Thursday, September 24, 2015

Meet the Bands: FOWLMOUTH

This project would obviously not be possible without the amazing punk and indie bands contributing. So let's meet the bands of UNINTIMIDATED: Wisconsin Musicians Against Scott Walker, one by one.

Ever hear that old ridiculous stereotype about how people over 30 that are still in bands are sad losers hiding from real life because they think they're still gonna "make it" eventually, or whatever? You know--working odd jobs and touring the country while living in squalor with five other punks is cool and bohemian when you're in your 20s, but at some point the whole thing just becomes sad and you need to put the guitars and drums away and have a real, boring life? Hell, Metal Sucks ran an article based on the premise a few years back. Thing about stereotypes, though, is that they're rarely true--most musicians are plenty capable of holding down Real Big Person Jobs while practicing their craft at nights on weekends, using some vacation time to play out of town when they feel like it, and using some to hang out with their families. They play music because they love playing music, not out of some naive desire to "make it" (what does that even mean anymore, anyway?), and frankly, contrary to what that Metal Sucks article would tell you, musicians get cooler as they get older. Want proof? The members of Fowlmouth are cooler than any of us could hope to be. They're as old as your dad, they live in Kenosha of all places, and play the least pretentious brand of dirty, bluesy punk rock you'll hear outside of the 1970s.

The Fowlmouth dudes are all Kenosha scene lifers, having gigged around town for decades in bands named things like Old Junk and Ash Can School, although lead carnival barker Jeff Moody's been spending the last couple decades doing more rock criticism than rocking, having run the StripWax record review comic strip for years 'n' years. Finally, right around his 50th birthday, Moody decided it was time to get off the sidelines and mix it up, taking the smirking, sardonic wit he developed in the funny papers and transposing it to lyrical form. Instant local classics like"Ms. Ramone" and "The Christler" (if you've ever spend time in midday downtown Milwaukee you can probably guess what that song's about--if not, click through and check out the cover art) deliver snarky dad-joke bon mots over dirty riffs built by smashing the Stooges together with pure, unfiltered badass small town Wisconsin bar rock. There's nothing flashy about Guy Crucianelli's meat-and-potatoes guitar riffs, but the musicianship displayed by him, bassist Dave Aiello, and drummer Tom Selear is all gravy. (Fun fact: as soon as Tom sat down behind the kit at Howl Street and started warming up, Shane's eyes got a little big and he walked into the control room saying, "ok, these guys can play."

Their song for UNINTIMIDATED is the future state anthem "Too Tired to Riot," an impossibly catchy ditty that unceremoniously encapsulates everything our little project is about: being fed up and wanting to make a huge noise, but real life wears you out, so you do what you can with the tools you have. So instead of rioting and marching and running for office, Fowlmouth writes an instant working-class singalong classic that you'll find yourself humming for days once you sing it. It's everything they're about compressed into 2:21, and they stormed into the studio, belted it out, and were out the door in 52 minutes. No bullshit, stripped-down blues-punk that's ten times cooler than your band and 50 times as fun. I hope to be half as badass in ten years (which will get here way faster than i want it to, regardless...the faster it comes, the faster that Metal Sucks article will look lamer and lamer and lamer. Nothing's less cool than telling people how cool they're not for doing what they love, after all).


Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Fools Be Actin' Like He Died or Something

There sure has been a lot of dancing in the streets about Scotty's aborted Presidential campaign. Loads of thinkpieces all over the political blogs about why he failed (in short, he was in way over his head and was exposed as an intellectual lightweight coasting on The Union Thing), and at least one amazing segment on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert:

It's been a cathartic week of delicious schadenfreude, to be sure. But man, what's up with all the Wisconsinites acting like Walker's going away? Sure, the national consciousness doesn't have to focus their attention on the doughy-faced asymmetrical pile of goo that doesn't know how to go bald gracefully anymore (seriously, dude--who the hell told you that making up a story about your bald spot coming from banging your head on a cabinet was a way to make you look like a manly common man? Just tell people you have male pattern baldness and own it. It's not a sign of genetic weakness, you unnecessarily vain weirdo). But guess what, Wisconsin? He's going to be back in our state full-time now, and he's not going anywhere else for the time being.

