Wisconsin may be known nationally for things like cold winters and quality dairy products, but when we scoured the state for the best in local music as a part of our Aloft Tour, we wound up with a fantastic playlist of bands ranging from guitar-pop to folk.
1. Blessed Feathers
Hometown: West Bend
Members: Jacquelyn Beaupre, Donivan Berube
Current Album: Peaceful Beasts in an Ocean of Weeds EP
It wasn’t long after Jacquelyn Beaupre and Donivan Berube met at a restaurant in rural Wisconsin that they began recording with laptops in bedrooms, and it wasn’t long after those recordings that the duo was opening for the likes of Phosphorescent and Youth Lagoon in clubs all over their home state. And for good reason—blending influences from all over the world and working with producer Kevin McMahon, who has worked with The Walkmen, Titus Andronicus and Real Estate, this duo is set to release their debut full length this fall as a follow-up to their Ocean of Weeds EP.
2. Cory Chisel & The Wandering Sons
Members: Cory Chisel, Daniel McMahon, Adriel Harris
Current Album: Old Believers
With influences that range from Bob Dylan to Otis Redding, Cory Chisel takes cues from the finest in performance and songwriting, making for a memorable listening experience whether you’re in the audience at a show or spinning his record at home. The band’s latest LP Old Believers was produced by The Raconteurs’ Brendan Benson and mixes rock, blues and soul sounds with lyrics that describes Chisel’s growth as an artist.
3. The Daredevil Christopher Wright
Hometown: Eau Claire
Members: Jason Sunde, Jesse Edgington, Jon Sunde
Current Album: The Nature of Things
Although two members of this Eau Claire trio are classically-trained musicians, they know no boundaries when it comes to instrumentation and off-the-wall experimentation in their music. By regularly featuring guest instrumentalists in their studio recordings, each song feels like a fresh interpretation of the band’s capabilities.
4. Field Report
Members: Christopher Porterfield, Travis Whitty, Ben Lester, Shane Leonard
Current Album: Field Report
Led by Chris Porterfield, for whom the band is named (‘Field Report’ is an anagram of ‘Porterfield,’ after all), has developed a delicate balance between free-form lyrics and carefully-placed instrumentals. Performing a significant headlining tour last fall as well as several Daytrotter Barnstormer dates, Porterfield and the band have proven themselves on-stage, too, and you can’t help but wonder when we might hear more from these Wisconsin musicians.
Members: Vinnie Kircher, Austin Dutmer, Andrew Harris
Current Album: Traps
Jaill’s psych-pop sound has been earning them fans since the band’s inception in 2002, hooking listeners with their garage-pop vibe and darker, deeper lyrics. The band even caught the attention of Sub Pop, who released their latest two records: That’s How We Burn in 2010 and Traps in 2012.
6. Juniper Tar
Members: Jason Mohr, Aaron Schleicher, Ryan Schleicher, Tuc Krueger, Chris DeMay
Current Album: Since Before
This folk-rock band has the low-key yet rough vocals to match their part rock, part folk instrumentals, and a listen to any live recording will make it seem fitting that the band recorded their first LP To The Trees in a rural Wisconsin Cabin. Last year’s Since Before is a bit sweeter, and tracks like “The Dullest Cleaver” are infused with just enough vocal harmonies to soften the sound.
Hometown: Baraboo / Madison
Members: Matt Holmen, Jason Krunnfusz, Monica Martin, Dave Roberts, Matteo, Roberts, Che Van Huss, Zach Johnston
Current Album: Confetti (Demo)
Thanks to an infectious Daytrotter session and a few glowing recommendations, we really got to know this harmonizing, sweet-singing troupe from Madison, Wisc. when they played our party with HGTV at SXSW. Having lived all together in a large house in Madison as they formed the band and recorded demos Confetti and Friendship, their vocals and instrumentals blend in to one seamless auditor experience that has earned the band a recent European tour, an opening slot for Blitzen Trapper this fall and even a last-minute slot at Lollapalooza.
8. Trapper Schoepp and the Shades
Members: Trapper Schoepp, Tanner Schoepp, Jon Phillip
Current Album: Run, Engine, Run
It’s fitting that digging into the Wisconsin music scene would yield Trapper Schoepp and the Shades’ record Run, Engine, Run not only because it’s excellent, but also because the record itself is like an ode to the state that raised them, painting vivid pictures of scenery and the kind of backroads you might imagine rural Wisconsin to hold. The band, which is led by brothers, has shared stages with the likes of Murder By Death and the Old ‘97s, and although a listen to their record may draw comparisons to the latter, Schoepp and the band’s sound is all their own.
9. Vic + Gab
Members: Victoriah Banuelos, Hannah Gabriela Banuelos, Jesus Nanez
Current Album: Love of Mine
Sisters Vic and Gab Banuelos’ well-placed harmonies atop additional instrumentation from drummer Jesus Nanes seems to be just the right combination to build a buzz in hometown Milwaukee. Their sound is poppy and guitar-heavy, and their mellow disposition and obvious comfort playing together onstage also reflects in their studio recordings, last year’s Build A Bridge EP and recent LP Love of Mine, both of which contain danceable, guitar-pop tunes with substantive lyrics to boot. We caught the sisters performing at Aloft Milwaukee earlier this month, but thankfully they said they are hoping to fill out a heavy tour schedule in the coming months. Vic + Gab is a definite must-see.
10. Volcano Choir
Hometown: Eau Claire + Everywhere, Wisc.
Members: on Mueller, Chris Rosenau, Matthew Skemp Daniel Spack, Justin Vernon, Thomas Wincek
Current Album: Repave
Justin Vernon is a name that comes up a lot when you look at bands in and around Wisconsin, as the man behind Bon Iver has been involved as a producer on several great albums from his home region. Volcano Choir, an experimental project that involves Vernon as a member rather than producer, has a fuller feel while maintaining the echoey, ethereal quality that drew Bon Iver fans to Vernon originally while employing stronger percussion and a vibe that won’t feel unfamiliar to those who may have gotten to know Vernon through a Kanye track, either.