A Conversation with Joe Hertler

By: Kate Fletcher

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This Friday, Joe Hertler & the Rainbow Seekers are bringing their electric sounds to Madison all the way from Lansing, Michigan. Known for their fantastic live shows full of energy and positivity, the band has been off and on the road for the past year, touring for their latest album Terra Incognita which came out in the early months of 2015. I was lucky enough to ask Joe a couple questions over the phone as he relaxed in his hometown for a breather between tour dates. It’s been a whirlwind of a year for this uplifting artist, but his passion for his musical creations became clear to me within the first minutes of the conversation.

Trying to describe Joe Hertler & the Rainbow Seekers to someone who is unfamiliar with the band can be quite challenging. Terra Incognita features a very broad variety of different musical styles and truly demonstrates the range of songs that the band can produce while still remaining unique with their own Rainbow Seeker brand. Hertler is well aware of this fact. While describing the writing process, he said, “I jump around a little bit! I just get bored easily, so when I write too many pop songs I’m like, ‘Alright, I gotta bring it down, get a little more sentimental.’ So that generally is the trend that usually goes from like 2-3 songs… like a couple pop songs then a couple live jams then we’ll kind of gear back towards more folky singer-songwriter style.” This mixture of tunes, stemming from a writer drawing from many different angles, makes the album an extremely interesting one to listen to.

No matter what your music taste, there will be at least one song on the album that resonates with you. His personal favorite track is ‘Betelgeuse’, explaining, “It’s definitely like a low-key track on the record and probably catered to some headphone listening… just from the song-writing perspective, it’s probably one of my favorite songs.” However, this free-flowing writing process and melodic diversity does raise some eyebrows on the corporate side of band’s music production. “With our label, I feel like the business people involved at the end of the day are always like, ‘You guys really should think about sticking to a genre’” Hertler described, “but it almost seems more natural to go with what you’re feeling at the time rather than like trying to write to, like, a certain style.” Though their label might find it more convenient for them to settle for a more specific genre, the Rainbow Seekers do not plan on doing this anytime soon. And so far, this strategy has been working, as they receive acclaim and growing crowds for their live performances.

From the back roads of Colorado to the festival circuit in Michigan, Joe Hertler & the Rainbow Seekers have seen all different sides of America, refining their live performance all the way along. “I would say we’re a live band,” Hertler explains, “and I kind of preach that mentality to the band… The big idea behind the band is definitely the live show; that’s what we’re most proud of.” Forming relationships with good people from across the country has been one of the best parts about going on the road, Joe recounted. Genuinely friendly crowds, including some fans welcoming enough to open up their homes to the band when hotel rooms hadn’t yet been booked, are what make the shows so special. The concerts “are just a warm environment, and that’s mostly due to just people being nice.” Whether it’s the audience or the band that it emanates from, positive energy fills each venue with the sweet sweeping tunes of Joe Hertler & the Rainbow Seekers as a vessel to spread it throughout.

After the show Friday, and the following day of binge-listening in an attempt to cope with post-concert depression, you will surely wonder, “Will there be another Rainbow Seeker album soon?” The answer isn’t clear but Joe did show his interest in getting back to the studio. “I think we’re all really craving the studio. I know I am just because we’ve been traveling around and touring but…” Hertler explained, trying to figure out how to summarize the tour vs. studio experience, “It’s spastic. Despite all the downtime, its still very one place to the next. You don’t always get a chance to hang out and get to know the area”. After the next 11 gigs coming in the October, perhaps the band will take a well deserved break before beginning the recording process again.

Ultimately, when coming to the show on Friday, leave any expectations you may have for Joe Hertler & the Rainbow Seekers behind. They are known to surprise even seasoned fans with their fun sets and good vibes. “At the end of the day, I think the band is fully realized in a venue, in a live setting” Joe affirmed. The atmosphere in the Sett will surely be different than it has ever been in the past, and it will not be a show to miss.

square-madisonBecome a “sprightly young groove doctor” and experience Joe Hertler & the Rainbow Seekers yourself at the Sett at 9 pm on October 9th, 2015.

Listen to Joe Hertler & the Rainbow Seekers HERE!

