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MKE Music Premiere: sure thing sticks the landing on playful ‘Stunts’

Stephen Strupp (left) and Casey O'Brien of the Milwaukee pop duo sure thing.
sure thing
Stephen Strupp (left) and Casey O'Brien of the Milwaukee pop duo sure thing.

Every week, Milwaukee Music Premiere connects the city’s artists with our listening audience. If you’re an artist with a track you’d like us to debut exclusively on Radio Milwaukee, head over to our Music Submission page to learn how.

Lyrics exist on a spectrum. On one end, you have the easily interpretable (“Iiiiiiieeeeiiiii will always love you”). On the other, there’s the absurd (“Automatic bazooty, zero to tutti frutti”). If you’re a fan of the latter, today’s Milwaukee Music Premiere of sure thing’s “Stunts” should tickle you just right.

It takes all of two lines for the Casey O’Brien half of the pop-leaning duo to make her approach to lyrical composition clear: “It’s a one hundred horse town / even if all of them are cops.” That equine introduction gets no further explanation or continuation. It just hangs there, munching on an apple, looking you square in the eye as if to say, “Can I help you with something?”

A poet by background and pop lyricist by choice, O’Brien laid out her philosophy in notes accompanying the song, saying she’s “always writing to a punchline and centering the mundane.” To that end, “Stunts” wanders from coin-laden fountains to Y2K parties to graveyard grief sessions.

In the midst of that delightful shotgun blast of content, the chorus comes closest to the bull’s eye of discernible meaning. But, even then, she can’t resist throwing in a zinger at the end:

I’m a bad actor but I do my own stunts
And it's all method all the time
From alarm to melatonin, I’m trying
From light to night, I’m asking
Who are we? 
Wrong answers only

Behind those words floats Stephen Strupp’s minimalist musical sensibilities — a perfect match for the goofiness established by his partner. The bleeps and bloops and other items pulled from the noise library come together quite coherently in the end, standing in contrast to the lyrics that couldn’t care less about that.

Still, if you’re interested in assigning an elevated theme to the proceedings, which you can enjoy by hitting the “Listen” button at the top of the page, the band was happy to provide the following:

“Almost every song on the album was built around a good lyric or two. But 'Stunts,' in particular, felt like gathering our best soldiers and patching together zingers. It’s a song about feeling lonely and not knowing where you stand with people, feeling like you lack agency or control over your trajectory, and knowing you have to keep on keeping on even if you’re not winning any awards for it. Summed up in one sentence: Yoda was wrong — there is try.”