Artist Spotlight: Orange Drink, Peshtigo

Peshtigo.

Alternative pop outfits Orange Drink and Peshtigo played dance-able sets at Bay View joint Puddler’s Hall Friday night, drawing a solid crowd of friends and beer pitchers.

Orange Drink is the one-man band of Drew Prusko. He is originally from Virginia but has lived in Milwaukee since 2013. His shows are a unique spectacle involving flavors of music ranging from electronic to hip hop to rock to dance-pop, along with plenty of crowd interaction and his own robotic dance moves.

Prusko explains where “Orange Drink” came from.

“I’ve been doing music since I was a very little kid…I think around maybe age ten or twelve I came up with the name…probably just because it’s a thing kids like, and then over the years I thought I might change the name, but I realized if I changed it I’d be doing something “cool” or “trendy” so I just stuck with it. Now I really like it because it reminds me of just being twelve years old making a lot of noise and just having fun; social media didn’t exist back then so I wasn’t worrying about followers or getting paid or my image. I was in my room having a ton of feelings and I tried being as creative as possible. Whenever someone asks me about the name, in my mind I can just see my bedroom and the little guitar I had and my tape recorder. One of the songs I performed tonight, “I Stopped Caring Years Ago,” has cassette recordings from when I was thirteen.”

Prusko describes his live process.

“For the show I have my session recording where I did the drums, bass, guitar, and backing vocals, but I’ll remove some of the lead vocals and keep the backing because I try to harmonize myself on stage. Sometimes I run out of so much breath that I can’t sing so I’ll strategically put vocals in for a place where I’m gonna dance or about to pass out, and I’ll have the recording do the chorus. I only know this from shows where I’ve had to bail on a verse (laughs).”

He dropped his new album “This Is Orange Drink” in November.

“I participate in a website called Weekly Beats…I learned about it in 2016 and it’s a website where different musicians sign up and it’s a personal challenge where you have to write and complete a song every week for a whole year. It doesn’t have to be that you wrote it that week but it has to be finished that week, so if you have an old song you never completed mixing, you can finish it. There’s no money or penalty; it’s just a personal challenge. I’m very good at coming up with ideas but I’m very bad at finishing songs. As a one-man band, setting up microphones to play drums is the most annoying thing because you sit down and have to press record, then you go over to the drums and have to keep moving the microphone back and forth. Weekly Beats really taught me about getting into the discipline of making music. I used to think I needed motivation to write a song, but I have mood disorders and I freak out and get upset all the time….so if I’m waiting to feel good to finish a song, that’s never gonna happen. So I learned from Weekly Beats that all these musicians go through the same thing, and I found out I needed discipline rather than motivation…I don’t have to like the song and don’t have to put it on an album. So a lot of stuff on “This Is Orange Drink” comes from the disciplinary process of having to write and finish songs in one week. I like to do multiple genres of music and have all these grand ideas of an electronic album, a dance album, a rap album, a punk album…I’ve been piling all these songs but I was going and playing shows and people would ask if songs were on albums and I’d say “it’s gonna come out in like two years”…and that is not something you wanna say to a prospective fan. My friend Wave Segal – who is associate producer of the album – I gave a bunch of my songs, and he’s an incredible DJ and makes mixes with a real wide variety of genres. So instead of waiting for all these albums to come out, this album is like a greatest hits album for all the albums that haven’t come out yet. I wanted to make an album where if you never saw me again but had that CD, you’d pretty much know everything you need to know about me in terms of who I am as a person, what I care about, what my ideas are, and what type of music I’m passionate about. It’s super personal lyrically…I started as an upset kid with an acoustic guitar in a bedroom…music was my safe space and was a place to explore my feelings before I could talk about them. A lot of themes are about what I experience and deal with…the album title is like “this is really me,” and the main mission statements are honesty, creativity, and fun. If I don’t have all of those, it’s not worth my time.”

He speaks about his identity as a queer artist.

“My experience as a queer person was super isolated…I didn’t grow up with a queer community and know for a lot of people like myself when you listen to an album and find out the drummer’s gay, you’re like “oh my gosh! I didn’t know gay artists existed!” so that’s why even more so now I’ve become confident and comfortable and accepting of who I am as a person, and I want to pass that forward.”

Orange Drink is flirting with the idea of adding a band member and plans to do more music videos in 2020.

Peshtigo is a dream pop trio consisting of vocalist/keyboardist Evan Pilak, guitarist Matt Davis, and electric drummer Luke Annear. The band delivers 80’s-inspired textures and melodies that shimmer under Pilak’s pillowed voice and have been a project for about a decade. They are named after a river up north.

“Matt and I met in college,” Pilak said. “We would mess around with him playing guitar and I’d write really bad rap songs…after a while we realized we could really do something with it. I would watch the TV show Miami Vice growing up and I thought the soundtracks were just fantastic and the visuals were amazing. I’d watch John Hughes movies and loved those soundtracks too.”

“We brought in Luke around the beginning of 2018,” Davis added. “Since then we’ve had more steady shows, especially around Bay View now.”

The band has three singles on streaming services – “Hang Tough,” “Your Eyes Look Like the Stars,” and “Have You Seen My Girl? (Instrumental).” They plan to have more material out in the year to come.

“We landed on Spotify for the first time last April,” Pilak explained. “We’re kind of just slowly getting singles out. A lot of the stuff you heard tonight is probably at least eight years old. I made this goal for 2020 to release twenty songs…I have like forty to sixty demos and still tweaking them…but the year is very young (laughs). For a while I wanted to do a concept album…you’ll notice toward the end of our set a lot of the songs flow more as one song, but I kind of like just writing singles too.”

Peshtigo play Bremen Cafe on January 25th.

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