88Nine Radio Milwaukee

You Should Know: Kia Rap Princess

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Milwaukee rapper Kia Rap Princess had come close to success: a move to L.A. for a major label contract that fell through, followed by a move to Atlanta and back to Milwaukee. But that journey taught the artist to be a stronger performer along the way. “KRP” is releasing one single a month for 2020 and another release and a national tour on the way with Kaylee Crossfire for their project “Best of Both Worlds.”

Kia Rap Princess | Photo by Bradley Perich 

The basics

Where they’re from: Milwaukee, Wis.
Songs you’ve heard on 88Nine: “Issa Vibe”

Five questions with Kia Rap Princess

1. How did you get started in music? What’s your origin story?

My grandma started me out on piano as a young child. At our house, she played a lot of gospel. My mother was more into jazz and soul. About 11 or 12 years old I got involved in hip hop music and in high school I really figured I had a passion for it. I used to be that chick rapping at the lunch table battling guys. That led to going to my first battle at through DJ Razor. He threw a battle at a theater downtown and I was the only girl, 17 years old. A producer named Logo took a liking to me from that battle and gave me an opportunity to record at his studio. I signed with him as a producer/production deal, he was developing me. From there I got the opportunity to move to California. I lived out there for two years, almost got signed to Sony BMG, that fell through and I came back home and decided to do this full on.

Now looking back, that young Kia, 20 years old didn’t know what she knows now. It was probably a good thing I didn’t get signed at that time because from that era a lot of people who were getting signed were getting albums shelved and never put out but still under contract. So, it was meant to happen the way it did; I’m not bitter about it, I learned from it. One thing it did teach me was, “You’re good enough for this industry.”

2. You also spent some time in Atlanta as well, what was that like?

I started going out there in 2011. December 2012 was when my mother got diagnosed with 4th stage cancer. I was going back and forth making little moves in Atlanta; either on the Greyhound or on an airplane when I could afford it. Once my mother passed, I thought I needed to step out and get into a different market. I also needed to clear my head. I moved out to Atlanta for two years. What’s crazy is the small, organic buzz I built out there in that short amount of time I didn’t realize how much of an impact I had until recently. You never look at the things you’re doing at the time as a big thing, but you’re always reminded by others when God sends people to remind you that your work was not in vain. These last couple of years I’m seeing the fruits of what I’ve done when I was there, in Atlanta. It’s crazy, for me not to even live there right now, I’m still getting plays, still getting requests, I won an Independent Music award, twice. “Issa Vibe” has been getting good reviews and plays out there… I just never realized how much the work I was putting in on the time while I was so focused.

In Atlanta, it’s a big pond, you get overwhelmed. There’re about five hip hop events happening every day. Everybody’s telling you to dream, it’s easy to get lost in that and feel like, “Where do I belong?”

The last time I went to Atlanta I was invited to this camp put on by Mali Hunter who produced for Drake and is known by a lot of industry people. She has a new thing she’s doing called Earth Girl. It’s a tribe, we consider ourselves a tribe, of women from all over the United States in the music industry; from industry professionals, A&R, all types of businesses, different ethnicities all coming together. This was her first year doing it, when she invited me I was so honored. I saw a female producer from Milwaukee, two female engineers from Milwaukee. “You’re from Milwaukee, really?” These are INDUSTRY industry women. Like serious. It was dope to be in this big studio with these women and be like, “Wow, they are from the same place I’m from.” In the same instance there was a producer who was native American with African heritage and Mexican descent. Her name is OLAN, she produced a track for me called “Shark in the Water” that will be released this year.

3. What do you think of the Milwaukee music scene?

I think the Milwaukee music scene is getting better, it’s growing. I would contribute that to all the new things popping up in Milwaukee; we have Milwaukee Hip Hop Week, [Riverwest] FemFest, which has been here but growing, all these festivals are embracing hip hop more, the Bucks bring a different climate to our city and shine, you see more and more artists coming out of the woodwork. It’s a good thing, it was so segregated; on the North side you had hip hop, East side you get your folk and alternative rock, you go on the Southside you get your latino hip-hop, but now you go anywhere and all these things can be infused in the venues. I think that’s a good thing. We’ve always been a melting pot for music. Why can’t we all co-exist?

