Juniper Tar
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Juniper Tar

Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States

Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States
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It’s no secret that we are big fans of Milwaukee’s Juniper Tar here at Muzzle of Bees. They’re playing one of our 5-year-anniversary shows (2/19 in Madison); we mention them every chance we get; oh, and Muzzle of Bees’ own Ryan Matteson and WMSE’s Ryan Schleicher (bassist and vocalist in Juniper Tar) have a little podcast that you might have heard. The connections are everywhere.

But being out of the northern loop, I’ve never met these dudes — just heard them. I’ve been listening to their Howl Street EP for several weeks now and wow, it’s good. It’s out today. You should get it. They will celebrate the release of the EP this Thursday night at Club Garibaldi. You should go.

This EP follows the band’s 2008 release of the full-length To the Trees (which you can get from the band in exchange for your email address here!) and shows that the band is serious about its development and evolution. An EP like this needs to work in some very specific ways. It should create anticipation and excitement in a wider-than-local audience — in essence something to tour behind. It should give that audience both broad and fine-stroke ideas about craft, style, and influence. And it should work as a kind of flag-ship of the band’s best work for potential labels. In other words, it should make a strong argument — one that will move people to get out and see the band. The Howl Street EP succeeds in all these ways. I want to see this band as soon as possible.

In regards to the style and influences behind Juniper Tar, I hear an attention to tradition but with a unique distillation that other artists like Justin Townes Earle and bands like Dawes are doing so well right now. Also, there is an aesthetic to Juniper Tar that reminds me of groups like the National and Explosions in the Sky — a sound that manages to be greater than the sum of its parts. That can’t be easy to pull off.

“Innerstates” opens the record with a great melody with strong and layered vocals. It’s songs like this that have earned the band the designation of being “folksy roots-rock.” The vocal harmonies here are indicitive of what kind of record this is going to be. They are the first thing that catch my attention and surely,”Innerstates” sets the tone for the EP. The folksy roots-rock thing blows up into something much bigger pretty quickly though. Not that the rest of the EP isn’t folksy or rootsy, it just does a lot more. “Birds in the Trees” has that Explosions in the Sky element I was talking about with a long wistful jam at the end. “Old Mystery” also has this element. It is an epic tune that builds for several minutes before moving into the verses and chorus. In this case the concluding jam has multiple guitars trading lines back and forth. It’s fun to listen to; it must be a blast to play.

The record closes with “Strings” and it employs a songwriting strategy that I notice is used often throughout The Howl Street EP. It involves the use of a single vocal line repeated against the building dynamics of the rest of the band. It’s effective. It gives the words a chance to sink in but also allows space for the rest of the band to move around and speak — first in simple vocal harmonies, but later and as it builds into that sweeping bigness I was talking about earlier. There is usually a back and forth here, as on “Birds in the Trees,” that creates a kind of dialog between the vocals and the instruments. Like I mentioned, it’s really fun to listen to. And, no mistake about it, this is a guitar record. There is some really incredible playing here: acoustic, electric, lap-steel — it’s all great.

I can’t say that I’m not just a little jealous of the Wisconsin festivities that are coming up here in the next few weeks. From the release party for this great EP, to the Muzzle of Bees anniversary shows, not to mention the incredible consistency of amazing shows you guys seem to get. It helps a bit that I see a TBA date scheduled on Juniper Tar’s upcoming tour down here in Champaign. I can’t wait to meet you guys. - Muzzleofbees.com


I don’t know about you guys but I’m not the biggest fan of the “extended play” or, in short “EP.” As you know, EPs contain more music than a single but are too short to qualify as a full-length album. In my opinion, you typically get one standout out of the few tracks provided, and that’s it. And I’d be damned if I came across an EP to blow my skirt up. Fuck, was I wrong! Milwaukee, Wisconsin band, Juniper Tar couldn’t have slapped me in the face any harder. They are set to release their “The Howl Street EP,” on February 18th and holy smokes does this 4 song EP pack a punch. And before you start making your own conclusion on a “4 song” EP let it be known this EP peaks a little over 20 minutes of some of the most promising music for the FPM nation.

We have Jason Mohr on Vocal and Ax duties, Aaron Schlecher (guitar/ax), Tuc Krueger (drums), Ryan Schlecher (bass), and Chris Demay (Piano). Juniper Tar is a group of 5 buds playing folk-rock music they have all grown to love and they credit their influences to some our favorite acts (Neil Young, Uncle Tupelo, and Ryan Adams). Any time we hear a band is influenced by those troubadours we’re all ears. Yes, some succeed and some may fall by the wayside. Well, Junipar Tar not only sits nicely in the company of their influencers they also do a damn good job carrying their torch. The opening track, “Innerstates” could be one of the greatest songs Jay Farrar never wrote and one of the most beautiful songs I’ve heard this year. Providing us with great song writing and great vocals but what I think really brings this band together are the guitar arrangements. The middle tracks “Bird and Trees” and “Old Mystery” provide a spacey interlude, which would make any Nels Cline or Crazy Horse fan happy. And they couldn’t have closed with a better track than with “Strings” a number that showcases their knack for multi-harmonies and the bands cohesiveness.

