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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Sulek’s Animated Lucky Break

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Five years ago, the notion of striking out into the music industry as a full-time group had never crossed the minds of singer Patrick Hoctor and the other members of Milwaukee band Sulek. They were too busy having fun tossing song ideas to each other in bedrooms and garages and playing the random show here and there for high-school crowds.

But sometimes it takes only the slightest bit of luck to tilt the scales. When Grey Gerling, a close friend and Hoctor’s college roommate, used the band’s homemade recordings in a number of hand-drawn animations for his online company, BarfQuestion Films, the music dam broke. Those who saw the videos grew intrigued by their soundtrack and began to ask about getting a copy of Sulek’s unique, dynamic blend of pop, rock, folk and classical music.

“He was like, ‘People are asking for albums and stuff. Think you could ever put one together?’” Hoctor recalls. “So that’s how the first album came about. We just pieced together all these songs we had written for fun and never had imagined selling at all. It pays to be involved with something else to help you grow.”

The four-man band of self-taught musicians released Songs from the Doctor's Office in 2008 and followed it up quickly with last year’s Believer’s Lane. Hoctor says that the band’s homemade sound not only comes from relatively inexpensive instruments and recording devices like 8-tracks, but also from diverse tastes in music and having two songwriters.

“I write half the songs, but David (Kelly), the piano/banjo/guitar player, writes the other half. And a few of them come together as a full band,” explains Hoctor, who adds that he takes two days for a song while Kelly takes six months. “Some songs are more folky, more rocking, some are more like surf music. Some are based around piano, some are more based around the guitar. So we dabble in all areas.”

It may sound like the band creates complicated parts to make this dynamic sound, but that’s not the case.

“We’re forced to have simple parts for everything because none of us are really masters at our instruments; if anyone is good, it’s David,” Hoctor says. “As far as the guitar parts and bass parts, they always have to be pretty simple, so then we’re forced to make really interesting arrangements. We have simple parts, but when they come together they make an interesting and exciting song.”

Some things might change for the next album, when the band takes on an outside producer (a close friend of the band), but the core of the band will remain the same. The group plans to record together as a band like they did for their first album.

“It’s going to be really interesting because we have a lot of fun recording it ourselves,” Hoctor says. “We often write parts as we record, but we’re going to have to rehearse before we go into the studio and have our parts down. The sound should be way up and above what we’ve done before. It’ll be something new, but we’re still old Sulek and will be along the lines of what we’ve done before.”

The band is gaining momentum with more shows due to the increased popularity, but they would like to think the reason for the group’s existence remains the same as day one.

“We go to shows with our old instruments and people give us weird looks, but we do what we do, we have fun. And people can tell that,” Hoctor says. “We never dreamed of being an actual band and releasing albums and making money. That feeling has kept us true to something. We’re in this just for the sake of music, just for the sake of having a good time. We still have that in us, and we’re proud of that.”

Sulek plays with Ehson Rad and His Band on Thursday, July 8, at 9 p.m. at Linneman’s Riverwest Inn.