WORT Interview with GAS, 11/25/22

We sat down with Andy Moore on the 8 O’Clock Buzz on Friday morning November 25 to talk about our 25 years as a band.

Some random out-of-context quotes:

“We wanted to write songs that were fun to play with good hooks.”

“For all the fun and games, you guys are really intense.”

“…deconstructing music together…”

“I was so confused and delighted. It was Jonathan Richman meets Andy Kaufman level nuttiness.”

“Kirk and I thought it was cute to break out of the cacophony of sound that was going on in Madison at the time…”

“When you bring Randy and Annelies in with Kirk and Andy, the math changes. When we bring these different voice in, it really makes something special.”

Listen to the whole thing (in context).

25th Anniversary Show

2022 is our 25th anniversary! Please help us celebrate at the next GAS show:

  • The German Arts Students w/ Jane Hobson
  • Thursday, December 1, 8pm
  • The Bur Oak, 2262 Winnebago St., Madison

Featuring the classic lineup of Andy, Annelies, Kirk, and Randy, the core four that coalesced in 1997.

Get full details and buy advance tickets here:

https://theburoakmadison.com/shows/the-german-art-students

Here are some things that people have said about The German Art Students in the last 25 years:

“A friend of mine tried to argue they weren’t DIY because they’d obviously practiced. This is the attitude that makes indie rock suck so hard.” – Saara Myrene Raapana, actionmanmagazine.com

“New wave weirdoes” – The Onion

“Bands on the Rise: The German Art Students-nimble witted new wave pop.” –  Rolling Stone

“GAS prove to be subversive and slapstick at the same time, providing post-punk, Mad magazine-esque music to the world” – Andy Moore, Isthmus

“Civil War Re-enactor” had me wiggling on the floor to the power pop deliciousness and gut-bustingly ridiculous lyrics.” – Greg Sahagian – The Big Takeover

“While lyrically akin to acts like Devo or Jonathan Richman, The German Art Students’ sound is reminiscent of the pure power pop of the Buzzcocks and the heavy drive of X and The Undertones. Their live shows have always packed a wallop.” – Aaron Scholz, Dane101.com

“Much like the parade of New Wave bands that spread equal amounts of pop and snot across the late 70’s music scene, the local quartet hold nothing sacred. Civil War reenactments, self-righteous lefty artists, twee baroque-rock bands: They sneer at ‘em all.” – Tom Laskin, Isthmus

“The German Art Students are a prime example of Madison bandhood, writing and playing defiantly fanciful power- pop for many years. Perhaps because they generally treat the band as a creative escape, life hasn’t worn down their distinctly smart-assed approach to songwriting or sent them off the trail of bright, new-wave guitars and perky rhythms.” – Scott Gordon, The Onion

“The German Art Students have turned out to be one of the best bands out of Madison in the ‘00s for their punky, catchy songs, clever lyrics and wry sense of humor.” – Katjusa Cisar, The Capital Times

“Straddling the line between pop and punk rock. After (many) years the GAS trademarks of intelligence with a hefty dose of sharp-witted commentary are still intact.” – Rick Tvedt, Local Sounds Magazine

“Sporadically filling bars with fans of their high-energy punk rock sound since 1997.” Joel Patenaude, Madison Magazine

“The songs are executed with a gleeful amateurism I haven’t heard since the golden days of the Violent Femmes. Studio polish would only take away from these off-kilter pop gems.” – Joseph McCombs, starpolish.com

“Madison acts come and go, but this pop-punk-rock trio are verging on local legend status.” – Isthmus

We could have included about 12 more quotes from Isthmus here, but you get the point. Come on out, it’s going to be a blast!

Love,

GAS

Next show: 4/29 at The Harmony w/ Heavy Looks and FREE BEER!

It’s going to be a great night. The Andy/Annelies/Randy GAS trio will be debuting several new songs as we work toward a new album. Then Kirk will join us in the classic four piece line-up with all the hits.

8pm Randy’s Birthday Social Hour with FREE BEER! One keg of New Glarus Two Women lager while it lasts.

9pm Heavy Looks: “Earworm hooks, concise structure, and pointed delivery remain the foundation of what makes Heavy Looks one of Madison’s best power-pop acts.“-Tone Madison

10:15pm The German Art Students: “GAS manage to be subversive and slapstick at the same time, providing post-punk, Mad magazine-esque music to the world.” – Andy Moore, Isthmus 

$10 suggested donation. All proceeds will go to the Goodman Community Center Food Pantry.