4. How are you perfecting your performances? You have a very strong stage presence

I watch my performances relentlessly like football players watch their plays. I’m my worst critic. I experience a show from an artist’s perspective. After experiencing that, I go back and look at the videos so I can look at it from your perspective, from you being in the crowd. I meditate for like five minutes, clear my head, and I say to myself, “Now I’m watching this and I don’t know Kia Rap Princess.” Would I be impressed? What do I notice? I look at it from that perspective and I critique myself. I tear myself down and say, “Ooo, you were tired when you got to this song. You need to drink water.” It also comes from not having “yes people” around me.

Me and Kaylee [Crossfire] rehearse in front of mirrors. If we’re not doing it there, I’m rehearsing at home in my studio in my mirror. That’s how I stay in shape. Now, we’re getting ready to go on tour so I’m taking cardio kickboxing.

5. When is your next release?

In March I’m releasing the single “It’s Our Time” with Kaylee Crossfire, a “Best of Both Worlds” release. As a solo effort, I should be releasing “Shark in the Water.” I’m releasing 12 singles this year, that’s my goal. The first one dropped in January called “Grateful” is with a super dope talented Christian hip-hop artist Under5. “Grateful” is more so inspirational, not off a hip-hop beat, almost gospel track. This time I’m sinking my teeth in, getting into the gritty, going back to that three-verse structure and really feeding the fans. Real music, though. It speaks to where you are in your wilderness, whatever that is. You may have something you haven’t told nobody about that you’re dealing with and looking at your creator saying, “When is this going to end? When is my promise coming?” It’s easy for us to look for the land of milk and honey, but we’re not appreciating what the creator is doing for us in the time of our wilderness. We’ll neglect the fact we still have a roof over our heads, the simple things and we’ll ride past some people living under a bridge. But we’re in our wilderness though, we think WE’RE in the wilderness. Everyone has their own wilderness. “Grateful” speaks to being grateful to where you are so when you get to that point you’re trying to go, the finish line, that new job, whatever your goal is, you can appreciate where you are. “I just came out of all that, I’m grateful.”

Listen to “Issa Vibe” by Kia Rap Princess:

You Should Know Kendra Amalie

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Last week Milwaukee artist Kendra Amalie released her debut album, “Intuition” on Beyond Beyond is Beyond Records. The artist stopped by the Radio Milwaukee studio to talk about the new album, her unique approach to psych-folk through primitive guitar roots on acoustic and electric 12-string, meditation and growing up on tour with a singer-songwriter parent.

The basics

Where they’re from: Milwaukee, Wis.
Songs you’ve heard on 88Nine: “Breathe Underwater,” “Facets of a Holy Diamond”
RIYL: psych-folk, John Fahey, Carl Sagan

Five questions with Kendra Amalie

1. How did you find music?

When I was growing up, my mother was a performing singer-songwriter full time. She was always working on music at her word processor working on her songs; a mad refining process. Singing, songwriting. The band would come over for rehearsals. I was going to a lot of gigs with her, especially the day time ones in the Washington, D.C. area in the alt-country music scene.

I was taking piano lessons as a young person, but that felt like a chore to me. As a pre-teen I found out about Jimi Hendrix and Woodstock. I picked up a guitar, took some guitar lessons. Something happened in my teen years when I got interested in drum ‘n’ bass and went to raves. After that I started making music on a Game Boy using LSDJ. Experimental electronic stuff. I didn’t start performing until I was in my early and mid-20s when I joined a noise band on harmonium. Twilight Memories of the Three Suns. I was going to local indie-rock shows and saw the band Beat the Devil, one of Shilpa Ray’s former projects and I saw her play harmonium. I thought it was the coolest instrument. My friend Damian [Languell] said, “Play the harmonium in this noise band, but only play one note.” That was a new concept to me at the time. I had quite a bit of anxiety about performing for years, but at some point, it transformed into excitement and regular fun.

2. How did you end up in Milwaukee?

I grew up in the D.C. area until my early 20s. At a certain point I became more interested in jazz and noise and experimental music and was still listening to electronic music; house and drum and bass, and I determined Chicago would be a good place to move to. There’s IDM, house, electronic, jazz, noise and all that stuff. I thought it would have more of a scene, so I moved to Chicago. I lived there for a while then Maine, Oregon, Northern California and all these places but I missed the Midwest. I was offered a really flexible job in Milwaukee.

Kendra Amalie by Sue Beauchamp

3. There is a clear aesthetic in the output you’ve done. Your imagery, artwork, music videos… is this project a multimedia vision?

