Meet Some of the Artists That Were At Summer Soulstice!

B~Free.

This year’s Summer Soulstice Music Festival held on North Avenue came blessed with good weather and fantastic artists of all fronts bringing plenty of positive summer energy to the excited and eager crowds. Although Breaking And Entering could not talk to every single one of them, we managed to hear from a handful.

Browns Crew is a Latin hip hop-fusion duo consisting of Sebas and Chris P of Milwaukee’s South Side. Their songs are in English and Spanish and bring strong Caribbean and Cumbia influence into their instrumentation. They perform with a full band for most performances, which amplifies their fusion-heavy sound. Their new song “Mil Aires” is out streaming everywhere.

“It’s actually “Mil” from Milwaukee, and “Aires” which is from how it’s a collaboration track with a psychedelic cumbia group from Argentina in Buenos Aires,” Sebas explained. “In Spanish, “mil” means a thousand and “aires” means air, so the sound literally translates to “thousand airs” and the riffs they play are very psychedelic in the original track.”

Sebas explains what the duo is working on now.

“We haven’t released original content since 2015 but we definitely have some stuff in the works. We’re kind of sensitive with our art like all artists are, so we try to over-curate it but we do have some songs that are ready to be pumped out. It’s just strategically releasing that to folks to let them know that they’ve been rocking with us the past year going to our shows and we want to repay that forward.”

Browns Crew formed in 2011, and it had been more of a hobby back then.

“We wouldn’t really reach out to places to get gigs or studio sessions. It was just like freestyle and seeing what comes out and record if somebody wants to, but we took a hiatus for a couple years,” Sebas said. “I was abroad in Spain and Chile for eight months and my mom passed…in 2011 we came up with the name but it wasn’t like we were doing gigs here and there. It wasn’t until about a year ago when we were working our full-times and thought we needed to get this shit poppin’ again. Something was missing in our lives so we started doing it, and from there we started hearing from people and people started reaching out to us.”

Browns Crew is working on getting more songs and shows out. They play the Johnson Controls World Sound Stage at Summerfest at 4pm Thursday and Chill on the Hill on July 9th.

Surgeons in Heat is an indie pop-R&B band consisting of vocalist/guitarist Johnathan Mayer, bassist Ryan Reeve, drummer Sam Reitman, and keyboardist Bradley Kruse. Their last album “Bored Immortals” came out in June 2018.

“A lot of the songs are more mellow and slower,” Mayer said about Bored Immortals. “There’s some weirder jazz chord changes when before they were more basic.”

“We went away from more of the Motown vibe and more towards a jazzy feel,” Reeve added.

They had been out touring in Indiana just a few weeks ago.

“Indianapolis was really cool; we played at a brewery our friend works at,” Mayer said. “Fort Wayne was really insane…it was a really good crowd. There’s a venue there called the Brass Rail we played at and the bands there we really got in touch with.”

Mayer reflects on the band’s past tours.

“We booked some East Coast tours before and sorta booked it around bigger cities like New York, and it ended up being in a few random cities where we really connected with the bands there. We’ve had really good shows in Cincinnati and we’ve had luck in Chicago recently. There’s a list of places that you wouldn’t expect to have a good scene based on population but it just happens to work out.”

Surgeons in Heat have been working on new songs since their last album came out. They play with Gringo Star at Cactus Club on July 12th.

Soulfoot Mombits are a folk rock outfit consisting of vocalist/guitarist Jessie Kipp, bassist Marshall Holm, drummer/guitarist Richard VanDerWal, and trumpeter Mike Henderson. The band is a frequent gig-er at places like Art Bar, as well as the cheel in Thiensville. They have a number of demos out on Soundcloud.

“People actually come here to listen to music,” Kipp said about Soulstice compared to other venues they have played. “A lot of times when you’re playing out sometimes it feels intrusive.”

“We have a lot of good energy and that’s why we’re a good fit for a festival like this,” VanDerWal said. “Most of the time we are playing those quieter venues and as much as we’d love to kick it up and throw that highest amount of what the Mombits can be, we also tone it back. We always have a couple folks that are our regulars and come out and they’re always telling us to bring up the vocals. The best part about these gigs is how I get to lay into the kit, Marshall throws every bit of overdrive he wants, Mike is playing to the point where his lips are sore, and Jessie gets to belt as loud as she wants. Playing these are the best.”

“That was the first time my amp was overdriving when I wasn’t intending it to and it sounded awesome,” Holm said. “I feel like we can actually get quieter in a place like this because people aren’t talking over us. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten off a gig and the house music comes on and it’s just blaring. We can’t get super quiet in a small venue because we have to stay to us to a certain level.”

