Atlatl: Who Knew Anthropology 101 Would’ve Paid Off So Nicely?

Every once in a while, there will be a local band that seemingly drops from the sky…“who?”, you’ll say, really wishing that you got out to more shows and paid a bit more attention to local bands getting airplay on the radio. Atlatl (pronounced at-lat-l) is just such one of these bands, formed in 2007, playing covert venues at first, recorded a handful of songs, then upped the limelight, and boom. Well, maybe *thud* or whatever the hell sound a dart makes when it hits a target, because apparently, that’s what they’ve christened themselves after — an ancient leverage-creating tool used for throwing darts. Huh?

Jeremy Rogers from Atlatl (the Milwaukee band, not the spokesperson for ancient dart-throwing apparatus’) explains: “Well, our drummer Kevin and I were drinking heavily on our porch last September when we came up with the name. I merely referenced my Anthropology 101 class and we all thought it sounded cool at the time. It’s funny because we all despise the name now. Everyone in the band wants to change the name, but I am pretty sure we are stuck with it at this point.”

Pinned to their name or not, Atlatl has already hit their er, target, and have done so by the usual tried and true local band formula — start from the ground, up. Rogers mentions, “For a long time, we didn’t even advertise our shows. We would just invite our friends and play unknown venues to help develop our live performance…since the release [of our EP], the fans, the media, the fellow musicians alike, have been just fantastic! We have made so many great friends. That is what we value most out of this whole thing. We love people with passion and vision. These are the people that drive the music community. Community is so important, and Milwaukee has such a big heart. We love what we are doing and we love everyone that has been with us along the way.”

“Along the way”, Atlatl has played with locals such as Freshwater Collins, Will Phalen and the Stereo Addicts, The Lonely Sound, Into Arcadia, Fire on Your Sleeve, Heidiboxer, Eat the Mystery, and Elusive Parallelograms, among others. Their frenetic, live shows are mere melodic energy-channels, their sound compared to Modest Mouse, but not entirely, the band says, has that seminal band been a complete influence. “We do appreciate the comparison, though. It’s very flattering. Modest Mouse is a great band…[but] our influences include The Who, David Bowie, LCD Soundsystem, The Shins, The Flaming Lips, Kings of Leon, The Velvet Underground and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds…”.

Perhaps the Modest Mouse reference gets tacked on because of their haphazard, almost carnival-esque pop overtones on a couple of their songs, but this energy can only come from a band that has all five members taking hand in the writing, and even the singing: Kent Watson, Rogers, Dan Mahony, Kevin Christensen and Ben Redlin all bring their ideas to the practice space, equally. “Everyone takes a large part in the writing…it will start [as a] riff or a beat…before you know it, a song is made that everyone had a hand in writing. Other times, Kent, Dan, Ben or I will come to practice with a song half-written, and we will all work on it. One nice thing about the band is that there is no “mastermind” behind every song we write. There are no prima donnas to gum up the works. We all have a strong hand in everything that’s written. We all also have the capability to sing, but typically, four out of five of us will participate in the vocal harmonies. Kent and Dan will often lead with vocals while Ben and I decorate them. Occasionally, it is the other way around, but not often.”

Using this highly-participatory writing style, Atlatl plans to release a full-length later this year. “We’ll select the best of the best and make a strong album and release another EP with the B-sides,” Rogers says. Although their audio release target date is undisclosed, their live shows are no secret. Check ’em out this weekend and at a thing called Summerfest, coming soon.

Catch Atlatl at the Cactus Club this Saturday, June 21, at 10 p.m. along with John Barrett’s Bass Drum of Death, Danny Price & the Loose Change, and Dax Riggs. The Cactus Club is located at 2496 South Wentworth Avenue in Bay View.

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