Rock on the Eights: Bethke-fronted band debuts album and signature beer

Hillary Bell, photos by Andrea Paulseth

IF IT AIN’T BROKE … Veteran Chippewa Valley singer/songwriter Brian Bethke (far right) made a name for himself as a solo artist. His new band, The Broken Eights, have just released an 8-song album of grungy rock.
IF IT AIN’T BROKE … Veteran Chippewa Valley singer/songwriter Brian Bethke (far right) made a name for himself as a solo artist. His new band, The Broken Eights, have just released an 8-song album of grungy rock.

A Nirvana cover band originally known as Floyd And the Barbers have transformed and grown into something much more than just another cover band. Brian Bethke, who was voted the Chippewa Valley’s best folk singer, is rocking out to some original tunes with his band, now called The Broken Eights.

After Brian received a message from guitarist Michael “Riff” Johnson asking him what it would take for him to plug in an electric guitar and play some good old rock ’n’ roll, Brian replied, “A Nirvana set at the Decadent Cabaret.” Twenty minutes later, Riff responded. “OK, I have a drummer and a bass player lined up and we are booked at The House of Rock for March 3.”

Although they didn’t realize it at the time, it was the start to what the band has become today. That change unfolded when the band’s original drummer, Justin Terry, left early on due to some scheduling conflicts and was replaced with Brian’s longtime friend, Derrick Beiderman. As soon as Derrick was in the picture the original songs started to form and more time was spent working on those instead of practicing Nirvana for the Decadent Cabaret.

That energy became a full length album called 8, recorded over two days on the weekend of Brian’s 37th birthday, with Evan Middlesworth at Pine Hollow Studio. “We recorded it live for the most part; the drums, bass, rhythm guitars and even Brian’s vocals were all recorded together.” The lead guitars and backing vocals by Mookie and Hannah Morton of LASKA were recorded on day two. On the same day Rick Kreuziger added some pedal steel on “The Silence.”

“For me, these songs are part of my growth as a musician and coming full circle” Brian said. “The reason we named the band The Broken Eights was because ‘8’ is a symbol of infinity, and as we grow older we all face the inevitable infinity of the life and death cycle. We are all here to experience life right now but seem to get caught up in worrying about the past or the future. Some of these songs were written about that worry we all have.”

According to Brian, the themes on 8 vary. For instance, the song called “Cool” is about not wanting to fit into the accepted reality of the “cool kids” or society. “The world has gone mad and if that’s what the ‘cool kids’ are doing, I don’t want to be cool,” states Brian. Another song, “100 Years,” is about the breakdown of society and how if we don’t create the change we would like to see in this world, 100 years from now the world as we know could be gone. “Found My Pain” is a dark song with simple lyrics and an anti-suicide message.

“I have suffered from depression and even tried to take my own life a few times in the past, and I wanted a song that was a mantra for those who suffer every day; a way to say you’re not alone,” Brian said. “When someone commits suicide, they are not killing that pain they feel. They are just passing it on to those who love them, and that’s not fair to those they leave behind.”

The Broken Eights were influenced by the music of its members’ youth, including bands such as Nirvana, Stone Temple Pilots, The Toadies, Smashing Pumpkins, Metallica, Pearl Jam, Black Sabbath, Tool and many more.

The band has been brewing up some deep tunes for their new album, but that’s not the only thing brewing. To go along with their new album, they have also created their own hemp-based beer.

“I love the idea of hemp products being made but I haven’t seen many hemp beers out there,” Brian said. “The ones I do see are porters that are brewed with chocolate, which I am allergic to.” One Wednesday while Brian was hosting open mic at Northwoods Brewpub in Osseo, he pitched his idea to Sean Annis about making a hemp IPA. He thought it was a cool idea. Eddie Bowers started building the recipe and one Saturday morning Riff and Brian went and helped brew the first batch. During the brewing process, they created a video and have it posted on the band’s Facebook page for fans to check out.

Why brew a beer? Because we are from Wisconsin. We love beer.

Currently, the band is pitching the album to a few record labels, booking shows, writing songs, and just enjoying making music with longtime friends. “Eight years ago, we all jammed together once but we never pursued it any further,” Brian said. “Now eight years later, here we are. Just another reason eight is great.”

Northwoods Brewpub is holding an event to release its brand-new beer, The Broken Eights Hemp IPA, from 7-10pm on Thursday, April 20. And while you’re there, you’ll be able to hear the band perform; purchase the new album, 8; and bring home a growler of The Broken Eights Hemp IPA. It’s a party you’ll want to be part of.

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