“The dynamic range is so much more apparent when you’re up on one of those big stages,” Henderson said. “When you’re in your practice spot you don’t have really good gauge of how loud you can be or how quiet you can be where the audience will still hear you…but on that stage, the dynamic range is massive and you can really feel yourself.”

The band is working on recording more songs in the studio.

“We’ve been saying that for years but we are recording,” Kipp laughed.

“There’s so many hurdles though,” Henderson added. “It’s difficult with time and setting up our schedules and it doesn’t happen very often – especially with our jobs and lives.”

People often ask the band what a “mombit” is.

“We’ll tell you next time,” Kipp said.

Soulfoot Mombits are perfecting four songs to send to radio stations and have an album in the works. They play the cheel on Tuesday and the Thiensville Farmers Market on July 30th.

Listening Party is a folk rock trio made up of singer-songwriter Weston Mueller and multi-instrumentalists Joshua Hester and Jacob Wood. Their latest album “Less Is More” came out in May 2018 – the follow-up to their self-titled.

“For our little small band as a trio, it’s fun for us to get people dancing cuz that can be one of the things people struggle with cuz it’s not a full drum kit, but we still get them going and it feels really good for us,” Hester said.

“If you get ahold of four albums ago that we recorded, it’s a completely different sound,” Mueller said about Less Is More. “It had full drums, electric guitar, alotta bass, (Jacob) played organ…so we’ve evolved slowly over the years into what we are now. The evolution of our sound came at the expense of needing to keep ourselves interesting and as we started doing that, people seemed to enjoy us switching up things onstage. There’s more auxiliary percussion and harmonies and other stuff we’re trying to work in.”

Listening Party has a prolific live record and plays frequently all over the state. They have had six shows already this month and have another five.

“Our home away from home is Appleton – we get great crowds there, it’s alotta fun,” Mueller said. “We’ve been here for six years now and you can’t beat the summer here, like tonight. We’ve been looking forward all winter long to nights like this.”

“It’s not always a given that you’re gonna have a group of people that are gonna be receptive or even come out sometimes,” Wood added, referring to a show they did out in New York a couple weeks ago. “We had a great room and alotta fun.”

This New York show had been apart of Sofar Sounds.

“We played in their central office,” Mueller said. “They curate a crowd there…they make it this relaxed but attentive environment.”

Listening Party has not only a summer full of shows but has new songs in the chamber. In/around town they play the MKE Boat Line on July 6th, Enderis Park with The Hungry Williams on July 25th, the cheel in Thiensville on July 27th, City Lights Brewing Company on Aug 10th, Konkel Park in Greenfield on August 13th, and Petrifying Springs Biergarten in Kenosha on August 17th.

B~Free is Britney Freeman-Farr, a soul singer and multi-instrumentalist. She performs with a full band including three backup vocalists and her husband Quinten Farr on piano. She headlined at the West Stage – her first time doing so in her third year playing Soulstice. Her latest self-produced album “Ode 2 A Luv Affair” came out in 2016, although she collaborated with David Ravel on a remix of Michael Jackson’s “Remember The Time” last year, which is available on Bandcamp.

“I’m always getting super nervous ironically…like people always say how I’ve been doing this for a long time and don’t know how I can still possibly,” Farr said. “It was a super special show because this was the first official summer show for me and the first where I got to test out some new music. I had a lot riding on that energy-wise but I think that the more we got into it, the more fun people started having – I feel like that transferred back and forth. I had a great time and it looked like everyone did too.”

She describes what she has been working on since her last project.

“I’ve been trying to absorb all that I can because I like to really be patient with my creative process – I don’t like to rush anything because I don’t want it to sound too similar to the space I’ve already been in. (Since then) I’ve been making my way around the city and getting into a lot more venue spaces – really just trying to get my name and my face more known. I’m in a different mental space – everything I was doing before was more like “look at me, I just had this horrible thing happen to me” cuz I had vocal chord surgery…so it was really just me trying to make an actual name for myself. Now that that’s been said and done, I’m trying to hit the ground running and nothing else is holding me back anymore.”

She and her husband do a duo set at Jazz Estate.

“It’s really fun because we both play in bands so often but we’re real jazz-heads – we went to Milwaukee High School of the Arts together and we were jazz majors. It’s really cool to be able to have a stripped-down acoustic version of that, but we also do some electronic looping and fusion stuff too.”

B~Free has a busy summer ahead of her – she may or may not be headlining another major Milwaukee street festival. She is also curating a hip hop showcase in August that has yet to be announced. She has a set with her husband at the Jazz Estate on July 2nd and another at Tiefenthaler Park on August 24th.

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