The Saltshakers
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The Saltshakers


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"The Saltshakers stay 'Up All Night'"

It's been about five years and as many lineup changes since The Saltshakers shared its bright-eyed debut, "Poptastic," with Milwaukee. Though the disc was a fun, punky ride, frontman Chad Curtis -- then a 21-year-old novice -- tells us he was still learning his way around a guitar, much less complex song structures.

"When the band started we barely knew how to play our instruments," he says. "I had never even picked up a guitar until I was 21, and everyone else was very new to playing music, too."

The "A Beautiful Mess" EP surfaced in 2004, and although its strong single, "Amplified," was and still is a great song, it's not until you hear "Believe," the opener on the band's latest, "Up All Night," that you can truly appreciate just how far this band has come.

Curtis -- The Saltshakers' lifer -- particularly shines in his maturing skin, resulting in finely tuned pop ditties that know their way around a hook but are just rough enough around the edges to conjure the whiskey-soaked confessions of bands like Lucero.

"I just don't think I have the angst I may have had when I was younger," says Curtis. "I've always been a fan of pop music, I just became more focused on trying to write catchy two-and-a-half-minute pop songs over the past few years. I think there's a big difference in 'where you're at' in life when you're 21 and when you're 26. I think most people my age would agree with that."

Where Curtis and his band -- Jon Strelecki, Tim Peck and Corey Rawson -- have found themselves is a place where they are sure of the music they're writing, and are making no apologies for producing straight-forward, no frills, rock 'n' roll -- or as Curtis once described, "Pop music with guts.

"I think it's gutsy just to embrace the fact that you're a pop band. It's not exactly the trendiest sound to have when you're a band from the East Side of Milwaukee."

And while various obnoxious trends scrimmage to be the next new sound, the boys of The Saltshakers carefully channel power pop's greatest and mix it with modern references, such as "Whiskeytown," an obvious homage to Ryan Adams' former band. (There's also something about the beautifully harmonic "Find Touch Love" that seriously smells of early Get Up Kids.) But comparisons aside, "Up All Night" stands on its own and just doesn't quit -- it's breakups and booze turned up to 11 the entire time.

The Saltshakers host a CD release party for "Up All Night" on Saturday, Sept. 8 at The Mad Planet where each and every guest receives a free copy of the album.

"I like the idea of a bunch of people having our new CD right off the bat ... that's the most important thing to me."

- Julie Lawrence

- On

"Under the Influence"

Not many bands are adamant about being conventional.

But Chad Curtis of the Saltshakers gets worked up about being familiar.

"Every band thinks they have an innovative sound," he said. "I don't think we have an innovative sound. I really don't."

Wait, he's not done.

"Guitar pop has been done before," the singer continued. "I mean, come on, The Beatles? I'm not trying to pretend everybody should look at us as, 'Oh, it's crazy and different.' It's nothing new. It was never trying to do that."

On their first full-length album, "Up All Night," the Saltshakers wholly embrace the 2-minute power-pop song. It's all hooks, harmonies and big choruses.

It also sounds fun, not forced.

"Yeah, it's not innovative," Curtis said. "That doesn't mean it can't be good."

Clearly, the Saltshakers aren't afraid to wear their traditional influences on their sleeve. Their press photo shows them surrounded by an image of Jimi Hendrix. A recent media release compares them to The Replacements, Cheap Trick and Ryan Adams.

They probably even listen to the music you do.

MKE gathered the members of the Saltshakers - Curtis, bassist Cory Rawson, drummer Jon Strelecki and guitarist Tim Peck - to discuss the albums that influenced their style. The results won't surprise you. What were you expecting?

Bassist: Cory Rawson
"Adrenaline" by Deftones (1995)

Rawson: "I just love all the emotion in the lyrics. (Deftones lead singer Chino Moreno screams over the heavy music.) It's just something to get you through the day, you know? I love really fat, straight eighth-note bass lines. Something like, thud. I'm not much of a walking bass guy. The music is so straightforward and gets to the point. It pretty much kicks the sh-- out of your ears."

Curtis: "I've never listened to this album in my life. It's a little too much for my tender heart."

MKE: You told me in the elevator it was between this and "Pinkerton" by Weezer. Now those albums are . . .

Rawson: " . . . Not anything alike! But the Deftones do this great Weezer cover. They do 'Say It Ain't So,' and it's really good. There's a bunch of Internet versions with Chino probably drunk and laying on the stage. They make it sound really dark, but it's still dead on. This is still the same, simple, straightforward bass. (Moreno screams. And screams. And screams some more.) You really can't hear it here through all the screaming."

Curtis: "I think I sound a lot like Chino, too."

