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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Wednesday, April 23, 2014

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In Music

Say happy birthday to Milwaukee's The Saltshakers. (PHOTO: Tom Julio)

The Saltshakers turn 10 and celebrate with a string of singles


It's been 9 1/2 years since we first profiled Milwaukee band The Saltshakers and, like you, we've watched the quartet grow into one of the best power pop purveyors of hook-laden, guitar-fueled rock and roll in town.

The band – fronted by Chad Curtis and also including drummer Jon Strelecki, bassist Jamie Owart and guitarist/keyboardist Chris Holoyda – has released two EPs and two full-lengths during its tenure, but now, as it prepares to celebrate its 10th anniversary, the group is launching a series of CD singles.

The first, which matches the woozy-Moog of "Halley" with "Amplified" and "Mystery Girls" – think part Fountains of Wayne, part Teenage Fanclub – is out now and can be had free with admission to The Saltshakers' 10th anniversary bash Saturday, Dec. 1 at The BBC. Also on the bill are The Delta Routine and Icarus Down.

We asked Curtis about the CD singles and the motivation behind them ...

OnMilwaukee.com: "The Singles Collection Disc 1"?! What's that all about? Is it a means to celebrate the 10th anniversary?

Chad Curtis: We're going to be releasing limited edition singles from this point forward. Three songs will be on each disc. There will be a limited pressing of 200 CDs per release, and once they're gone they'll only be available via digital download.

We're giving a copy away with each admission to the Dec. 1 release party, so they won't last long. The second single in the collection will be released in spring of 2013.

OMC: Is it an expensive proposition for a band to release a series of three-song CDs rather than one full-length or a series of download-only singles?

CC: It's definitely not as cost-effective to do the singles thing, but if we were doing this thing to make money we would become a cover band. We discussed doing iTunes-only, but I just love having a physical copy of a CD. I love opening it up, smelling it – is that strange? – and looking at the liner notes and packaging. I know some people just want the mp3s, but I like that whole "CD experience." Hopefully other people still feel that way, too.

OMC: What are the upsides?

CC: Part of me thinks our ADD-stricken society would prefer singles to albums because they are easier to absorb quickly, so in that way we're just adapting to the current state of the music industry.

Because a lot of people think they are entitled to all music for free, selling albums can be tough nowadays, so I'd rather just press a limited amount of discs and make sure the people that really want them can get a copy.

An upside is that we will be releasing new material more frequently, which I hope will make our friends and fans happy. Our last album came out in 2009 – and I can guarantee that it won't take three years for the next single to be released.

OMC: Does it give you more time to focus on fewer songs?

CC: As a songwriter, I no longer feel the pressure to write 10 good songs over a short period of time. I guess it's a "quality over quantity" approach that I'm trying to take from now on.

I remember feeling creatively exhausted after we'd finish each full-length, and both times I thought I was out of ideas and would never be able to write another good song again. I like taking it one-song-at-a-time now. I'm finding songwriting more fun with this approach.

OMC: Tell us a bit about the songs on the new disc.

CC: "Amplified" is a favorite among our friends – and because we were new musicians when we initially recorded it, l've always felt it deserved a better recording. When it was time to record this past summer, I had already been thinking about the 10-year anniversary CD release show, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to put an old favorite on the tracklisting.

"Mystery Girls" ended up being a favorite of mine. It's named after one of my favorite live bands that I used to go see when I first turned 21. I would see them at Cactus Club and I remember being really inspired by the authentic energy they displayed.

I had written "Halley" as a guitar-pop song, but it eventually evolved into a more synthy version after our new lead guitarist Chris began bringing his Moog (synthesizer) to band practice. It could be about a girl or a comet – nobody knows.

OMC: I thought the phrase, "Lately, all I see are constellations," under the tray was interesting, especially since, arguably, a single is more a star than a constellation. What's it all mean?

CC: I never even thought about it that way, actually! Stars make up constellations like singles make up albums – Katy Perry albums at least – so I guess I would like to see this new way that we're releasing our music help each song to "shine" a little brighter. Is that a cheesy enough way to end this interview?


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