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The best kept secret in music


"1881 jolts its rock with jazz improvisation"

October 16, 2002

Milwaukee's musical revolution began in 1999. That was the year local band 1881 was formed.

Twin brothers Erik and Brian Molstad, formerly members of Internal Use, joined forces with drummer Nathan Bellew and innovative synthesizer player Paul Duquesnoy to form the band, which takes its name from the year of Milwaukee's second industrial revolution.

The result is what the band calls an "intense electro-rock physio-fix" that takes root in such diverse influences as Faith No More, Morphine, Underworld and Herbie Hancock. It's an edgy, eclectic sound that is starting to shake the cobwebs of a local music scene dominated by cover bands and hippie jam bands.

Of course, a band with jazz influences must be capable of jamming a little bit. Erik Molstad says, "No show is the same." Duquesnoy presses the point further, saying, "Part of our show is improvising. We go for 20 minutes each show jamming with new material."

It's not all improvisation. When Erik Molstad starts writing a song, it all begins with a beat, then the band begins to collaborate on melodies. Soon the songs and lyrics begin to take a shape and form all their own.

"They are pretty introspective songs but at the same time they are meant to be a message," says Erik Molstad, "I think that whatever I feel and if it's really intense I usually think it's something that other people are experiencing. Every song has an identity."

Nine of those songs make up what the band feels is their biggest accomplishment to date, their self-released album "Brick and Mortar," which has been praised by critics and fans alike, praising their aggressive rock style and their uniqueness and originality.

Despite their success, 1881, as well as many other local bands, are recovering from a slow summer season dominated by a slow economy and another crazy festival season in which even their most loyal fans are distracted by Summerfest and State Fair. "It's rough for everyone right now," Erik Molstad admits.

Converting new listeners to their already large and loyal fan base isn't easy either in a town that is in love with cover bands.

"I always thought it as a kid that Milwaukee had a great music scene," Duquesnoy remembers. "My dad was in a cover band. They did great. That is what Milwaukee expects. They want to hear something they know, drink, and have fun. To listen to original music is taking a risk."

Brian Molstad adds, "If we were in a greater metropolitan area, there would be a greater number of people willing to try something new. It's a little difficult, but we have been around long enough, we have a good crowd, and we are strong enough as a band to see it through. Even though there is all this competition, as far as we're concerned, the more bands that recognized around here, the more we benefit."

To get their music out there, 1881 has used the Internet, namely mp3.com, as a tool to bring together a wider audience as they begin work on their new EP. "The songs have become a little less intricate and a little vibeier," Duquesnoy says.

For 1881, the revolution continues.

See 1881 at Club Anything, 807 S. 5th St., in Walker's Point, Thurs., Oct. 17 at 10 p.m.

-Jason Keil - OnMilwaukee.com

"Bar Stars - When you're out on the town, take in these acts."

April 5, 2002

Bar bands. They're a dime a dozen - plus a two-drink minimum.

While every city has its share of anonymous acts that crank up the volume and churn out the generic background noise for your Saturday nights on the town, Milwaukee's scene has a lot more to offer. Whether your tastes run to jazz or metal, country or just quirky, there's a band making your kind of music.

Here's just a sampling of some of the worthy bands out there that'll work hard for their beer money - and remind you that great music is worth listening to, not just hearing above the hum of conversation and clink of glasses.


People who say Milwaukee isn't on music's cutting edge haven't heard 1881. The quartet, which recently released its first album, "Brick & Mortar," retains the essence of rocking but throws formula out the window.

Musicians: Erik Molstad (vocals, synth, programming), Brian Molstad (guitars, backing vocals), Paul Duquesnoy (loops, samples, programming), Nathan Belew (drums, percussion, backing vocals)

Try them if you like: Underworld, Faith No More, Morphine

How they describe their sound: "Aggressive rock and drum 'n' bass tinted with jazz. We also do improv techno/breakbeat in the middle of our set, which we like to call the Physio-Fix."

How we describe their sound: Full-on fusion of rock guitar and jazz flourishes laid over thick and inventive beats worth raving about.

Best song: " 'Just High' captures almost all of our modes pretty much. It's got rock guitar, jazzy sax, intense vocals and a hip-hop groove with hints of breakbeat in it," says Molstad.

Sample lyric: "You tried to live and learn/And see the end before us all/Baby, did you ever have control?" (from "Ask," "about living in the present . . . and asking your soul what's best for you," says Molstad).

Band philosophy: "We feel that everyone's got to stop doing what they think they should be doing with their lives and start doing what they're meant to do. . . . "

More info: www.EighteenEightyOne.com or call (414) 807-0833 to get on the band's mailing list.