I have a few different ways I express myself. Music is a big one. I also do visual art; painting, on computer with creative coding, that and I’m drawn to the aesthetic of vintage computer art. On the album cover, my aunt took this image. I was doing yoga teacher training with my mom and aunt in Las Vegas. My aunt has a dry lake bed near where she lives outside of Las Vegas. We went out on the full moon in Scorpio on this night and took pictures in the dry lake bed. My aunt was the photographer and my mom shined the flashlight.

Album art for Kendra Amalie “Intuition” by Sue Beauchamp

The music puts me in a meditative state with repetition of lyrics and themes; it also has a cosmic feel. Is that an intentional vibe you’re putting out?

My writing process and my creative process is very meditative and trance-like. I get in a zone and I’ll work on a part of a song and sit down for 18 hours and trance out on the process. I also am drawn to repetition.

4. You mentioned academic versus freeform improvisation. I like that you incorporate primitive American fingerpicking styles, you don’t often hear those kinds of textures in the realm of music under the “psych umbrella…

I’m really drawn to the practice of fingerpicking because it’s very cyclical and trancelike. It feels good, sounds good, I like textures. The textural quality of sound is something of particular interest to me.

I’m not surprised that you’re a painter, there is a sonic palate happening, not just power chords. There are a lot of sonic palates and brush strokes of different modes, pedals…

A lot of that comes from my interest in noise music. With harsh noise, you have to tune your ear to appreciate or at least open your ears to listen to harsh noise for an extended period of time to see what sonic textures and offerings this piece of sound has. Really tune in to listening to music in that way has influenced how my rock album here is layered.

5. How did you discover this early American style of guitar playing, or the 12-string?

For the 12-string, my mom played a 12-string acoustic guitar, six and twelve string and fingerpicking while I was growing up. Maybe in 2013 or ’14 I was living in Chicago where several of my peers in the music community were picking up this American primitive resurgence style of playing. It was in my ear again. At some point I decided to give a John Fahey a try, “Poor Boys Long Way from Home.”

A couple years ago Ryley Walker invited me to contribute a track to Imaginational Anthem volume nine compilation he was putting together. I was going to do textural noise guitar. As of that two years ago, I had never been on a vinyl record before and thought I would never be on a vinyl record, ever. I started taking lessons with Jay Mollerskov here in town, learning classical guitar techniques, reading classical music notation learning etudes. I was playing those and at a certain point I thought, “I’m 35 years old, I’m not going to start learning classical notation on guitar.” There is a guy that teaches American primitive in town, he’s a scholar of John Fahey, Andrew Lardner. I had a lesson with him, we covered some Leo Kottke. 

I finally wrote a piece for the compilation, but I had all these other pieces working up to that so I had all this music. Then, I met Dom and Mike from Beyond Beyond is Beyond and they said if I had music I could send it to them. Now, the compilation was just released and this [“Intuition”] is coming out on the 6th.

Listen to 414 Live with Kendra Amalie HERE

Stream the new album, “Intuition” out now on Beyond Beyond is Beyond records:

You Should Know The Hatchets

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After premiering a track from The Hatchets, we wanted to know more about the new project from Milwaukee’s Justin Otto. Radio Milwaukee chatted with the artist on transitioning from performing open mic nights to recording a fleshed out album with full band, strings and horns with unexpected turns along the way.

5 questions with The Hatchets

Justin Otto of The Hatchets | Photo by Ross Monagle

1. When did music come into your life?

Late, very late. I started teaching myself guitar at age 19. Prior to that I had some piano lessons. Then I started teaching myself guitar in college and that made more sense to me. It took a couple years to do anything with it. I only started writing songs in my mid-20s. Later than most people.

I never had money to go out and buy a guitar until I had actual jobs. Once I bought a guitar, I expected not to stick with it, but it became the most important thing to me for a while. Took a little while to figure it out, but once I figured out enough to play Bob Dylan or open chords, I learned how to put songs together. Piano made zero sense to me, but guitar was like, “Memorize these four shapes and put them in a different order” and after a little bit, you can play just about any song every written.

2. Did you grow up in Milwaukee?

I’m from Baraboo, Wis. I moved to Milwaukee maybe five years ago. I had some friends here and visited and saw people play original songs in bars; where in a small town you see cover shows. I came here and saw people playing their own music and it was close enough to home. I finished school and wanted to write in some capacity and wanted to write songs but didn’t know how to do that either until I saw other people do it. You can just write songs and play at an open mic and no one will laugh at you.

