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Great Lakes Drifters play at Linneman's this weekend as part of the Equinox festival.

Great Lake Drifters add roots rock and roll to Equinox festival lineup

Dosing its rootsy rock and roll with a shot of country and etheral, melodic pop Milwaukee's Great Lake Drifters have created a sound that is difficult to pin down.

With a brand new CD, " Radio Picture Show," the band takes part in this weekend's Equinox Music Festival at Linneman's in Riverwest. We chatted with a couple of the band's members about GLD, about "Radio Picture Show" and about Equinox.

OnMilwaukee.com: All right, give us the elevator speech about Great Lakes Drifters. How do you describe what you do?

Rickey Ganiere: Great Lake Drifters is a band made up of music geeks. We write and play the music that feels right to us. Of course we hope others dig it as much as we do but in the end its about feeding the need to create and be with good people. As you can tell by "Radio Picture Show," we don't just do one thing. We get off on radio friendly pop tunes just as much as a sad country tune or good old fashioned American roots rock.

As a live band we love the "power hour" sets so we can plow through one and into the next with a little feedback between to sneak a swig of cheap beer. We also enjoy the sets when time is no boundary and the possibilities are endless with songs like "Judas Iscariot" or "Southern Moon."

Maybe we'll end the set with a sing along or maybe we'll walk off after the last song with instruments uncontrollably feeding back. It depends on the energy in the room and how much more we can produce before the ceiling falls in! Sometimes we win, other times we win a little less and maybe piss off the sound guy in the process. No matter what happens the satisfaction is momentary. There is always another something around the corner and we can't wait to tame it or be excitedly scared sh*tless by the challenge.

OMC: What's the band's story? How and when did you guys get together?

RG: This band started by accident in 2010. I was on the hunt for musicians to play on a solo record that I had in mind. Kavi Laud and Jeff Brueggeman were buddies and I loved their chemistry in The New Red Moons so I asked them to back me up as the rhythm section. We gathered to work on some songs and I was nervous. I felt like the new kid in town.

The next week we did the same thing and something happened. We played loud, lost in notes and in a PBR haze it happened. By the third week the solo record faded and we got after it. We jammed and created and wrote and it felt great! Some days later Jeff was at Linneman's on a drunken night and ran into mutual friend Ryan Elliott. He talked to Ryan about this new band he was a part of and how another guitarist would complete the mix.

He told Ryan to come play with us. I had seen Ryan perform with The Form for nearly 15 years and loved his playing but I honestly didn't think this was going to work. I've got zero logical reasons for thinking Ryan wouldn't work out. Zero reasons but still I had reservations.

Ryan came in the next week and inside a half hour we couldn't see ourselves playing without him. He fit our tunes as comfortably as your favorite pair of old jeans and we joked and laughed like family. Ryan has the outside ear way of playing. He always writes the parts or finds the notes that a producer might suggest. The notes that take a mediocre song and mold it into an excellent one. This guy is one of the most talented and more importantly humble people I know. One month after Ryan joined our nameless band we booked our first show and quickly decided on Great Lake Drifters as our name.

OMC: Is "Radio Picture Show" your first CD?

RG: Radio Picture Show is "kind of" our first CD. In 2012 we released a three-song CD called "For Your Consideration." All three of those songs have been added to, changed, remixed and are on "Radio Picture Show."

"For Your Consideration" was us jumping the gun and trying to get something into our listeners hands. We weren't ready to get out there then. Now we feel like "Radio Picture Show" is the full version of "Consideration" – the complete thought.

OMC: Can you tell us a bit about making it – where, with whom, how long did it take, etc.?

Ryan Elliott: This record was recorded by me with the help from our good friend Tim Suchocki in my house, which I would convert into a studio every time we would record. It's a smaller house, but it is open concept with 10-foot ceilings, and wood floors which made it a decent room to record drums in. I would hang some absorptive panels, lay a few carpets down, move the furniture, set up the mics, isolate the amps in closets, dial in the sounds and we would start rolling.

It took us a few years to do this but I think it worked out for the best. Nick (Berg) came into the band a couple of years ago so we had to add all of his parts in later. I also decided to remix the record the last few months because I knew I could do a better job. I learned a lot from mixing other friends' records, as well as other bands I'm in, and decided that the knowledge I gained over the last couple of years should be used to make this record have a more cohesive sound.

We also re-recorded a song ("Judas Iscariot") because we were not happy with the feel and flow of it. We saw some footage of us playing that song live, and we wanted to capture that feel; so we decided to do that one live ... keeping all of the basic tracks and then adding or vocal parts and extra "texture" guitar parts. The song is 7.5 minutes long and on our 10th take, we got the one we were happy with. It was exhausting but we got "the one" and I think you can hear and feel it on the record. Don't be scared off by the length of the song. There is a lot of atmosphere and everyone's parts really add to that atmosphere. The song is a long crescendo. Peaking with Ricky's monster, melodic solo and an abrupt ending.

RG: We started recording in spring of 2011 and finished the final mixes just weeks ago. The intro to the record Ryan and I pieced together from several different tracks off the record. We chopped them up, reversed some and pieced them into the intro soundscape that is the first track. Oddly enough, the intro was the very last thing we did. It was created after everything had been mixed for the last time.

RE: Recording this record was a lot of fun. The guys, and sometimes Walter (Ricky's dog), would camp out for the weekend. We'd record music all day and into the night. Then hang out and have some fun listening to records until the wee hours in the morning. Then we'd wake up pretty pasty, cook a huge breakfast, brew numerous pots of coffee, and do it again.

RG: We started recording in spring of 2011 and finished the final mixes just weeks ago. The intro to the record Ryan and I pieced together from several different tracks off the record. We chopped them up, reversed some and pieced them into the intro soundscape that is the first track. Oddly enough, the intro was the very last thing we did. It was created after everything had been mixed for the last time.

OMC: I see that Nick Berg is on the record. Is he in the band full-time, too, or is he a guest?

RG: Nick Berg is a Milwaukee music community household name. If you live in Milwaukee and don't know who he is you've at the very least heard him on a recording unknowingly. Nick came in two years ago to help us out and play some organ parts for the record. This was right around the time he was wrapping up his experience with Field Report. Like Ryan's first time playing with us, Nick was a piece to the puzzle we couldn't live without. We asked him to come rehearse with us and give GLD a shot. After he left there was no conversation weighing pros and cons. It was an immediate agreement that Nick needed to join this band Now Nick is on board and I hope he is half as happy about it as we are.

OMC: You guys are taking part in the upcoming Equinox festival. Tell us a bit about the festival and what we can expect.

Equinox Music Festival was started three years ago by my good friend Jeffrey Miller. He, along with his band The Atomic Spins, put on a night of music at Linneman's this time every year to celebrate the end of the miserable Wisconsin winter with Milwaukee's finest original bands. Every year gets better and better. The lineup is definitely not one to be missed: Sugar Stems, The Atomic Spins, Tigernite, Mortgage Freeman.

We are excited to be releasing our record there this year. There are tickets already available and we encourage people to get them before the day of the show. There have already been quite a few ticket sales.

OMC: What's next for you guys? Do you plan to tour behind the record?

RG: We have no immediate plans to do any extensive touring. Funds are low and scheduling is tough as every member of GLD plays in multiple bands. So far for in 2015 we will be doing a few weekends out of town to support the record and a couple bigger shows in Milwaukee including Bastille Days July 12. We are excited to keep doing what we are doing and fall of 2015 should bring some new and exciting things.


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