Positivity. Good vibes. Great people. Fun music. These are just a few things that immediately come to mind when I think of The People Brothers Band—a Madison-based “rhythm & soul” group known for their uplifting live shows. We had the pleasure of having two PBB members, Teresa and Greg, in the Murfie office recently. They had a lot of great things to say about the Midwest scene, and People Fest, which is happening this weekend in Hillsboro, Wisconsin!
Here’s a transcript of our interview, along with the Soundcloud link below for your listening pleasure.
Who: Teresa Marie and Greg Schmitt; interviewed by Kayla Liederbach
Where: Murfie HQ, Madison, WI
When: Monday, July 20th, 2015
How: Recorded by Kayla Liederbach
Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
K: I’m here at the Murfie office with Greg and Teresa from The People Brothers Band, so big welcome.
T: Hello hello, thank you for having us!
K: Yes. I’m glad you guys dig Murfie, and the concept.
T: This is super cool. Blows my mind a little bit. More people need to know about Murfie.
K: Yes, and it’s local…slash national. But yeah, it’s a lot of fun to be part of it. And we were also just mentioning the MAMAs—Madison Area Music Awards—which were a ton of fun. You guys won top Pop/R&B Album of the Year, Middle of the in Between. So what do you guys think about the MAMA award system and everything?
T: I think every year they’re increasingly doing way cooler things, and this year they definitely put on a show. And I really encourage the musicians in Madison to get out and know more about it, because I think that’s what it lacks, is us being more involved in it. But it’s a really cool way to get recognition and to be appreciated.
G: I think it’s a really cool thing because every time, every year you get to see all these cool new bands. We all run in different circles, and it’s finally cool to see all these people come together. It’s fun for me because when I get to go in and vote, all of a sudden you get to listen to these bands that, you see their names in The Isthmus but you don’t always get to go out to the shows, because you’re playing on the weekends. So it’s fun, because it kind of like gives you a good reason to check out all these great bands. And then it’s fun because it kind of gets everybody in one place, you get to see all these different people that you didn’t know about.
K: I would agree with that 100%. And its enough rotation every year to keep it interesting. Some people are repeat winners but it’s good to see it cycle through like that. During your speech Teresa you had a message to musicians, telling them they had the opportunity to spread positivity through doing this. I thought that was great, can you elaborate on that a little bit?
T: Absolutely, that’s really cool that you even…that means a lot! I guess at the end of the day, I think most people are doing music for the love of it, and the way that you feel when you’re playing music, when you’re doing music, when the people are watching you the way they’re receiving it—if you could just spread that feeling throughout the community for other things. And I think that we can, I think that when you feel that kind of passion and that kind of love coming from people, you can’t help but want to do good things with it. That’s what we do at People Fest, I know that.
K: Yes, tell me about People Fest!
T: August 6th, 7th and 8th. And I will say more than once that it’s not just some of the most fun you’re gonna have this summer, it’s some of the best memories you can make in your life. And that’s a true story. There’s so much love flowing through those driftless hills, it doesn’t make any sense.
G: We’ve got a couple llamas and a miniature donkey. And it’s all family friendly. We’ve got 53 bands playing.
T: Three stages, camping, family camping.
G: Most of our bands come from either Madison or Minneapolis.
T: And throughout the Midwest.
G: And throughout, we’ve got bands from Winona, Milwaukee bands, Chicago bands, we’ve got a band from L.A. coming. And so we love it, every year it’s fun to put together the lineup, it’s kind of almost painful because it’s so fun, you just want to put so many bands in it. It’s like trying to eat the whole bag of Oreos, you know what I mean? You’re just trying to get as much goodness as you can.
T: Definitely. It’s like going home every year. I’m not even kidding when I say, it is one of the best music festivals. Just because of the way that everybody makes each other feel. As soon as it’s over, everyone’s like “Ok, next year!” immediately, it doesn’t even have a chance to end. The people are out there helping us clean up, because they want to make sure that it’s great to come back, that there’s no bridges burned.
K: That’s awesome. How many years has it been going?
G: This will be our seventh year. The band is also in its seventh year. Basically what happened was, as soon as we formed, within the first year we started doing our festival. And then we also started doing our charity event. And since we’ve started, we’ve just kind of always come up with some crazy ideas and just shot for the moon. And so it’s been kind of fun, and that’s what’s been fun about watching People Fest. For two years we had it in Dodgeville, and for the last five we’ve had it over in Hillsboro. And a lot of the bands are always repeat. We do about 50/50 each year. Each year we bring in half the bands from the year before, and half new bands. And we like to kind of cycle them through to give people a little bit of change.
K: And I’ve heard great things. I really want to come out. And I saw you just played at Ragged Roots, and you have other festivals coming up like Summer Set Fest. So what do you think about the rise in music festivals as a way to see music? It seems like it’s growing.