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WUD Music Presents: Bryce Vine w/Chris Labella, Der Rathskeller at 8pm

The only way this Friday the 13th will be unlucky is if you don’t check out these young talented fellows. Chris LaBella, a local rapper will be opening for Bryce Vine all the way from LA! Check them out at Der Rathskeller tonight (Friday 13th) at 8pm!

I got to ask Bryce a couple questions during his busy route to town.

Where were you born, and what brought you to Los Angeles?

I was born in a small apartment in Manhattan. I moved to LA when I was about ten because my mother who was an aspiring actress at the time landed a role on a daytime soap opera.

Did you start as a rapper?

Actually, no.  I started as the lead singer of a punk band. 

How did you come about the name (of the new album)? 

Laissez-faire was the name of the little party boat my mom used to have.  My friends and I spent many summers on the lake drinking and rock jumping. The album title was a tribute to those memories.

Who is/are your biggest inspiration(s)

Stephan Jenkins of Third Eye Blind and Frank Ocean are some of my favorite writers.  Big fan of Kid Cudi, Brother Ali, and The Wombats, also.

Would you be looking for a girl to go see 50 Shades Of Grey with? 

I’d Probly rather go alone and pretend to weep next to happy couples.

kama-surfing-pigWhats your spirit animal?

Kama, the Hawaiian Surfer Pig…Google him. –>

What would you do to get some free sour patch kids?

Murder.

 What is your favorite thing about performing on College Campuses?

College students hold nothing back when they are feeling the music.  They go ape shit.

What is the weirdest talent you posses?

My perfect impersonations of Macy Gray and Shaggy.

Is there anything crazy we can expect from your show tonight?

Two words…Panda Cannon

Thank You

Con Shot First: A Star Wars-Themed Interview With Con Solo

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This SaturdayCATCH WRECK affiliates Con Solo and Coby Aships will be performing live beats to round out the second half of a DJ-centric weekend in Union South. Con Solo, for those that know him on Facebook, also goes by the name ‘Brandeaux Calrissian’. Between his spacey sound, an apparent affinity for Star Wars, and an overall mysterious aura, I decided to invite Solo to answer some questions about his music and to get his opinions on arguably the best film series of all time.

Please state your birth name for the record:

Brandon Le Andrew Washington.

Do you identify more closely with Lando Calrissian or Han Solo?

I’d like to think they’re both two aspects of a singular, baller entity.

A Yin and Yang type-thing, or something else?

Like the sun and the moon, occupying the same space, separately. In a state of calm, I lean towards Calrissian in my attempts to always keep a level head. When I perform, more so in favor of Solo. There’s a necessary bravado, and sometimes you have to shoot first.

What is your favorite film of the series so far?

Empire Strikes Back. Its all about that Dagobah force training montage.

Opinion on the prequel trilogy?

While it doesn’t have the nostalgia factor of the original, they made Samuel L. Jackson a Jedi and that’s really all I ever needed.

I’ve always thought Anakin Skywalker acted like a brooding teenager regardless of his age. Which prequel do you think he was the most brooding in?

Probably gotta say Revenge of the Sith, when he starts to turn and has that emo hood on, running around lightsabering kids. It’s especially prominent in the Duel on Mustafar, where he’s all “I HATE YOU DAD” to Obi Wan Kenobi, before the latter ginsu’d his appendages.

Does Jar Jar Binks get the rap he deserves?

Yo, Jar Jar Binks always seemed like a poorly hidden amalgam of black stereotypes.

I wouldn’t disagree with that. He definitely has the distorted version of a Jamaican/Rastafarian accent going on.

Like, come on Lucas. We live in the future, there’s absolutely no reason to have some jabber-jawed minstrel show alien running around getting into sophomoric antics. They should have let me write his character, he’d have been a straight up bad-ass.

COnSOloSHo

Has Star Wars influenced your music in any way?

In a way, it influenced my life at a young age turning me into a lil’ nerd. That eventually took me from sci-fi nerd to space and physics nerd to audio nerd, so hey I guess that works.

As an audio nerd, do you obsess more over the actual quality of the audio you’re producing, or the sonic aesthetic you want to present?

As an artist, no one wants to put out a half-assed product. That being said, I prioritize mood, emotive resonance, and the overall gestalt of each piece before really sitting down to focus on the mixdown. The main goal, always, is to get everyone else to feel what I’m feeling when they hear it.