Cost of living is affordable enough, there’s an active scene. Being a smaller city on the scope of things… if rent was triple what it is here, I can’t imagine funding an album, paying my band if I had to work three times as much to pay rent and buy groceries.

3. How did you transition from a solo artist open mic nights to “The Hatchets?”

When I first moved here, a friend of mine came shortly after. We were working on stuff together. I would write the songs and he would play bass and sing with me. We would add other people from around town to fill up that lineup and slowly fit in new parts when other people went their separate ways. Kind of had a fluid lineup for several years, solidified around the time I was recording. We recorded this record a couple years ago and when I finally put it out I had to settle on calling it a certain thing and we called it The Hatchets.

Justin Otto of The Hatchets | Photo by Ross Monagle

4. You have a concept around the album “Uncounted Blue Jillions” involving Woody Guthrie. Could you explain that?

When I was first learning to write songs, I stuck to the folk rules as far as learning to put chords together and all the great songwriters. I was looking at those songs and playing those songs to figure out how it’s done and you can trace it back to a common root of Woody Guthrie. He was not the first to write folk songs, but he was the Elvis of folk songs.

I never really took his music as that much of an importance to me, but the grandfather of what was moving to me. Then along the way I saw a documentary about his life and the hard stuff he went through and it added a context to all his work, even the sillier more childish stuff… added a darker undertone to it, that he was reacting to in my opinion. That planted a seed of an idea in my head to write something about that. Eventually, it would maybe be a line in a song talking about it and that line spawned a whole verse, and then that verse became a song of its own. Then that song needed more material to flesh it out and it kept growing, growing and growing until we had a whole album.

I had one song that ended up being about Woody Guthrie. It was very obscure material to have one song about, “Hey! This is the one song about an obscure part of this songwriter’s life.” I thought if I doubled-down and did two or three songs about it, it could be a concept suite of songs. Three still felt like a diversion if I stuck it on an album. “Why are these three songs out of nowhere talking about this strange material?” Then I made it a whole thing.

5. So that was a few years ago, what’s coming down the pipeline next?

We wrote that several years ago, but spent the last couple years in the studio making it into what it is now. Added all the overdubs, which is pretty extensive. Lots of strings and horns, that stuff fleshes the sound out. It took me longer than I thought to make it all work in a cohesive way.

I’ve definitely been writing in the meantime, I can’t stop writing. I have a lot of fragments of songs right now I’m trying to fit together into something at all workable. I don’t know what’s coming next. I would like to make another full-length record that all hangs together and is more than the sum of its parts. That takes a long time as it turns out. In the meantime, I’ll release more digestible one or two song releases.

You can see The Hatchets in Milwaukee on Friday, Oct. 11 at Twisted Path Distillery

Listen to The Hatchets’ new album below.

You Should Know Kaylee Crossfire

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Radio Milwaukee spoke with Backline artist Kaylee Crossfire as she prepares for a new project and a new EP. The rapper and R&B singer is behind the Female Takeover movement that aims lift other female artists in the city.

5 questions with Kaylee Crossfire

Kaylee Crossfire | Photo by Jake Nueman

1. When did you discover music?

Music was around me at a young age. I was a tomboy growing up, so I feel like music for me would happen while hanging out with all my male cousins. They were always rapping and doing freestyle sessions. Me being the young one and wanting to fit in, I got into it. They would put on a beat and we would freestyle. That’s where the rapping part of it came about.

The singing component happened in elementary school. I just found a picture of a birthday cake when I turned 10 with music notes. It’s helping me remember that singing passion and music passion for me so young that my mom put that on this cake. In elementary I ended up in choir classes, then middle school. Middle school was interesting; in 6th grade my World Music teacher allowed me to record a demo for the first time. That was my first recording studio experience. I had my first experience of recording and actually hearing myself and he told me years later, that he used that demo for the class as a demonstration every year. That’s so cute! It started from there.

2. Did you grow up in Milwaukee?

I grew up on the East Side. I remember my childhood on Booth and Clarke. When I turned 9 or 10, my mom moved to Wauwatosa. I was in Wauwatosa until 15, then we moved back to Milwaukee in the Washington Heights area. I currently live back in Tosa. I remember my childhood in multiple areas. I’m just a Milwaukee native for real. I’ve lived on every side of town.

