Punk Isn’t Dead. It’s Very Much Alive, and It’s Here to Stay: The Roving Scallywags, Smoke Free Home & Wasted Pretty
Words and photographs by Chris Rugowski
THE ROVING SCALLYWAGS
Normally, when you think about punk music, you don’t pair it with sea shanties and Celtic roots. The Roving Scallywags have been doing just that, combining sea shanties, Celtic, and punk going on eight years. They have the 2020 WAMI (Wisconsin Area Music Industry) Folk/Celtic Artist genre to prove it too! But don’t let genres fool you: these lads are as raucous as a basement punk show can get.
On January 28 The Roving Scallywags took to the stage for the first time in 15 months at The Lyric Room in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The last time they played to a crowd was October 2020.
The first thing you’ll notice about this band is that they are a live band; they thrive in a live setting. These guys have a show, and they aren’t afraid to play the parts and include you. From the moment they hit the drums and the guitar strums you become part of their act as well.
When I asked the band if they had been practicing for the show or working other material, singer Kevin Huss said, “We were in the process of working with our new record, and we decided that it was time to put the record aside for a little bit and actually work on playing live, because we actually wanted to get back out and play in front of people.”
During 2021 the band was able to get started on the new album. It’s currently seven songs solid, and the others they want to road-test in front of crowds. But with opportunities ahead of them, the pandemic really hit this band hard. The mention of quarantine brought a dampened mood to the otherwise lively chat. The band had a collective thought: “Quarantine and the pandemic did us somewhat an injustice; we had a hard time getting things scheduled; we had a hard time with our families, personal lives, you name it. For as much as we wanted to play music, it just wasn’t in the cards at the time. So it was nice to finally have everything come back and be able to play.”
Not all was lost, because, during the “year off,” if you will, the band was able to hone in on some new inspirations and come together in new ways. Craig Ladewaig, bass, suggested creating individual playlists so everyone could continue to think about new material and hear where their individual inspirations come from. Mark Wisneski commented, “It’s kind of neat too, because there’s not too many songs that overlap between us five either. It’s pretty much everyone has their own flavor.” This was complemented by Kevin, who chimed in immediately in agreement with, “You listen to some of the guitar parts, and you understand where their thought process was when he was writing that. They know that I’m going to bring them a three-chord punk song, and they’re the ones that make it into something that’s not just ‘oh another three-chord, four-chord song…'”
How has the set changed?
They added four new songs, including a Christmas song. Kevin says, “It’s going to be weird, because it’s the end of January, but we’re going to be playing our Christmas song. We recorded it in 2020 and never played it live, just released it as a single. We were supposed to play New Years Eve, but that got canceled, so we thought, it’s our song, we’ll just play a Christmas song in January — at least there’s snow on the ground, right?”
Laughing, drummer Chase Thyssen says, “Well, people put Christmas decorations up in October, so…”
Time to queue the Christmas in July Hobby Lobby sales…
This band is one you do not want to miss. Their energy is addictive, their songs are funny, and the camaraderie within the group as they joke around on stage and poke fun at one another makes the show all that much more enjoyable.
Their music is streaming on all platforms.
SMOKE FREE HOME
This band is a mix of Mindless Self Indulgence meets Death From Above 1979. Hailing from Oshkosh, Wisconsin, this group has only been together just over a year, with most of that time of course during the pandemic, so the opportunities to get out and play didn’t really happen until later in 2021. These guys are all seasoned musicians who have been around the scene in different bands from high school until now, all from different genres as well, punk to blues, and now together they form Smoke Free Home.
The group is comprised of vocalist Jesse James Tubeszewski, bassist/drummer Kevin Sonnleitner, and drummer/bassist Alex Lautenschlager. Yes, you read that right, primary bassist Kevin and primary drummer Alex switch throughout the show in a seamless fashion. You might be wondering how this came to fruition; I know I was. Alex had been wanting to play bass in front of a crowd of people; he tried and loved it. Kevin knows how to play drums, and thus far they have stuck to that. Jury’s out on how long that will last, but they have a feeling it will last for a while.
The band doesn’t have a guitarist, citing Death From Above 1979 as huge idea behind that, as they only have drums and bass as well. Jesse says (as Kevin nods in agreement), “I think in general, restriction and having it stripped down breeds creativity. You have less to work with. It’s that way with writing, too. If you limit yourself to a rhyme, yeah, it gets more creative.”
Kevin on the formation of the band: “It kind of all effortlessly came together. We knew we needed a drummer. I had jammed with Alex once during quarantine and thought he’s probably down to do something. I messaged him, and 30 minutes later he messages me back.”