T: I guess as far as I’ve known it, it’s always been like that. I think what’s really cool is a lot of these festivals that we play, we’ve played from the beginning of them. So now that people are knowing more about them, and then we get the opportunity to play in the bigger festivals that people have always known about. So definitely there’s ones being added, but that’s never a bad thing.
G: I think it’s cool that a lot of festivals have been popping up throughout Wisconsin. And I love it personally as a musician because it’s one of the few times I can go out and go watch eight different bands in an evening. It’s my chance to kind of seize that opportunity.
T: And jam out by the campfire, and the chance to get to know people and fans, and people in different bands on a different level. A lot when you’re playing in the clubs and in the bar scene, it’s a little bit difficult to have conversations with people in those places and get to know them the way you actually want to. So it’s really cool to be able to spend quality time with people doing that.
K: Right, it’s a community.
G: Absolutely, that’s what we’re about.
K: What festival is on both of your bucket lists to attend that you haven’t yet?
T: I really want to go to Jazz Fest. I haven’t done that one yet. I would really love to do that.
G: Every year we’re like, “Let’s go do that!”.
T: It’d be really awesome to play it, and it’s not out of the realm of possibility at all. But it would be cool just to go, because it’s for local musicians and national acts that are all in the same place, and even closer of a community than say Summerfest, which I love—but there you have stages where the national acts are playing and stages where the local musicians are playing. Jazz Fest is kind of all intertwined, and I want to see that. I want to be part of that.
K: Well visualize it, it will happen! I see it already. [Laughs]
T: It will happen, I see it next year! [Laughs]
K: I love it. So what do you two think of the Madison music scene?
T: It is one of the best I’ve ever been in in my life. Probably the best.
K: Which other ones are you familiar with?
T: I’ve lived in a few different places in Wisconsin. I grew up in New London, Wisconsin—so the Fox City scene and things of that nature. I did live in Atlanta for four and a half years, so I was a part of that, and it was beautiful, but completely different than what’s up here. This is a lot different.
G: It’s cool just to see the community that’s up here, and how the bands support each other. I mean we’ve got so many good friends around the Midwest. I feel like sometimes Madison music is awesome, and Midwest music is so strong. I feel like everywhere we go we see such great bands. It’s cool being from a town with so many great bands.
T: Just to touch more on what I was talking about before, that’s kind of the thing—the Midwest can ban together just like the Madison musicians, and just the thought that, what if guitars didn’t play together with drums, and what if keyboards wouldn’t play? What if instruments wouldn’t play together, and lyricists wouldn’t play with any of the musicians? There wouldn’t be songs, and if people took that attitude in their everyday life as far as you look at people and the way you see people, if you get together, that’s where the beautiful things happen. Musicians and music in itself is the number one bomb example of that. And I just think that if we all embrace that and spread that, we can make some powerful awesome things happen.
K: I love the insights, you know, music is timeless. It’s universal. It’s our best tool. But yeah, I agree with that 100%. So how about rhythm and soul music, where you draw a lot of inspiration. Who are your top influences in that genre?
T: That’s a question we always kind of stumble on. We all come from such different musical backgrounds, that we teach each other. And we have learned from each other. It would be leaving out so many if you said just one, it’s really hard to do that. There are so many musicians I did not know before I was in The People Brothers Band, or didn’t know them the way I should know them, the way I do now. I came from a place where I draw from all forms of music, quite literally. I was one of the only black people in New London, Wisconsin. So where my father came from, and his influences in music, and my mother’s, they were both in the army and traveled. And what plays in New London, and what is happening there, I think I really do have a very eclectic—I can’t say there was one person. And I think a lot of the guys feel quite the same way, they’ve drawn from so many.
K: Different genres, different people.
G: Yeah I mean we have different groups that we really, I don’t know, I feel like we get a lot of “The Band” sometimes. We draw a lot from them. We draw a lot from Motown. I feel like we like to mix rock n’ roll a little bit with motown and soul music. That’s why we just wanted to call it rhythm and soul. You know, we don’t really like to define it. That’s what we did on the album. When you got through the album, we have so many different genres on there. It’s whatever we’re feeling at the time. When we write, we don’t ever want to pigeonhole ourselves.
K: Right, well there’s something for everyone. So when you do something new, you don’t throw people off. It’s like, “That’s what they do!”
T: Yeah, exactly. And usually it’s a great surprised look on people’s faces. They’re like, “Are they really doing that?! Is that really happening?” It’s pretty fun.
K: Well I’m excited to see you guys play before the summer is over. Good luck with everything, the new album is out, people are diggin’ it, you won the award, so congrats and thanks for coming to talk.
T: Thank you for all you do in the music scene, for real.
K: Thank you! You guys!!
Music by The People Brothers Band & Related Artists
File: mp3 version
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Kayla manages social media and customer support at Murfie. You can hear her on the radio hosting U DUB, the reggae show, Wednesdays on WSUM. She enjoys hosting the Murfie podcast, cooking, traveling, going to concerts, and snuggling with kittycats.