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Studio Milwaukee Session: Ratboys

Jen Ellis

Ratboys love Wisconsin. That’s the only possible explanation behind their new album, The Window, containing the definitive ode to the village of Black Earth and the fact they closed out not one but TWO legs of their North American tour with performances in Milwaukee exactly one month apart.

The other explanations are things like tour schedules and the fact that the band lives in Chicago, making Milwaukee a natural stop either at the beginning or end of a tour. But we’ll just ignore that and chalk it up to a general love of the Badger State, which clearly loves them back based on the sellout show they played in the Back Room last month and the response from our members at Tuesday’s Studio Milwaukee Session.

The warm reception nicely countered the chilly lunchtime weather and was well deserved considering the scheduling gymnastics Ratboys undertook to get a session on the calendar. After figuring out that their Milwaukee stop in October was a no-go, they squeezed us in 36 hours after an all-day drive from Dallas to Chicago and four days before boarding a plane for the European leg of their tour.

The performance at our Walker’s Point studios was a welcome flashback to the memorable Back Room show packed with the band’s friends and family. Their four-song set flashed the full range from a very well-received album: the bounce of “Morning Zoo,” the joie de vivre of “It’s Alive,” the title track’s melancholy, and the pleasantly meandering “Black Earth, WI.”

Ratboys lead singer Julia Steiner gave us the quick download on that last song, which sprung from a birthday trip to the House on the Rock that she recalled as one of her all-time favorite days. The shared memory — and performance — was just for the Radio Milwaukee members who happily stuck around after the on-air portion for a little bonus time with the band.

But, as you’ll hear after you hit that “Listen” button at the top of the page, they had plenty more to say about Wisconsin during the mid-set interview. From shouting out a few of their favorite Milwaukee bands (Telethon, Direct Hit, Graham Hunt) to the venues around town they love to Steiner’s soft spot for a certain local chili slinger, you can tell Ratboys have made a connection to their northern neighbor. Here’s hoping it won’t be long before they’re back.

For now, you can check out the full session using our player and pick up any of Ratboys’ offerings, including The Window, over on Bandcamp.or via the band’s website.

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Set list

  1. "Morning Zoo"
  2. "It's Alive"
  3. "The Window"
  4. "Black Earth, WI"