And even if he did resign from the Governorship tomorrow and took some cushy lobbying or punditry gig, we'd still be stuck with Rebecca Kleefisch, Robin Vos, Alberta Darling, Scott & Jeff Fitzgerald, Sheila Harsdorf, Luther Olsen...sociopaths and sycophants all. Things are still pretty shitty in Wisconsin, and they're not looking up anytime soon.

The collapse of Walker's campaign is a glorious win, to be sure. But the war still rages on, y'all.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Shirts are here, and they're spectacular!

Our first ordering run of shirts has arrived! They're real, and they're spectacular:

If you ordered one before the end of August, it's going out in the mail to you Tuesday (tried to make it to the Post Office this morning but it just didn't pan out. Stupid late Packer games messing with my sleep!)! If you placed an order for one after Sept. 1, yours will be ordered on the next run October 1. Thanks to everyone for being patient! I work in customer service and know everyone wants their stuff shipped immediately, but this is the best way we can raise cash for our punk rock endeavor without putting our credit cards in excessive jeopardy. Anyway, watch for them soon, and please post photos of you wearing your shirt all over social media and tag our Facebook or Twitter handles in them! We're @unintimidatedsw on Twitter and Instagram and you can find our Facebook page here.

Want a shirt of your own! Click on the "buy a t-shirt" link on this page or head right here to our bandcamp site! Next run will be ordered on Oct. 1!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Meet the Bands: HAUNTED HEADS

This project would obviously not be possible without the amazing punk and indie bands contributing. So let's meet the bands of UNINTIMIDATED: Wisconsin Musicians Against Scott Walker, one by one.

I spent 10 years living in Oshkosh, WI after high school, attending college and discovering punk and indie rock in the Fox Valley and Green Bay scenes of the mid-1990s. As my own musical palate was developed and the bands i played in evolved into better, louder, (hopefully) more original noise-rock juggernauts, it was done understanding that there were larger music scenes in Madison and Milwaukee--and to a lot of music lovers in the state, those cities were all that mattered. This, of course, only grew the chip that's always rested on my shoulder as my bands and i have strived to put together something unique--sometimes stumbling across the way, but always dealing with the repercussions of not following the latest trends, away from the big music centers of our country (or even our state for a while there). The bands i have played in over the years have never been the hip local bands that set the town on fire, even now that we're based in one of those Wisconsin music centers--Milwaukee--instead of Oshkosh. But it turns out that the title of Wisconsin's best, most interesting indie band probably resides in Oshkosh after all, in the guise of some old friends that we met along the way, not long after the start of their own journey to find their voice. Yep--Oshkosh's Haunted Heads have become a must-see outfit, away from the hip spotlight of Wisconsin's larger music cities (i mean, we don't have an Austin or a Brooklyn here, but fuck it), where they could just do their thing and do it better than most could hope.

Haunted Heads - "36 Sharpened Saws" Music Video from Northern Outpost on Vimeo.

There's nothing flashy or complicated about what Haunted Heads does--you could pull elements of their sound out of 90s standouts like The Wrens, Built to Spill, Silkworm, or loads of other bands. But influences mean nothing without the talent, the harmonies, and the pure songwriting skills to mold them into great tunes. And Haunted Heads write amazing tunes. Their 2014 self-titled EP is a brisk, crisp march through shimmering chords, rapid-fire drumming, earthy, organic bass lines, and off-kilter, instantly infectious yelping melodies that stick in your head for weeks.

Watching these guys put a song together for UNINTIMIDATED at Howl Street after decades of knowing them was a treat and a joy. They blasted through "285 Feet Tall" about twice before they knew they had the take they wanted, leaving drummer Chad and bassist Kyle to chill out on the sofa while guitarists Andy and Eric weaved their vocal harmonies together like a beautifully disjointed patchwork quilt of melody lines. "My hands and feet are made of wood/with billion-dollar strings/and i can be anything!" It's one of their most blistering tunes, played with a punk rock moxie that matches the snarky accusations of their lyrics, and easily a standout on an album of unstoppable standout tracks.

