Localized: Nolo Contendre

Photo of Nolo Contendre courtesy of MySpace

Words by Erin Wolf
Nolo Contendre takes classic keyboard rock and makes it unwittingly contemporary. The band’s four members (Brad Johnson, Adrienne Johnson, Luke Schatzman and Dave Shine) are more familiar with the sounds of Yes than Murder City Devils, and were musically schooled in Mozart. Innovatively-engineered compositions tweak the old to sound anything but. Pianist/keyboardist Adrienne Johnson talks to Fan-belt about their background and the foursome’s upcoming show at the Cactus Club
What does the name mean, exactly?
‘Nolo Contendre’ is Latin for ‘No Contest’. Our old drummer was in law school when the band was named, and I believe he suggested the Latin phrase.

You’re a rock band with a lot of classical elements to it (piano, emphasis on melody) — do any/all of you listen to classical or instrumental music?
I am the pianist, and I was classically trained for thirteen years. I also play weddings and banquets, and still practice and perform a wide variety of music from the Classical and Romantic eras. Luke (the bass player) was also classically trained for fifteen years. His father is a composer and his mother is a pianist. He plays in pit bands, and both of us used to be in chamber orchestras as well as jazz ensembles. Both of us have been playing for twenty-four years now, and Luke is a phenomenal and very knowledgeable musician and songwriter. The intro to our song “So Very Well” is actually the intro to Mozart’s Fantasia In D Minor. The guitar player (Brad) was also formally trained for many years; however, he didn’t focus on classical music.

What are some of your favorite effects (pedals, etc.)?
The lead guitar is fairly simple, basic distortion — that’s about it. I use pitch wheels and a Cry Baby (pedal) for my keyboards. I’m looking into getting a MIDI-compatible, theremin-style pitch wheel. The bass player uses an envelope filter and distortion pedal. The envelope filter sounds really sweet when he plays smooth, classical riffs.

You technically play keyboard rock. Do you think you’re more Mates of State or Murder City Devils?
I’m not actually familiar with either of those groups. I listen to older, classic-rock music. I would compare my style to that of Yes or Kansas. “Heart of the Sunrise”, “Mood For a Day” and “South Side of the Sky” (Yes) are amazing. Sorry, I’m really lame and not very good about keeping up with new music, although the Mars Volta and System of a Down certainly do rock. If you like our classical style, check out the band Ideamen from Chicago. We play with them sometimes, and they also have a very classical/metal/punk sound. Actually, they are my favorite band.

Any insider details about your show at Cactus this weekend?
This will be Nolo Contendre’s first show at the Cactus Club. It’s our really good friend, Ian’s birthday, so we will definitely be partying (it’s a good thing we all live within a few blocks of the Cactus Club). Hopefully, we can gain a few, new Milwaukee fans! The show will kick off at 10 p.m. with Certain Stars and you can see all three of these local bands for the bargain price of $5!

Nolo Contendre plays at The Cactus Club (2496 S. Wentworth Avenue) on Friday, January 9th with Certain Stars and 1956. Show is 21+ and starts at 10 p.m.

MP3“Epic”, Nolo Contendre
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