By Matt Gundrum —
There’s a problem here in Menomonie.
Don’t worry, I’m not talking about a sociopolitical decay in the community structure. I’m referring to the local music scene. Or lack thereof.
However, three local artists spread across three genres are determined to promote the scene and help it grow with their own talents and efforts.
“The thing that sucks about it is that there’s so much talent in Menomonie, and it’s a lack of places to play,” said Jake Smith, a senior in the Professional Communications and Emerging Media program here at the University of Wisconsin–Stout.
Smith, like most college students, is a professional juggler of metaphorical sorts. School, employment at the in-town Jeff’s Pizza restaurant, and a bassist position in local pop-punk band Pets With People Names (PWPN) takes a majority of his time.
PWPN was started by Smith and his friends two years ago. They released their first EP in September 2014 and, since then, have released a single and a split EP with Minnesotan pop-punk group Insomniac.
Smith insists that this lack of prolificacy is not a reflection of the band’s direction.
“I want to take it somewhere. We take the music seriously,” he said.
Perceiving musical pursuits as being serious in a collegiate atmosphere is most certainly a reality for UW–Stout Hotel, Restaurant, and Tourism Management student JuMoke Owens. Owens, who performs hip-hop music under the moniker TRILLY the Answer, is especially passionate about musical craft.
“I can’t sleep. I’m working every day. I’m talking to endless amounts of people,” he explained through vivid tone in his dimly lit apartment; a sharp juxtaposition.
Owens, hailing from northern Minneapolis, has played house shows in town and has performed at open mic events put on by Blue Devil Productions. He started to take the TRILLY project seriously when he made a stark realization about his own life.
“I need to start doing things for myself,” he reflected. “I always did things for other people. I need to do this to make them proud. Now it’s like I need to make myself proud, my own dream. This is what I want. I want to do music. I love it. My heart is in it and I got so much passion.”
It’s the presence of individuals like Owens and Smith that help facilitate the concept of a music scene here in town. But to thrive, this facilitation process needs a platform. That’s where UW–Stout graphic design student Eric Collier comes in.
Collier helped with the creation of the school’s Music Production Club and has hosted house shows at which local artists can showcase their material.
“Musically, here, it’s been about the community and less about what my personal contributions have been,” said Collier, who’s involved in two musical projects: his Hip-Hop persona Rep Epic and his Metal group Waking Dormancy.
“Having a community makes it easier for other people to get hyped about it as well. It’s really hard to be excited about music if no one else is excited with you.”
Unfortunately, creating this community is difficult when most of its constituents are students as well.
“I just don’t have time to put much more effort than I am already. And when I say that, I’m referring to just as of this last semester. I’m finally getting of accurate glimpse of what it means to be an art major because the amount of work I have is unbearable half the time,” said Collier.
But according to Smith, taking the time to develop a scene would have a slew of positive implications.
“I think it would bring more people to the university. I think it would keep people here on the weekends, and honestly, keep things a little safer. If you have a show on a weekend and you have enough people there, that’s significantly less people drinking,” he said. “I think it would be really great for local businesses to start hosting shows. I think it would be good for Menomonie as a whole.”
All three of these individuals represent a fraction of the musical talent in Menomonie. At this point, the entirety of the scene remains rather small, but those involved are fueled by their love for music and the community it brings.