These boys have been at this rock 'n' roll thing for more than two decades at this point, floating through various bands and developing their talents before settling into their current configuration (The Fox Valley in general and Oshkosh in particular excels in the classic Local Scene Trope of a half-dozen key players forming bands, putting out amazing records, breaking up, reforming in a slightly different lineup, and repeating the process). I could list a half dozen of their former bands off the top of my head right now--Crayonblack, Salt, Chinaski, Shelf Life, Congratulations on Your Decision to Become a Pilot, The Willis, Happy (ok, that's seven). Is Haunted Heads the culmination of all those groups, the best thing they've done to date? Who knows, but i'm guessing these guys aren't done getting better. After all, when there's no hot trend to slave yourself to, no pressure to "make it" or be the new Cool Thing because you've stayed put in the place where you grew up, the only proper direction for your creative energy is right back into the songs...the way it should be for everyone. I'm guessing it may be hard for these guys to peak if they just keep evolving.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Well That Was a Shitshow, Or: Scotty's Desperate Last Gasp

"You wanna talk about the Apprentice -- we've already got an apprentice in the White House!"

How long do you guys think Scotty had that in his back pocket, waiting for his BIG MOMENT to bust that out on national TV? And of course, when he got his chance to zing Donald Trump with it, it sounded just as prepared and forced as any of the other little sound bites the GOP candidates prepared for Wednesday's "debate." And of course, Trump proceeded to destroy Walker by doing what he's done so well during this campaign: use his lack of political history to his advantage by assaulting the policy shortcomings of his opponents while the other ten people on the stage have nothing to fling back at the man who's never held office (true, Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina are in the same position, but they don't do blowhard the way Trump does blowhard).

It was pretty gruesome, as the link above summarizes:
Trump called out Walker’s terrible economic record in Wisconsin. Walker accused Trump of using Democratic talking points. Walker accused Trump of being a bad business person and taking companies to bankruptcy. Trump responded by saying, “When the folks of Iowa found out the true facts of the job that you’ve done in Wisconsin, all of the sudden you’ve tubed. He was number one now he’s number six or seven in the polls."
He continued, “Look, we brought it out. You were supposed to make a billion dollars in the state. You’ve lost two point two. You have right now a huge budget deficit. That’s not a Democratic point. That’s a fact, and when the people of Iowa found that out, I went to number one, and you went down.”
Why has Trump appealed to so many on the right? He doesn't stock up on little cutesy sound bites like "we already have an apprentice in the White House." Right there is why he comes across as authentic to a huge swath of the populace (fake hair and all). Sure, he's full of shit, but as far as he's concerned, he's not bullshitting you. People can sense that he means what he says. It's why people are flocking to Bernie Sanders in droves as well--people can just sense that he's authentic.

Walker? Every time he got the floor, you could see his coaching in action--you could tell his handlers said "you need to come out swinging this time! You barely said anything last debate and now you're tanking in the polls!" It was forced, it was clumsy, it was pathetic, and Trump sensed it immediately and went on the attack, like a wild dog smelling fear.

It's pretty likely that Walker's campaign for President is breathing about as much as The Walking Dead, and we still have months to go before the Iowa caucus. Lots of people have asked us, "what if he's irrelevant by the time UNINTIMIDATED comes out? Trump's been destroying him." Well, he won't be irrelevant in Wisconsin until (hopefully) 2018. No matter how much of a punchline he becomes on the national stage, he and his cronies in the Legislature will still be working to destroy public education, labor rights, and apparently Wisconsin's open records law--still. 

As Walker continues to run roughshod over everything that's ever made Wisconsin great while simultaneously getting laughed out of the 2016 race, what does that say about the state that elected him to the Governor's mansion three times since 2010? As satisfying as it is to see the national media treat Walker the way our state media should have, it's really hard to watch him squirm, think "and he convinced enough Wisconsinites to treat him seriously?" and not feel a deep sense of humiliation. As embarrassed as Walker should be for clumsily lobbing talking points at his party's frontrunner like he's tossing home run derby meatballs, we should be doubly embarrassed that we ever let him get to the big leagues in the first place.

