What Made Milwaukee Famous did not, in fact, make Milwaukee famous, as it turns out, since the band with that name is from Austin, Texas.
A clue to the origin of the band's name can be found in the liner notes of its debut CD Trying to Never Catch Up, released in 2006 (after the band got together three years earlier).
Jerry Lee Lewis gets a "thanks," which makes sense to those who recall Lewis had a hit single in 1968 with "What Made Milwaukee Famous (Has Made a Loser Out of Me)," a not so veiled reference to Schlitz beer, a once famous brew that fell out of favor in the 1980s.
"Well, I guess I feel obligated to drink it if it's available in a bar somewhere," says Michael Kingcaid, the founder of WMMF, and the sole remaining original member. And, no, he's not even from Milwaukee, he adds. "I was born in [New] Jersey, but grew up in Katy [Texas], outside Houston."
Kingcaid went to college for a couple of years at the University of Texas, but transferred to Belmont University in Nashville, where he got a degree in music business.
"I think I appeased my parents by at least getting a degree," he says with a laugh.
He then made his way back to Austin, where he feels at home among the city's famed music scene. When he put together his band, the singer-guitarist-keyboardist opted for a sound that encompasses numerous genres, from power pop to new wave, country, progressive jazz, straight-up rock 'n' roll and even heavy metal.
"I never have wanted to paint myself into a corner," he says. "The band members I have are a revolving cast, which can be a headache at times. The ones who were with me in the beginning still play with me when they're available. Right now, on this tour, I use some of the folks in my opening act, A. Sinclair.
"When I started the band, I had a day job, which I kept for 10 years or so. I tried to quit six times, but kept going back. I got into a grind, being in six or seven bands, doing five or six shows a week, plus the job. So I've quit that, and play in a couple of other bands, one of which is a cover band, which plays weddings. I hate to admit it, but we make ends meet with the wedding band thing."
And although Kingcaid has kept the WMMW name alive, he crafts his music judiciously, not exactly flooding the market. After debuting in 2006, the band followed up two years later with What Doesn't Kill You, then waited five years for another album release, You Can't Fall Off the Floor in 2013. The latest album features a guest vocal by acclaimed Canadian singer Kathleen Edwards on "Rosewood."
A Kickstarter campaign last year led to the funding of a video for the song, "Gone and Done It."
"This one is self-released, and I'm most proud of it," he says of his band's third album (the first two CDs were released by Barsuk Records in Seattle). "It ranks up there with opening a show for Arcade Fire and the Black Keys at Stubb's BBQ in Austin, and also with getting to appear on Austin City Limits, with Franz Ferdinand."
Kingcaid recalls WMMF having performed in Little Rock once previously -- at Juanita's in 2007, opening a show for Dr. Dog.
Weekend on 07/17/2014
Print Headline: Milwaukee-named band fermented in Austin