Alex intercepts with, “I was so desperate at the time. I would’ve done anything. I was in a couple high school bands in the past.”
Jesse finishes the thought, “He was in Bliss. I remember seeing Alex and thinking ‘there’s still real punk out there.’ He [Alex] brought a whole different edge to what we were doing.”
When it comes to brass tacks, the actual genre they give themselves is “Dance Punk/Post Punk,” and after hearing them I can understand why. They keep the flow going, there is little downtime in any song, and little downtime between songs. They definitely make you want to move your feet, flail your arms a little, and defiantly bop your head along as singer Jesse moves around the stage like a man taking a stand against the man. The “post” aspect is a time-based adjective; it’s not a sound or style reference. They have punk influences, but their sound also lies well after what most consider typical punk timeframe. The lyrics are more in depth; they’re not afraid to create an ambient feel, rather than just a “bang bang bang angry” punk sound.
The lyrics are also quite deep and introspective. Jesse writes the lyrics, and then Kevin and Alex give it a whole new meaning, curating an experience for each song. Jesse says of this process, “I love being able to sort out the struggle I’m having in one or two metaphors, and make it ‘dancey.’ It’s fun. I like that we can do that.”
Future of the Band
Jesse comments, “We came right on the scene; we were well practiced. We had the advantage of quarantine, and we told ourselves we’d play again. We’d play as many shows as we could wherever they’d have us, and we were prepared.” As luck would have it worked well, and four and a half months into being a band their first show happened.
Eventually want they do a full album. At the rate they’re going, they will have enough material. They definitely want to travel around some more, COVID pending, maybe even get out of the state for a while and do weekend warrior tours. They plan to release a six-track EP in either February or March.
Find their music here:
And give these guys a follow on: https://www.facebook.com/smokefreehomeband
What do you get when you mix twins, teens, and everything in between? You get Wasted Pretty.
This young punk band out of based out Marinette, Wisconsin, has been playing shows and recording albums, all while still in high school. They’re full-time musicians when they’re not in school and achieving goals that most kids and people will never achieve. One such goal includes recently working with and recording some songs with Pat MacDonald of Timbuk 3; you may remember their hit “The Future’s So Bright (I Gotta Wear Shades).” This teenage duo has a mixture of sounds from Sonic Youth to The Stooges, all with some punk rock themes happening the whole time.
Guitarist and singer Ginger on why punk is attractive to her and what it means to the writing: “The uniqueness, the individuality of the people who create the music. The politics, rebellion… to a teenager that’s pretty cool. As I get older I feel like I identify with it more and more. So many punk musicians are misunderstood. We just like how it sounds.”
You can hear the influence of The Stooges and Iggy Pop as Wasted Pretty play their all original songs. They aren’t obnoxiously fast-paced, and they aren’t slow; they’re just the right tempo to keep your head moving.
When I asked what bands they’d like to play with if they could have anyone on stage with them, Ginger said The Replacements, Joan Jett, and The Ramones, while bassist Joey said The Jesus and Mary Chain.
Speaking of The Ramones, we also talked about the recording goals they have and what they’re looking to achieve for the upcoming album. They’re hoping to do an album soon, with 10-12 songs; most of them will be “punk sized,” aka shorter and full of energy. However, Ginger is hoping to write slower ones and longer ones. An example of this kind of song would be, “I Want You Around” from The Ramones. As Ginger says “It’s still fast-ish, but not as fast as their others, for sure.”
As for music they currently have, there are two EPs available at shows. Both have two songs each, with common themes of the current times: “Sucks Being Underage” and “Don’t Care”; “Look Out” and “Vampires and Lip Gloss.” You can find YouTube videos of these songs of these on their website, http://wastedpretty.band.
Ginger says for the most part each EP follows a similar theme. “Look Out” and “Vampires and Lip Gloss” were more horror-themed. “Sucks Being Underage” and “Don’t Care” were adolescent, growing pains.
Future of the Band:
For being so young, this group has achieved worldwide goals, legitimately too, having had radio play in Germany and Australia during 2021.
Ginger finishes her thoughts on the band with the perfect sentiment about taking quarantine and being the most efficient with the time they had: “This is what I want to do. This is my end goal, is becoming famous. Becoming more well known. The goals we’ve met so far, and most of them were during quarantine, so about a year and a half, the things we’ve completed in that year and half were more than we’ve ever completed in years prior. So that felt good. Being that motivated and driven.”
Keep an eye out for this upcoming indie punk band.
Find music on their website: http://wastedpretty.band
Give them a follow on their social media as well: https://www.facebook.com/wastedpretty.band