(image ganked from NPR)

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Shame of Wisconsin News Media (a slightly late Labor Day post)

This past Labor Day weekend there were obviously so many talking points to speak on here in Wisconsin, where labor has been under assault for the past five years. But what kept jumping out at me were the litany of posts and pieces gleefully slagging Scott Walker's non-ready-for-prime-time hack job of a Presidential campaign. Perhaps the snarkiest came from The Guardian's Jeb Lund, titled "When you're as bad at campaigns as Scott Walker, you should just give up." Oof, it's harsh:
Scott Walker’s presidential campaign is only a little over 50 days old, and it’s increasingly obvious that Scott Walker sucks. Not for his record or what he believes, although both of those are – to borrow a phrase from William Safire – extremely sucky. But Scott Walker is not good at this campaign thing.
A good campaign introduces a candidate and his best ideas to sympathetic and like-minded voters through a combination of events, press coverage and paid outreach, allowing him or her to attract campaign donations and new supporters alike. A bad campaign forces a candidate to get on the phone to reassure his existing donors that he exists and is going to abandon the “sinking into obscurity” tactic that hadn’t been working. A truly terrible campaign is at hand when the most widely-reported news story is the candidate’s old claim that his bald spot totally isn’t genetic but comes from banging his head against the underside of a cabinet.
Friends of mine were gleefully posting this article all over their Facebooks, and i'll not lie--the sheer venom in the prose is a cathartic thirst quencher for those of us stuck in the desert of Wisconsin political news coverage, desperate for an oasis of objectivity, of investigative journalism, of holding politicians accountable for their words and deeds. But ultimately, the Guardian piece made me kinda depressed. If the national press have been able to sniff out Walker's bullshit this quickly--to the point where friends out of state have looked at the UNINTIMIDATED project and said, "geez, you guys better hurry--he's going to be irrelevant soon" (as if he'll stop being irrelevant in Wisconsin after he slinks back home from the aborted campaign trail)--what does that say about Wisconsin? Why did 52% of the electorate not see what the national news media has been not at all shy to point out: that Scott Walker is a lying shill who will at any given moment say the least-committal thing that will garner the most political points?

It is certainly one thing to pander to conservatives when you're only running against Democrats, such as he's done for three gubernatorial campaigns in Wisconsin, and another to try to triangulate your position among a field of 16 Republican Presidential candidates (especially when one of them is a billionaire blowhard who gives no fucks and doesn't play by the same rules you're playing). But still--the speed with which Walker's campaign has been torn apart compared to all the fawning coverage he's always received back home is staggering.

It reminded me of this article from Summer of 2014, which called its shot a year out by examining how the protective bubble of conservative talk radio and divisive racial GOP politics evolved in Wisconsin. It was a fascinating, if sobering read then, and it's twice as sobering now considering how much of its prognosticating has come true:
This interpretation of Walker’s appeal could hardly be more flawed. He has succeeded in the sort of environment least conducive to producing a candidate capable of winning a national majority. Over the past few decades, Walker’s home turf of metropolitan Milwaukee has developed into the most bitterly divided political ground in the country—“the most polarized part of a polarized state in a polarized nation,” as a recent series by Craig Gilbert in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel put it. Thanks to a quirk of twentieth-century history, the region encompasses a heavily Democratic and African American urban center, and suburbs that are far more uniformly white and Republican than those in any other Northern city, with a moat of resentment running between the two zones. As a result, the area has given rise to some of the most worrisome trends in American political life in supercharged form: profound racial inequality, extreme political segregation, a parallel-universe news media. These trends predate Walker, but they have enabled his ascent, and his tenure in government has only served to intensify them. Anyone who believes that he is the Republican to save his party—let alone win a presidential election—needs to understand the toxic and ruptured landscape he will leave behind.
It's infuriating to see the rest of the nation turn Walker into a walking punchline while he's been treated with reverence in our increasingly corrupt state. True--thanks to years of conservative media crafting its own reality where anything even slightly critical of right-wing positions constitutes liberal media bias, a local media doing its job would have still likely been dismissed by most of the conservative voters in Wisconsin. But wouldn't it have been at least nice to know exactly what we were getting into back in 2010?