3. What do you think of the music scene in Milwaukee?

The music scene in Milwaukee is cool — it’s diverse. I feel like I want someone from the city to take off and put us on the map. I don’t think people really take us seriously here, or they don’t check for us here. People who have had success here, could do more to make us known so people focus on here.

We do have amazing people from the city who have found success. When they find that success they leave and don’t rep where they’re really from; they rep the next city they move to or whatever is popular or trending. When I travel, people say they thought it was only beer and cheese and they didn’t even know black people stay here. I hear this all the time.

We have dope people from here. I think the Milwaukee music scene is diverse, there are a lot of people here producing different sounds. I feel like the one artist from here that can get us known will open a Pandora’s box of amazing people in Milwaukee.

4. Female Takeover is an event you produce. Could you tell me more about that?

Female Takeover, that’s my baby. It’s saying, “This is what someone can do for the community once you put your mind to it. This is how we can shine light on the female artists in the city.” When it comes to Milwaukee as a whole, I feel they are not paying attention to us and even less they aren’t paying attention to the female artists in the city. We don’t get the recognition we really deserve here. That’s where Female Takeover came about. Trying to create that awareness and shine a light on dope female talent to people in our city. It’s grown from artist-based to showcasing hair designers, fashion designers, a wide range of dope female artists because there are so many talented ladies in the city; and not only that, how do we come together? How can the older, more established female artists help the newer and upcoming female artists? It doesn’t have to be a competition, I feel like that’s how it was when I came out as a female artist in Milwaukee. I felt like people didn’t want us to coexist. That was my way of breaking that competition cycle. Let’s all come together to do this for the greater good, because we can create a greater impact together.

I’m glad I can be that big sister, because I didn’t have anybody showing me anything when I first started. I was out here fending for myself, trying to find a way. Like all of us. Don’t be that one to hold information, if you can help somebody it’s best to help. It lifts us all up.

Kaylee Crossfire | Photo by Champ Robinson

5. Backline has been supporting you in a similar way, can you talk about your experience?

Backline has been a phenomenal program for a lot of artists. When I got the info and signed up, I didn’t think it would happen but I thought, “Let’s just see.” Then by the grace of god I ended up getting it and going through the process. Everything has been super phenomenal. Honestly, working with everyone at 88Nine and Backline really are giving us the dope connections and resources, they’re helping us with mental health components, helping us through things to get us ready for the future. That’s what I’ve taken out of the program. Everyone is going to come in and take out something different, but me, the mental health piece is really showing me and teaching me how to get through life with the issues and problems that were deeper, that could trigger something. I don’t want to build this career only for it to crumble because I’m not equipped to deal with certain things. I feel like the program has equipped me there and the connections and resources will equip me in a different way.

Obviously having the funds to properly fund my career has been amazing, because I have been self-funding the whole time. Having the freedom to know how to handle this. That’s a lot of stress too, wanting to get something done but you can’t. Shout outs to Mag [Rodriguez] and Brian [Lynch], too. They’ve given great help and advice.

We just got together to discuss the rollout of my new project that I’ve been working on. New music coming soon, actually I will be dropping a single this month. I’m gearing that up, I have my EP I’m working on. These are things the program has been able to do for me. I have been able to work towards a whole new project. I’m getting my ducks in a row for that. I’m working on my EP, videos, photoshoot.

Doing this for Milwaukee artists is just phenomenal. That’s the reason why a lot of artists leave the city, they feel like they don’t have a lot of support and resources here. They leave the city in search of these things and I appreciate 88Nine and Backline bringing those things here. The goal is to keep artists in the city and all thrive together. Female Takeover and Backline all tie in together, I’ve been able to introduce a lot of artists to Backline who didn’t know about it. These workshops they throw are super, super helpful and they’re free! It’s knowledge all artists should know. Even that’s amazing. I appreciate they are trying to bring it here. I can’t say anything other than “it’s amazing.” We need more things like this.    

My job now, being in the program is to let my community know. If you’re serious about being an artist, these things are beneficial to you.

