ARTIST SPOTLIGHTS: Economy Superstar, Sun Silo

Bremen Cafe hosted a spectacular night of live music Thursday night featuring solo acts Economy Superstar and Gorilla Knifefight as well as the band Sun Silo.

Economy Superstar is the synthpop-spoken word project of TW Hansen. He’s known for selling his bumper stickers at shows and balances his interludes with comedy and passionate realness. He plays the tracks from his phone and sings over them.

Hansen explained, “I’ve been doing this set more or less the way you see it since 2008…half of this set premiered at The Vault in November 2008 on Center Street. In a better world I would’ve quit doing everything else and would’ve focused on my music and turned this into something greater and larger. It feels good to do something and not just be ridiculed for it.”

He doesn’t really have music out but one day it may happen.

“The craziest thing about this set is that I’ve been doing it for over ten years but still haven’t sat down in a studio environment and put vocals on the tracks. This is music that I wrote in Midi Soft Studio 4 for Windows 95 – it runs on XP! 90 percent of my work flow I’ve recreated in Logic Pro but it’s a lot of archival work, and I’m not prescribed enough Adderall to do that task. I’d like to be though.”

Hansen shares what he’s focusing on now.

“I’m working on music videos, actually. I manage a car dealership and we saved up all of our scrap value trade-ins from last summer, and then we took them up by the old Northridge Mall and we crashed them all together for Gorilla Knifefight. I shot Platinum Boys’ downtown car chase video, which remains to date my favorite thing that I’ve ever finished. But that was 2015, which is suddenly seven years ago.”

Sun Silo is comprised of vocalist/guitarist Andy Warren Jepson, bassist Taylor Campbell, keyboardist/guitarist/vocalist Kimberly Hetelle, and drummer Landon Deaton; Campbell joined in place of the original bassist when she moved last year although he recorded the band’s debut album “Paper Cuts.” Formed in 2018, the band’s art rock sound combines elements of dreamy psychedelia and prog.

As far as the band’s name, “It’s kind of abstract,” Jepson said. “We were trying to have something that was married to the way the band sounded.”

“It kind of has to do with the imagery of what you see around Wisconsin, like farms and sunsets,” Hetelle added.

“Long country drives and noticing decrepit farms…like, that’s our home,” Jepson continued. “I think that those landscapes and visuals are a huge part of how we grew up and we wanted to touch on that.”

The band’s sophomore album “Trillium” was released in May. Original bassist Alyssia Wakefield played on the record.

Jepson explained about the songwriting, “I’ll write a song and send it to the group, and every member will add themselves in and write their own parts into it. That was the way it kind of grew, so there’s like a nucleus or skeleton that each member has the freedom to interpret and work on until it comes to full fruition. Both albums we’ve recorded live but for “Trillium” we really leaned into overdubs, like adding an extra melody or an extra harmony. “Diana” had over a hundred tracks; it’s a ten-minute long song and honestly when we were working on it, we didn’t have a defined amount of time for it to find itself. We let the idea be king and let that direct every choice we make. We also recorded “Trillium” entirely at home.”

Deaton added, “Honestly, more than any other artists I know or talk to, Andy and Taylor make things by hand every day. I know all kinds of artists and they’re not always making things, but it would be weird if I called Andy asking him what he’d be up to this weekend and he didn’t say that he’s making a sculpture or something. There’s always something being made, and with the album it’s literally 100 percent on their shoulders; we didn’t go to anybody for help with recording, mixing, mastering, or releasing. That’s a very defining characteristic of “Trillium”; the songs wouldn’t be as full as they are if they weren’t completely handcrafted by people who engage with making things all the time, and that goes for the artwork and music videos too. There’s a good sense of pride out of this; we like how it sounds, and it was recording in a living room. Andy shot the cover photo in his garage, which is also his art studio where he made the set for our music video. His living room is also the cover for our single “Rung”, and I love that choice.”

On his lyrics, Jepson said, “I grew up loving creative writing. I always gravitated towards English classes; I wasn’t very good at a lot in school but English I tested well in. After high school I got really inspired by the Beat Generation of poets and free verse poetry; I thought breaking down meter and writing by train of thought was beautiful. I also got really into Dadaism and using cutups like how William Burroughs touched on. I met people who would read their poetry in schools, and then I started doing that, which is where I started drawing parallels between lyrics and poetry. I welcome free association and steam-of-consciousness connections, and I see where they take me. What’s funny is as I do that, I notice themes…like the track “Someday” has a theme in it about human trafficking and different types of suffering, and omnisciently if you were to elevate yourself for one moment and notice that down the street someone’s cleaning their sink while two doors down something really tragic is happening. I try to make connections like that in the songs.”

The band’s new music video for “Kit Knox” was made by Deaton with stop motion animation using nearly 3,000 photos. He explained, “Me and Andy built the set, and I bought the figure and costumed it. We put a lot of effort into pre-planning it, and then once it was time for me to actually take my DSLR camera and film, I ran into all kinds of unexpected issues. The video turned out okay but I ended up basically making it three times. The final video is 2,885 photos but I deleted over 9,000 to get it made. I’d often animate a sequence that would take me like an hour, and then I’d watch the footage back and go “oh God, I messed up” and I’d have to fix it. Generally with any kind of professional animation, you know what you’re doing before you take that first picture, so the video was a huge learning process for me; I thought I’d understood a lot more about it than I really did. And you can see that in the video; in the first ten seconds you’ll notice that it’s lower quality than the last thirty seconds. It took me six weeks, so I’d go to my job for eight hours and then come home; my job is photography, so I’d be shooting pictures all day and then shoot a thousand more photos. It was a pretty overwhelming experience but I’m pretty happy with how it turned out.”

Sun Silo are already working on new material and hope to press their next release to vinyl. They play America’s Rock N Roll Circus festival in Kenosha on August 20th and then have two shows in one day in West Bend on August 25th.

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