It's almost enough to begrudgingly admire the brass balls on the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that they were willing to let this blog get posted on their site: "How the Wisconsin media failed to warn us about Scott Walker:"
By playing it safe, the Wisconsin media failed to meet its obligations to the public. Rather than pushing Walker to answer tough questions or criticizing him when he acted evasively, they allowed a career politician to feed them spin and to outright lie to us. We deserved better.
Around the time of the Rodney King trial and LA riots of the early 90s, Bobcat Goldthwait once said, "If you ever see me getting beaten up by the police, put the video camera down and help me." Thanks for all the help as our state's gotten beaten into the dirt, Journal-Sentinel Communications, Gannet Wisconsin Media, etc. Good lookin' out.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Meet the Bands: HEAVY HAND

This project would obviously not be possible without the amazing punk and indie bands contributing. So let's meet the bands of UNINTIMIDATED: Wisconsin Musicians Against Scott Walker, one by one.

UNINTIMIDATED is a punk comp, in ethics and origin--even if not every band could be strictly referred to as "punk" in style. Heavy Hand, by any definition of the word, is punk as fuck. The opening track from last year's Northwoods Knives release is called "David Bowie Wants to Steal Your Baby" and is all of 56 seconds long. (Yes, Labyrinth references are super punk.) Other hit singles from this nine-song, 20-minute barn-burner include the classy "Milwaukee Cum Dumpster" and "Motherfucking Bobcat." Their song for the UNINTIMIDATED comp? "White Power Norah Jones." When asked where that title came from, Heavy Hand guitarist/screamer (and UNINTIMIDATED co-coordinator) Tony Weber just looked at me and said, "Scott Walker is a total White Power Norah Jones," and left it at that. Totally ridiculous. Totally punk rock.

The economy with which Heavy Hand does their business makes them a perfect fit for a DIY grassroots political project such as ours. Gritty, fuzzy riffs that are equally simple and catchy as hell, blasted out over a deceptively basic but solid rhythm section (bassist Isa Carini & drummer Chris Roberts, both formerly of the not-in-any-way-similar-to-Heavy-Hand Scarring Party). Like all the best punk rock, it seems simple, but it's deceptively so, as not just anyone can throw a few chords together and make tunes this catchy. Hell, not many bands can make songs this hummable with lyrics this hard to make out. It's a feat!

This sounds like a lot of silly business, it is true. But don't think that this band doesn't take what they do seriously. Otherwise they wouldn't be on our comp, yo. It takes dedication to be this goofy and fun while delivering delicious bite-sized nuggets of rusty buzzsaw riffs that slice through your forehead and deliver lethal doses of punk rock tetanus. So let's hope that ol' Scotty Walker gets "White Power Norah Jones" bored into his brain to the point where it locks his jaw shut and he starves to death. I mean, "Dead Walker" is a name just begging for some new punk band to adopt it, right?

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Meet the Bands: HOLY SHIT!

This project would obviously not be possible without the amazing punk and indie bands contributing. So let's meet the bands of UNINTIMIDATED: Wisconsin Musicians Against Scott Walker, one by one.

For all the poetic and witty couplets expressed in lyrical form over the last weekend, while 13 bands took two hours each to record protest songs about Scott Walker, it took Milwaukee's reigning kings of hardcore punk, Holy Shit!, to distill the sentiment to its purest outburst of the night, as vocalist Tab Man screamed "YOU MOTHERFUCKER! FUCK YOUUUUU!" into the mic while tracking vocals for "How About 'No,' Scott?," a just under two-minute blast of concentrated anger that ranks as one of the band's longest songs on record.