Kaylee Crossfire will release the single “Baddie Alert” on July 19, 2019

Watch the video for “Damn Daddy” by Kaylee Crossfire below:

You Should Know ZED KENZO

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milwaukee rapper zed kenzo

ZED KENZO, Photo courtesy of the artist

The basics

Where they’re from: Milwaukee, WI
Songs you’ve heard on 88Nine: Go Psycho
RIYL: aliens, hip-hop, Tumblr

Five questions with Zed Kenzo

1. Did you grow up in Milwaukee?

I grew up here. I was raised primarily on Milwaukee’s North Side, 26th and Chambers, 25th and Locust, 19th and Cortland, 58th and Villard, 7th and Vienna…

Did you go to a lot of different schools?

No, we moved a lot, but I only went to two schools. MSIS the Spanish immersion school for elementary and then I went to Milwaukee School of Languages for both middle and high school. So yes, I’m bilingual, I speak Spanish but I don’t really use it anymore. It’s still there. Don’t worry, I’m definitely going to incorporate more Spanish into my music.

2. What are your current musical projects?

I’m working on releasing my singles. Currently I’m working on new music, but I’m dropping an EP in April. That EP is going to be a collection of songs I’ve worked on since the summer, possible collaboration tracks. I want to make it a big deal. My birthday is in April so I want to tie those two together and throw a big party or something. I’m hoping people will want to come to that. People have been paying attention and listening to my music, so it’s exciting to put music out and know people are looking forward to it.

3. People might not know you produce a lot of your tracks. Do you produce all of your tracks?

I do produce all of them, but I do have a couple of songs on the EP and possibly one or two singles I didn’t produce. But for sure the EP is going to have some other production as well as mine. When I produce, no one can tell me what to do, I get all my money from it. It’s nice to have control, as a girl especially. Hip-hop, rap, the music industry in general—I like to have as much control as I can.

How did you get started producing beats? 

It started with me writing songs. I took myself seriously writing in middle school because I was classically trained in piano, composing songs at that time on the piano. That turned into me writing songs with lyrics and pairing with the piano.

Then I thought, “How do I make this easier and get this recorded instantly?” Then, the MacBook came out with GarageBand. Pretty much every producer got started on GarageBand at some point in their youth. I was making a lot of beats on GarageBand in college. Then, I moved to Ableton when my ex-boyfriend pushed me to take my music more seriously.

He said, “You’re really good, you should learn how to make beats on Ableton.” So, we sat down and did a little tutorial together. I’d say one of my first actually well-produced songs was “Linda Blair” back in 2015. I’d say that’s when I started actually learning how to make beats and get good at doing it.

You Should Know OQ

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OQ by Kelly Anderson

The basics

Where they’re from: Milwaukee, WI
Songs you’ve heard on 88Nine: “Song You Can Dance To”
RIYL: Irish folk music, David Byrne, nature meets a polyrhythmic industrial future-past

Five questions with OQ

1. Did you grow up in Milwaukee? When did you start making music?

I grew up outside of Milwaukee in Oconomowoc. That’s strangely enough how I met Cole [Quamme]. I grew up with Matt Pappas who is in The Fatty Acids with Cole. I was living in Portland and Matt and the band came out and stayed at the house with me and we hung out. Then, I moved back to Wisconsin after a few years and started the band Holy Sheboygan and we played some shows with Fatty Acids and that’s how this whole thing started.

I was writing music really young. My parents didn’t know what to do with me, neither of them were musicians. My mom had a friend who played for the Milwaukee Symphony, so I started going into Milwaukee for composition lessons when I was 11. My mom is a writer and my dad is a painter and also an engineer. They were artistic, just not musical. I was taking lessons and writing funny, thematic movie-music type stuff. The Milwaukee Symphony ended up playing one of them when I was 14.

2. How did you transition composing for the symphony to the indie-folk of Holy Sheboygan?

I was going to school for composition and by the time I was in school it was less movie music and more minimalist inspired like Philip Glass, Terry Riley, Steve Reich. That led me towards folk music. I love repetition, that stuff all comes out of pop and folk music. I’m always doing music, and it’s always a little different every time.

3. Listening to your EP, I feel like your album art does a good job of describing it—equal parts natural/organic and then you have this tangle of electrical cords with cement and grass.