What is your thought/work process in regards to creating new instrumentals, and how does that differ from your thoughts while performing a live show?

When I’m composing or producing, its more meditative. Zen-like. Alot of time spent in my own worlds, creating. Performing is a different ballgame. Like warring with myself and everyone else for their focus. There’s alot of improvisation that goes into my set, so it all comes down to keeping the crowd (and myself) on their toes and striking the right spots at the right times.

Is there anything special we can expect from the show this Saturday?

I’ve been working on a large amount of new material since I got back from touring and Los Angeles. I’m hoping to bring alot of what I learned along my travels back home for this one. Coby Ashpis and KidA are both very talented artists in their own fields, so I feel like its gonna be generally stellar.

LIGHTNING ROUND

What’s your opinion on the upcoming film?

Looks both so fresh and so clean-clean.

Jedi or Sith?

Jedi, but New Jedi Order era. Not trying to be all Lawful Good all the time.

What color would your lightsaber be?

Green: Jedi Consular. Straight up ass kickin’ diplomat.

Favorite species of the Star Wars universe?

Bad ass Twi’lek ladies.

Favorite line from the series?

Every instance of sexual tension between Han and Leia, and everything Chewbacca says.

Thanks for your time and insight, Brandon.

Ayyyye, anytime. Should be a good one.

Interview: John Mark Nelson, touring the midwest with Horse Feathers

John Mark Nelson and band playing at Wisconsin Union Theater this past Wednesday night as openers for Horse Feathers.
John Mark Nelson and band playing at Wisconsin Union Theater as openers for Horse Feathers this past Wednesday night.

John Mark Nelson is currently, and for the last year or so, has been traveling with a band. It’s him and four other members. He plays electric and acoustic guitar, Kara Laudon sings and plays keyboard, Steve Bosmans plays electric guitar, Benjamin Kelly plays base, and Gabe Hagen plays drums. This group, with slight alterations has been working with Nelson for past year. They are playing here in Madison because Nelson’s manager caught word of the Horse Feathers tour and wanted the group to tag along with them for a portion of it. They have played in Madison before. They played at the Terrace about 2 years ago, then the Rathskeller, High Noon, and now Wisconsin Union Theater.

Are you excite to open for Horse Feathers on this First National Support tour?

Absolutely. I think it should be a blast. We are super excited to be along with them. As we were driving out here we listened to some of their tunes.

What are you working on right now? Any new music?

We’ve just wrapped up a long series of writing so we’re going to get into the studio and record a new record in January. We’re kind of in the process of starting to introduce some of those tunes and get a feel for playing them live. I think as I move forward my songs still speak to a lot of different elements of my life – people I know or stories I’ve encountered. They are all very much story songs and have elements of who I am woven into them.

How did you develop your style and do you have a favorite artist that inspired you?

I actually like a lot of different kinds of music. I can point to a couple of different artists. A lot of the music I listened to as I was growing up I think shaped what I do now. My mom was very much into the pop music of the 60’s and 70’s so Peter, Paul and Mary and Simon and Garfunkle. My dad was very influenced by classical and jazz music. I think somehow a lot of what I make is sort of influenced by a meeting of those two worlds where there’s arrangements and compositions with different instruments, but blended in a very kind of like pop-relatable way.

How old were you when you started writing and what inspired you to start doing this?

I think I started really having a sort of idea that I was making songs with lyrics and stories and stuff when I was maybe 13 or 14. What inspired me was a very slow gradual process. When I was younger my dad brought home one of the first Mac computers with Garage Band on it, where you can take the loops, drag them around and rearrange them. I would make horrible loop songs and then I bought my first microphone. I started recording myself playing guitar. I just fell in love with recording and capturing sound. That slowly, over a couple of years, morphed its way into writing original songs.

What was the first song you ever wrote?

I don’t think I could pinpoint one exactly because the first record I put out was called “Still Here.” It was just a hand-picked assortment of different songs I had done. It wasn’t that I sat down at the beginning thinking I wanted to make an album.

How did you learn to play all the instruments featured in your videos?

I don’t actually play all of them but I can play guitar, drums, and accordion. Those are the three instruments that I actually feel comfortable playing. I certainly tinker on the keyboard and can play a base, but I shouldn’t.

Do you have any advice for aspiring artists?

