Show Tonight: Pigs On Ice

“The name actually comes from the Tom Waits song ‘Cemetery Polka'”, says Brian Whitney of Milwaukee band Pigs on Ice, “…though in that song, it’s ‘hog on ice’…we liked ‘pig’ better. No one really thought about the potential police reference until we saw the web site…one of the most hilarious coincidences I’ve ever been involved in.”

Self-proclaimed Tom Waits fans, this local band started out last summer as a game of chance when Whitney (who’s originally from New Jersey), decided to ditch out on his hometown and call Milwaukee home for the time being to give the fledgling band a shot by playing guitar. Along with Kevin Heim on drums and keyboards, Jason Jolly on bass and vox and Joe Peterson (vox), the band came to be through Whitney’s past experiences with other local bands. “I put on a couple of shows two summers ago for two Milwaukee bands — Jacakalope (which had Jason and Kevin) and Catacombs of Rome (which has Joe), made really good friends with the guys and had a blast. Then the drummer from my old band moved to Israel, and I was faced with the decision to either go back to school and become an accountant or give the band thing another shot. I chose the more glamorous option and moved here last August, and so we began.”

After settling in, the band wasted no time in writing a solid set of songs, despite a little backtracking at first. “The band was originally just me, Jason and Kevin, with Jason and I trading vocal duties. We wrote a bunch of songs that way and played one show. It was okay, but I think we all felt like it was missing something. Joe and I had a drunk, rambling conversation about The Fall one night, that led to trying him out as a singer. After one song, it was pretty clear that he was in. We threw out all the old material and started fresh. We made our first two-song demo last December — it was basially a microphone in the practice room. For National Savage we recorded at our friend Casey’s house in Tustin, which is a nice, isolated, rural town about two hours north of here. He has a great studio setup and we basically recorded live in one day.”

The band has plans for mastering later this spring, putting their record out, solo or otherwise, and playing mostly local shows. “We’re probably going on an East Coast tour in July, and playing something called the Off Festival in Quebec City. The idea is to basically play as much as possible, as not too many people know who we are yet,” says Whitney.

It shouldn’t take too long for fans of Drive Like Jehu, Jesus Lizard and June of 44 to pick up on Pigs On Ice. Their frenzied sound is derivative of these bands, but also influenced by many others, not necessarily what one would think. Whitney says, “Bigger picture: The Fall, The Birthday Party, Neu!, Public Image Ltd. are parallels sound-wise…dub reggae (in particular Big Youth and King Tubby) is a pretty big influence in the way we write if not necessarily the sound. Probably Kraftwerk, too, in that regard. Local bands we like: Kickin’ It Poolside, Catacombs of Rome, Freight, The Mechanics of Romance, Dear Astronaut, Holy Shit!, The Frustrations (a really good band from Detroit; they’re worth looking into)…I’m still finding out about new bands in this area”…

Their intense sound is projected through Peterson’s vocals, which range from hardcore growls to tenor-toned yelps, the band steadily and crunchily backing him up. The band’s sounds are like a coil being wound and set to spring. Which direction they go, is anyone’s guess. Whichever it is, it’ll be with 110% energy. Whitney can attest. “We probably have the shortest practices of any band I’ve ever been in, but they’re a pretty effective workout. I’ve noticed a marked increase in my stamina and hardiness since we began. We should probably make an exercise tape of some sort, we could be the next Pilates.”

Pigs On Ice plays tonight at Y Not III (1854 E. Kenilworth) at 10 p.m. Also playing are: The Pharmacy, Finest Dearest and Wilmot Proviso.

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