the records, yet his style and my style has a lot of common ground. I've found it very easy to learn and play the guitar parts that he's written. I think stylistically the band has snuggled into more of a mature (not adult-contemporary), guitar rock sound, with lots of harmonies. I hate the "adult" tag that people feel they have to apply to the Yell Leaders' music. If the Beatles released "Rubber Soul" or "Revolver" today, it would be filed under "Adult Contemporary!" That's madness! I feel that we're pop music for people who appreciate what rock music can be, when it's not being too earnest and naive (see Creed, et al). To attempt to answer your question, I think we've helped to create a genre for ourselves: Yell Leaders music. File that under "Y," homes.

OMC: A related question. How much improvement has there been over the years?

JV: Tons. Not just as individual players, on our own instruments, but as a group "instrument." I think that one of the biggest shames of good bands is breaking up before they can reach their pinnacle as a unit. Some, unfortunately, stick around way after the fact. I feel like with the last two records, we've really started to hit our stride as an organic creation.

OMC: Some folks are likely to pick up the new CD, see it's titled "Noxajoy," and say, "What the heck does that mean?" Please help them out.

JV: I'll say this, if they go ahead and purchase the disc, take it home and listen to the lyrics of every song very carefully, then and only then will they grow to experience and fully understand that which is "Noxajoy." The secret is in the listening.

OMC: Amongst band members, who has the best taste in music and why?

JV: I do, because you asked me. Mary and Bobby would probably have different answers. We each enjoy things that we all like, but there are obviously some things that I listen to that the other two don't and vice versa times two. I think that over the years we've all introduced each other to bands or artists that we now share as favorites.

OMC: Ten years from now, VH1 does a "Behind the Music" on the Yell Leaders. How does the intro to the episode read? (Insert voiceover).

JV: "Up next on VH1: They started out as a quasi-power pop trio in the funky rust belt burg of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and after many years of slogging it out in the clubs, festivals and basements of the Midwest, they became legends! Stay tuned for this in-depth look at one of the most misunderstood, subversively sexy, and ultimately influential pop combos the world has never known. All this right after some lame, expensive commercial spots from Microsoft and Clearasil."

OMC: When the band calls it quits, what do you hope to have achieved? Have you already achieved it?

JV: We've written and recorded some very cool songs; things of which I'm very proud. We've worked in great studios with gifted producers and engineers. We've also played some great gigs in front of very receptive, clued-in audiences in many different states. I'm glad we've done what we've done, but is anyone ever completely satisfied? I'd certainly like to expand on the experiences.

OMC: Do you have any live shows planned for the near future?

JV: No

OMC: Can fans expect another Summerfest performance this year?

JV: Don't expect anything, and you won't be disappointed. I'd love to play the fests again this year. I've never had a bad experience at Summerfest (that I can remember).

To learn more about The Yell Leaders or to purchase their latest CD, visit