Conrad Plymouth
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Conrad Plymouth

Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States | INDIE

Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States | INDIE
Band Americana Folk


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This band has not uploaded any videos



"Conrad Plymouth, Conrad Plymouth"

Christopher Porterfield’s songs seem explicitly designed not to illicit immediate pleasure. The Milwaukee singer-songwriter, who records under the moniker Conrad Plymouth, favors slow builds over easy climaxes, evocative texture over gut-level hooks, and spooky atmosphere over a quick visceral charge. The four songs on the Conrad Plymouth EP tend to blur together into a 20-minute, mid-tempo, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot-sounding groan on first listen, but upon further inspection they reward patient listeners with finely written and sonically constructed coming-of-age meditations. Whether it’s the warm steel guitar that flows in like a salve on the contemplative “Metamora,” or the ghostly organ that haunts “Here To There,” there are lots of little aural details on Conrad Plymouth that stick with you. If the record has a pay-off, it’s the album-closing “Fergus Falls,” a childhood memory that slowly dissolves into a puddle of cacophony. It’s the big emotional moment on a record that otherwise takes a while to reveal itself. - Onion A.V. Club

"A Few Words on Conrad Plymouth's "Fergus Falls""

If Conrad Plymouth’s nascent career were the basis for a movie, the resulting biopic would undoubtedly set a montage to the band’s “Fergus Falls,” where scenes of impressed Milwaukee bloggers and tastemakers spreading word of the song would be interspersed with footage of the band playing to wowed, progressively bigger audiences. Of course, a fictionalized version of the montage would end with A&R reps swarming the band, and though that’s unlikely to happen, there’s still something romantic about the way a fledgling local band like Conrad Plymouth can claim a signature song, that one showstopper that audiences come to their sets hoping to hear. “Fergus Falls” probably isn’t destined to climb the charts, but if nothing else, it’s already left its small stamp on Milwaukee. It’s easy to imagine local open-mic singers covering it a decade from now.

The song is smartly sequenced as the closer of Conrad Plymouth’s lovely self-titled EP, posted online for free streaming and pay-what-you-like download. It’s the album’s most dramatic track, swelling to National-esque levels of grandeur, and that final payoff sounds even more climactic following the three understated folk-rock tunes that precede it here.

“Fergus Falls” opens with the strum of a guitar restless in anticipation of the fireworks to come, as singer-songwriter Christopher Porterfield teases what will become the song’s jubilant, sing-along refrain: “This is the one in which I miraculously pulled out/ Of a free-fall dive over Fergus Falls, Minnesota.” That’s what all the celebration is about: not some glorious victory, but rather simply pulling out of a downward spiral. "Fergus Falls" evokes those desperate moments where just averting a complete flame out feels like a miraculous triumph, and appreciatively raises a glass to how much worse things could have turned out. It’s a beautifully pure sentiment, perfectly sold. - Shepherd Express

"Conrad Plymouth" More MKE than EC"

Conrad Plymouth has much to show by way of sincerity — the four-piece folk-rock band has been, one-by-one, adding admirers to a long list in Milwaukee and otherwise, recently opening for North Carolinian experimental-folk pals Megafaun and tear-jerker chamber-folk outfit Crooked Fingers, traveling to SXSW in Austin last March and making new fans by way of local music promoter and writer Ryan Matteson, who gives the band props and press regularly on Muzzle of Bees. Conrad Plymouth’s understated songwriting beautifully brings into focus storytelling lyricism with a Midwestern soul: lots of dusty spaces but also lots of momentum, similar to Mark Kozelek’s [Red House Painters, Sun Kil Moon] poetic ramblings that hold a little oomph.

Matteson has gone one step further in his support by initiating a new label, Ten Atoms (an anagram on his last name) to release Conrad Plymouth’s four-song EP [available for download since last April] on 10? vinyl. “Metamora”, “Here to There”, “Captain Video” and “Fergus Falls” will find a new audio home and Christopher Porterfield (guitar, vox), Travis Whitty (bass, vox), Nick Berg (keys) and Damian Strigens (percussion) will give these songs a proper housewarming party at Linneman’s Riverwest Inn this evening. Former Eau Claire resident Porterfield spoke to Fan-belt about four-plus years spent getting his musical sea legs in Milwaukee, his love of Linneman’s, outside influences and getting to play with some of his favorite people in celebration of all of these things.

TCD: The media focuses a lot on your Eau Claire connections. You’ve been in Milwaukee for over four years, so where do you now feel most connected to as a songwriter?

