ARTIST SPOTLIGHTS: Ethan Keller, The Breadmen

Chill on the Hill brought out acts The Breadmen and Ethan Keller this week.

The Breadmen are a jazz group that began during quarantine consisting of bandleader and trumpeter Brett Westfahl, guitarist Chris Newlin, bassist Peyton Lencho, drummer Paul Westfahl, saxophonist Nolan Thomas and keyboardist Dave Brady. Westfahl explains, “I decided that with all the down-time it was a good opportunity to start a new group. I had some stuff that had been sitting in my hard drive for years and years so I felt it was time to play some of that out. The name comes from siblings of mine who never pronounced my name correctly when we were young; they called me “Bread” (laughs).”

Given the period they formed in, The Breadmen began with virtual shows, their first being one with Riverwest Records. Their style is a homage to UK-based fusion jazz from the 70s and early 80s.

Westfahl shares a bit about an album that they’re working on. “A lot of the tunes you heard today are going to be on it. I’ll get to the bread pun titles later when I finish tracking (laughs). Hopefully it’ll be out by the end of this year; if not, early next year. I do have plans with a few other groups too.”

The Breadmen play Cafe Centraal this Thursday at 8PM and The Jazz Estate on October 22nd.

Ethan Keller is a singer-songwriter who’s been playing shows for over 25 years and has performed in over 30 states. His eclectic style blends rock, funk, blues, folk, jazz and more. He’s currently playing with guitarist Nathan Pflughoeft, bassist George Ballesteros, drummer John Toth, trombonist Russell Rossetto, and saxophonist Jason Goldsmith.

“We kind of duplicated our Summerfest set tonight,” Keller said. “Then we played one extra song, a James Brown cover – “The Boss.” My stuff can be both sad and happy; I like to do funky stuff but it can get more downtempo-funky and groovy. It’s supposed to be a mellow rock-jazz band with some blues…some funk…some Americana…and some R&B all mixed in. People ask me what the genre is and I tell them “I don’t know, you tell me” (laughs).”

His latest single “Weather Girl” dropped about a month ago. Keller said about it, “That one’s more punk-alternative-grunge; I’m kind of a child of the Seattle scene of the 90s so I love Pearl Jam and Nirvana and bands like that. “Weather Girl” is like my teen angst throwback; it’s an angry breakup song. I’ve been getting some funny compliments about the lyrics (laughs).”

Since his last record, 2017’s “Carried Away”, Keller’s got lots of new material despite tragedy that struck a few years back. “I’ve been working on singles here and there. My hard drive died on me in 2019 and I lost not just everything that I was working on but all the sessions from all my previous albums too. So now I’ve got almost no sessions of any music I’ve recorded and I feel like I’ve had to start over from scratch. I’ve been recording this big library of tunes and I’m planning on putting out a double album that’ll have 22-24 songs on it. I was hoping to have it done this fall but I don’t think that’s going to happen; vinyl manufacturing takes like six months, which I want to do because I’ve never done it before.”

He’s also leading a Steely Dan tribute band. “They’ve been my favorite band since I was eighteen,” Keller said. “I’ve been trying to do the tribute act for like twenty years and I’ve finally got it going on. We had our debut show at Company Brewing and 150 people came out and boogied; it was really cool.”

Ethan Keller plays Picnic at the Park in Kenosha this Saturday, The Baaree in Thiensville on September 2th, and Forager Fest up in Rochester, Minnesota on September 10th. The Steely Dan tribute plays Company Brewing on September 23rd.

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