Artist Spotlight: Axehandle Hound, Funk Summit Bass Team

Funk Summit Bass Team.

Funk night occurred at Company Brewing Saturday night, drawing folks out eager to get their groove on. Funk bands Axehandle Hound, Modern Joey, and Funk Summit Bass Team all played spectacular sets adding up to what easily became one of the most dance-able evenings of the year.

Axehandle Hound consists of vocalist/guitarist Jesse Cerar, lead guitarist Dan Kimpel, bassist Ian Schmidbauer, and drummer Todd Schmidt. The boys have been a band for about a year and a half. This year they played after-parties for both Widespread Panic and King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard at Fire on Water.

“We’ve known each other and have been playing for awhile,” Cerar said. “I was in a band with Ian before. We had a different drummer – Frank Martinez of The Young Revelators – but because of scheduling conflicts we got Todd.”

Cerar explains the band’s name.

“It’s actually a Midwest folklore creature from the north woods of Minnesota and northern Wisconsin…it’s kind of like a chupacabra. The loggers would come back and find their axes all chewed up, and called it an “axehandle hound.” They’d see a beast with a head the shape of an axe and the body was the shape of the axehandle.”

The band plans to record soon.

“We’re working on something now – on the 12th of December we’re going in to record at MATC for free. We’re gonna do a song there, and then Dan has a full recording studio at his house. We’ve actually taken a sabbatical from shows…we have one more show at The Gig and then one at Mad Planet and then we’re taking another sabbatical to record more.”

Axehandle Hound plan to have a record out and more artwork done in 2020.

Funk Summit Bass Team is a massive collective of artists – lead vocalist Robby McGhee, backing vocalist Elora Maloney, backing vocalist Hayley San Fillippo, backing vocalist Ernesto Belafonte, guitarist Peter Alt, bassist Carter Manley, drummer Mike Ekvall, tenor saxophonist Nolan Thomas, baritone saxophonist Julia Bustle, trumpeter Brett Westphal, and trumpeter Andy Brinza. The band recently celebrated their fourth year as a project and performed at 88Nine Radio Milwaukee on Thursday, making it an especially exciting time for them.

“I’m feeling awesome,” McGhee said post-show. “We’ve had a great week and a successful time gathering with these others creating original music for the last four years. To be invited onto 88Nine has been a real honor, and we just had a killer set. I couldn’t be happier.”

Most of the band’s eleven members have been there from the start.

“Almost all of us,” McGhee said. “There’s been some minor change-over and it’s hard to lose any member of any band because you invest so much into the music, and with that you’re also investing into the relationships. Anytime anybody has to go it is so sad, but people move or have a new job or can’t make the time. Every step that we’ve made has been a step forward and upward, though. The four horn members went to UWM together and that’s how they met, and the rest of us all met pretty much through theater aside from Mike, our drummer.”

McGhee explains what the band is working on now.

“Right now we’re working on a song called “Hangin’ On” and it’s a song I’ve wanted to write because I’ve always wanted to do a happy-sounding sad song. I grew up listening to a lot of folk music, so I really like sad songs and I like it when they are pretty and you can tap your foot to it. Even though I never ever saw myself as a funk singer, that’s the type of feeling I want to have. I want people to feel okay with how they’re feeling, but also dance. We’re in the studio now; there are a lot of us in this band and so schedules are hard.”

He talks about fitting everyone on the stage.

“Our first show was at Fire on Water and we thought that stage was small…but then we got asked to do a show at Nomad on Brady Street and that is a tiny triangle, but we managed – it was a Christmas show and there were a lot of people there because people were home in Milwaukee for the holidays – we fit everyone on but I had no room to dance so when we were on a stage like Locust Street Festival I was able to dance and I didn’t know what to do with myself…I didn’t have to worry about knocking out a trumpet player (laughs).”

McGhee was wearing a custom shirt with their drummer Mike’s face all over it.

“I was at home and I saw this advertisement on some stupid social media thing and it was so annoying…it kept appearing and I was like “you know what? It’s twenty dollars” and it was a tee shirt where you could put anybody’s face over and over again on the shirt. Mike and I have grown really close over the last four years and we have nothing in common. On paper, we aren’t friends, but for some reason I just really connect with him and I truly believe that no one drums as well as he does because he manages to somehow stay consistent while also listening, and that is very hard in that role – if you’re doing funk or jazz it’s all about collaboration and listening and to do what he’s doing is so essential to our band and I don’t want him to get forgotten just because I’m blocking him in the view of the audience when I’m center stage.”

Funk Summit Bass Team does not have any more shows booked after Saturday – they are focusing on writing and recording.

“We have a mighty following of really passionate fans, and they are gonna be floored by the amount of new material coming out. It’s gonna pull people to the dance floor.”

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