Artist Spotlight: The Midnight Purchase, Jennifer Andrea & the Drive Down

Jennifer Andrea & the Drive Down.

Two relatively-new projects played at Bremen Cafe Sunday night – The Midnight Purchase and Jennifer Andrea & the Drive Down. Folks braved the cold – as well as the Packers loss – and made it out for a fun and intimate evening of local music.

The Midnight Purchase is an Americana-folk band fronted by guitarist/vocalist Orlando Pena. Also in the project are backing vocalist/guitarist Sarah Day-Winters, fiddler Nikolai Gurda, keyboardist Derek Peterson, bassist Jimmy Richardson, and drummer Steve Luna (Sunday night had been a stripped-down set without Richardson or Luna). The project formed after Pena moved back to Milwaukee from Illinois and will be one year old in March.

“Our first gig was an NPR radio session in Illinois that I had already booked for my solo stuff,” Pena said. “I had stuff already booked when I came back (to Milwaukee), and I knew I needed a band right away. The bass player and drummer – who weren’t here tonight – we were in a band together when I lived right down the street on Locust and Fratney for years – I got my chops at Linneman’s open mic every Wednesday. We were in a band and we were really bad…I had just started playing guitar. We’d play Up & Under, Art Bar, Bremen a bunch of times…Bremen was actually one of the gigs I had booked already when I came back, and I just kind of linked up with the drummer and bassist right away. We went to Craigslist and we found our fiddle player and piano player, and we added our other vocalist Sarah about a month ago…she’s such a good songwriter.”

They have a four-song EP titled “The National Sessions” out on streaming services, released last June.

“We practice on National, at our drummer’s house…he lives over by West Allis. I found this place on Craigslist when I was looking for musicians – it was a studio that does analog recording, all to tape, and I thought it’d work to our favor with our roots-y vibe. We linked up with the guy, Daniel Zelonky, and he mixed, mastered, and engineered everything. We put up four songs in five hours.”

Pena discusses what the band is up to now, as well as what he has been writing songs about.

“We’re working on getting Sarah on the guitar more so I can go to electric guitar. I like a lot of pedal work and stuff like that and I want to make our sound more dynamic, more big. We have six people so we can definitely be doing a lot more. I also play mandolin and banjo, so as soon as I can get her on guitar, I can free myself up to do other stuff. We’re just getting tighter, little by little. A lot of what people are listening to now is the stuff I was writing last year when I left Illinois…it was about how not much is going on out there, and that people should be single in life. I have a line in one song that goes like “caged birds don’t sing as sweet as their brothers in the trees” and it’s about how people shouldn’t be held back, living in a small town and attaching yourself to someone…I did while I was down there for a long time, and so that’s a big arcing story of what people are hearing right now. The stuff we’re working on now is about coming back and rebuilding, through the strength of friends.”

The Midnight Purchase are recording new material. They play Twisted Path Distillery on February 21st and Boone & Crockett on March 28th.

Jennifer Andrea & the Drive Down is a pop rock band (obviously) fronted by singer-songwriter Jennifer Andrea, who had enjoyed a solo career long before she formed this project about four months ago. Playing with her are guitarist Ben Koshick, trumpeter/vocalist/keyboardist Mike Henderson, bassist Lo Lee, and drummer Greg Wroblewski. In addition to Andrea’s originals, they play an extensive selection of covers that range from hard rock to ska to contemporary pop. Andrea enjoys turning their shows into dance parties, and will go out into the crowd doing so.

“I was trying to start something with the bass player’s guitarist (he was in Love Lies Bleeding) and then Lo wanted to hop on board…that guitarist actually found Greg, our drummer. I was auditioning all kinds of bands including Orlando’s band, The Midnight Purchase, but I just wanted so much of the cake. I ended up meeting our guitarist Ben the same way…I auditioned for his band too…they still don’t have a name but they play kick-ass music, but they wanted a guy singer. I called Ben up and he filled in for a show, and then he just kept showing up.”

Andrea explains why she took a break from music for a while.

“When I first started I was in a hard rock band, kind of like Evanescence. Then I had kids, and I’m a full-time teacher on the south side. I tried to come back as a solo artist but I need that energy with guys behind me…I just wasn’t motivated. I want my ears ringing a little after. These guys are just the best…I love them.”

The band chooses their covers based on however they can incorporate trumpet.

“Mike playing an awesome trumpet, we wanna make sure we utilize that to the fullest. I initially also brought Mike on when I was guesting him; he was only supposed to be there one night, since I had songs I had recorded as a solo artist that had trumpet, and he just stuck around…he just started playing synths two months ago. We plan on having more original content out; I play a lot of ballad-y stuff, but we love having a dance party too. We’re like a hybrid…I don’t know how the scene is ready to receive something like that, but we like to do a twist.”

They have recorded some stuff and are gearing up to put it out.

“We’re just about to release “Superhuman,” which is a song I wrote thinking about the people in my life that have just helped me be back in the scene and do what I’m doing. Coming back was a hard thing, but I wasn’t me without it. Plus we have a rock ballad – I’m always gonna be writing those rock ballads.”

Jennifer Andrea & the Drive Down are working toward getting radio play and music videos done this year. They play Pauley’s Pub on the 27th and Up & Under on February 7th.

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