Interview: Allen Cote of The Championship

Photo by Corey Hengen

Photo by Corey Hengen

Words by Rob Vosters

With a sound comparable to Bruce Springsteen fronting the Flying Burrito Brothers, Milwaukee’s very own The Championship handcrafts folk rock with an ear attuned to a bygone era of country music, spinning familiar topics of life and love into unpretentiously beautiful and melancholic songs. In anticipation of Saturday’s concert at Linneman’s with fellow local folk rockers Juniper Tar and The Vega Star, Fan-belt caught up with tonal motion artist and multi-instrumentalist Allen Cote of The Championship about their upcoming EP and what’s great about the close-knit Milwaukee music scene.

Fan-Belt: What can fans of your band, The Vega Star and Juniper Tar expect in the coming months?

Allen Cote: All three bands are in an incredibly fertile period  – The Vega Star recently released “The Night,” a phenomenal new disc [Buy it]; Juniper Tar is preparing to enter the studio this month with some new songs; and The Championship just wrapped up tracking four new songs for an upcoming EP. I can’t give too much away right now, but I can say that we are in the mixing stages; and plan to have the album mastered and pressed for release on June 27 – and it’s not at all what you expected.

F-b: Really? How do you mean?

AC: I think we have all been pleasantly surprised by the recording of this EP – the songs were mostly recorded live; and there was a more organic group dynamic in the arrangement, which translates into a more confident performance.

F-b: Has your songwriting process changed much compared to your previous two albums?

AC: Joe [Crockett] is always the main songwriter, first and foremost; but he has become more comfortable bringing unfinished songs and working off our improvised input – at least two of the songs were not yet finalized when we walked into the studio for the weekend. We also had the luxury this time around to concentrate solely on playing, while our friend jchristopherhughes masterminded the mics; which allowed us more time to work on nuances of groove and arrangement, versus trying to figure out why the hell there’s nothing coming through the preamp, etc. I think the result is a solid improvement over our previous recorded sound.

F-b: It feels like there’s a strong connection between The Championship, The Vega Star and Juniper Tar. What is it?

AC: Juniper Tar, The Vega Star and The Championship have always felt (to me, anyway) like kindred spirits – we all deal in similarly contemplative, but progressive twang-rock, with strong songwriting and rich vocal harmonies. The roots of the bands are deeply intertwined: 3/5 of The Championship was in an early lineup of The Vega Star; Aaron Schleicher (of Juniper Tar) played bass in an early lineup of The Championship; and The Championship and Juniper Tar played a show together New Year’s Eve 2007, which was the night I first promised the guys I would move up from Austin (consequently, the Schleicher brothers were the first to welcome me). We are all friends and fans of each other’s work; and many of us often sit in for our respective shows and recording sessions.

F-b: What about this show are you most looking forward to?

AC: I think this show represents exactly what it is that I love about the Milwaukee music scene, and the reason I moved up here – there are just some incredibly talented, diverse, hard-working and unprententious musicians here; and not only will they come to shows and cheer each other on, but they’ll get drunk with you afterwards (and sometimes during).

The Championship, Juniper Star and The Vega Star play on Saturday May 16th at 8:00 p.m. at Linneman’s Riverwest Inn (1001 E. Locust St.) $6 cover.

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