January 2004

By Mike Doktorski

It's no secret that while many bands are called "overnight successes" in the music industry, this is in fact very rarely the case. By the time a band's music makes it to the radio, it's likely that they've been honing their craft for years in dingy clubs and smoky bars, putting any sort of normal life on hold while pursuing their dream of simply being able to earn a viable living from their music.

Jersey City-based quartet The Milwaukees perhaps exemplify this as well as any act on the NJ circuit. Originally formed in the early nineties by childhood friends Dylan Clark (lead vocals/guitar) and Dave Post (bass) when the two were barely out of grammer school, the current lineup came together in 1999 with the addition of New Brunswick scene veterans Brian Stoor (drums) and Jeff Nordstedt (guitar). In 2003, the band released their fourth CD This Is A Stickup, a sprawling, ambitous effort informed by aspects of emo, classic rock, nineties alternative, and prog, yet the band makes a real effort to avoid typecasting. "'Emo' is just a word, like 'grunge,'" says Clark. "For some reason people can't say 'rock band' anymore. [Emo] is just a buzz word. We don't care but it's annoying because no one screams in our band and we don't embrace the emo scene."

But with song titles like "Berlin Wall," "Drink Soviet Champagne," and "Patriot Song," you could argue that this is not your run-of-the-mill punk band. Indeed, the Milwakees' hard-hitting guitar rock contains a sort of grandeur (think early U2 for the vibe and lyrics if not the music itself) that is sadly absent in the majority of most pop rock these days. But upon closer inspection Clark's lyrics are abstract and free-flowing, and are widely open to interpretation: "I used to write only about girls and relationships," says the frontman, "But I decided I could pull the same emotion out of people writing about whatever I wanted. Just as long as the lyrics are abstract you can make it more universal….'Berlin Wall' is about being in a band, the title is just from one lyric that describes when in history this was, around '89 when I was 12 years old. So inspiration can come from anywhere and if I can't get a good title, I'll make one up that gets attention."

The band had already toured extensively in North America, but a break came in 2003 when the Milwaukees scored a licensing and distribution deal in Europe and Japan for Stickup, thorugh the indie label Boss Tunage, which in turn paved the way for a string of shows in Europe this past September. Initially apprehensive about their reception as a relatively unknown American act, the band was impressed by the enthusiasm of their European fans. "We headlined just about every show we played," says Nordstedt, "and it took us a while to get used to the fact that everyone wasn't waiting to leave just before the out-of-town band plays, which is how it often goes here in the U.S. Over there it was the opposite, all of the people mulling around the room looking vaguely disinterested would pull up close and listen when we took the stage. On one hand we underestimated our distribution over there, but on the other hand, people there seemed more open to new stuff. They don't need their hands held to be told what is cool…which is an odd phenomenon that we experience here on occasion."

The band is anticipating a return to Europe in 2004, as well as a tour of the midwest and will be releasing a new CD single for the album track "Angel With A Knife" which will be backed by a few previously unreleased songs from the Stickup sessions. The band will also have a song on the new compilation CD from NJ musicians' collective Artist Amplification.

Not unmindful of the formidable hurdles facing them, the Milwaukees nevertheless remain focused on their ultimate goal. "We want to find a way to do this full time," says Nordstedt. "Our goal is to play at least 100 gigs [in 2004]. However, we have to work to make it financially possible, whether that is signing to a new label, arranging better distribution with our current labels, finding management or booking agents...whatever it takes is what we'll do." §

This article originally appeared in the February 2004 issue of Night & Day Magazine.

For more info, click over to The Milwaukees' official website.

© 2004 Pushing9 Media
All Rights Reserved