Artist Spotlight: Yipes!

Hallmark power pop band Yipes! played Shank Hall Friday night to a crowd of devoted fans. It had been their first night of tour, which will be eight shows total.

Yipes! consists of vocalist/guitarist Pat McCurdy, guitarists Mike Hoffman and Andy Bartel, bassist Pete Strand, and drummer Teddy Freese. The band formed in 1977 and saw success touring the Midwest, playing as many as four sets a night, six nights a week. They earned a record contract with RCA/Millennium Records and released two albums before disbanding in 1981. They since re-formed in 2013 and have been playing out Midwest tours since, along with a new record “Yipes!!!” released last December.

McCurdy discusses their tours.

“When we started out, two of our great towns were when we played at a place in Green Bay that’s now a strip club, and we just had the best following there…we also played a little dump in La Crosse that you could probably fit fifty people in, and every one of their ears had to be completely gone by the time we were done – we were twice as loud when we were twenty years old. We’re going to La Crosse this time; maybe some of those people still exist…who knows.”

McCurdy says the new record consists of songs he had written decades ago but also ones from much more recent.

“I do a solo act, so some of them were part of that, and some were written specifically for the album. One of the songs is from 1988, and I had that sitting there thinking I couldn’t play it solo because there’s too many guitar parts, so I thought I’d bring it to these guys. The songs I wrote are not as goofy or youthful as the old times, but they still have some humor and are still just as rockin’. I don’t want to be one of those guys reflecting on getting old – that is not interesting to me at all. Great songwriters didn’t write about how old they’re getting or how wise they are – like Paul McCartney doesn’t do that. They actually craft songs, and that’s what I try to do…you know, with verses, choruses, and hooks.”

He speaks on how playing out music back in the late 70s-early 80s is different from playing out now.

“We could play everywhere and make our mistakes in little ho-dunk towns. We would drive up to places thinking “who’s gonna come to this?” but tons of places had bands. Eighteen-year-olds could drink.”

“That’s a huge thing,” Strand said about the drinking age. “Every town – no matter how big or small it was – had at least one bar that had live music on Friday and one bar that had live music on Saturday. We were playing Tuesday through Saturday.”

“We would go to Minneapolis and play Sunday-Monday-Tuesday,” McCurdy added. “They would have bands every single night. We finally got popular enough where we got Thursday-Friday-Saturday – it was pretty cool. Here in Milwaukee we had a giant rock bar called The Palms – 26th and State. Everybody played there…Ramones, The Police, U2, Elvis Costello, Talking Heads…it was an amazing place. That’s the kind of place where once they knew us, we could hang out there.”

“The other thing was how we would do four fifty- or forty-five minute sets five nights a week,” Strand said. “You either get good, or you get burned out. We just had such a good time doing it and just kept going.”

“There were so many places to go out and make mistakes,” McCurdy said. “Some of the bands now are rehearsing for a year and then do their one gig. That wasn’t our approach at all; we rehearsed for three weeks and then go out and make a little money. We were tight and rough.”

“Music has a different place in pop culture now than it did,” Strand added. “We grew up in the 60s listening to British Invasion, and pop music was the center of the counter-culture. You got your news from the music, you’d have every fashion cue, you’d have sorority girls going out Wednesday night to see a live band…you don’t have all that anymore. Pop culture has moved over.”

Yipes are hitting Chicago, Appleton, Cedarburg, Middleton, Green Bay, La Crosse, and Minneapolis on this tour. Freese lives in Italy and Bartel is in Pittsburgh, so logistics come into play with what they will do next.

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