Everything, All At Once. (or, A Calendar Full of Activities.)

By Brian Whitney

Riles Walsh is a busy guy.

This is an understatement, in league with “The Beatles were influential” and “Copernicus was smart.” These are truths, but they do not illustrate the importance of their subjects. While Riles may not be on this level, his contributions are becoming, and will continue to be, vital to the Milwaukee music scene.

First of all, there are his musical projects. Walsh is the singer and songwriter in The Candliers (rhymes with “chandeliers”), a seven-piece folk/pop group that has already performed some large shows and received a fair amount of press (Fan-belt is no exception.) But there’s also Walsh’s other recording project, Farms in Trouble, that’s about to make some noise of it’s own.

Farms in Trouble is mainly a collaboration between Walsh and Zach Pieper, with additional input from members of The Candliers, Trusty Knife, Scrimshaw and others. The project started as a mix between Walsh’s classical training and Pieper’s love of lo-fi home recording projects (such as the infamous Guided by Voices or the first Pavement recordings.) I had an opportunity to hear an early mix of the Farms in Trouble record and can say with relative certainty that it really is unparalleled in Milwaukee 2008, and if it’s found by the right audience, could turn out to be very influential in the Milwaukee music community. (Personally, it’s already made me consider taking up an improvised recording project of my own.)

The Farms in Trouble album will be released later this year on Walsh’s Activities label, which is also starting to gather momentum after last year’s Candliers/Trusty Knife split 7” release. The label will be releasing a compilation at the end of this month featuring tracks by the aforementioned Candliers, Trusty Knife, Farms in Trouble, and Scrimshaw. There will also be offerings from locals like Crappy Dracula, Dear Astronaut, and Pigs on Ice. (I’m not sure how to awkwardly acknowledge that this is my band.)

Activities is also putting together a two night festival at Linnemann’s in September, to showcase some of the local and out of town bands they are in league with. While the lineup is far from solidified, it’s likely that many of the bands mentioned above will be performing. The fest will also serve as a record release show for the Farms in Trouble record, and the premier live performance of the band (which up until this point has been a studio-only project.)

Speaking of the studio, Walsh and his roommates have put one together in the basement of his Weil Street home. It has been used to make the Farms in Trouble album and in the future will be used to record others. Walsh intends the next compilation to be made up entirely of recordings done in the basement (he’s looking at spring/summer of 2009 for that one.) Although the studio was in a bit of disarray following the recent flooding, he remained optimistic that it would be back to working order sometime soon, and that he could begin working on newer recording projects.

Between two bands, a record label, and a home studio, Riles Walsh certainly has a lot on his plate, and Milwaukee and its music scene stands to benefit from his labor.

For more information on the activities label, including sound samples and a release schedule, visit the MySpace page here.

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