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Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014

Bio-Digitally Minded: Ivy Spokes' Two-Part Album

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For most bands working today it’s common practice to release EPs every so often. Albums can take days to months to complete, and it takes more time to release the finished product, while EPs are a good way to get music out faster. The Milwaukee pop-rock band Ivy Spokes, however, is resisting the term EP. Instead, they’ve combined their output into a two-part album. The first half, the five-song Upside, comes out Feb. 28, while the second half, which is still being written, is tentatively planned for a late summer release.

Singer/guitarist Brandon Arndt, who is joined by drummer Hans Blanc and bassist Phil Cowan, says they initially just wanted to get some music out. However, with limited resources and wanting to do something new, they hatched a plan to have a two-part album.

“It’s hard to do a full-length album when you’re a smaller band and to get people taking about it, so we thought we’d try something new that we hadn’t seen anyone do before,” says Arndt. “And instead of just releasing an EP, which a lot of people do and we’ve done before, we wanted to have a full-length album, but having the resources to do it is kind of tough, so we thought this would be a great way of doing it.”

Ivy Spokes, who formed in 2011, dubbed their sound “bio-digital rock ’n’ roll,” a mixture of digital (i.e. lots of samples) and traditional rock band sounds, after hearing the term used in the movie Tron: Legacy and sensing how it fit their unique sound. The two-part album sonically builds on their 2011 EP Chaos to Cosmos and while it’s easy to see its halves as separate, there’ll be a common theme between them.

“We really like the themes going on and how catchy everything is at this point and we think it’ll flow nicely, this next round of songs,” Arndt says. “Originally we were going to call the first half Upside and have the second half called Down so it would be Upside Down. But now we’ve been thinking that we’re actually going to call it Upside Up, because a lot of our songs have an uplifting feeling.”

“Some of them are about being who you are and loving yourself kind of thing,” he adds. “Even if some of the songs are about something that kind of gets you down you can still bring it around and still look positively at life and be up with it.”

For Upside they turned to Bobby Peru Recording in Milwaukee to record the album, and later sent it to Jon Fuller in Colorado to mix and master. As for the second part, the band is currently compiling and writing songs and hope to start recording in summer. “The plan is to release the second half separately and also have a full album version that will have some bonus material on it,” Arndt says.

The band got a boost in popularity last year when their song “In Dreams,” from Chaos, was nominated for a WAMI award for Song of the Year.

“Just being nominated was a good feeling,” says Arndt. “Just to get recognition for what you do and spend a lot of time doing what you love, and someone taking time to nominate you, it’s a big deal.”

Last summer the band enjoyed playing their biggest show thus far as part of Summerfest’s Emerging Artists Series. The performance was threatened by the heat, rain and hunger (the latter almost making Arndt pass out afterward) but everything worked out.

“It looked like no one was really there, which was unfortunate. And then the rain stopped right before we went on stage and all these people flooded in and it was a really great experience,” he says. “I think we gained a lot of fans from that show alone.”

Ivy Spokes releases Upside, Friday, Feb. 28, at Cactus Club with Ikarus Down (who will be releasing their new EP Debris) and I’m Not a Pilot. The $10 cover includes copies of both releases.