The Fatty Acids’ Indie-Pop Circus
As a general rule, college bands are not built to last. Most break up quickly, as band members’ interests drift or other commitments get in the way; only the most dedicated last much past graduation, when day jobs begin to take priority over low-paying gigs. Milwaukee’s Fatty Acids are happy to be beating the odds. Formed in 2007 by UW-Milwaukee undergrads, who played songs that singer Josh Evert had written while still living in the dorms, they’ve stayed the course since graduating, continuing to play out at a clip that’d be hard to keep up with even for younger bands who don’t have offices to get to the next morning.
“We definitely had a philosophy for our first few years that we weren’t going to turn down a show,” Evert says. “That’s a good philosophy for any band that’s just starting out.” If The Fatty Acids are marginally more selective about the shows they play these days, it’s only because now they’re usually playing real venues instead of the Riverwest house shows they cut their teeth on. This week they’ll reach the culmination of their climb from BYOB basement shows to places with actual bars and actual sound guys when they play the release party behind their latest album, Boléro, at the city’s prestigious Pabst Theater.
Along with the band’s lineup, The Fatty Acids’ sound has changed over the years, growing busier, faster and more keyboard dependent as the group swelled into a six piece. At times on Boléro they seem to aim for all-out sensory overload, with the most hyperactive songs suggesting Animal Collective on Adderall. What hasn’t changed, though, is the plucky spirit of their earliest recordings together. Even as their arrangements have grown more elaborate, the band has retained the sense that, at their core, they’re just a bunch of guys goofing around, trying their hardest to amuse themselves and each other. “I grew up on Weird Al and Michael Jackson,” Evert says, “so I think all of my writing is always going to sound like a shitty circus.”
None of that is to suggest that they don’t take that circus seriously. Like its predecessors, Boléro was self-recorded and produced, and even a cursory listen makes it clear that they’ve thrown some epic man hours into the thing. “The more mixing I’ve done, the more comfortable I’ve become with it, and I hope that translates to this album,” Evert says.
“I’ve learned how to mic the amps and the drums better, and how to make sure we’re going with our best take so that we don’t waste time editing,” he continues. “The hardest thing for me is to get good drum tones; that’s something we obsess over. It’s really important to me because I play drums and I feel like a lot of my favorite albums have really prominent drums in them. It’s really hard to get a drum tone that has attack but also has tone to it. This album was even trickier because we’ve added in an auxiliary cocktail kit on a lot of new songs, so on half the tracks on this album, you’re hearing a drum set and either one or two layers of an auxiliary kit, which was really hard to mix, so it’s tough to get all of those textures in there. Hopefully it came off as a full sound, not a muddled sound.”
The Fatty Acids share their album release show at the Pabst Theater Friday, Sept. 6 with fellow locals Faux Fir and Sat. Nite Duets. Doors open at 7 p.m.