Upcoming shows

Friday December 17, 7pm
The German Art Students and BingBong
Bos Mead Hall, 849 East Washington Ave, Madison
BingBong and The German Art students are (finally) doing a release show for our split 7" vinyl recording featuring the Hard Rock/Punk Performer of the Year, German Art Student's song "In Search Of” and BingBong's MAMA Song of the Year “Faces." Each band will alternate 2 mini-sets and will flip a coin to see who performs first. Dan says it’s for “fun,” not a battle of the bands. Hmmmm…come see for yourself. GAS is pretty damn competitive:-)
$10 suggested donation. More details here: https://fb.me/e/1R7zdSCTR
Wednesday February 2, 7pm
The German Art Students and Moonboot
The Bur Oak, 2262 Winnebago St, Madison
This will be Moonboot’s debut show! Indie rock featuring members of Oak Street Ramblers, Brother Rye, The Rusty Hearts, Tongue. And GAS continues to be, as Andy Moore wrote in Isthmus a while back, "subversive and slapstick at the same time, providing post-punk, Mad magazine-esque music to the world. Rolling Stone called it 'nimble-witted new-wave pop.'”
$10 advance/$12 day of show. Buy advance tickets here: https://theburoakmadison.com/shows/german-art-students-moonboot
And, as alluded to above, GAS won some awards from Madison Area Music Association again this year:
Hard Rock/Punk Performer of the Year
Hard Rock/Punk Song of the Year: Bands Playing For Other Bands
Bass Player of the Year: Annelies Howell

Because nobody Hard Rocks/Punks better than us, amirite?

Love,

GAS
@GASRocks (Twitter)
http://www.germanartstudents.com
https://gasrocks.bandcamp.com

The German Art Students Are Still Here!

It’s exciting to announce that we have three shows lined up for the summer. Kirk is taking a hiatus from the band, so our lineup for the summer is a trio configuration of Andy, Annelies, and Randy. Annelies is taking her role as guitar hero seriously and has been turning the amp WAY UP during our rehearsals, so that’s been a blast! It’s a smidge different sound than the quad-GAS, an Ethel Merman belt away from the Kirk-Annelies-Randy trio, but pure German Art Students!

  • Friday, August 13
  • The Sessions at McPike Park
  • Main Stage: Chuck Prophet 8:30pm; Bonnie Whitmore 6:30pm; The German Art Students 5:00pm
  • Tent Stage: Howler (between main stage sets)
  • In the heart of Madison’s isthmus – formerly known as Central Park
  • https://sessionsatmcpike.org/schedule


Don’t forget about the new EP that came out at the beginning of the pandemic.https://gasrocks.bandcamp.com/album/rest-area-relief


Love,

GAS


More Madison albums and EPs that stood out in 2020

Tone Madison included GAS in their roundup of 2020 standout recordings:

Any band that exists for as long as The German Art Students have is bound to go through changes, but all that time has also given this Madison power-pop outfit a high level of control over their craft. Rest Area Relief, an EP partially inspired by less-than-glorious touring experiences, sees The German Art Students occupying a place of invigoration that pays a good deal of dividends. Irreverent and charming to the end, Rest Area Relief is a solid reminder of the band’s appeal. —Steven Spoerl

German Art Students turn EP release party into a fundraiser for service workers

By Joshua Miller | Special to the Cap Times |Apr 17, 2020

Madison-based band the German Art Students had hoped to celebrate the release of their new EP “Rest Area Relief,” their first release in three years, with a show at Kiki’s House of Righteous Music. However, those and other plans to perform have screeched to halt due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“When we weren’t able to do that anymore, we had a band discussion about if we should still release the music or wait,” drummer Randy Ballwahn said. “There was some discussion about, Well, is it disrespectful for us to be ‘celebrating’ the release of the music when people are having hard times and we’re not sure what’s going to happen in the future?

“And then there was also discussion that, well, this is kind of the time when people need music, and they’re kind of searching for art and music and other things as kind of a distraction, or a way to help get them through hard times. And are we really doing anyone a service by withholding this music that we’ve put together?

“Because people seem to enjoy what we do, and why not put it out there? So that’s what we decided to do.”

So, “Rest Area Relief” is available to stream and purchase at the band’s website

The quartet — which also features singer/bass player Andy Larson, singer/guitarist Annelies Howell and guitarist Kirk Wall — is also using their music as a thank you to those that have supported them over the past 23 years. Online proceeds from the EP and the rest of the band’s catalog will go towards supporting service workers in Madison.

“We decided, yeah, let’s put this music out there, but let’s use it to do what we can to support people who aren’t able to work right now, which is a lot of the people that work in the venues that we would be playing, bartenders, sound people, and things like that,” said Ballwahn, who works a day job at UW Family Medicine & Community Health.

“It’s a very small part, not going to help anyone pay the rent probably, but at least we can do something with the music to help support the people that aren’t able to continue working at this time…And probably if and when we’re able to start playing shows again, we’ll probably donate that money to relief funds as well.”

For example, the band donated the first week of EP presales to the Harmony Bar, where they were scheduled to play on April 11.

