November 27, 2006

What Made Milwaukee Famous

It's been a wild, hectic ride for the boys in Austin's What Made Milwaukee Famous. They've received national acclaim in many major publications before they even had a record deal or had played outside of Austin. Their debut album, Trying To Never Catch Up, came out well over two years ago, and it still holds up today. That's why new label Barsuk reissued it--it's too good to be obscure. I spoke to Michael Kingcaid recently, and got him to reveal a little bit about the band's future.

What's new in the world of What Made Milwaukee Famous?

A lot of touring. We've done, like, four tours this year, and a couple of them were pretty extensive trips, with French Kicks and The Long Winters, and I think we may possibly do a smaller tour at the end of the year. Hopefully after that we'll be home until February to work on some new songs.

Have you started on your follow-up yet?

We have not, no. We've got a few songs completed, a lot of songs that are partially there, and a handful of ideas for others. Seven or eight are completely done. We're eager to get back home and start recording.

Have you made any decisions as to who you'll be working with on the new record?

No, it's going to be up in the air for a while. This reissue's only been out for eight or nine weeks. Outside of Texas and the rest of the world, it's a "new" record.

When you signed to Barsuk, what made you decide to reissue the record, instead of recording and releasing a new one?

We really have a lot of faith in this record, regardless of how long it had been since it was first released. We wanted the rest of the US and the world to hear those songs. I dunno, things never happen on the right time schedule or exactly the way you want it, but it's nice to have it on a great label. Before then, it was basically just a few record stores in Austin and Amoeba Records in California who had it.

I read somewhere that it sold out and went out of print quite quickly.

Yeah, we sold a lot of them on tours. We had to buy another round, just to make it through the end of that tour. (Laughs) It's kind of silly to think of it as out of print, because we have assloads of 'em at home, because we had to buy another round of 'em. But yeah, it sold really fast for us; we went through three or four pressings.

Have you been surprised by the meteoric rise and critical acclaim you've had, for being such a unknown band?

Yeah, we got a lot of really good press there for a while. We definitely attribute that to our management team. It's been really crazy, but we really appreciate that people have been out there, putting a good word out for us.

On the first record, stylistically, you guys were all over the map. On the new material, would you say that the sound has solidified more, or a more unified style dominates the material?

No. (Laughs) I don't ever want to stay in one place musically. There's a lot of stuff out there to find out about and experiment with, especially considering we came from different musical backgrounds. It's a vast musical landscape out there, so we want to touch on everything. I mean, we don't want to put out some jaded record that's schizophrenic. The last one was cohesive enough sonically, and we'll always want to put out an album that is a cohesive body of work, but we definitely want to experiment to get there.

You mentioned different backgrounds. What were your musical backgrounds?

Drew likes Britpop and poppier music; John came from a punk background; Jeremy has a Latin/jazz background, and I'm a hip-hop fan.

Have you been performing a lot of new material live, or are you mainly sticking to material from the debut?

We've been playing about five or six new songs live. Most of the time, we play 'em all only in Austin, because they've kinda been getting the short end of the stick and because they've heard all of these songs for three or four years now. We want to give them as much new material as we can when we play there. On the road, we're in front of audiences who probably haven't heard most of these songs, so we try to play more of the older material.

Tell me a little bit about the new material.

We have one called "For the Birds," and it is...I don't want to say "standard rock 'n' roll," but it is pretty rockin'. WE have one called "Tricks of the Tirade" that we've played quite a few times, and it has John on vocals. WE have one called "When the Grief Goes On," it's kind of an odd number. There are a few others we do here and there, and we have a few others we are working on. We're definitely looking forward to getting back and working on new material; we've been trying to take care of business for the record and touring, but it doesn't leave much time for that, you know?

Has it been frustrating for you, progressing as a band, yet standing still with the older material?

Yeah, a little bit, but this is what we've been waiting for all along. Like I said, it never really happens the way you plan for. As long as it happens, though, I’m happy!

What Made Milwaukee Famous's debut album, Trying to Never Catch Up, is available now via Barsuk.

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