The Sensationalists’ Expectations-Free Pop-Rock
The origins of upstart Milwaukee band The Sensationalists are no
different, but at some point between the myriad of bands and ever-changing
lineups emerged a group of musicians who just want to have fun, write the best
pop-rock songs they can and play them to anyone who cares to listen.
The Sensationalists’ lead singer and
guitarist Jackson Kesy spent much of his middle- and high-school days playing
in bands such as In Debt, Seven Hours Wasted and Drago, all of which included
drummer Skot Worby and some of them lead guitarist Dustin Mayer. Now in his
mid-20s, Kesy recognizes his new band’s collective change in perspective.
we were younger, we would tend to focus more on impressing people,” Kesy says.
“Now we all kind of sit back and listen to each other. Nobody tries to dominate
The band came together in autumn 2008
when Kesy and Worby, who’d just dissolved longtime band Drago, fell into a
project with Mayer, bassist Ben Green and auxiliary player Brian Tapola, who
themselves were fresh off previous stints as Nightlife and Arms of Versailles.
Tapola, too, says the members are taking
a different, more mature approach in The Sensationalists.
“We stripped away any pretenses we've
had in the past to just focus on songwriting,” Tapola says. “No one's boner is
bigger than anyone else's in the band, and we're not competing. It's all about
serving the song.”
Together with a like-minded,
music-first implementation, the five-piece has spent its first year and a half
largely secluded from the stage, playing only about a dozen shows. They’ve put
more focus on crafting and recording material they’re proud of and taking the
time to learn to play better together.
definitely easier than the last few projects I’ve been in because the writing
process is a little more collaborative,” Kesy says.“I used to write every part of a song
and just tell people what to do.Now, I bring a song in and everyone suggests parts and
changes. I don’t have to worry about writing other people’s parts because
everyone is better at their instrument than I am.”
The collaborative concept resonates
throughout the band. Each member does their part to instill the greater good in
terms of the band’s sound.
“In other bands there was always
competition, or compensation for someone else's mistakes or lack of whatever,
but in this band I have nothing to worry about when preparing to play,” Tapola says. “We just let one
another do what we do and The Sensationalists is what you get.”
The Sensationalists seems to be the
positive and productive endpoint to numerous failed, half-baked or flamed-out
projects that came before it. And while many of the ingredients haven’t
changed, the recipe seems to have improved with time.
think we all understand how bad it can get playing in a band.The highs and lows are so extreme that
you have to just tune it all out,” Kesy says. “We often remind each other that
we’re doing this as a distraction from our mundane little lives.Now we just drink some whiskey and have
a good time.”
The Sensationalists play at the Bay View Brew Haus on Friday, June 18.