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The best kept secret in music


"Makin' Copies"

Classic punk-rock riffs are splayed wide open, their every tone and overtone freed to scatter coltishly in all directions. Hotly amped guitars roar, squall and yowl in an alien language of melodic noise. Distortion and electricity are, themselves, instruments played with expert cunning. Meanwhile, the cute female bassist's almost-whispery vocals are self-consciously detached, brandishing an alluring sexy-cool that suddenly — and often without warning — gives way to rage. - The Daily Page

"Echo-static's sound resonates among Midwesterners"

Bassist and vocalist Olivia Sass, guitarist and vocalist Todd Ostertag, guitarist John Chvojicer and drummer Chad Ovshak -- the members of the Madison band Echo-static -- are sitting in their practice space on Madison's south side preparing for their week-long tour of the Midwest. They take a break so they can brainstorm some ways to make them sound more interesting.

Ovshak jokingly suggests portraying the band as a quartet of Madison ghetto-snipes that steal the wallets of potential interviewers and leave them for dead. Sass laughs and recommends something a little different, suggesting that instead of describing their live show as a "dizzying array of emotion, sweat and really loud instruments," it would be better to call it an "orgasmic experience."

"It's kind of an ironic title," says Ostertag of the title of their new album, "Empty Places." "There's not a lot of empty space on the album."

It's hard to find any silence on the nine tracks of the densely layered album. Between the catchy guitar riffs, the roaring loud guitars and the thoughtful lyrics, there isn't a lot of room for empty space.

But Sass says there were other reasons for the title. She explains, "We're not a political band, but we felt that in a lot of ways our country has become empty, lacking in both culture and integrity."

Politics were certainly not the driving force of the lyrics when Sass and Ostertag started writing songs together five years ago, as Echo-static was in its embryonic stages. "We try to be creative with rock," states Sass.

Both of them became influenced by their heroes, which include such rock groundbreakers as Sonic Youth and The Mermen, and started asking others to join them into bringing Echo-static to life.

The first few years found Sass and Ostertag having problems getting their drummers and guitarists to show up to crucial gigs. Two years ago, they found permanence in the drumming skills of Ovshak. Chvojicer, whose guitar is more influenced by the Rolling Stones, joined up and the lineup was finally complete.

Their live shows started gaining a positive buzz, being described as "intense," "ferocious," and an "experience." Local critics started describing Echo-static as "mind-blowing" and "Madison's best indie rock band." As the crowds at their shows started to increase, they finally decided that it was time to put "Empty Places" into the world.

Considered by the band to be their greatest achievement as a band to date, the two years it took to make were full of setbacks and, quite literally, injuries. In addition to the band's personnel changes and their dedication to getting the album to sound just right, the band suffered through a six-month layoff due to Ovshak injuring his shoulder during a show.

"I had to have shoulder surgery," he says, "I tore up my rotator cuff."

The band stuck by Ovshak until he was fully healed. This summer, Echo-static's labor of love was finally fed to the hungry ears of their fans. It was released on Crustacean Records, in conjunction with the band's own Echo-slut label, which was formed with the mission to bring other bands into the fold.

The brainstorming comes to a halt and the loading of the van resumes. All the thinking seems unnecessary after hearing about their Midwestern tour, which consists of five cities in seven days. "I'm really excited," says Ostertag, who once went to school at UW-Milwaukee.

For Ovshak, Echo-static's plans for the future remain simple. "We're just going to keep writing, keep playing, and get out of Madison."

It sure beats stealing the wallets of potential interviewers.

- On Milwaukee

"Echo-static fills Empty Places with ultra-cool vocal panache"

Think back to 1992's Guitar Rock heyday -- Nirvana had jaded hipsters just starting to grumble, "'Alternative' to what?'," labels like AmRep, SubPop and Touch and Go were the top breeding grounds, Billy Corgan had long hair and no man-dresses, Brainiac were emerging as the Midwest's Great White Hope, Sonic Youth made their (arguable) masterpiece, Dirty, and The Pixies were, directly, the biggest influence on Indie Rock. Before bands started seeing dollar signs in it and shaped their sound accordingly, "the year that punk broke," to quote SY, was an exciting, almost disorienting time to be a fan of underground Post Punk.

If you're misty-eyed and wistfully nostalgic at the mere thought of that year, Wisconsin's echo-static will have you saying, "Hell, yeah!," from the very first notes of their engaging new album, Empty Places. Though it probably could have been fitted into "Top 10 of 1992" lists from some alternative weekly or 'zine from the era, there is a distinct freshness in the band's methods on Spaces, driven largely by the cascading, textural guitar cacophony and the instinctive, artistic arrangements of their powerful songs. Though they have a bank of guitar effects that would make Adrian Belew jealous, the double guitar tandem of echo-static comes off almost organically, resulting in an extrasensory interplay that ranks with the best of them. Singer/bassist Olivia's grizzled Kim Gordon growl-n-purr is seductively mysterious, while drummer Chad is the proverbial glue -- his muscular, intuitive rhythmic knack is as ear-seizing as the imaginative guitar creations. Empty Places is an inspired, kaleidoscopic opus of surging guitar ingenuity and dynamicism, vibrant rhythmic pulsations and luxurious, ultra-cool vocal panache. (Mike Breen)
- City Beat

"It's The Moffat Shows"

And so to another Club Fandango, with Madisonians Echo Static kicking off proceedings in bruising form. Bruise violeting form, even. Yes, this is another of those complicated lady-led lots, and we warm to them immediately when their opening track begins identically to the Inspirals’ mighty ‘I Want You’, and remain aglow throughout a rudely abrupt (a mere five songs, we make it, though they’ve got a mini London residency-type thingy happening at the minute, hence, we imagine, the leave-‘em-‘wanting-more attitude. Fine call!) set that pounds with an undercurrent of violence, bleeds a sneery seduction and mucho breathy rasping from Olivia and general guitar tangliness. Nowhere near as affable as they think they are, but quite the proposition regardless. - Play Louder


2003: "Empty Places" LP on Crustacean Records, USA
2004: 2 tracks on "Shock And Oar" LP, on Fierce Panda, UK


Feeling a bit camera shy


If you had to go for comparisons, you'd think of Sonic Youth with Kim Gordon at the helm or My Bloody Valentine with even bigger hooks. Live you are simply knocked out by the sheer power in the playing and the almost frightening stage presence and "growl'n'purr" vocals of singer/bassist Olivia.