by Tarik Moody
An ivy plant can be a pretty innocuous thing, until you touch it; then you get that itch. Having been nominated for the WAMI 2014 Alternative Rock/Rock Artist of the Year, the Ivy Spokes are anything but innocuous. Still, having seen them play live three times in the last two weeks (Headlining KNE stage at Summerfest, Denim Park, and Bastille Days), I can attest to the fact that they’re definitely one of those bands that you need to reach out and touch in order for the music to leave an impression on you.
On their debut album, the song Bad Habits (in two parts) sounds like a tin pan alley version of a Black Keys song, but when I first heard that song live (as one song) it simply exploded from the lead guitar and the energy in the lyrics was raw enough to put any music fan in the hospital (RIP casey kasem). If I had to choose, I’ll choose the latter every time.
Throughout their shows they have enough energy and engage in enough antics on stage to do justice to the indie-pop rocker genre they float in. So I sent the guys a couple questions to learn more about their sound on and off the stage and to learn what made them on the upside. Here are their responses.
Q: What inspires you to create music?
A: We inspire each other most of all. When we get together we are very good at bouncing ideas off of each other and building on a sound. As far as creating live music for an audience, one of our favorite things to do on the way to a show is blast whatever tune we've been grooving to lately Always gets the blood pumping!
Q: What are those things that you absolutely must have in order to be creative: whether it's a familiar space, a cold beer, or maybe just your band mates around.
A: We recently upgraded to a much larger practice space and absolutely love it so far. It gives us room to move around and really get into our music. All that wide-open space is great for songwriting. Actually we can see the 88.9 studios from the new space that we share with Fever Marlene, Cave Wives and the Cooked Keys. A beer or two always can help get us in a comfortable and creative mood, along with the occasional laser/fog combo 😉
Q: Milwaukee is a town known for it’s flowing waters and exquisite brews so our readers want to know: PBR or Highlife or ..?
Ryan: Lakefront Fixed Gear & bottled High Life.
Hans: New Glarus Spotted Cow,
Brandon: MKE Brewing Booyah! It’s fun to say, and fun to drink!
Q: I understand that you call your sound ‘bio-digital’. Can you explain what you mean by that, and can you speak to how this sound has grown and evolved?
A: When the band started we had this vision of combining rock and electronic music hence the bio-digital. As we progressed musically, our rock roots began to show and our music has taken on a more organic tone as of late. The digital is still there but we’ve scaled it back to make way for our take on rock.
Q: You guys just got back from playing a gig @ Slowdown in Nebraska. What can you tell me about your experiences on the road? Are you working on new material out on the road or are you giving people a more refined product?
A: While out on tour, we generally play our favorite songs hoping that they will become the crowd’s favorite songs. The set fluctuates a little depending on who we are in front of. We’ve thrown in brand new songs before just to test them out on fresh ears as well. The Slowdown was a great opportunity to play for a new crowd, and they really seemed to enjoy us. We’ll be playing there again on our next EP release tour.
Q: So, Brandon Arndt is vocals and lyrics. I’d like to hear from him about his process a bit. Do lyrics come before the music? Music before the lyrics. Do the lyrics have to have a meaning?
A: All of the lyrics have a meaning, just as every note has its place in a chord’s structure. We feel our way through the music, and once Brandon gets a feel for the song, the lyrics just happen. Some songs can be very deep and others come more from the surface depending on how the song feels when we play it. It's not just if it's upbeat or slow, but more the emotions that are felt when writing it.
Q: Have you ever surprised yourself with a song you’ve written? Saying to yourself afterwards, “Where the hell did that come from”?
A: Yes. We’ve had a couple songs that sort of wrote themselves. If we aren’t hooked on a riff or song idea right off the bat, we usually ditch it. We use that spontaneous inspiration to measure a song’s potential.
Q: Favorite Song to play right now?
A: Summer Said. Keep an eye out for the music video due out by the end of the summer!
Q: Your bass player, Ryan, is the freshest fact of the band. Bass players can have a big impact in a three piece band. How are things working out so far? Have you thought of adding any new instruments to the lineup: tamborine maybe or maybe just a guy/gal to hit a syn pad?
A: Ryan and Brandon have played in various projects together over the years. They have always had great chemistry on and off the stage. We have toyed with adding an additional guitarist into the mix, but we feel our sound is big enough already. Anything more would be over the top (even for us).
Q: Are there any musical collaborations you’d like to happen in the future.
A: We’re looking forward to the upcoming collaboration between The Flaming Lips and Miley Cyrus ;P
Q: What kind of music are you listening to when you’re cooking dinner?
Ryan: Black Dice or Tobacco.
Hans: “Opera puts me in the mood.”
Brandon: “I put chefs on the TV because I don’t know how to cook.”
Q: What can you tell me about upcoming tours / projects / albums that you’re working on right now?
A: We’re finishing up the second half of our full-length. We are in the early stages of making a music video that will be out to promote our next album release. After recording the follow-up to Upside, we plan on hitting the road as much as we can.