Throwing Alley Apples with Bryan Cherry Band

The Bryan Cherry Band has been putting in major legwork on the Milwaukee scene since forming in early 2006. They’ve just put the finishing touches on their third full-length album, entitled Alley Apple. Fan-Belt sat down with Bryan Cherry Band guitarist/co-songwriter Sean Williamson (a.k.a The Situation) to discuss the band’s latest record.

Where does the title Alley Apple come from?

Alley apple is 1930’s slang for a brick. The context that I heard it used was ‘I got so mad at that person I threw an alley apple at his ass.’ That’d be the correct usage of the term. So the cover of our CD is a big brick. And we called it that not just to be funny, but as a literal reference to a return to where we started – us returning to more of a rock influence. On our second album, we kinda went away from that. For this album we wanted to make it sound as if you were hit by a brick.

How would you describe the sound that you said you’re returning to?

A good analogy would be James Brown with Billy Gibbons playing guitar. This album is definitely more aggressive than the first one. We were playing stuff that had a basis of funk, but also had a lot of soul in it. [Vocalist] Bryan Cherry’s influences include Otis Redding and Marvin Gaye and James Brown. Our drummer [Chad Clausen] and I are more schooled in WKLH-style classic rock. Our bassist Matt Turner definitely adds a lot of funk to the mix, being from the Erotic Adventures of Static Chicken and all the other bands he plays in …whether it be the improv aspect of it, or just laying down simple, sick grooves.

How has the songwriting evolved since the first record?

That’s the coolest part; it’s the reason we’ve been able to put out three records to this point. For the first record, it was Bryan having a bunch of his tunes already formed out, already being performed by himself as a solo acoustic player. Then I came on board and added to them, experimenting sonically and giving him a couple of other things to run with, not thinking I could be half of the songwriting process. Two or three of the other songs on the first album are the reverse of that, where I asked him to write lyrics over my music.

On the second record, I took a bunch of my songs that had been in the closet forever and experimented with those. The difference was me being able to expound a lot on what I already had, and Bryan being able to write lyrics over the top of it all. It definitely gave it a different feel.

Moving on to the third album, we were able to combine both processes, taking the best of each. We brought in Chad in the last stage of it all. He’s really a good arranger; he’d tell us what would work regarding different time shifts and meter direction.

Complete the sentence. Alley Apple is a cross between __ and __.

In a generic sense, it would be a cross between soul and rock. In marketing the band, that’s the direction we took because nobody else around here is really doing that – with the exception of Kings Go Forth, which is more soul than rock. They’re definitely more old school than we are in regard to influences. Outside of that, I’d say James Brown and ZZ Top.

Who are some of your other guitar influences?

Definitely Trey Anastasio from Phish. Jimmy Page is one of my heroes, and I think that’s where my sloppiness comes from.

By sloppiness, do you mean the raunchy grit that rock n’ roll guitar is built on?

I don’t think I could have put it any better.

I digress. Tell me about the recording process.

We recorded with [WMSE sound engineer] Billy Cicerelli. The first recording Bryan Cherry ever had was from when we played on Tuesday night Local/Live in July 2006. Billy records everything in Pro Tools, so it’s a really authentic recording. His board mix was sweet. The first tracks we gave away at shows was twenty minutes of songs we recorded at the radio station. It was awesome. We worked with him again the next year playing during the pledge drive; he recorded us again and we had another product to give away.

Billy is a cool guy; he’s really meticulous in how he sets stuff up, he knows music, he’s a big fan of old blues and good music in general, so we were really excited to work with him again. He was always booked up; he had tons of bands that always wanted to work with him, and was always involved with somebody, and doing this or that with the radio station. So we finally found some time to work with him, so we were like, let’s do a full record.

What’s the coolest part about this album?

We worked with UW-Milwaukee Gospel Choir Director David Nunley, who’s also the gospel choir director at St. Mark’s AME Church on N. 16th and Atkinson Ave. We did some backing vocals with the church’s nine-piece gospel choir. As soon as you start the record, you hear it. They bring in the album.

When’s the CD release party?

We actually planned a CD release party in June, but it wasn’t done yet. We hoped it would be done in July, but it wasn’t done yet. Then we thought we’d have one in August, and it wasn’t done yet. So here we are in September, and it’s done.

Where can we pick up Alley Apple?

Saturday, we’ll be down at Bay View Bash on Kinnickinnic Ave. We’re playing from 6-7:30 p.m. opening for Guido’s Racecar on the Shepherd Express/OnMilwaukee.com stage. Come down and check it out.

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