It’s really Cole’s brainchild. Three years ago he started making these world beats and sent it out to a bunch of folk musicians around Milwaukee. It was originally going to be a compilation that he was going to put out as “Cole Quamme.” Everyone else flaked on him. He saw me at a Holy Sheboygan show and said, “I really want you to make a song to these beats.” So I took it home and within a month I sent him a completed song, which was the first song on the record. He was like, “I love this! Now we’ll just wait.” We waited a year. He was my neighbor so I said, “Hey dude, what’s up with that compilation?” He said nobody got back to him. Then we decided to just go for it ourselves. As we got deeper into the process, we realized it was a lot of fun.

You Should Know Saebra & Carlyle

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Saebra & Carlyle

Saebra & Carlyle by Anna Rodriguez

The basics

Where they’re from: Milwaukee, WI
Songs you’ve heard on 88Nine: “Burt Cocaine”
RIYL: garage rock, Shannon and the Clams, Ennio Morricone

Where to see them live:

Wednesday, January 23 at Cactus Club.

Five questions with Saebra & Carlyle

1. When did you get started in music?

Choir every year since sixth grade. I really like to sing, I really like music. When I was 21 I lived in California and somebody gave me an acoustic guitar and I just started messing around on it. I wrote my first song there and everything just came naturally. I played acoustic because I couldn’t find anyone to play with me, so I would say, “I just gotta do this by myself.” I have always liked writing, I’ve always like performing. I moved out to California to be an actress but nothing clicked. Finally, with music I get to use all those components that I love—creativity, performing… I love music so much.

I lived in California on and off since I got out of high school. I moved right at 18. I didn’t make it long, because it’s hard to make it out there if you don’t have a good support system, I was too young. My dad asked  me to leave the house because he was moving in with his girlfriend and I didn’t have anywhere to go. So I said okay, I might as well do what I want to do. Then I came back, then I moved back out there at 20. Then I came back for a man…

For the first time in my life, nothing gets in the way of music anymore which is nice.

2. What do you think of the Milwaukee music scene?

The Milwaukee music scene is equal parts amazing and frustrating. We’ve got a music scene—there is music all over the board here. A lot of great musicians doing amazing things. It’s also frustrating because a lot of the bills are male-dominated. I just want to bust up the bills a little more than they are. There’s so much female talent but it’s like, “Okay,  it’s an all-female bill.” But no, we need to bust up all the bills. Put all the names in a hat and draw them. Those should be the bills, a diverse mix. It gets tiring seeing all these dudes. We need to mix it up a bit. It doesn’t have to be the same people all the time. But that’s getting out there and knowing your music community, supporting each other. Me and Carlyle told each other if we do this, we’re going out to shows, we’re seeing what’s out there and supporting people in our community so we can receive that same support back. That’s what it’s about, it is a community.

Saebra & Carlyle at 414Live

3. If you could collaborate with anyone dead or alive, who would it be?

Oh, god… Shannon Shaw of Shannon and the Clams. She’s the voice of our generation. On her first tour 10 years ago, I opened for her. Steve Look put on the show at a speakeasy venue where we weren’t really allowed to have music there, but we did anyway. I opened with my acoustic music and ever since then she’s been really cool with my music. Every time she comes into town she says, “I’ve got a guest spot for you.” She’s always the sweetest. She’s coming to Madison with her solo album which I think is the greatest thing to hit our generation.

You Should Know Nickel & Rose

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Nickel & Rose by Amanda Mills

The basics

Where they’re from: Milwaukee, WI
Songs you’ve heard on 88Nine: “Americana”
RIYL: folk, protest music, roots music

Where to see them live:

December 22 at Anodyne Coffee Roasters on Bruce St. with Sista Strings.

Five questions with Nickel & Rose

1. What were your early influences?

Johanna: Growing up, my dad always had Johnny Cash, Tom Waits, Merle Haggard, Ernest Tubb, Lead Belly, Steve Earle, Lucinda Williams and other country/ folk/ blues playing throughout the house.  At the same time my uncles on my mother’s side were playing Summerfest and local clubs with their ’80s rock bands. In high school I started going to punk shows. Now I probably listen to more of what my dad was playing, but I like a lot of different music.

Carl: as long as I’ve been playing music I have been exploring and enjoying just about every kind of music I could find. Jimi Hendrix and Joni Mitchell made me want to write songs and Jason Becker made me want to practice guitar.

2. How do you describe Milwaukee to out-of-towners?

Carl: We tell people that there’s great music coming from Milwaukee but we don’t gloss over the negative parts of the city, or life in America. We make a point to talk about the good things but since we both grew up here, we understand that the city has some serious problems.