CP: When I finally limped out of Eau Claire, I had just begun to write songs- I was always a supporting player before. And writing certainly wasn’t something that came easily, especially then. So I feel a deep connection to Milwaukee as far as songwriting goes- I got better here. And I think that my development in that area, as well as my connection with a lot of people in this city, is actually due to Linneman’s.
I remember one of my first nights in town (maybe a Tuesday) and I had picked up an Onion or a Shepherd and was looking for something to do. I saw that some songwriter-y dude was playing at some club called Linneman’s. My brother in law picked me up, and we went down there. We walk into this fantastic listening room in the back, and this dude has a pedal steel player with him.
Now, I used to play pedal steel in DeYarmond Edision in Eau Claire, so immediately I get excited. A few songs in, I realize that this is Eric Heywood. He’d played on records that molded me in my formative years: Richard Buckner, Kathleen Edwards, Son Volt- all that late 90's/early aughts Americana stuff. And he was playing ten feet away, for me and twenty other people in this dead-quiet, perfect-sounding room on a Tuesday. Sold.
I started showing up to the Wednesday night open stage: trying out new songs, finding my voice, learning how to relate to a microphone. I had never been a primary singer before. I learned so much about myself as a writer and player and performer there. Jim and Marty gave me good feedback and support. They are serious music lovers, and the service they provide for this city- literally a songwriter workshop every week- is an incredible labor of love. I think its been going on for nearly twenty years. If there is anyone in Milwaukee trying their hand at being a songwriter with traditional instruments and they aren’t making a habit of hitting Linneman’s on Wednesdays, they are doing themselves a big disservice. You know the seven degrees of Kevin Bacon? I bet three out of four people I know in Milwaukee are two degrees removed from Linneman’s. It’s been a hugely important place for me. And this is why we are doing the release show there.

TCD: Who was your biggest local music influence in Eau Claire? Now, in Milwaukee?

CP: Probably Josh Scott. He had a band called Amateur Love that shared members with DeYarmond Edison, so there were weird parallel universes. He was inimitable and undeniable. Best frontman and songwriter I’ve ever seen. I was talking with Justin [Vernon] last week, and he said that for years; Josh’s songs were the only way he could understand the world. Vernon is starting a reissue label on Jagjaguwar [Records], and Amateur Love is reissue number one, coming this fall. Vern was a big influence on me too, but back then Josh owned him. Josh has been under the radar in Chicago for a few years now, but I talked him into playing a set for our release show. I’m thrilled.
My biggest Milwaukee influence was Todd Umhoefer. He had a project called Old Earth. I met him at Linneman’s, of course, and I took so much from him. He is an artist to his core, and also one of the most loyal, honest, humble people I know. He just moved away, and I miss the shit out of him.

TCD: Your music indicates that you might be a bit of an introvert. Is this true or totally misleading?

CPI like being around people, but I also value some time alone. As far as the music goes, I guess I’m not surprised that it comes across as a bit isolated- those are typically the conditions I write in. I don’t write when I’m having fun or being social- I’m too busy enjoying those moments to reflect. It’s those other times that I get the chance to sit down and dig in.
TCD: Tell me about your previous releases and their lining up with the new LP. You’re releasing it on a new, local label [Ryan Matteson's Ten Atoms] on vinyl. Matteson has been a big supporter of yours with Muzzle of Bees.

CP:I’ve been documenting songs since I started, and occasionally been making them available. Nick Berg, our keyboard player, is a good engineer. We made a few living room EPs. We never really pushed them. A lot of those songs are embarrassing. This whole process for me has been a continuing revelation- keep writing new songs so we can kill off old ones. We still play a few of those old songs though. But this is the first proper release for us. And we’ve been really fortunate to have Ryan’s support; he’s really opened up some doors for us. He’s a pretty well respected arbiter in circles we’ve been finding ourselves in. And he’s a great guy, with a real passion for this city. It’s a privilege to work with him.

TCD: What’s the song on your LP that’s nearest and dearest to your heart? Why?
I like “Captain Video”; I think lyrically, it’s well done. It operates on multiple levels, and I like how we’ve been doing it live. Other people seem to like “Fergus Falls” — that’s always a fun song to play. I’m just grateful that people are listening and reacting to something we’ve done.
TCD: It’s the day before your big show — butterflies about anything in particular?

CP: We’re pretty well-oiled right now. Probably going to open with a new one, but we’ll be fine. My wife is going to play on a few…[she's] a great pianist and flautist. I’ve been badgering her to play with me for a long time, and she finally relented. She’ll be covering some of Nick’s mellotron parts on flute while he paints with other colors. She hasn’t played in any bands before — this will be her first foray into pop music, midtempo or otherwise. I think she might be a little nervous for her first midtempo rock show, but she was a champ in rehearsal. We’re good to go. - Third Coast Digest


Behold I Make All Things New (2006, self released)
Taking Alcatraz (2008, self released)
Loathe, Love, Blame, Defend (2009, self released)
Conrad Plymouth (2010, Ten Atoms Records)
Wisco :A Tribute to Wilco's Summerteeth (2010, Muzzle Of Bees)



Christopher Porterfield played pedal steel in the now-defunct Eau Claire, WI Americana band DeYarmond Edison. After the band broke up, other members formed Bon Iver and Megafaun. Porterfield quit music. Until it became increasingly clear that wasn't an option.

He began writing his own songs under the name "Conrad Plymouth," from an old band joke in which the initial letters of his given name were used to come up with fictitious country artists from the seventies (Brad Cook was "Billy Cunningham;" Justin Vernon was "Joe Valentine").

Several years and records later, Conrad Plymouth is an evocative four piece band based in Milwaukee that has shared the stage with the likes of-- in addition to ex-mates Bon Iver and Megafaun-- Crooked Fingers, Damian Jurado, Peter Wolf Crier, David Dondero, Jeremy Messersmith, Laarks and a host of others. They played the Muzzle of Bees SXSW showcase in 2010, and look forward to returning.