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Versio Curs bemoan life's indignities, with a wink, on 'Quit'

Versio Curs' music is simultaneously a pick-me-up and a buzzkill. On the Milwaukee band's new sophomore LP "Quit," bright, zippy guitars are cast against mopey, often trenchantly funny lyrics. It's hard to put a genre-tag on music like this. Indie-rock has too snooty an insinuation, pop-punk too immature of one. The music periodically recalls early 2000s emo, and the band has some roots in that style, too, but “I wouldn't say we're emo anymore,” says guitarist George Kuether. “It's like a sneaky emo where you're like, 'oh, that's depressing!'” chuckles singer Kyle Halverson. “Even if it's an upbeat, poppy song, the lyrics are a little darker.”

At its core, Versio Curs' music is about how good it feels to wallow -- the comfort we find in cursing our failures, like Charlie Brown after Lucy pulls the football away from him. But there's too much humor and whimsy in these songs to take Halverson's miserabilist worldview completely at face value. True to the album title, some of these songs are indeed about giving up, but more constructively, they're also about moving on.

“I think how people are gonna perceive the music on the record might be very different than how Kyle originally wrote it,” says guitarist Joe Kelnhofer. “I just like the idea that 'quit' can have a lot of connotations that aren't as negative as people might take it. There are a lot of positive associations with that word.”

We chatted with the band about the new record, which you can stream below.

Versio Curs | Photo credit: Samer Ghani

What was the process of recording this album like?

GEORGE: We started it in January, 2020, so it took us like a year to write it. We recorded it in very early 2020 with the intentions of releasing it fairly early 2020, and then, you know, the world crashed. So then from there we took probably five months, just slowly recording vocals and guitars, because we're very picky about what we do with vocals and guitars.

JOE: And there was no real rush. Like we couldn't we couldn't play shows at that time. Everything was shut down. It was almost like all the urgency that we had building up just kind of completely stopped.

GEORGE: We improved all of the songs. I think we improved all of the songs based on how much time we had. And we also threw away probably 10 songs too. Because we just had extra time where it was like, let's just keep going and see what's the best of the best we can get out of this.

You have a very specific sound. Are there unspoken perimeters on the music you make in this band, or any styles or genres that are off-limits?

GEORGE: I don't know about that. I think obviously our music does definitely fit into one kind of mold, but we're always like, “how far can we push it this direction, or how can we push it in that direction?” I think that's pretty evident on the new stuff that we're doing especially. We've got super slow songs with massive effects, and they'll go straight into like a thousand miles an hour punk rock song. So I think if anything, we're trying to not limit ourselves.

JOE: I'd say the only thing that limits us is instrumentation. I don't think we're really looking to expand much into horns and strings and stuff. We never say never, but with everything you can do on a guitar, and all the effects that we have access to with our pedals, we can incorporate almost anything. I don't think there's any boundaries on genres of music we incorporate, it's just that everything we incorporate into a Versio Curs song fits into how this band would play it.

How do you guys see yourselves fitting into the Milwaukee music scene?

GEORGE: I actually love the Milwaukee music scene. Both of our other members are in bands. Our bassist is in a hardcore band called Mud Dog, and he writes virtually all of that stuff. It's fantastic. It's not something your mom's not going to want to go see it, but it's very entertaining. Josh, our drummer, is in Buena Cara, and he's played with Holy Pinto, Caley Conway and virtually every band in Milwaukee. We love Telethon, Paper Holland, Honey Creek, The Unitaskers, Shamewave and Fuzzysurf, and we've been lucky to play with a lot of these bands. There's a lot of cool stuff going on in Milwaukee right now.