“It wasn’t a ton of money, but I think they were appreciative of getting that,” Ballwahn said. “We’ve gotten to know a lot of the people that work at the bars and clubs around town over the years, so it’s an important to us that they’re able to at least make ends meet and try and survive when they’re not able to do what they normally do.”

Rest Area Relief’s inspiration is far from the recent social distancing way of living. The EPs title and songs such as “Broke Motel” and “Bands Playing For Other Bands” were inspired by a mini road trip the band took a couple years ago. The EP offers a lively and engaging mix of new wave, power pop, and punk rock.

“We did shows in Lawrence, Kansas, Iowa City and Des Moines,” Ballwahn said. “Some interesting and odd things happened for this long weekend when we were kind of on this mini tour. It’s just kind of about being on the road. So, when you’re on the road, rest areas are a little oasis.”

The collection continues the collaborative spirit of the band, with each member getting their chance to shine.

For example, “Percussion We Don’t Use” is an in-joke that Ballwahn likes to tell others as the band’s drummer. “I would just say, ‘I just don’t do cowbell,’” he said. “’I’m not going to put a cowbell on here, or China cymbal, or whatever it may be.’”

Meanwhile, “In Search Of” is a song inspired by the ‘70s Leonard Nimoy hosted show of the same name. Larson had always wanted to write a song about Nimoy. “The show was about odd things like the Bermuda Triangle and Bigfoot and kind of odd mysteries of the time,” Ballwahn said.

The band recorded the EP with the help of garage-rock legend Bobby Hussy at Hex Empire Studios. They had a lot of respect for Hussy after playing shows with The Hussy and some of his other projects.

“We’re mostly known for our live shows, and we kind of thought working with Bobby would kind of capture that a little bit. He’s kind of known for his garage rock attitude,” Ballwahn said. “I think it’s a little more raw than we have sounded on recordings before, but really, really good sounding. And I think it kind of captured a little bit of the live spirit of German Art Students.”

Ballwahn is thankful that the band is going strong after 23 years together.

“It’s kind of nice not to have to worry about whether we’re the exact same thing that we were 15 years ago, or 20 years ago, or five years ago,” he said. “I think we kind of roll with the punches, and we’re just evolving with whatever situations come up as they come up.”

The German Art Students make an EP that’s mostly about being in a band

Here’s a Tone Madison story from April 2020 written by Scott Gordon:

“Rest Area Relief” puts a raw edge on the longtime Madison band’s witty power-pop.

Photo: From left to right, The German Art Students are Kirk Wall, Randy Ballwahn, Annelies Howell, and Andy Larson. Photo by James Pedersen.

The German Art Students have spent 23 years having a sense of humor about dozens of things: figure skating, old-timey bicycles, astronomy, vampires, typography, and so on. The Madison band takes a lot of care to craft bright and barbed power-pop songs, but doesn’t wrote unreservedly serious ones. The rare exceptions catch listeners off-guard, especially 2011’s “The Power And The Trust,” a sad reflection on the empty inner life of a crummy politician.

The four members—drummer Randy Ballwahn, guitarist/vocalist Annelies Howell, bassist/vocalist Andy Larson, and guitarist/vocalist Kirk Wall—have also developed a sense of humor about simply being in a band, and that’s what powers most of their newly released EP, Rest Area Relief. Three of the EP’s four songs grew out of a short tour The German Art Students took in 2017 through Iowa and then Kansas. Some shows were successful, some were a bust, some bills were with random bands that made sense, some with random bands that didn’t. One motel stay went very badly, but otherwise the four longtime friends and bandmates came home with good memories.

The ups and downs might have been a little harder on younger musicians without their experience, or on a more career-minded band. “We have the perspective that when we do these things we’re not really in it to make money, we just kind of think, ‘Oh, yeah, this will be a fun thing to do. We’ll go play these cities that we haven’t played in forever,’ and we just have fun doing the playing and hanging out and the adventure of it,” Ballwahn says. Despite that easygoing and wise attitude, the EP has a sharp bite to it. That’s thanks in part to the engineering and mixing work of Bobby Hussy, who recorded the sessions at his Madison studio and was well-equipped to capture the raw immediacy of their live sets.

Even though GAS has never been a hard-touring outfit, they capture the fatigue and disappointment musicians can experience on the road with the EP’s closing track, “Bands Playing For Other Bands.” There’s all kinds of ways a song about how no one showed up to your gig could go wrong and leave a bad taste in people’s mouths. This one steers clear of bitterness and self-pity, using the band’s humor and perspective to paint a picture of inverted glory: “The crowd fills with no one / Beer tickets for four / More people on the guest list / Than paid at the door,” Larson and Howell shout over the sweeping power chords of the chorus. 

