With a bitter winter slowly approaching the Midwest, some of us like to focus on warmer times spent in the sun, and bands like Milwaukee’s AWKTOPUS can help transport us Midwesterners to the beaches of California.
While their surf-punk sound is not an uncommon one on the West Coast, AWKTOPUS don’t sound quite like any other bands to come out of the Midwest, especially the Milwaukee area.
“Sure our sound is quite different than a lot of the bands in the area but I believe that it’s unique and sort of our signature, it sets us apart from other groups and it’s a really cool vibe,” said drummer Josh Wegner.
“We’re definitely students of Nirvana’s dynamic contrasts and their tendency to pair pop melodies with darker, grungier chord progressions. We also love The Beach Boys. Their layered vocal harmonies and wall of sound approach to production is really important to us. We’re also pretty influenced by FIDLAR. The way they capture the explosive attitude of punk and fuse it with surf elements is a big part of how we put together and perform our songs,” said vocalist/guitarist Amy Upthagrove on a few of AWKTOPUS’ influences.
Even with a unique sound to the Midwest, the band has found home in a community of many other Milwaukee artists. Wegner states that while the band’s sound is not directly influenced by other bands in the area, they are inspired by bands such as Tigernite, The Pukes and The Living Statues.
AWKTOPUS began as kind of a joke between coworkers, Upthagrove and bassist Connor Staples discussing that they should just start a punk band and play loud music. It was all talk until Upthagrove texted Staples a few weeks later stating that she had thought of the perfect name for the band: AWKTOPUS.
In July of 2015, Upthagrove and Staples had started working on some potential songs. Later that year in September, Upthagrove met Wegner through a school organization at University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. She discovered Wegner was a drummer, and asked if he would like to start jamming with her and Staples. The final piece of the puzzle was guitarist/vocalist Ben Hogan, who had been asked to join AWKTOPUS in November of 2015 because of mutual contacts and connections with the current band members.
“If people want a cool retro sound with a new modern twist that helps you picture warmer days, sun kissed skin, and zero worries, they should listen to AWKTOPUS.” – Josh Wegner
After forming officially as a four-piece, AWKTOPUS went on to release a split single in February of 2016, featuring their songs “Stupid Cupid” and “The Sweaty Song“; two raw and eclectic punk demos. With a more focused mind, AWKTOPUS went into writing their self-titled EP, which was released on August 23, 2016.
“Amy calls [the EP] the thesis statement for AWKTOPUS. It’s a more focused step into the direction that I think we always wanted AWKTOPUS to move into. We found a sound that feels more unified. The songs on the EP belong together,” said Hogan.
The band’s latest release, a two minute barn burner,”Final Boss Fight” was released on November 3, 2016.
“I thought about the kind of song that I would want to hear on the way to a show, sort of envisioning the band stuffed into a shitty compact, blasting radio static. The end result was Final Boss Fight,” stated Hogan on writing the song.
Within the next few months, the band plans to “get serious about assembling a full length LP,” Upthagrove states. Other future plans as of right now are booking shows and perhaps form a tour hitting some locations outside of Wisconsin.
“We are working on spreading out farther into the Midwest. If we could set up a tour through the Midwest, that would be the coolest thing ever,” said Staples. For now, the band is hanging around the Milwaukee area playing a few one-off shows here and there.
In the end, Wegner makes the entire idea of AWKTOPUS simple, “If people want a cool retro sound with a new modern twist that helps you picture warmer days, sun kissed skin, and zero worries, they should listen to AWKTOPUS.”
Be sure to keep an eye out for AWKTOPUS in your area, and check them out below!
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