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Township Slow It Down on ‘Impact Bliss’

May. 2, 2017
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Even though it’s not all that far from Milwaukee, I’m not sure I’ve ever driven through Fond Du Lac, nor could I point it out on a map. Usually the only time I hear about it is whenever TV news is reporting on snow fall totals or tornado warnings in other parts of Southeast Wisconsin. As Matthew Weinberger of the Fond Du Lac/Sheboygan-born dream-rock band Township tells it, I’m probably not missing much.

“It’s your average Wisconsin town,” Weinberger says. “Lots of bars, lots of restaurants, a really crappy mall. So there really isn’t a whole lot to do.” It’s precisely because there was so little going on there, Weinberger says, that Township came together in the first place. “That’s why we found ourselves hanging out, introducing each other to different bands and making music together.”

In the beginning, the band played the kind of pop-punk, emo and post-hardcore that goes over well, at least among a certain all-ages subset, in just about any city, but they quickly began to refine that sound. Their influences became more specific. Nicholas Halverson drew from his love of shoegaze and dream-pop, while Weinberger looked to the grander soundscapes of post-rock.

“As we started writing more we became a little more on the ambient side,” Weinberger says. “The songs got a little slower and we moved away from the quicker, fast, fun, jumpy parts. It kind of matured as we did and went from something you could bob your head to, to something you could almost fall asleep to.”

Weinberger’s joking about the falling asleep thing, mostly, but there’s a touch of truth to it. The group’s just-released debut Impact Bliss is the kind of album that rewards close listening yet also deters it. Save for the occasional striking riff, the record seems designed to deflect attention from itself. The guitars murmur, the vocals muffle themselves under a blanket of echoes and the tempos rarely rise from a tortoise-paced crawl. Like some of the albums it most recalls—Codeine’s Frigid Stars, Galaxie 500’s On Fire—you can be absorbed in it one moment then forget you’re listening to it altogether the next.

Milwaukee is lucky to have a couple of bands that touch on these sounds: Estates put a harder, heavier edge on them; Haunter tempers them with indie-pop; and there are always a few solid shoegaze acts active at any time here. But in truth this is niche music, and it doesn’t have anywhere near the same built-in audience that other genres have, especially as the hardcore acts on the all-ages bill that Township predominantly plays around Milwaukee and surrounding cities.

That should be a disadvantage for the band, then—going from playing a popular kind of music to a decidedly less popular one—but Weinberger says more often than not it works in their favor. If nothing else, the sound helps them stand out.

“Milwaukee is a good place for this kind of music,” Weinberger says. “Whether the people going to shows know they like it or not, it seems like some of the hardcore kids who won’t admit they listen to anything but hardcore will end up liking our band. We’ve come to embrace it. We like doing something a little different.”

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