Call Me Milwaukee: 7 bands with the word “Milwaukee” in their names
A name can tell you everything or nothing about a band. It can be fraught with meaning and highly descriptive (The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, Cannibal Corpse), or simply a random word not worth pondering. (Baths, anyone?) But when a band invokes the name of our fair city, we at The A.V. Club tend to stand up and take notice. Is the group hoping to cultivate a hard-working, beer-soaked image? Just trying to make a lousy pun? To answer these pressing questions, we plumbed the murky depths of our music collections, and sifted through countless moldy MySpace pages to find seven bands that trade on our city’s good name.
What Made Milwaukee Famous
The band: Probably the most, er, famous band on the list, What Made Milwaukee Famous hails from Austin, Texas. The band’s upbeat, easy-to-swallow brand of indie rock has led to countless high-profile gigs—including an appearance on Austin City Limits—as well as a record deal with Barsuk Records. It hasn’t released an album since 2008’s What Doesn’t Kill Us, though the group still plays regularly in the Austin area.
Why “Milwaukee”? A reference to a reference. The band’s moniker is a nod to the Jerry Lee Lewis song “What’s Made Milwaukee Famous (Has Made A Loser Out Of Me),” which was itself a nod to an early slogan for Schlitz beer.
The Beast Of Milwaukee
The band: The Beast Of Milwaukee is a hardcore/thrash band from Pueblo, Colorado that formed in 2008. Though its music seems to fall well within the narrow confines of a specific genre, the group makes clear on its MySpace page that labels are for chumps, man. In the “Bio” section, the band lays claim to influences ranging from “BLAST BEATS TO FUCKING GAY POTATO DANCING EMO SHIT.”
Why “Milwaukee”? Beer again. The band’s name pays tribute to “Milwaukee’s Beast,” a common nickname for that tastiest of Miller beers, Milwaukee’s Best. It may not be the most highly regarded brew on the market, but it is a perennial favorite among fans of metal and potato dancing emo shit alike.
The band: A twangy, roots-rock ensemble from the Twin Cities, Farwell Milwaukee is a relatively new band stocked with seasoned vets. It shows: A full-length album from 2009, Autumn Rest Easy, is a well-produced, solid slice of Americana.
Why “Milwaukee”? Atmosphere. While the members of Farewell Milwaukee all have Midwestern roots, none of them are actually from Wisconsin. Instead, the group uses our city to evoke images of factories, desolate landscapes, and whatever else gets the beard-and-banjo crowd all hot and bothered.
The Milwaukee Talkies, Milwaukee Talkie, Milwaukee Talkee
The band(s): The urge to make a Milwaukee/walkie-talkie pun was once so great that at least three defunct bands have given it a shot. The first, The Milwaukee Talkies, were a drum-and-guitar duo, and mainstays of the local music scene. The singular Milwaukee Talkie, on the other hand, was a young, goofy, Georgia-based duo that split up when its members went off to college. Finally, Milwaukee Talkee—note the double “e”s—was an instrumental prog-rock group from Ogdensburg, New York, and specialized in songs called “Synchronized Flatulence,” and “F’n Handlebar Moustache At 90 MPH.”
Why “Milwaukee”? Wordplay. While the dreaded Milwaukee/walkie-talkie combo may have once captured the imaginations of bands across the country, it still pales in comparison to the great, mid-aughts “Wolf”-band catastrophe.
The band: Taking a cue from other “Let’s just name our band after a city” acts such as Chicago, Boston, and, um, Nazareth, the Sacramento, California-based Milwaukee cuts right to the chase. Its music is similarly direct: bright, poppy, and unabashedly hook-laden. Sadly, the group has only one album under its belt, 2003’s In Sounds, and has been on “hiatus” since 2007.
Why “Milwaukee”? You guessed it: beer. In a 2003 interview with OnMilwaukee.com, band member John Gutenberger claimed his group’s name was inspired by the ubiquitous Schlitz slogan. He also admitted that Milwaukee made him think of Laverne & Shirley, and that he imagined it to be “a pretty mellow place, I guess.” If only he had waited five years, a certain bronze statue controversy would have turned his view of our “mellow,” Laverne & Shirley-dominated city upside down.