All in all, the EP exceeds expectation. Hell, it really hard to do it justice with a quick review. But trust me guys, dedicate 20 minutes of your time and I promise you will get lost in this one. Very well crafted and you’ll be yearning for more. - Front Porch Musings (SF)


Milwaukee band Juniper Tar established itself as one of the city’s finest purveyors of gentle folk-rock with 2008’s To The Trees, a spaced-out pastoral record designed for late summer nights spent polishing off whiskey bottles on the back porch. It’s no surprise that the new The Howl Street EP—named after Shane Hochstetler’s eternally busy Bay View studio Howl Street Recordings, where the record was made—is similarly lovely, boasting raw and ragged harmonies on the rampaging "Birds In Trees" and an understated sense of drama on the slowly unfolding lead-off track “Interstates.” But Juniper Tar has really stepped its game up in concert, unfurling a surly three-guitar attack that explodes the group’s delicate melodies in all kinds of thrilling directions. - Onion AV Club


If the sporadic posting around these parts isn’t at least a little bit of an indicator, I’ve been a little burned out on music blogging for the past few months. No reason other than just relaxing and doing nothing has seemed like a much better option than wading through the piles of stuff littering my desk and my hard drive. I’ve been doing this thing pretty regularly for almost 5 years now… just me. Regardless of how motivated I am (or not) or have been, I feel truly compelled to tell you about the phenomenal Milwaukee band Juniper Tar and their latest release, The Howl Street EP. Ryan from Muzzle Of Bees (who co-hosts a podcast with Juniper Tar’s Ryan Schleicher) sent me over the band’s new EP maybe a week or so ago, and I’ve been listening to very little else since. I didn’t expect these songs to hit me like they did.

It was about halfway through my first listen to the second song on the EP (“Birds In Trees”) when I had one of those, “Holy shit!,” moments. You know, one of those times where all of a sudden you realize you’re listening to something really special. The EP is nothing short of brilliant. Juniper Tar is able to transform what might (at first) appear to be something folksy and/or rootsy and spin it into epic indie rock by combining layered vocal harmonies with extended instrumental passages. I hate comparing this to anyone else because these guys have a very distinct sound, but think Fleet Foxes vs. My Morning Jacket vs. Califone vs. Explosions In The Sky except more than the sum of those parts without actually having any of those parts. The songs are deceptively (and complexly) simple as they build and weave into something greater, something that just has to be heard. I imagine wind and sun through majestic pines.

I don’t want to oversell The Howl Street EP or drench this in hyperbole, but this is really REALLY fucking good. Put on some headphones, close your eyes and just listen… The band plays Schubas in Chicago on June 5th and there’s no way I’m gonna miss it. I mean, just check out this video. - Can You See the Sunset


Discography

To the Trees LP - February 2008

The Howl Street EP - February 2010

Photos

Bio

Juniper Tar isn’t fancy. You won’t see any vintage analog synths, or four-piece horn sections. Juniper Tar is genuine music made by five guys who work every day to make playing music possible.

It began in 2005 when Jason Mohr and Aaron Schleicher moved into an old office space to experiment with ethereal ambient music, but slowly began writing songs that would shape Juniper Tar's sound as a band. Drummer Tuc Krueger returned to Milwaukee after a 5 year stint in San Francisco, and Ryan Schleicher returned from New Orleans as a refugee after Hurricane Katrina. With no expectations, the group began playing music every Tuesday and Thursday night in order to find a release for their unsteady day-to-day lives. A funny thing happened though. The guys started really enjoying the songs they were crafting. In 2007 the band released their first full-length LP, To the Trees, to little fanfare and with modest expectations. The album, though, convinced the four friends to start taking music more seriously, so immediately after releasing To the Trees, Juniper Tar invited Chris DeMay - another close, personal friend and Milwaukee music veteran - into the band to round out their sound with piano and various other instruments.

For most of 2008, mending each other’s loose life threads took priority. Practices times we’re still set in stone, but the band’s time together was spent helping ease the pains of divorce, break-ups and job losses, making song construction a difficult process to complete. Out of this struggle came a renewed sense of songwriting and brotherhood. A year of difficulty became songs reflecting “renewal and starting over." This result of staggering heartbreak and life's curve balls is The Howl Street EP (February, 2010). Recorded at Howl Street Recordings in Milwaukee, the four tracks manifest the feelings of a year captured in song.

Through it all, the band kept playing live shows throughout the Midwest, eventually sharing the stage with AA Bondy, Megafaun, Jason Isbell, and more recently, Pattern is Movement, Roadside Graves, Rural Alberta Advantage and Horse Feathers.

Juniper Tar is currently in the studio crafting their second full-length LP and touring consistently through the Midwest and East Coast.