Holy Shit!'s been around since 2001, which makes them the second-longest-running band on our comp (behind our most recent subjects, IfIHadAHiFi, who started in 2000). When a band's been around that long, it's easy to take 'em for granted ("eh, i'll see 'em next time"), but every time they end up back in front of you, you find yourself beaten over the head with the reminder that these dudes are just as raging, just as hilarious, and just as essential as they've ever been, and you're a fool if you're in the area when they're playing and say to yourself, "eh..." Just give 2010's KBD OOP a spin and get your ears pinned back by 14 rapid-fire shots of straight-up old school that's way more diverse and adventurous than a collection of minute-long tunes has any right to be. If you're not grinning like a maniac and pumping your fist by the time "My Girlfriend is a Depressed Vegan Nightmare" whips around your ears for all of 40 seconds, you may not be cool. Which is probably ok, since these guys would be the first to tell you that they're huge dorks anyway.

But they're huge dorks with serious chops. You can't be this fast, this tight, without having some serious skills, and Eric's machine-gun drumming, Andy's lightning riffs, and Tony's earthquake bass never let things fall off the rails. Just ask our video director, Chuck--while filming Holy Shit! at Howl Street, all that could be heard in the live room (thanks to isolation booths) were drums, Tab Man' screaming, and lots of strings getting pummeled. It sounded like a complete mess, until we got into the control room and heard the full, glorious playback of "How About 'No,' Scott?" I'm not saying they're on Bad Brains' level, because was anyone? But these fuckers blast riffs tighter than Rick Santorum's asshole.

As you can probably tell from their song titles ("Jumping into a Goddamned Waterfall," "I Hate this Stupid World Because it Sucks Like Hell," "Bad Day Fishing"), Holy Shit!'s not normally a political band, but a certain sleepy-eyed prick in Madison convinced them to step outside the box once again and add another check to their punk rock bucket list, and we're really glad they did. It was all laughs and crazy jokes and slammed beers by the end of their recording session; not a bad way to close out a weekend.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Too Tired to Riot, Not Too Tired to Film and Record

A photo posted by @unintimidatedsw on

We made some magic last weekend.

In the course of 26 hours over 2 1/2 days, 13 bands stormed Howl Street Recordings in Milwaukee and blasted away at a protest song written specifically about our awful, horrible, very no good governor, Scott "A Canadian Border Wall Totally Makes Sense" Walker. And every band brought their A-game. Whether it was Donoma laying down a triple-guitar attack, Lady Cannon using her two hours to improvise a jazzy piece of chamber-pop from scratch, or FowlMouth waltzing in, banging out your soon-to-be new favorite anthem, "Too Tired to Riot," in 52 minutes flat, every band rose to the occasion. We honestly could not believe how smoothly the entire weekend went. Everyone was on task and devoted to the idea of recording a complete compilation album in the course of one weekend. 60+ people doing heroic work, including our insanely talented engineer, Shane, who wasn't fazed by any potential curveballs or miking issues. He kept everything humming and helped every band play and sound their best. He's a hero. Book his damn studio and record your record there.

Meanwhile, the film crew assembled mountains of footage of every band. Chuck, Orin, and Ashley did stellar work behind the cameras, keeping three GoPros running while working with their own hand-helds. Special thanks also to Kara, Aaron, and Ellen for helping with setup, providing snacks, and in Ellen's case, doing pretty much anything that was needed, be it running for coffee or taking slo-mo shots! And did we mention food? Isa from Heavy Hand was on point with the weekend fuel, bringing cookies, lasagna and chili to the studio to keep gas in our tanks.

A photo posted by @unintimidatedsw on

So what's next? Hours and hours of mixing, mastering, and editing. We're shooting for a February 2016 release for this sucker, right in the thick of primary season, and we'll have a lot of work to do to make that deadline. But we're over the first hump, and that's absolutely amazing. We can't wait to share these songs with all of you.

T-Shirt Update!

Our first order has been sent to Scott at Hype Screen Print and it's all been paid for, so as soon as those suckers are in our hands, they'll be on their way to those of you who trusted us with a pre-order. We can't wait to post dorky photos of us (and you, if you send them!) wearing these shits. Soon, my pretties, soon. But until then, to all of you who have bought shirts, donated time, and especially to the bands that made this all happen...THANK YOU.

A photo posted by @unintimidatedsw on