The band The Viewing Party so far has played at Platteville Dairy Days, Music in the Park and one school closing picnic, and for a few small audiences.
The Viewing Party’s audience is about to get considerably larger this month.
The band, made up of five Platteville High School juniors, will be performing in the Wisconsin School Music Association’s Launchpad Festival, a garage band competition, at UW–Madison’s Union South Saturday at 5:20 p.m.
The winning band of the 13 performing will receive the Les Paul Launchpad Award, a prime-time performance at Summerfest in Milwaukee, a professional recording session at Blast House Studios in Madison, and a Yamaha equipment package for their school.
Even if the Viewing Party doesn’t win, the band already has a Summerfest performance scheduled for June 30 between noon and 3:30 p.m., the prize for winning the Eau Claire regional at Chippewa Falls High School April 19.
Talking to the Viewing Party — guitarist and singer E.J. Kruser, guitarist Justin Phillips, bass/guitarist Tom Hubl, synthesizer player Benjamin Hasker and percussionist Tristan Hirsch — combines a conversation about music with each band member’s attempt to one-up the previous one-liner.
The band is a combination of two musical duos.
“E.J. and Tristan were playing together, and me and Tom were playing together, and we just decided to put a band together,” said Phillips. “Tom came in later.”
“I think we are the only five people in Platteville who listen to our own music,” said Hubl.
“It’s more for ourselves than anything,” said Kruser. “Music right now — there’s so much of it, but there’s little of it that’s accessible.”
The Viewing Party five will be joined Saturday by Brandon Holdorf of Dubuque, who formerly lived in Platteville and played with band members before he moved.
Two are second-generation musicians. Hubl’s father plays in the bands Mama’s Puddin’ and Aquatic Hitchhikers. Hasker’s mother is a piano accompanist for UW–Platteville.
The band writes its own songs. What classification those songs belong in depends on whom you ask.
Hasker described it as “very indie — you couldn’t get more indie than us.”
“I would just say post-alternative,” said Phillips.
“Post-indie,” said Hubl, adding as a joke, “We want to sound as pretentious as possible.”
“I don’t see music sound anything close to what this sounds like,” said Hasker.
“I want to listen to this music, but it doesn’t exist yet,” said Hubl.
The band’s list of influences ranges from the Beatles, the Doors (“Not the Doors — I hat the Doors,” interrupts Hirsch) and Pink Floyd to Radiohead and Death Cab for Cutie.
“We’ve all written music at some point, but it’s mostly Justin’s writing,” said Hasker.
“We all feed off each other’s ideas,” said Hirsch.
“Pretty much one of us will write an instrument for a part, E.J. will bring the lyrics in, and the rest of the song falls together,” said Phillips.
Kruser said songs include “scientific concepts, like physics concepts. Oceans are a big metaphor. And the flow and balance of things, and how it all comes together.”
“We’re not very rebellious, are we?” said Hubl.
“We’re kind of introspective,” said Kruser.
“We’d rebel, but we just don’t have the time,” said Hubl.
During the school year, the band would play together once or twice per week. Practices have increased as the Launchpad festival nears, in part because the band has new music it intends to play at Launchpad. Phillips and Kruser have been working daily on words and music.
“We decided to not do more songs, but to write more songs,” said Phillips.
“We do a lot of last-minute stuff in our concerts,” said Hirsch.
“That was the problem in our last [Launchpad] show — we had some harmonies, and they were dissonant, and they said, hey, you didn’t do it right,” said Hubl.
“The advantage of doing your own music is no one can tell you you’re doing it wrong,” said Hasker.
One traditional way to get attention is to get on radio. However, the closest radio station that could be said to play something close to The Viewing Party’s music is in Madison.
“I think radio’s been replaced by the Internet, so there are a lot of options out there,” said Kruser.
The band has a DVD performance, and is planning on recording a CD.
Phillips and Kruser plan on further careers in music.
“I was planning on it, but I realized it’s a lot of money to go to school for it and not getting a lot of money for it guaranteed,” said Hubl.
The bands at Launchpad include four rock bands including the Viewing Party, three bands classified as “alternative,” one metal band, one “garage rock” band, one blues band, one country band, one pop band, and one “folk rock” band.