Cullah Album Release Party Fills Cactus Club Full

Saturday evening saw a remarkable turnout at Cactus Club as Hear Here Presents hosted Cullah & The Comrades, Clear Pioneer, and blues rock band Thriftones for Cullah’s latest album release party – “Spectacullah.” The result was a completely-packed house both in the bar and stage room.

“It was the best energy I’ve felt from a show in Milwaukee, I think,” Cullah said post-show.

Cullah is Ian McCullough. He is a multi-instrumentalist that has been releasing an album every year on his birthday, April 27th, for the past thirteen years. His music blends blues, funk, soul, rock, and psychedelia together to acquire a personable, singalong-friendly sound. This approach has made him an especially unique figure within Milwaukee’s music sphere.

Cullah’s annual music odyssey has become somewhat autobiographical.

“It ends up being that way. I don’t go into it being like “oh, let me tell you about my year.” I just make the songs and it reflects that year naturally. All the songs I write are either consciously or subconsciously about things that I’m feeling or are happening in my life. It’s what I’ve always done and it’s become an obsession. When you do it for over ten years, it becomes autobiographical.”

He says it had not been intentional from the get-go to release music on his birthday every year.

“I just kept following that model because the birthday seemed convenient. I didn’t intend to do it every year but it became that. When I missed one in 2011 I had a massive hardware failure…my computer got impaled by this giant recording interface that fell on it and destroyed everything and I was crippled by it. That was the moment when I was like, “okay, I need to take this seriously.” This year it felt different. We’re getting vinyl coming – it’s not here yet; I didn’t realize how long it took…so I had to do everything earlier and my timeline and metrics I’ve looked at every year got thrown off. There’s real growth.”

Cullah describes the pressure that comes with dropping an album on a fixed date.

“That’s the only way it gets done. If I did’t have that deadline I wouldn’t be here. Someone can be frozen with choice – when you have technology that can do anything and have access to high-quality signal processing, it can be hard to even know where to start. For me. I don’t have a choice…I do but I tell myself I don’t. The more people come and listen and support this platform, it becomes bigger and bigger and it becomes a responsibility. People listen and connect to the messages and that’s terrifying to me. When people come up to me and tell me one of my songs helped through a rough period, that’s powerful. It’s terrifying and exhilarating in the same moment.”

He mentions that inspiration cannot be forced; it has to come naturally.

“You have to find it and get in tune with it. I’ve been doing a lot of multi-instrumental stuff and I’ll play the banjo and just mess around, then I’ll grab the violin, and that will inspire to do something new on the guitar that I never thought about doing. It tricks my brain into thinking about things differently.”

Cullah’s current “Comrades” consist of guitarist/vocalist Patrick Mullen, bassist John Julka, drummer Keenan McAuliffe, keyboardist Glenn McCormick, and auxiliary percussionist/backing vocalist Monica Murphy. He is on tour now and plays Chicago and Minneapolis this weekend, followed by two shows in California the following weekend. They play Gibson Music Hall in Appleton on June 1st.

Clear Pioneer is a synthpop trio consisting of vocalist/guitarist Grant Clementi, bassist/synth player Jesse Carl, and drummer Kyler Schmoor. Their recent singles “What I Already Am” and “Let Me In” follow up the group’s 2017 EP “Clouded Mouth.”

“The bridge in Let Me In is about how good pets are as companions,” Carl said.

Clear Pioneer has been a project since 2013. Clementi explains their humble beginnings.

“I was going to school in Illinois and Kyler would drive many hours to come practice and jam with us. Then I moved back and we got together and added Jesse. Now we all live in a house in Oak Creek.”

Lights are an essential component of Clear Pioneer’s live set. Clementi explains how they enhance the music.

“When you listen to a set just audibly it does something to you, but if you add that whole other sense in there it’s almost like a virtual reality. It’s just an integration of more experience into one. It’s also kind of mind controls people into dancing.”

Clear Pioneer played with Jesse McCartney and NeverShoutNever two years ago in Oshkosh. They recall McCartney had avocados in the green room.

“They weren’t ripe enough so they had to get him riper ones,” Carl said.

Clear Pioneer plan to drop more singles this year. They play ChocolateFest in Burlington on the 24th and Indie Night at the Miramar the following day.

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