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Eagle Trace’s Brotherly Alt-Rock

Mar. 10, 2015
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Photo by AJ Poquette
Eagle Trace are the first to admit their band lineup isn’t the most conventional. The group is made up of four brothers, Mitch, Max, Cass and Jackson Borgardt, and one unrelated guitarist, Broderick Coning. As Jackson explains, being in a band comprised of so many siblings has its advantages and disadvantages. On the con side, there’s the inevitable Hanson and Jonas Brothers jokes—Eagle Trace have heard them all—and the equally inevitable fights that result whenever you put any brothers in the same room for long enough.

But by and large the lineup has worked well for the band. The Borgardt brothers were all new to music when they formed Eagle Trace in 2011, so they were able to cut their teeth together. And since they grew up together, they shared more or less the same tastes, which makes the songwriting process flow smoothly. Even their brotherly dustups end up being productive more often than not. “What’s nice about being so close is you have no problem speaking up, or saying you hate this part or that part,” Jackson says. “So you have your fights, you say everything you need to and sometimes it gets pretty ugly, but when it’s over it’s over. Then it’s like nothing ever happened. We’re really not ones to hold grudges.”

There’s some relevant precedent for this kind of sibling-packed lineup: Kings of Leon, whose anthemic alt-rock casts a big influence on Eagle Trace’s new EP, Off in the Night. That Kings of Leon also count several brothers among their ranks was probably just a coincidence, but Eagle Trace share their ear for skyward-climbing rock songs. In particular, Off in the Night’s strongest track, “Ghost,” plays like an heir to that band’s chart toppers, building itself up from a simple two-chord foundation to a soaring payoff. It’s the band’s most personal song yet—singer Mitch wrote it after being diagnosed with epilepsy, detailing a disorienting hospital stay—and it sports the kind of massive hook that begs for airtime on alternative radio.  

Eagle Trace hope to finish a video for the song this spring, which could help it gain more exposure. In the meantime, they’re playing as much as they can around Milwaukee, trying to find their footing. Three of the five members have relocated from New Berlin to the East Side, which should help the group better establish themselves in the local music scene, though Jackson admits that bread-and-butter alternative rock isn’t always the easiest sell these days.

“I know a lot of kids our age are listening to hip-hop and really dancey music, but for some reason we wanted something with a little more edge to it,” Jackson says. “With rock music and alternative, you still hear that true artist, and you don’t always get a lot of that in the other genres. In rock, you hear the artist; you hear the lyrics; you know that he wrote it, and that’s lost on a lot of people our age right now. Nowadays that’s lost, but we just really appreciate that kind of expression.”

You can stream Eagle Trace’s Off in the Night EP at soundcloud.com/eagletracemusic.


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