Howell sings the verses over mournfully ringing guitars, maybe taking a cue from Bob Seger’s great tour-weary anthem “Turn The Page.” But the imagery here plays up the absurdity and smallness of the situation: “Bass cabinet measures 100 watts / Guitarist is cracking, poppin’ dirty pots / The amplifiers are real big and loud / But they’re bigger than us, so we’re not that proud / Facebook ‘interesteds’ forsaking me / Analytics, demographics don’t mean a thing / How can we tempt some middle-aged fans? / We’ll play for next to no one ’cause we’re bands playing for other bands.”

Of course, Howell admits there was a time when all the frustrations of playing live were tougher to cope with. “These guys could tell you at least a half-dozen stories of me bawling in the basement of The Klinic, bawling at O’Cayz, bawling at I don’t even remember what bar, because we’re supposed to play third and it’s 1:30 in the morning and Andy and I had to teach the next day,” Howell says. “But we love playing and as we’ve progressed, it’s like, that’s just part of it. You just have to take your lumps. You don’t know what every show’s going to be and that’s part of what makes it fun. Sometimes it’s amazing, sometimes you’re waiting for the next band to maybe not extend their set super-long.”

“Broke Motel” practically delights in the degradations of touring life, with a true story of the night the band spent in Lawrence, Kansas. In short, a pipe exploded in the middle of the night, flooding the two rooms the bandmates were splitting. 

“I’ll never be able to erase from my mind Kirk running over to a sink that was erupting in brown filth in a little motel in Lawrence, and then they’re like, ‘Oh, we’re so sorry, we’ll move you to the bridal suite,’ and then it was hotter than hell,” Larson says. The song turns this nightmare into an almost gleefully swinging chorus: “Where is the bridal suite in this broke motel ? / Brown water on my feet and I’m! In! Hell!” 

The magic of early GAS songs like “Civil War Reenactor” and “Bjorn Borg” isn’t necessarily that they try to say anything new or profound about those subjects, even though there’s a sly perspective at work. It’s that we think about such things all the time—iIf you didn’t think specifically about greycoats or a former tennis champion today, then surely some other peripheral oddity crossed your mind at some point—and it’s good to know that we share that in common with other people, especially if they can process our mental marginalia into witty and catchy songs. 

Rest Area Relief‘s opening track, “In Search Of,” captures the allure of strange or just plain silly ideas. Taking its title from the late-70s TV show that Leonard Nimoy hosted, the song riffs on theories from ancient alien astronauts to yetis to ESP to ghosts, all leading back to a chorus of “I wanna believe what’s on my TV screen.” Howell provides a whirring guitar hook that uses a cheap vibrato pedal to emulate an eerie yet chintzy theremin, hearkening back to a time when fringe obsessions didn’t feel quite so menacing. Conspiracy theories and the like have always had an unseemly side, promoting racism and extreme ideologies, but today we’re awash in them like never before, and they metastasize into destructive real-world action at alarming speed. “One of the things I say to kids sometimes is that before Facebook and before all the weird shit on the internet, I remember reading the National Inquirer and the different sections of the newspaper and the obituaries, and then there were these shows, like Ripley’s Believe It Or Not and In Search Of,” Howell says. “People have a thirst for that and a curiosity, and it demonstrates in different ways.” 

Most of the lyrics on the EP came from all four members just riffing on their experiences and fixations together. There’s no one dominant songwriter in the band, and when one member comes in with an idea, they all flesh it out with a process that sounds a bit like that of a comedy writers’ room. “We’re all writing it together, and Annelies and Kirk and I and Randy, we’re throwing words on a page and shouting at each other and talking over each other,” is how Larson describes it.

Their collective gift for band-specific in-jokes is at its peak on “Percussion We Don’t Use.” Larson came in with a bass part and a few stream-of-consciousness lyrics. Wall, Howell, and Ballwahn helped Larson flesh it out into a furious rant about excess gear, starting with “You got a rainstick and an egg shaker / You got roto-toms and a noise-maker.” At first I thought the song might reflect the rest of the band ganging up on Ballwahn, but the drummer denies this: “I’m the kind of drummer that likes a really basic kit. I’m not into that other stuff. I played in an orchestra in high school and everything, and I played all that stuff, but I’m in a punk-rock, power-pop band now.”

In any case, “Percussion We Don’t Use” might be the most purely angry song The German Art Students have ever recorded. Larson tried to approach his lead vocal performance with the vehemence of an ’80s punk-rocker denouncing Reagan. The fury is convincing, even though he’s transferring it onto inanimate objects: “What’s with that big gong that you don’t hit / Why’d you waste all that money on that shit?” 

The band had to cancel the release show for Rest Area Relief due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They’ll be using money from sales on Bandcamp to support the staff of some currently shuttered local venues, including the Harmony Bar and Mickey’s Tavern. While the band members are holed up, they’ll be recording separate parts for a planned entry in the next NPR Tiny Desk contest, which may depict tiny band members performing atop a hand-drawn desk.