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Alex Schaaf returns to America's Dairyland this week with his band Yellow Ostrich. (PHOTO: Josh Goleman)

Yellow Ostrich is prepping the box set

Thanks to its wide distribution, Seattle's Barsuk Records' reissue of Yellow Ostrich's disc, "The Mistress," is taking the band, fronted by Wisconsin native Alex Schaaf to new heights.

While Yellow Ostrich, previously a nom de rock for Schaaf, but now a full-fledged band, has issued an impressive clutch of material in just two years, "The Mistress" is the culmination of all that activity. The LP was originally released in 2010 and this new iteration has three extra tracks.

It's a quirky and catchy mix of indie pop, with some inventive vocal harmonies and unusual arrangements. It also features performances by a number of Milwaukee musicians, including guitarist Steve Peplin and drummer Alex Bunke.

Yellow Ostrich returns to Milwaukee for the first time in nearly two years, for an 8 p.m. gig at the Cactus Club on Sunday, Nov. 20. The Jeanna Salzer Band and Conrad Plymouth also perform.

We spoke to Schaaf, who has quite a few Milwaukee ties, last week about the Barsuk Records reissue of "The Mistress" and more. Hey Alex, can you tell us a bit about your Wisconsin roots? Do you get back home much?

Alex Schaaf: I grew up in Prairie du Chien, home of the famous New Year's Eve "Carp Drop." I went to school at Lawrence University in Appleton. I moved to NYC a little over a year ago. I get back to Wisconsin as much as I can, mostly just at Christmas and whenever we tour, through. We toured through Wisconsin back in March, and I'm really pumped to be coming by again.

OMC: We couldn't help but notice some Milwaukee names in the credits – like Steve Peplin and Ryan Matteson, to name two. Was the record made here, in part?

AS: Steve is great, I got hooked up with him because he teaches guitar one day a week up at Lawrence University in Appleton, where I went to school. So I took lessons from him there, and I brought in my mics one day and he recorded that guitar part for "I'll Run." And Ryan is also amazing, he's our manager. It's funny because I had first met him while we were both in Wisconsin, but we didn't start working together until he had moved to Austin and I had moved to NYC.

OMC: It's been a long time since you last played Milwaukee, right? Are you excited to come back home?

AS: I'm definitely excited to be coming back, I think the last time I played there was March 2010. Yellow Ostrich is a full band now so it will be the three of us. The Jeanna Salzer Trio is opening the show, which has Alex Bunke on drums, who played drums on the Yellow Ostrich record. Conrad Plymouth is another amazing band that's playing, so I'm really pumped.

OMC: I know you told Huff Post that you were sure the Crew would make it to the World Series. How did you deal with that loss? High hopes for next year?

AS: Yeah, it was a tough loss, but it was still a great year. Now on to the offseason, to see if we can hold on to Prince (Fielder) or not. Obviously, it's a long shot but either way next year should be a great season.

OMC: How did you hook up with Barsuk?

AS: They got in touch with us about a year ago and said they loved the album and wanted to put it out. We took a while to decide between labels, but their enthusiasm never waned so it was really a good fit. They're great people who are really into the music, so no complaints here.

OMC: You've been really prolific so far. Are you able and interested to keep up the kind of output you've maintained for the past two years?

AS: We're with Barsuk for two additional albums, the next one should be released soon, sometime in the next few months. It's going to be hard to release as much stuff as I have in the past, now that we're on a label, but I think it's all for the best. Now the official albums will be nothing but the best, and in 30 years we'll have a great box set to release with all the extra stuff that was written/recorded but not released. I'm constantly planning for that box set.


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