Next gig: 10 tonight with psi at Points East Pub, 1501 N. Jackson Ave. ($5). 1881 also will open for Strangest Places May 4 at Shank Hall.

- Gemma Tarlach - Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

"Brick & Mortar: an album bursting with energy and ambition"


On paper, with their metal guitars, grainy drum
loops, post-industrial production tricks and angst-y
vocals, 1881 might seem just another nu-metal
band. Thankfully, 1881's debut LP Brick and
Mortar defies such easy reduction. For one thing,
the band's skillful, trippy, Meat Beat Manifesto-style
synthesizer programming isn't just there to spice up
flavorless rock tracks (as is the case with too many
nu metal bands), but rather is as integral a part of
their sound as the crunching guitar riffs. And while
there are plenty of overblown production stunts, of
the sort one would expect from System of a Down
(e.g., big waves of white noise building up gradually
in the background until they drown out the entire
track), 1881 doesn't let the production tricks
overshadow its compositions
Surprisingly, 1881 also displays an affinity for jazz styles ranging from soulful hard bop (check
out the grooving sax sounds on "Ask") to freaky avant-garde and free jazz (see the atonal
breakdown in the middle of "Trepanate"). Distorted brass and woodwinds chug and squeal
over an ominous rock backbeat in a manner resembling the grinding, saxophone-driven rock
of Morphine, with just a dash of Ornette Coleman. The glorious moments where 1881's jazz,
electronic, and heavy metal elements gel more than justify the few times where they don't
quite click. Hopefully, this more sophisticated side of 1881 won't be lost on their headbanging
Jazz excursions aside, 1881's more straightforward rockers recall Ozzy Osbourne's early-80s
hits with Randy Rhodes, back in those pre-Metallica days when heavy metal was still allowed
to have catchy melodies and glossy pop production. There's even a few guitar solos that can
only be described as "killer". 1881's lyrics fall squarely into the Trent Reznor school of
depressive white-boy angst (i.e., "Leavin' everything I never wanted / I know of a world
between alive and dead"), which would normally be a turn-off, yet vocalist Erik Molstad sings
them earnestly and plainly enough to stay above the whininess to which many of Reznor's
imitators (and sometimes Reznor himself) succumb. At the very least, Molstad's words never
spoil the tune.
Brick and Mortar is an album bursting with energy and ambition, featuring a couple of truly
excellent tracks. And though it's not quite consistent enough to qualify as a classic, it
nonetheless suggests that 1881 have at least one A+ record inside them, waiting to be

Rating: 8 (of 10)
Format: LP, CD
Order From: CD Baby
More Information: 1881 Official Website

-Emil Hyde - 100% Unnatural - The Poptronica Webzine


2002 - Brick & Mortar LP
2005 - d3EP


Feeling a bit camera shy


"People who say Milwaukee isn't on music's cutting edge haven't heard 1881."
- Gemma Tarlach, Entertainment Editor for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

"I hear a style. You guys are really talented. Voice is great, music is great, productions is great."
- Ruvin Spivak, A&R Rep for Columbia Records

"...one of the best new dance-techno-rock bands to spill out of the Beer City..."
- Peter Braun, Editor of Svoid Magazine

In I88I, rock, electronic and hip hop fuse together into Electro Funk Rock. In 1881, rock, electronic, and hip hop fuse together into Electro Funk Rock. Fuse the abstract yet tight grooves of DJ Shadow, the old/new-skool sounds of Outkast, and the deep swirling tones of Morphine and you get an idea of 1881's genre-defying, yet accessible sound. I88I is spawned from the creations of singer/songwriter, keyboardist, and sound-shaper Ærik Molstad and his twin brother, guitarist Brian Molstad. The twins have collaborated musically since their childhood in various bands. In '99, the twins brought in Paul Duquesnoy, an innovative, established techno artist for his hard-edge electro/drum 'n bass rhythms, samples, and soundscapes. In 2002, they release their first LP, Brick & Mortar and toured the Midwest in support of it. The album was a collage of industrial and drum n’ bass textures with powerful and passionate vocals. Now the band is releasing a 7-song EP entitled d3EP. It shows the evolution of the band into an infectious style of sensual beats and grooves combined with both raw and slick synth lines and guitar. Ærik’s growth and progress as a vocalist and songwriter are clear in this new release. The music they've created together has gone beyond any of their expectations, and with the members adding live sax, cello, and percussion to their talents, the possibilities are endless. You'll be hearing a lot more about I88I.