A.V. Club Milwaukee – The Saltshakers Feature
The Saltshakers get more with less with EP releases
For some bands, releasing a full-length album every few years has become the norm. But for Milwaukee group The Saltshakers, it’s all about showing the best cards in their hands through small bursts of short EP releases. In December, the band released an EP entitled Halley; on May 3, as part of Hotel Foster’s Foster Fest, the group will release a second EP, Change The Channel.
For The Saltshakers, who formed over 10 years ago around founder and lead singer Chad Curtis, it’s not a question of lacking success in Milwaukee. With a catalog of songs full of tight and catchy pop-rock guitar riffs, anthem-like choruses, and energy-pulsing melodies, the band has enjoyed many highs and a considerable amount of attention from the community.
However, maintaining that success proved to be a bit tricky. After releasing the full-length albums Up All Night in 2007 and Lights Out in 2009, Curtis wasn’t sure he had enough inspiration for another 10-12-song album. There were also several lineup changes as he and his bandmates found themselves more and more occupied with families and life. Curtis knew that there had to be a better way to release music. After talking with his bandmates, the idea to do EPs and record about six songs each year took hold.
“It’s trying to take a quality over quantity approach,” Curtis says. “We wrote two full-lengths, and both times after we were done with them I was like, ‘Man, I don’t know if I’m going to be able to write 10 songs again. You know, 10 songs that I think are actually good.’ It’s tough writing a lot, and I feel that if you focus on less and make those as best as they can be, you’re going to have more success.”
The Saltshakers recorded a batch of six songs last year at Shane Olivo’s studio, Bobby Peru Recording, and split the songs into the winter and spring EP releases. It worked out so well that they plan to get back in the studio later this year to record another six and release more EPs. “Hopefully that will keep our editing process sharp as far as weeding out what we don’t think is strong,” Curtis says.
All of the songs from the two EPs are newly written, with the exception of fan-favorite “Amplified,” off the Hailey EP. “Amplified” was one of Curtis’s first songs he wrote, sometime around 2004-05. Since the band members were all new to their instruments at the time, the song didn’t turn out exactly how Curtis wanted. “We weren’t the best musicians when we started out, so the recording was sloppy,” he says. “I thought it was a really strong song and it deserved a strong recording. We had a 10-year anniversary show in December, and I thought it would be cool to release an old favorite song since there’d be a lot of people there that had been around since the beginning.”
The Saltshakers currently feature Jon Strelecki on drums (who has been with Curtis for eight of the band’s 10 years), Jamie Owart on bass, and their latest addition, guitarist Chris Holoyda. Even though Curtis is the only original member left, he’s doesn’t want to stop as long as he’s having fun. “I’ve always been trying to do the same thing, and we haven’t veered too much from the pop-rock sound,” he says. “I’m okay with that. I feel there’s so much pop music, or history of it, that if I still like writing songs like this 10 years later, I don’t know why I’d stop.”
(The Saltshakers release Change the Channel as part of Foster Fest at Hotel Foster May 3 with Har Mar Superstar and Sat Nite Duets. Admission includes a free copy of the EP.)