In Music

Indiana's Blue Background hopes to move forward in Milwaukee

Fort Wayne, Indiana is where the washing machine, the National Basketball Association, the jukebox and the musical group Blue Background got their start.

What is Blue Background? A quartet inspired by the music of female performers such as Jewel, Sheryl Crow and Alanis Morrisette, with a sound that has been compared to more recent artists as Michelle Branch. The group's current lineup includes guitarist Sarah Mick, keyboardist Maggie Tielker, bassist Christopher Christen and drummer Carlyle Nowak.

Formed on a fateful New Year's Eve in 1997, fans and critics alike have called the group's sound "different and kind of revolutionary," "seamless" and a "sound that sticks."

Blue Background was selected by Madonna's Maverick Records to compete for a slot opening for Michelle Branch on her 2001 tour, and won Battle of the Bands in Fort Wayne last year. In addition, the band has two albums under its belt, including "Paperbacks and Photographs," released in July. Not too bad for a group that got its start when its members were 13 years old.

Even back then, they knew their goal was to bring true musicianship back to mainstream pop and prove that women can hold their own in a business dominated by testosterone. When they were looking for a city not only to go to school in, but to also have the band grow, they saw Milwaukee as the perfect fit.

"Most of the music (in Fort Wayne) is very hard rock or death metal or punk," says Tielker. "It was a hard time for us to decide where to go. After high school, we had to decide whether we wanted to do the band.

"If we had never come to Milwaukee, we would have never found the studio we recorded (our album) at (Bionic, with Kristian Riley and Malcolm Micheles of Citizen King), which is so much better than anything we've ever done before."

Mick seems to agree. "The Milwaukee scene seems pretty diverse," she says, "It seems more accepting to different stuff."

Interestingly, the members of Blue Background didn't realize that 20 years ago a slew of musicians arrived in Brew City to form bands like Squares, Joker's Henchman, Wooldridge Brothers and others.

Things haven't been easy. Mick and Tielker talk about a recent experience at the local post office where a rude gentleman found it unusual that two women such as themselves played the lead instruments in the band while the men played bass and drums. It is incidents such as these that show the group that the road to success in this day and age is a very steep uphill climb.

But like the groundbreaking artists they draw their inspiration from, Mick and Tielker draw their music and lyrics from their relationships and everyday life, but don't expect them to be necessarily happy and cheerful. "I have trouble writing songs when I'm happy because that's when I'm not thinking about it," says Tielker.

"Paperbacks and Photographs" perfectly displays the true potential of the young band. "I think out previous work was really raw," Tielker notes, "It was us trying to learn how to put everything together. Finally we have a good representation of what we can do together."

Their success continues to grow. The band is currently finalists in the 1-800-CALL-ATT Modern Rock Battle of the Bands. Plans are in the works for a Midwestern tour to promote the new album.

Blue Background continues all this hard work with one singular goal in mind: They want to find success in a man's world.

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