In 2012, a small Milwaukee band by the name of Vinyl Theatre came together. By 2014, they gained national attention after going on tour with Twenty One Pilots supporting their first album Electrogram. Now in 2016, the band is returning to their hometown on Saturday, March 5 on their own tour, Ones to Watch, teaming up with Finish Ticket.
Formed by Keegan Calmes and Chris Senner, Vinyl Theatre is an indie rock band straight out of Milwaukee. The band is also made up of Nick Cesarz and previously Josh Pothier. As if having an astounding band come from our city wasn’t enough, both Calmes and Senner attended UW-Milwaukee as well.
Promoting their new tour, I was able to chat with Calmes while on the road. It was the day after their first show in St. Petersburgh, Florida and he seemed just as friendly over the phone as I had imagined.
Q: So you guys just kicked off your tour in St. Petersburgh, how does this feel, especially touring with Finish Ticket?
A: Good, it’s only been one show but we’ve worked with them before. It’s definitely a really great show. It’s a great fit. The crowd was just electric so it’s a great kick-off.
Q: What are you excited about for this tour, specifically for your fans to see?
A: Well, we have a completely new show now and we have our own lights and everything. We’re a three piece band now so we’re situated a lot differently on stage now.
Q: I’m assuming, but it must get tiring performing the same song over and over again every night, so I must ask, what is your favorite song to perform?
A: Right now, it is probably The Rhythm of Night. Like you said, sometimes it does get a little bit repetitive so we change up every night how our live songs are, so this ones really different than the record and it sounds awesome. We always enjoy playing the songs because we change it up
Q: Vinyl Theatre is coming to perform here in your hometown Milwaukee, how does this feel?
A: Well it is the first time we are going to perform in Milwaukee outside of Summerfest in the past three years. We’re excited to actually have a show in Milwaukee that is not Summerfest and to play at the Rave. It is like our second home, we are really close to the owner. We’re dying to play a show in her house. It is going to be a fantastic show. All of our hometown fans and family will be there so it will be special.
Q: Are you guys planning on coming to Summerfest?
A: I don’t know for sure. We’ve been trying to do Lollapalooza for a couple years and we might do that instead of Summerfest, so we are not positive yet.
Q: How has your fan-base grown since touring with Twenty One Pilots? Can you speak a bit on the bands progression since then?
A: Yes, definitely. We were really green when we started off with Twenty One Pilots so we didn’t really know what touring was like. We had to learn a lot. We gained a lot of fans from that tour and a lot of momentum. We’ve grown and our fan-base is a lot more diverse. Everybody comes from a different background and a different taste in music and genres.
Q: Going back to the band’s music, how would you describe the evolution of your music since the beginning to now?
A: Nick and I have been writing together for nine years so it has been a progression. Things are always changing for us. One day we love an idea and the next day we hate it, so we’ve definitely grown a lot. The newer music is a bit darker and we’re excited to get it out there. We’re playing a new song on this tour so it will give people a taste.
Q: So are there any big plans or current projects Vinyl Theatre is working on that fans can anticipate?
A: We are working on a new record and it should be out this year sometime but nobody knows yet.
Q: Shifting the conversation back to Milwaukee, there are so many talented people coming from here. What advice would you give to any small or local bands and artists that are trying to get their names out there?
A: We know it is hard but stick it out and get out of this state when you can. Play shows in Minneapolis. Play shows in Chicago. Get out in front of people who aren’t just from Milwaukee. A lot of bands get stuck in a route where they just play Wisconsin. Try to get out of there. I went to school at UWM and so did Chris, so we know what it is like to try to go to school and play shows. It’s just really hard because you don’t have much time to get out of state. If a band is trying to make it, definitely make time to get out of the state.
Q: Awaiting your much anticipated show here in Milwaukee, are you planning on doing anything other than perform during your time home?
A: Well, I am probably going to try to see my family and spend time with them. Really, we are just going to play the show and go. It is a show every night and there isn’t much time to eat a lot of cheese or things like that.
Q: Since you did go to UWM, do you have any memories such as at parties or in the union or even in class that come to mind?
A: Not too many party stories I should share (*laughs*), but I used to study in the Gasthaus downstairs in the union a lot. Sometimes my friends and I would meet up and watch soccer games there. I really liked being there, but I ended up not finishing school at Milwaukee because I wanted to pursue music.
Q: There are a lot of your fans on the UWM Campus, so would you ever make an appearance?
A: Yeah, I am on campus every once and awhile. I will go on the track and do things like that. My friends and I still go there.
Q: Lastly, what do you absolutely love about Milwaukee and even UWM?
A: Milwaukee, I love that you can park downtown overnight for free on the weekends. A lot of the time in big cities the parking is insane and have restrictions on where you can park. At UWM, I really liked that all my friends were around. I lived on Farwell and Locust so I was right in the thick of it with all the college kids so everybody friends were the neighbors and it was so much fun.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to add before we finish?
A: If anybody wants to come out to the show, it is going to be an insane show. We checked it out for the first time and we kind of surprised ourselves. If anybody wants to have a good time and dance, they should come out.
Tickets for Vinyl Theatre’s Milwaukee show at The Rave/Eagles Club are currently on sale on The Rave’s website for $15.00. Doors are scheduled to open at 6:30pm and the show begins at 7:30pm.