Rawson: "You do. You just got to get drunk and fall down more, and then you are Chino."

MKE: Do you have a favorite song on the CD?

Rawson: "All of 'em. There's not a bad track on this CD. Same with 'Pinkerton.' They're all good. It's like we were saying about our recording. There's no filler. It's a solid album."

MKE: This is also a shorter album like yours, isn't it?

Rawson: "I think this is 35 minutes, if that. Just 35 minutes of rock."

MKE: The Deftones mellowed out later. This album is much more aggressive; "adrenaline" is a good word for it. Does that influence your style?

Rawson: "I try. I do even better when I'm drunk. It's just fast and easy."

Curtis "That's what you are."

Rawson "It's true, and if you play your cards right, you're going to get some later, buddy."

Drummer: Jon Strelecki
"(What's the Story) Morning Glory?" by Oasis (1995)

Strelecki: "Throw some Oasis on."

MKE: Nice! I'm liking how you guys are going back to the '90s.

Strelecki: "It was really hard for me to pick. I knew I wanted to do Oasis. But just what album was really hard for me. I liked the first one a lot, too, but in terms of what I had to go out and buy again because I wore the copy out, it was '(What's the Story) Morning Glory?' "

MKE: You actually had to buy a new copy?

Strelecki: "It was on tape. I took that everywhere and listened to it non-stop. . . . People ask me who I'm influenced by for drumming. I guess Dave Grohl would be one, and then Ringo Starr, and then just in general Oasis. A lot of my drum fills are very Oasis. Something about the music got me hooked. I'm a big ballad kind of guy."

Curtis: "Jon's a big pussy."

Strelecki: "I am. I have a lot of heartbreak in me."

Guitarist: Tim Peck
"Last Call for Vitriol" by Superdrag (2002)

Peck: "Before I started playing in the band, the music I was into was completely different. (It was) Phish and jam bands and stuff that was played on the radio a lot. I had terrible taste in music, I'm not going to lie."

Curtis: "If I knew you were a Phish fan, I would have never let you in the band."

Peck: "But one day we were going to . . . Guitar Center or something, and I really liked every song that was coming on this CD. And I asked who it was, and Chad said Superdrag. So I went home and downloaded all of their tracks that I could find. . . . (Before this) when I thought of rock 'n' roll, I thought of jean jackets and mullets and State Fair and West Allis. Terrible. But Superdrag was powerful.

Curtis: "They're another band like Nada Surf. Nobody knows those bands have put out like two or three really great albums."

Peck: "Their songs are really short and really hooky. There's not a solo for the sake of a solo; I hate that more than anything. This would be about as heavy as I could get. I mean, Deftones? That's terrible. I can't believe you like that band." (Everyone laughs.)

MKE: How is this album reflected in your style?

Peck: "I think there's a lot of similarities in the drums. It doesn't have anything to do with me, but I hear a lot of Superdrag in Jon's drumming - the pounding drums."

Strelecki: "When Tim writes a song, I actually hear a lot of his Superdrag influence."

Peck: "I listened to a lot of Superdrag and thought, 'I want to write a song like that.' It's power chords and simple structures."

MKE: From what I remember about (the Superdrag single) "Sucked Out," it's a pretty straightforward pop song, but with a sad edge.

Peck: "Yeah, it's melancholy, but it's not depressing music. I think that's their most poppy song."

Curtis: "Tim and I were talking about how our album is upbeat, but there are dark undertones. I just don't get inspired by being happy. The lyrics are darker than the songs sound. There's a sadness underlying everything in the album."

Strelecki: "Fountains of Wayne do that a lot, too. Their sound is really poppy, but their lyrics are sad."

Curtis: "I don't think you relate to other people like, 'Oh, I know what it's like to be as happy as him.' That's why most of the good songs are sad songs. I think that's what makes it more relatable."

Singer: Chad Curtis
"Pinkerton" by Weezer (1996)

Curtis: " 'The Blue Album' was what I listened to when I was 15. I wasn't part of a musical family, but I really got into Nirvana, then I was really into the post-Nirvana alternative bands. 'The Blue Album' is almost as good as ('Pinkerton'). The drums sound f---ing awesome. They're huge. I would love to get that, but our songs are too fast. . . . I did not like this album when I first heard it . . . I heard 'El Scorcho' and thought, 'This song is weird.' It wasn't accessible to me right away. I got into it a couple of years later. The vocals are the best vocal performance I've ever heard. He's dying. He yelps and wails and screams. If he's faking it, he's doing an incredible job. I think he's channeling his emotions. That's a goal for me. Not focusing on singing the right melody, but letting it go where it's supposed to go."