As soon as you can start doing what you love, do it. If you have a passion for songwriting or for any form of art, just find outlets for it. There is that intimidating first step of “I want to do this but I don’t know how” or “I don’t know where” and you just need to find an outlet. If you’re a songwriter, start going to open mic nights. Don’t be afraid to jump into it and figure things out as you go.

Interview: Grace Weber (Der Rath, Friday)

Tomorrow night, we’ve got a powerhouse of a lineup for you in Lower Dens, Yellow Ostrich, Grace Weber Band, and 1,2,3. For the middle two bands in that sandwich, the show will be something of a homecoming, as both Grace Weber and Yellow Ostrich are originally from Wisconsin and relocated to New York City. We were recently able to chat with Grace Weber about her Wisconsin roots, among other things – including Cash Cab and cheese curds. Check that out below followed by her music video for “Everything to Me,” and make sure to come to the free show, which starts at 8:30 at Der Rathskeller, to see if she wears her  “I was on the Cash Cab” shirt.

What was the hardest adjustment moving from Wauwatosa, WI to New York City? The absence of cheese curds?

The absence of cheese curds was definitely a difficulty I had to overcome (hoarding them in your apartment doesn’t work), but I learned to substitute slices of New York pizza for the curds. Otherwise, I think just getting used to the fast pace, high intensity atmosphere of New York was the biggest switch. In the right doses, the buzz of New York can be so inspiring and can keep you on your toes, but getting back to the Midwest recharges my batteries. I don’t know if I could handle New York if I didn’t get back to Wisconsin here and there throughout the year.

Who are your favorite Wisconsin acts?

Jeanna Salzer Trio, Paul Cebar, Yellow Ostrich, and Willy Porter!

How far back does your friendship with Yellow Ostrich go and how did it come to be?

Well, I know Alex through my good friend, Jeanna Salzer. I met him in New York actually when he played bass for Jeanna at a double-bill show I set up in the city. So, we don’t go very far back, but I know he’s an incredibly nice and cool person. It’s so exciting to see his and the band’s career take off.

Not only did you attract attention through an appearance on Oprah singing “Natural Woman,” but you were also on an episode of the game show Cash CabTell us a little about those experiences. Which was more surreal? Are there any plans for a Grace Weber talk show, game show, or variety hour?

Haha, oh yes, I was on Cash Cab, and it might have actually been more surreal than Oprah. When my Mom and I realized that we were going to be on Cash Cab, it kind of felt like winning the lottery. Like, one of those things you always dream of but never actually think will ever happen. We did horribly on the ol’ cab, but I got a shirt that says “I was on the Cash Cab!” so it was allll worth it.

I’m actually considering pitching a reality show to the Oprah Winfrey Network…I’ll keep you posted ;).

What’s the concept of your debut, Hope & Heart? Who and what inspired or influenced the album?

For Hope & Heart I really just wanted to introduce myself as a songwriter and pick out the best collection of songs that showed off my range as a singer and writer and represented who I am as an artist right now. We wrote around 35 songs for the album and out of those narrowed down the best 12. I wanted to touch on different topics in the album, have upbeat tracks and ballads, so that I could take the listener on a journey with me through the whole record. I’m so happy with how it turned out because I feel like it’s really me and it introduces people to who I am as a complete artist, the full palate so to speak.

Starbuck’s added “Baby Come Down” to its store playlist in January. What’s your Starbuck’s drink of choice?

Tall Chai latte!

If you weren’t a musician, what would your profession be?

Hmmmm, I think, I’d either try to be an actress on Broadway or be a producer of a really big TV show. The former because I’ve always kind of wanted to get back into musicals and theater and the latter so I could wear a headset and look important.

As succinctly in your response as possible, why should people come see your free show on March 9th with Lower Dens, Yellow Ostrich, and 1, 2, 3?

It will blow your mind. And I’ll give you a hug if you come. I promise.

Star Slinger + Shlohmo + Shigeto: This Weekend in Union South

Star Slinger – Mornin’ Directed by Alan Jensen from Star Slinger on Vimeo.

We’ve been pumped for Star Slinger, Shlohmo, and Shigeto for awhile now and in preparation for the party that is about to ensue, we bring you a short but sweet interview with Star Slinger himself.

Click for the full interview!