"Our song 'Bright Side' speaks specifically to a very different, very nonfictional type of terror that has followed on the coattails of our new president and his administration," singer Katie Rash explains.
In advance of The Bang Bang’s album release party at Company Brewing on Friday, Nov. 17, the band members discuss their sophomore full-length, their favorite horror movies, their Midwestern Gothic sound and the eating challenge that shares its moniker.
Can you tell me about the new album?
Katie Rash (singer): I think Bridges definitely showcases a more mature Bang Bang, not only with how we’ve progressed as musicians, but as people too. We’ve kind of grown into our sound and developed a little more meat on our musical bones, so to speak. I think we’ve evaded a sophomore slump and gotten better with age. So basically we are wine? I’m okay with being wine.
Did the process differ from writing/recording your 2015 self-titled debut?
KR: Our writing process has basically stayed the same. The guys usually develop the tunes and I add the lyrics and melody. There are a few exceptions where Nick wrote some lyrics or I wrote a basic tune on acoustic first.
Nick Amhaus (guitarist): While the process stayed the same, many of our first album’s songs were written before The Bang Bang was formed. Katie and I performed as a duo for a very short time and once bass and drums joined the mix we thought it would be good to get some recordings. The instrumentals for a few of our new songs stemmed from long jams we’d have at practice so the writing process seemed much quicker and flowed very easily.
KR: How we recorded this album is definitely different from anything we’ve done before. Our first album was completely homegrown and our 2016 EP was recorded completely digitally and in a studio. This new album is all analog and straight to tape. I not only loved the process of recording to tape and not singing the same line 25 times and then digitally pasting the complete song together, but I honestly think it sounds better, captures our energy better and is way more “us.”
NA: Yeah, the first album was completely DIY. A friend let us use their practice space to record the drums and I handled all the recording, mixing and mastering. It’s a project I may take on again sometime but it was a relief to work with Kyle Urban at Motorco Studios for Bridges. I’m used to working on music in the digital realm so to take it back and limit ourselves to analog recording forced us to be a bit more creative. Kyle also has a piano and organ in his studio and we couldn’t resist including a little bit of that.
Bridges seems to be full of terror. For example, album opener “Northwoods Narration” comes across like a ghost story. Do you find yourself more interested in the darker sides of life?
KR: It definitely is. “Northwoods Narration” was indeed inspired by a spooky story from William Faulkner called “A Rose for Emily” and our song “Bright Side” speaks specifically to a very different, very nonfictional type of terror that has followed on the coattails of our new president and his administration.
These types of dark Southern Gothic tales and what we perceive as a veil of melancholy that seems to be muffling the nation lately were huge influences for the writing on this album. We used them craft our own kind of “Midwestern Gothic” style that hopefully resonates with folks.
But don’t worry, we haven’t made a complete transition to the dark side, yet; our final song on the album “Everybody” is definitely a ballad of hope and perseverance; an optimistic denouement.
Are you a fan of horror movies? Any favorites?
KR: Gimme those psychological thrillers. Hitchcock, specifically Dial M for Murder, please.
Jeff Van Dreel (bassist): Pee Wee Herman’s Big Adventure.
Jake Brandt (drummer): The original It may have ruined a year of my childhood.
NA: Horror and thriller TV shows are my favorite. I’ll take The Walking Dead and Stranger Things over any horror films.
Has the band ever attempted a “bang bang” (eating at consecutive meals at two restaurants, made famous by a season four episode of Louie)?
KR: No and I’m slightly ashamed I have never heard of this before. I know what I’m doing this weekend…
JB: If I had to bang bang right now, I’m going Brunch/Pizza at Centraal/Transfer. A Milwaukeean Bloody prepares me for my food voyage, chased with some funky euro beer, then some french toast. Walk off that second, possibly regrettable, bloody on my way up KK to Transfer Pizzeria. Then throw back a local pint while mowing down as much of a large Pollo Verde as I can fit in my strong belly.
NA: I agree with Jake, pizza for days. I could do a bar crawl but instead of bars, we hop from pizza place to pizza place.
Why did you choose the album release to be a part of Hear Here Presents?
KR: We’ve got a history with Ryan [Holman] and Jenny [Vanderheiden], so I guess you could say it’s kind of a Bang Bang tradition. I used to work at Cafe Hollander with both of them; I performed solo for the first music and comedy show Ryan put on in the back room of Sugar Maple and he helped organize the first show for The Bang Bang. There is so much amazing artistic creation and sharing going on right now in Milwaukee, and we want to be a part of it in any way we can. Maybe there are fans of Hear Here that haven’t heard of The Bang Bang and vice versa, and if we can help get each other’s names out there and share our creations with a larger group of people, that’s a great thing for everyone involved.