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Monday, March 2, 2009

The Julie B Well’s Well-Composed Rock

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Julie B accepts the label of progressive rock for her new band, The Julie B Well-but not without qualifications.

"Lots of prog bands are motivated by the desire to be complicated," says the vocalist and keyboardist. "I'm not doing hard chord changes to be complicated, but to express a mood, a line of lyric, an emotion. The music takes its shape from that."

The Julie B Well formed about a year ago and its lineup stabilized only in the last few months. Its namesake, however, is a veteran of Milwaukee's alternative scene, having played with the psychedelic Liquid Pink in the '80s and fronted the proggy True Heart Susie in the '90s. Since then she has performed her more venturesome compositions in concert-hall settings and occasionally sets up her keyboard in a coffee shop or at Art Bar. The Julie B Well finds her firmly in a rock setting.

A three-song demo disc shows The Julie B Well sounding a little like a post-punk version of Peter Gabriel's Genesis. Intricate chamber rock is infused with full-throttle metal dynamics and the distant echo of Steve Reich's winding, unwinding minimalism. B's songs for the band are fully scored. Reading music is required for membership, and all members have other gigs. Bassist Kramer Kelling also plays in Toad King, guitarist Sean Gill fronts Strange Land, drummer Seth Dougherty recently formed The Cautioners and cellist Angela Schmidt has played in many area classical ensembles.

"We have a lot of shared tastes," B says. "And personality is important. If you have an ego, you're not in the band."

For the band's show this weekend, she has intentionally chosen a variety of bands from genres other than prog. "Let's try to mix things up," she says. "People shouldn't sit in their boxes. If the music is well done, we should be open to it."

The Julie B Well performs March 6 at the Miramar Theatre with Chapman Party of Five, Guzzlemug and Face of Ruin.

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