Artist Spotlight: Telechrome, Credentials, Suffer Head, IfIHadAHiFi
It was a noisy art-punk night at Company Brewing Saturday night, as bands Telechrome, Credentials, Suffer Head, and IfIHadAHiFi each played their loud, abrasive flavor of rock music. Distorted guitars, chomping melodies,, frequent tempo changes, and empowered female vocals filled the air.
Telechrome is a Madison-based krautrock duo consisting of Ken Tarek Sabbar and Terrance Barrett. Recently formed, the band uses looped synths and dissonant guitar work that hearken to some of the most experimental sonic territory of the 1970’s.
“We go back almost ten years,” Barrett said about the duo’s formation. “We met in Kenosha; I auditioned for a band called Dawn of Man that Ken was in, so we’ve been playing music in various projects for awhile. Heat Death was another. Ken moved to Madison recently so we had a lot more time to play together…we both started getting bored and started jamming with something with a really different energy that anything we’ve done before. We listened to a ton of BEAK and got into this headspace of synths and minimalism – attracting the core of a groove and seeing how long we can flow with one pattern.”
Tarek Sabbar explains how this project is different than his solo work.
“I don’t play guitar in my solo work at all and I don’t do that much vocals. Solo work has always been no collaboration – obviously because it’s solo – but this is more rigidly-structured because there’s lyrics to work with.”
He has lived in Madison for about a year and a half now.
“Madison is the kind of place where you were either born there or end up there,” Barrett said. “It’s a good home base. There’s good people everywhere.”
Telechrome has yet to record and release anything, but it is in the works.
“We’ve been playing shows to kind of feel out exactly what the band sounds like – part of that is trial by fire and seeing what really fits what we’re doing,” Tarek Sabbar said.
“Sometimes you live on borrowed time,” Barrett added. “Sure, we rehearse and you live your life, but the live shows become like live rehearsal space where you have this idea like “okay, now we’re up against the motherfuckers” and the line gets drawn in the sand. It makes you focus and really pay attention to what works and what doesn’t – you’re not in your comfort zone.”
Telechrome plays Willy Street Fair in Madison on the 14th and plays Art In also in Madison on the 28th. Then they hope to get into the studio.
Credentials is an art-punk band consisting of vocalist Cat Ries, guitarist Joshua Backes, bassist Peter Woods, and drummer James David. They have been a band for about eighteen months now and have a demo out on Bandcamp.
“When we formed it was like a once a month practice,” Ries said. “That’s still kind of how it is, or like once every couple weeks. It’s been a little slower to play shows just because it’s taken longer to write songs that way, but it’s worked out really well. Before we started practicing, Peter and I were talking about starting a project together – I had a dream he and I were in a church and we did some weird experimental music together.”
Ries is about seven months pregnant; she explains how it affects her stage presence.
“Being pregnant, my bedtime is like 9PM,” Ries said. “I’m like “wow I’m out late”…which is funny because that was my lifestyle for such a long time and I’m spending the last year of my twenties being pregnant. I have to be more conservative with the energy I put out because so much of it is going to growing a baby. I have to very intentional about my movements and my breathing, because this band is a lot of really loud singing. It felt good because of that though – slowing down and feeling powerful.”
She goes on to explain the chemistry between band members.
“I don’t consider myself a technical musician, but they all are, so it’s a really healthy challenge to myself to write to songs that have such wild time signatures and are really experimental. I first tried to approach it by paying attention to the time signatures and was like “I can’t do it…my brain doesn’t work like that” but then I started just feeling into it…it’s about the feeling.”
Credentials have plans to record in November – a month before Ries’ due date. They play Company Brewing again on October 12th.
Suffer Head is a noisy no-wave band fronted by vocalist Anna Newton. Taylor Campbell plays guitar, Casey Harris plays bass, and Matt Lind drums. They dropped two singles “Where Did You Put My Drugs” and “Rapist Drummer” in 2018, and had a debut EP “Tedious and Brief” the year before.
“We have an album to record,” Newton said. “We’ll start doing that pretty soon. We’ve all had crazy lives…Taylor has a million projects he’s been working on. We played a lot of new material tonight and I’m really happy with it.”
The band has been on mini-tours, but hope to do a more large-scale tour soon. Newton also explains the band’s formation.
“We’ve been to Carbondale and Iowa…that kind of thing. We’ll do another Midwest tour, but after we record our album. I moved to Milwaukee from Boston after Trump got elected and I went to some demonstrations and wanted to be really politically active. I realized also that I need to live my dreams right now because the world could end at any moment. I had to say what I need to say and needed to join a band here. I found these guys on Craigslist; they wanted a female singer and wanted to play dark psychedelic improvisational music…I was like “of course!” so we just met and instantly clicked.”
Newton talks about what she is writing her songs about.
“Right now it’s a lot of issues of empowerment…social justice across the board. Everybody has to find their voice, and I’ve been able to play a lot of shows where women and femmes will come up to me and tell me they feel empowered. We first started playing and it was all men in the audience and all men in the bands, but now there’s a ton of women we get play with. There weren’t as many women in the music scene in Boston, and so I found a lot of encouragement here in Milwaukee.”
Suffer Head plays Bremen Cafe on December 4th.
IfIHadAHiFi is a noise rock band that formed in Milwaukee in 2000. The band is vocalist/guitarist Chris Van Gompel, drummer/vocalist DJ Hostettler, bassist/synth-er/vocalist Josh Davis, and guitarist/synth-er Michael Marchant. Their new album “We’re Never Going Home” came out this past May – their first in seven years.
“I had a blood clot, so I was not able to do as crazy energy as I normally can,” Van Gompel said. “I was told not to jump around by a professional surgeon – and no shouting. But I’m on the mend.”
Davis explains the recording process for their new album.
“It took a couple months…we started with one long weekend and did some overdubs. We really took our time mixing this one. It took a long time to write though…we always take a long time to write…we write like three records for every record we finish. We take our time with lyrics…first we get the song down then work on the lyrics. We can have a whole song and say “the back half of this fucking sucks” and drop it and write a whole new second half. We had a song that was legit done that we played on WMSE that did not make it to the record.”
“It was a lot of stops and starts,” Van Gompel added. “We’ve been a band for twenty years, and you don’t stay a band twenty years without taking some time off now and then. There’s a lot of fighting…we fight about a lot of things…like what songs go on the record.”
They share how they feel the music scene is different than when the band first formed.
“We’re not from Milwaukee originally,” Van Gompel added. “We’re originally from Green Bay…as a matter of fact, a lot of the bands around now are originally Green Bay people.”
“There was kind of a mass exodus from Green Bay where they basically shut down all-ages shows and everybody moved to Milwaukee,” Davis said. “We got banned from Milwaukee at one point and then we had to move here.”
“It’s way less clique-y now,” Hostettler said. “Back then friend groups stuck to each other and it was really hard for us to inter-mingle, and us coming from out of town it was even harder.”
The band had been on hiatus for about three years prior.
“We really did need to take a break,” Davis said. “We had just gotten off a tour and if we hadn’t taken a break we probably would’ve broken up. We rested and continued to write songs for awhile. We got kicked out of two practice spaces, and that really sapped the motivation for awhile…but then DJ got married, and we were all sitting at the head table and were like “so, can we practice?” and kept doing this.”
IfIHadAHiFi is talking about doing a live album next – they are coming up on their twenty-year anniversary in April. They play Bremen Cafe on November 6th.