You Should Know Mic Kellogg

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Mic Kellogg by Kali N Richardson

The basics

Where they’re from: Milwaukee, WI
Songs you’ve heard on 88Nine: “Keep Lovin’,” “Hideout,” “Boathouse”
RIYL: hip hop, going “up nort,” good vibes

Where to see them live:

See Mic Kellogg live at High Noon Saloon in Madison on Friday, December 7. Get more info here.

Five questions with Mic Kellogg

1. How did you get started in music?

I always had a love for music. How I got started on a more serious level, was right at the end of high school. I went to high school in Madison and I had this class called Hip-Hop Studies my senior year. It was the first hour of every single day. We would walk in and make beats, write music or just learn about hip-hop. It was pretty crazy. Our final was to put on a hip-hop show. Everyone produced their own songs. That’s when I got introduced to the production side of things. Pretty much every song I have out right now is also produced by me. I spend a lot more time on production that a lot of people know, actually. That’s one of my main loves, producing. I play the background part for a lot of different artists. That’s how I grew my own sound; I started making beats for all my friends that were around me. Slowly I started to shape what I wanted my beats to sound like.

I was doing hip-hop shows back then, but I wasn’t that serious about it. I didn’t have any music online. I shaped my producing craft for two or three years after high school. I moved out to Colorado right away and I was just a ski bum out in Breckenridge, CO. Working on music a bunch, but still not putting anything out. Finally, my friend Damien [Blue] lived with WebsterX in 2014. I knew Webster was about to put out a project and we didn’t really know each other, but I decided to move back to Milwaukee and pursue music more seriously. I lived with WebsterX for a year and Damien and we created and created. That kind of started everything for my first project, “Breakfast.”

2. Do you have a day job?

I do right now, I wait tables. It’s very flexible, I can take off when I need to and go in the studio or do shows. I’ve also done that my whole life, I grew up in a restaurant. My aunt has a restaurant in Madison.

So, “Breakfast” isn’t too far off 

No, it’s not too far off. Plus, my last name is Kellogg, so it’s always been a staple in my life. My dad has a big collection of vintage and antique Tony the Tiger things of that nature. I’m in my studio right now and I have a Tony the Tiger clock… it’s fun to get something with your name on it.

You Should Know LUXI

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The basics

Where they’re from: Milwaukee, WI
Songs you’ve heard on 88Nine: “Stranger Things,” “Yaaa Glitch”
RIYL: video games, Massive Attack, dreamy electronic pop

Where to see them live:

Album release show with Dashcam and Immortal Girlfriend on November 1 at 9 p.m. at Cactus Club

Five questions with LUXI

1. When did you start making music and when did you get into electronic production?

It’s hard to pinpoint the exact time I started making music…I was very young when I started. My mother was a folk singer and guitarist, which was probably my first exposure to making music. I know I wrote my first sheet music around five years old because my mom (my grandma who raised me) recently found it in one of her cookbooks.

In high school, when I wanted to record my songs to be able to send them to friends, I started experimenting with different free programs on the computer. It eventually evolved into getting the next best program every couple of years. The next tool I used was GarageBand, then I found Logic and started using that, until finally landing on Ableton Live, which I’ve been using since 2011. Since then it’s been a long evolution of just trying to get better and reach my full potential.

2. Tell us something people would be surprised to know about you.

I’m sure there’s a lot, [laughs] but probably the biggest thing is that I was raised by my grandparents who I call mom and dad. I think it definitely shaped who I am as a person now and it helped teach me to be a more compassionate person. It’s probably why I have the intense need to create and express myself.

3. Do you have a day job?

Currently I’m pursuing my art and music full time. Recently I opened a small online boutique and still haul my art out to the fairs during the summer. I also do small mixing projects for artists who find me online, so I’ve been able to piece together an income through multiple sources.

It took a long time to get there, my last place of employment was a sign company that I was doing design work for. I also used to work at a place doing vinyl decals on cars. I also previously worked at a video store and a roller skate rink.

When I was working full-time I worked 16 hour days or more. I’d work for eight hours at a job then come home and work for eight hours more on my own business and projects…for at least two years. It was intense. There were many days I’d go to bed completely depleted and wake up crying having to go to jobs that I didn’t like. It was very unhealthy, but the work I put in has been worth it and I’m glad I did it. I’m very grateful to be where I am now and to be able to pursue my passions full-time.