The Pukes Find Refuge in a Holy Place
For a little over a year now, The Pukes have been tearing a pretty impressive path through the Milwaukee music scene, quickly gaining a cult following for their caustic, sharp-edged brand of surf-punk. Frequent openers on the local circuit, with an excellent EP and 7-inch already under their belt, they’ve quickly established a raucous, rather in-your-face identity, which is why, when invited to their practice space for an interview, the typical venues sprang to mind: empty dive bars, dingy basements, disused industrial spaces and so on. Instead however, I found myself chatting up The Pukes in the basement of Summerfield United Methodist Church Downtown, miscellaneous thrift store items carefully stowed away in the corners and hundreds of neatly stacked loaves of bread awaiting some food drive or another. Before long the location inevitably comes up.
“It’s hard to find somewhere to practice; we started in my garage, got kicked out of there because of some neighbors, went to an old auto garage that was just kind of sitting there and got kicked out of there—that was drama, too,” recounts bassist Sam Sharkey with a sigh. “And then we kind of thought, nobody uses churches other than Sunday really, so we reached out to these people and they said, ‘Yeah, practice anywhere, anytime you want, and at a very low cost.’” Aside from a few awkward encounters with their fellow renters, Summerfield’s motto of “Open Doors, Open Minds, Open Hearts” has mostly proven true, even for The Pukes. “There is a group that does Christian music and that got kind of weird,” Sharkey says. “They were not into it.”
The setting becomes more humorously incongruous the more you listen to deceptively upbeat tracks like “Execution” or “Kill You,” and as you peruse their album artwork and merch designs, so far consisting of overflowing toilets, shattered glass and the like. “I go by the ‘Beavis and Butthead’ scale,” says guitarist Jules Frank, explaining the power trio’s gross-out aesthetic. “There’s no grand plan, or any thought really, it’s just ‘Does this suck or does this rule?’ And you know, sometimes it doesn’t even have to rule, it just doesn’t suck.”
The look and sound jived readily with new drummer Ryan King, currently moonlighting from his main gig playing guitar with similarly minded local garage punks Ramma Lamma. “I liked the band a lot beforehand, I really just believed in the product, you know,” he says, laughing.
It might seem like an unlikely home, but Summerfield’s been so welcoming, the band have even opted to record their upcoming full-length, The Revenge of the Pukes, within the holy confines of its sanctuary, despite some necessary blasphemy.
“Did you do the vocals up there, too?” King asks of Frank, slightly incredulous but clearly delighted by the answer, “Huh, so you really were saying all those terrible things in the house of the lord.” While it may or may not come with the added risk of eternal damnation, the new release debuts soon on digital and cassette, although soulless record collectors have to wait a while longer. “The vinyl is getting released… eventually,” says Sharkey noncommittally, before King steps in to cover: “It will be ready in time for Christmas.” Well, God bless us, everyone.
Stream The Pukes’ music at thepukessuck.bandcamp.com.