Townies…or Mockers? Behind the Scenes!

Our new slogan, courtesy of Madison Magazine: “Sporadically filling Madison bars for 22 years.”

You can join the ranks of sporadic fans Friday 9/13 5-7pm FREE at High Noon Saloon.…/townie-punk-band-i…/1119142383

Despite being referred to with the awkward acronym TGAS instead of our preferred shorthand of GAS, we had some fun with this interview and article. We have made peace with the fact that our indie cred is totally shot now (if it wasn’t already).

But one of the most interesting aspects of the article was the behind-the-scenes fact-checker email we got. Here it is (you’ll notice they didn’t use the information about a good crowd in Lawrence:-):

‘m a fact-checker with Madison Magazine and I have some follow-up questions regarding a short piece we’re publishing about The German Art Students. Would you be able to email me the answers to the following questions by Wednesday, July 3? (Short answers are fine. This is just to verify what the reporter wrote.)
  • What year did The German Art Students form? (The writer says you’ve been a band for 26 years?) Andy and Kirk started the band in 1997. Annelies joined in early 1998, and I joined later in 1998. So not 26 years, but a long time ago.
  • Can you confirm the names/spelling and instruments for the band members? Andy Larson (bassist), Randy Ballwahn (drummer), Annelies Howell (guitar), and Kirk Wall (guitar) All correct.
  • On a mini Midwest tour in 2018, did you play nearly empty venues in Lawrence, Kansas and Des Moines? The venue in Lawrence was actually a pretty good crowd, but the shows in Iowa City and Des Moines were nearly empty.
  • Would you say that at those shows there were more people on the guest list than paid at the door? We can’t prove that was true, but yes, that is how we described it in our song “Bands Playing For Other Bands.”
  • Are you recording a 6-song EP this summer? Turns out it’s going to be more like 4 songs. We will begin recording late in July at Bobby Hussy’s studio.
  • Will the songs “Bands Playing for Other Bands” and “Percussion We Don’t Use” be on the EP? Yes
  • Is “Bands Playing for Other Bands” a “love letter to fellow Madison musicians”? Any musicians, not just Madison.
  • Did you open for The B-52s at the Orpheum in June 2018? Yes, it was a blast.
  • Is your band compared to They Might Be Giants, Buzzcocks, The Ramones, and The Rezillos? Yes, we have been compared to or inspired by all of those bands.
  • Was your music previously described as “new wave?” Rolling Stone magazine referred to our music as “nimble-witted New Wave pop” and The Onion referred to us as “new-wave weirdos.” See attachments.
  • RS Nimble Witted.jpeg

Onion New Wave Wierdos.jpg

  • Did Kirk used to wear turtlenecks during shows? When we started out, we all wore black turtlenecks (or sometimes scoop necks). It was kind of our “art student” schtick.
  • Would you say that you’re “mockers” (combination of mod and rocker)? This is an inside joke. It’s a reference to a famous quote by Paul McCartney. Do you prefer mods or rockers? “I prefer Mockers.” This was made famous in A Hard Days Night as a line by Ringo. See the video at this link.
  • Is your song “Robots in Raincoats” a song about the downsides of rushing technology into production too soon? That is certainly a valid interpretation.
  • Is “Instant Coffee” about unhealthy compromises people make on a daily basis? Another valid interpretation, although I would remove the word unhealthy and just say compromises.

Here is the full article:

Townie punk band is working on a new EP of ironic songs

by Joel Patenaude Madison Magazine Sept 13, 2019

Photo by DJ Hostetler

Despite sporadically filling Madison bars with fans of their high-energy punk-rock sound for 22 years, The German Art Students are not well-known outside of town. That became clear on a mini Midwest tour last year when they found themselves playing nearly empty venues in Iowa City and Des Moines, Iowa.

Despite advance publicity for the shows, few people turned out who weren’t members of the other bands on the bills. “There were often more people on the guest list than paid at the door,” bassist Andy Larson says.

So, true to form, the band wrote a self-deprecating song about it. “Bands Playing for Other Bands” will be one of four songs recorded this summer on an EP by The German Art Students. Another song to expect on the record is titled “Percussion We Don’t Use.”

The band did return triumphantly from that regional tour to open a packed June 2018 show at the Orpheum Theater by The B-52s – a band to which TGAS is often compared.

TGAS doesn’t mind being mentioned in the same breath as They Might Be Giants, Buzzcocks and The Ramones. Descriptions of TGAS being “new wave” date back to the early days when the band’s music still included keyboards.

The band also long ago abandoned the pretense that they were actually German art students.

“Kirk stopped wearing the turtleneck after like two shows,” says guitarist and vocalist Annelies Howell about lead guitarist Kirk Wall.

Howell says a better representation of the band’s ethos is found in The Beatles’ 1964 film “A Hard Day’s Night.” In one scene, a member of the press asks drummer Ringo Starr, “Are you a mod or a rocker?” Ringo answers, “I’m a mocker.”

“So that’s us,” Howell says. “We’re definitely mockers.”

TGAS drummer Randy Ballwahn acknowledges “irony is another language we speak.” While the band’s songs tend to be silly on the surface, he says they can be understood on two levels.

For instance, “Robots in Raincoats.” In addition to being a funny image, the song is about the downsides of rushing new technology into production too soon. Another song, “Instant Coffee,” is a litany of compromises many of us make on a daily basis. Both songs are on the 2014 CD “Time Machine,” the band’s most recent release.

TGAS is an enduring pursuit made possible by the band members’ real jobs. Wall is a graphic designer for a sign shop and Ballwahn does regulatory compliance for the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Family Medicine and Community Health. At Verona High School, Larson teaches history and Howell teaches math and physics.

Larson and Howell share their passion for music in their classrooms by teaching the history of rock and roll (Larson) and coaching student musicians in a project on the 1969 Woodstock music festival (Howell).

However, their primary creative outlet remains TGAS. The group ruled out alternative activities – such as bowling, model railroading or playing Dungeons & Dragons – long ago.

“I just tell people that guitar strings are cheaper,” Wall says.

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