Despite the Chaos
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Despite the Chaos

Band Rock Alternative


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On Sunday, April 19, the Miramar Theatre presented the “Music Lives Here" concert, featuring four local bands. While the other performers Now You Have Audio, The Soggy Flats and Union Pulse put on a good show, the spotlight was really upon Despite the Chaos and its unique sound. This local band was the show-stealer, drawing the largest crowd.

When Despite the Chaos took the stage, the crowd awoke. Lead singer Amber Elena prodded those still in their seats until every last person was up and moving. The set and performance were solid with a few songs that really stood out. Personal favorite, “Don’t Come Back” was on my list, but the crowd really reacted to tracks “Downfall” and “Common Motion,” both packed with intensity and emotion. Of course, the one cover that the band played exemplified a marriage of genres. The cover was of a mash-up called “Crush Crush Faint,” combining Paramore’s “crushcrushcrush” and Linkin Park’s “Faint.”

Amber Elena is one of those feisty femme fatales you hear on the radio these days with their punk rock bands, while keyboardist and synth/sample man Marty Cherwin brings in the sampling and style for which Linkin Park is famous. Both Amber and Marty add soul and depth to a genre that can end up sounding processed and repetitive.

Guitarist Matt Cole and bassist Tony Larsen have an incredible energy and showmanship rarely seen. They are not only masters of their respective instruments, but also adept at creating an unexpected show that warrants repeat attendees. Drummer Bob Seifert, who also provides vocals from time to time, rounds out the band. The intricate and ever-changing beats make it an insane job to add vocals, but somehow Seifert makes it work seamlessly.

After the show ended, all the members of Despite the Chaos were friendly as can be, chatting up as many people as possible. As a testament to the crowd they pulled in, after they finished, the entire theater emptied.

It’s rare to find a local band with original songs so diverse, catchy and meaningful. Its debut EP, “Scatter the Ashes,” will be out this summer and you can catch the band playing numerous shows around Milwaukee. Catch them May 22 at Live on North. You can keep tabs via its Web site ( or find them on MySpace and Facebook. - UWM Post

Saturday, August 8

Despite The Chaos w/ Today We Fly and Truth In Fiction @ The Rave, 7 p.m.
It took five years, but Despite the Chaos, a brooding, Linkin Park and Evanescence-styled alternative rock band, has finally finished its debut EP, Scatter the Ashes. Anybody curious about what took so long can find out by watching the DVD that comes with the EP, In Their Making, a behind-the-scenes documentary from director Tomah Mackie that details the band’s mostly universal struggles and their long-shot bid for greater stardom. Tickets to tonight’s release show include copies of both the EP and the DVD. - Shepherd Express

Rock and classical music may seem like strange bedfellows, but if you examine the evidence, they've been having a love affair for quite some time.

In the 1970s, prog-rock bands began using orchestras' epic sounds to lure listeners into intricate rhythms and harmonies. In the past decade, KISS, Metallica and Sigur Rós have collaborated with some of the world's finest symphonies. But while orchestras have influenced the local music scene through chamber-pop groups like Pale Young Gentlemen and Fermata, UW-Madison's string ensembles haven't been staging major rock-outs.

Until now, that is. The catalyst? Middleton's Peter and Tomah Mackie.

The brothers — a UW music composition student and a filmmaker whose recent documentary, Despite the Chaos: In Their Making, has won spots at film festivals — realized that Madison's All University String Orchestra could help Milwaukee rock group Despite the Chaos build the gigantic, lush sound its members have been dreaming about for years.

With 125 string players, the orchestra has more personnel than most symphonies that back rock stars. A big sound isn't all Despite the Chaos is after, though. The band is hoping that violins, violas and cellos will stop listeners from comparing them to Linkin Park for a moment.

Peter was approached by Despite the Chaos guitarist Matt Cole, a high school friend, to arrange some of the band's songs for string quartet. Peter liked the idea but figured it would fade away, as so many creative impulses do. The band, however, had grander plans.

"I met up with my brother at Matt's house, and there was this emergency band meeting going on," recalls Peter. "Not an abysmal, Flight of the Conchords sort of thing but the kind of meeting where you discuss new ideas."

The musicians talked about using a string quartet on tour. "I was like, 'You guys are a rock band. Forget string quartets. You need a big show with an orchestra and a ginormous crowd.'"

A classical and film-score junkie who claims to have "no rock music experience whatsoever," Peter says the biggest local audience he could recall wasn't from Mötley Crüe's gig at the Alliant Energy Center. It was one for a performance by the All University String Orchestra. He has played cello for three years with the group and debuted a Rimsky-Korsakov arrangement with it. Convincing orchestra leader Janet Jensen to add rock to the program was a piece of cake, he insists, since she already knew his work.

"I think she's more into rock than I am," he says.

Once Peter began arranging the songs for strings, he was in his element. He armed himself with a pencil and a cup of Barriques coffee as dark, metal-esque rock pulsed through his headphones.

"I went through the songs only with my ear, finding the chords and the rhythmic ideas," he says of the two pieces he arranged, "Downfall" and "Breathing." "There were some really subtle things going on in the drums and the bass, things that might be lost in a performance, so I tried to amplify those and add some elements of surprise." The band-orchestra combo performs the pieces on Dec. 5 at UW's Mills Hall.

For some, the biggest surprise may be hearing violins rock out. Marty Cherwin, Despite the Chaos' keyboards-and-samples guy, contends that his band could make anybody lose inhibitions, even a violinist.

"Rock is contagious," he says. "We'll be blowing the roof off the place." - Jessica Steinhoff, The Isthmus


Scatter the Ashes EP - 2009
Untitled Album - summer 2010



Hard work. Determination. Perseverance. These are the words most bands use to describe themselves - Despite The Chaos uses these words to define themselves. This rock quintet has crafted a unique, female-driven sound that pierces through their powerful, rock-heavy canvas. Based out of Milwaukee, Despite The Chaos is utilizing every method possible for garnering a fanbase that responds to their dynamic, high-energy music. Whether it be performing with a 125-piece string orchestra, screening their 42-minute documentary at film festivals, or simply striking up a conversation with a new fan on Milwaukee's north side, Despite The Chaos is paving a truly one of a kind path to what once was, a sliver of ambition.

This young rock outfit is on the verge of something absolutely genre-defying for a small, Midwestern band. Fueled by the success of their debut album, Scatter The Ashes, the group has received phenomenal support not only on a fan level, but from independent filmmaker, Tomah Mackie, and producer/engineer, Ian Carlson, of 24-bit productions, each of whom brings a rare insight not only to the music but to the overall vision of the band. Few bands are fortunate to have this kind of trust and collaboration within their circle but this trust exists solely as a testament to the strength of their music. As Despite The Chaos continues to build momentum, it will be exciting to see where their music takes them next...

Despite the Chaos' debut EP, Scatter the Ashes, is currently being sold with their 42-minute documentary, In Their Making, a breakthrough look at the struggle and perseverance of these young musicians. It will have its Wisconsin premiere at the Beloit International Film Festival in February and recently, won the award for 'Best Editing' at the Los Angeles Reel Film Festival.