Milwaukee Rockers Whips Get Off to a Fast Start
Christian Hansen, who plays guitar in Fever Marlene and Hot Coffin, informally enlisted acquaintance Andrew Mrotek, former drummer of Last Place Champs and noted Chicago pop-punk band The Academy Is…, to slap skins for a new project he’d been itching to start. Once the project gained steam, Hansen called on his former Red Knife Lottery bandmate Ashley Smith (née Chapman) to sing. The group quickly called upon their friend Tyler Chicorel (Call Me Lightning and Space Raft) to play bass, and round out what would come to be known as Whips.
“I had ideas in my head for stuff I wasn’t doing. I had ideas to do a music group that was totally separate from anything else I was doing,” Hansen said. “I had an itch to do something totally spontaneous and with no thought.”
Stylistically, the early returns of the free-form band find Whips landing somewhere between Queens Of The Stone Age and Yeah Yeah Yeahs, with a nod to Hot Coffin’s angular guitar work and Red Knife Lottery’s distinct vocals.
However, Smith’s new project finds her setting aside her sharp scream (for the most part, at least) in favor of her strong singing pipes. Whips also finds her involved in unfamiliar band dynamics.
“This is a really fun and new experience for me because I’ve never been a part of the writing process—period,” Smith said. “And I’ve been a part of almost every single [Whips] song as far as writing so far.”
Operating free from guidelines and with an additional creative iron in the fire, the group quickly wrote more than a dozen songs, five of which are on Year One.
“In the past I’ve had problems with projects where writing music became difficult because there was all these other things you had to think about,” Mrotek said. “We’re so fertile when it comes to writing songs, and they’re getting better and better. Our biggest problem is getting people to hear them.”
Despite Whips’ rapid-fire songwriting ability, the band has taken its time when it comes to playing out. To date, the quartet had played just two shows—with just one of those in Milwaukee. But its first show was a doozy, a Cactus Club opening slot for …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead in July.
“I think all of us want to make every show count,” Hansen said. “Off the bat, we thought we could do a solid opening slot for a bigger band coming through town. We wanted to make it a fun and memorable first Milwaukee show. It was awesome.”
Whips was also slated to open for Sub Pop surf punkers Obits earlier this month, but Mrotek was recovering from a broken arm. With its drummer healthy again, Whips now plans to play out much more often, while continuing to write songs with hopes of recording this winter.
Separately, the new group’s members have a pedigree of former and current projects that’s tough to top in Milwaukee music. But between the band’s seasoned cast, its admirable output and undeniable chemistry, year two looks to be an even better one for Whips.
Whips will perform with Fable & The World Flat and Midwest Death Rattle at Mad Planet on Thursday, Oct. 31. The show begins at 9 p.m. and costs $5.