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Milwaukee’s New Red Moons Rise Again

Jul. 9, 2014
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The music industry is fickle. If a band wants to stay on the radar, it needs to continuously play shows, release new music and, if it’s lucky, receive some press. By those measures, the Milwaukee rock trio The New Red Moons had been falling behind. Until recently, the group hadn’t played a show in more than a year, and their last release came in 2011. It was enough to make some fans wonder if the group was even together anymore. Fortunately, they’re still at it, and they’ve emerged from the studio with new music. They hope to get back on the map and stay there with their new album Mesmérisme.

The album title refers to Franz Mesmer’s 17th-century theory of animal magnetism—specifically, how living things connect and are mesmerized by each other and are able “to hold their thoughts in control or keep their thoughts in kind of a supernatural way.” Singer/guitarist Joe McIlheran and his bandmates saw a similarity with how they wanted their music to connect.

“This album is more about the mood than about transparent lyrics and songwriting—more in that direction than the last one,” McIlheran says. “So the idea that music can hopefully hold the listener captive, hold their moods and their thoughts captive for a little while, was very enticing to us. It’s a goal of ours as musicians and we hope this record does that, to mesmerize people for a short time.

“My lyrics put you in a certain place mood-wise then tell you a very specific story,” he adds. “We always strive with the instruments to support whatever is going on in the lyrics—to extend the mood that is already present in the words.”

McIlheran is joined by bass player Jeff Brueggeman and drummer Kavi Laud. Together they strive to create dynamic songs that are fairly sparse, melodic, punchy and full of three-part harmonies. Drawing inspiration from a variety of places, including old-time folk and ’60s rock, the band create musical drama in the studio and live on stage.

“We strive towards accessible songs that make you think every time you listen to it and put you in a different place,” says McIlheran.

While the band’s debut featured songs written entirely by McIlheran, Mesmérisme is more of a group effort. “When I was writing I had the rest of the band, individual and band, in mind,” McIlheran says. “So now when we’re playing, everyone really has an equal share in how we forge the songs. I feel it’s really a team effort. We’re all there when we’re making the music. It’s very rewarding. That’s the whole reason you’re in a band, right?”

The band began recording Mesmérisme in fall of 2012 with the help of Ryan Elliott, a sound engineer and guitarist for Great Lake Drifters, at 7711 Studios. The band felt at home recording in the old converted house studio and McIlheran says, “This time we felt like we could strut out a little more.” McIlheran’s wife, Jamie, joined during the sessions as a guest vocalist.

Production delays slowed things down but the band found ways to keep things moving forward. To raise funds for releasing it on both CD and vinyl, they started a Kickstarter campaign late last year and quickly found support.

“We exceeded our goal in 22 days,” he says. “Our fans and family and friends were really generous and showed how much they believed in us.”

The New Red Moons release Mesmérisme on CD and vinyl at Club Garibaldi on Friday, July 11, at 8 p.m. with openers Steven Look and The Union Suits.


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