By Billy Tuite —
Wisconsin has no shortage of folk and bluegrass acts, but Them Coulee Boys, a Hixton-based string quartet, stands tall above the rest with their rowdy energy and heartfelt lyrics. Hot on the heels of releasing their second album with a performance on Halloween at Acoustic Café, Them Coulee Boys are ready to take the Midwest, and eventually the rest of the country, by storm.
Them Coulee Boys was founded in 2012 when banjoist Beau Janke and guitarist/ vocalist Soren Staff met at a summer camp in Chetek, Wis. and started jamming together. Months later they were joined by Jens Staff on mandolin and Michael Aschbacher on bass, and soon they had established their signature “punkgrass” sound.
Janke, a super senior in Studio Art here at the University of Wisconsin–Stout, cites Bob Dylan, The Avett Brothers and Neil Young as the band’s major influences. Their creative spark also comes from more diverse sources.
“It’s not just bands and musicians; it’s artists and poets that inspire us, Walt Whitman in particular,” Janke said. “We inspire each other a lot too.”
The inspirations within the band come from the different perspectives and emotions that each band member brings to the songwriting process.
“The lyrics are heartbreaking, but it’s communicated through a happy, rowdy aesthetic,” Janke said. “When writing the music, that comes from happiness and having fun. When writing the lyrics, it comes from a place of sadness and depression.”
Both happy and sad components are present on their new album, “I Never Lied About Being in Love,” though the harsh, honest lyrics bring out the sad part this time around.
“Heartbreak is the theme of the album,” Janke said. “The lyrics on the new album were mostly written by Soren, and he was dealing with heartbreak in the best way that he could: by writing songs.”
Such heartbreak was particularly prevalent within the band, as the production of the album was rife with drama and conflict.
“Making the album was so stressful because we fought a lot,” Janke said. “There were things I said to Soren I wish I could take back. We honestly made each other cry a couple of times.”
Fortunately, production was peacefully completed and the album was released on Oct. 31. The release was accompanied by a packed performance at Acoustic Café; fitting, given the lively, rowdy nature of Them Coulee Boys.
“We’re definitely a live band,” Janke said. “Our energy is best shown in a live setting. We still want people to listen to the albums, but we also want people to experience the music live.”
Those interested in indulging in this live experience can check out their upcoming shows at Madison, Wis., Ripon, Wis., Trempealeau, Wis. and Duluth, Wis. among other places. Of course, they plan to perform in Menomonie again in the near future, with a show at the Waterfront Bar and Grill already scheduled for April. Frankly, you can expect to see Them Coulee Boys just about anywhere.
“Wherever this music thrives, we’ll go with it,” Janke said.
More info and tour dates can be found at their website themcouleeboys.com and their Facebook page, facebook.com/ThemCouleeBoys. Their new album, “I Never Lied About Being in Love,” is now available on iTunes, Spotify, Pandora and other music streaming services.