MKE: You know, (lead singer Rivers Cuomo) basically repudiated this album. Now it sounds like he's holding back. And this? No holding back. It's just bare emotion.

Curtis: "I think Weezer is terrible now. . . . 'The Green Album' is good, but it's just vapid pop. It's not about anything."

MKE: This is just hyper-personal. Do you ever get personal in your lyrics?

Curtis: "Yeah, all the songs aren't just made up. Every song is about something I went through. They're personal for sure. I try to channel it live because it's therapeutic."

MKE: Do you have a favorite song on here?

Curtis: "Every single track. . . . 'Tired of Sex' is nothing innovative. I'm sure a lot of rock stars sing about banging all these chicks and not feeling satisfied. But I've been listening to this since I was 16 and haven't gotten sick of it yet."

MKE: This (cracked CD case) definitely looks like it's been listened to.

Curtis: "Yeah, this is the second one. I wore the first one out."

Strelecki: "They have a new one coming out in '08."

Curtis: "Not interested. They f---ing suck. They broke my heart."

- Tim Cigelske

- MKE Magazine

"The Saltshakers - Up All Night"

Local four-piece outfit The Saltshakers unload some serious crunch on their new album, Up All Night. It’s catchy, poppy, laced with power-riffs and may indeed keep you Up All Night.

The opening track, “Believe,” is your standard pop-rock catch tune that will get a foot shakin’ and a head bobbin’, starting with just a single guitar power-chord progression—momentous though not overly driven — then laced with the accompanying rim shots and tambourine. Lead singer Chad Curtis has plenty of room to wail on top of the back-up vocals and furious chomp roaring from the amps.

“Whiskeytown,” a tribute to Ryan Adams, has an alt-country vibe to it, with a really great, semi call-and-response hook: “I said ‘hey, you, what do you say?’ I think your fine-ass self should step my way and we’ll walk hand-in-hand all the way to whiskeytown.” The second verse is stripped down a bit, with less emphasis on the guitar, and more on the beat — what sounds like hands clapping. It’s fun, interactive and catchy.

The rest of the album showcases the band’s musical range. “Happy Now?” has a heavier beat with a more progressive-rock feel and metal guitar lead riffs. But The Saltshakers always come back to their power-pop roots. Up All Night, though playing on several genres, stands on its own and is chock-full of raw guitar energy.

- Tam Nguyen
- Vital Source Magazine

"The Saltshakers - Up All Night"

The Saltshakers are a catchy Milwaukee, Wisconsin foursome that has a Replacements meets Cheap Trick style. "Believe" has awesome power riffs and lead singer Chad Curtis has wail that reminds me of The Kinks Ray Davies and The Replacements' Paul Westerberg. The alt. pop rock side of the band comes out on "NOLA" and it is a commercial ready-made hit. The next tune, "Whiskeytown" is a whiskey soaked tribute to Ryan Adams, but the vocals here sound a bit too inebriated. The title track also has that manic 'Mats energy with furious pop guitar that just keeps the party goin' strong. Later on the tracks settle into a nice groove, like "Kick the Can" and are really enjoyable to listen to. "Happy now?" gets lost in a crazed riff that sounds like a punk rock version of Tom Petty. After a few listens the rough edges here fade a bit and you realize this is a really strong debut album. Personally I can't wait to see them perform live (Come visit NYC, guys). Visit the bands website to hear the entire album streaming.

- Powerpopaholic


Lights Out (2009) - LP
Up All Night (2007) - LP
A Beautiful Mess (2004) - EP



Despite the title, the Saltshakers’ new album Lights Out is illuminated with spring-loaded power pop melodies from start to finish. This time, though, the band has a more urgent sound reminiscent of ‘60s garage rock and the punk movement that followed it.

Lights Out is about new love—the period when the flame is strong, but worries over trust and vulnerability threaten to douse it. “It’s too early to tell if we will stand the test of time,” Lead singer Chad Curtis sings on lead track “Please Don’t Walk Away,” but “I think we’re worth the fight.” The battle against insecurity is also waged with lyrics like “Let’s not overthink this” (This World Can Wear Us Down) and “I wanna hear you say ‘Cool it—it’ll be okay’” (Bedhead).

On Ramones-meet-Beach Boys rocker “Holiday,” Curtis sings of breaking big and selling a million records. Despite the song’s ambivalent attitude toward that level of success, Lights Out is a collection of songs that just may take them there.

The Saltshakers formed in the autumn of 2002 as a group of friends that has since grown into a rock’n’roll force, taking the Midwest by storm with their energetic live show. Over their seven years of performing, the group has played with many national acts including Local H, The Redwalls, Heartless Bastards, The Jealous Sound, Limbeck, and Adam Green of the Moldy Peaches.