New Adventures in Lo-Fi
Wisconsin Built focuses on storytelling
Eric Charles Christenson has been a man in transition. After graduating from UW-Eau Claire in the winter of 2012, he worked a stint for the Green Bay Press-Gazette before moving on to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. His brief Midwestern odyssey was also marked by occasional stays at his parents’ house in Black Creek, Wis. This laundry list of residencies became the catalyst for many of the songs on Drinkable, Christenson’s second album as Wisconsin Built.
“I just like to tell stories, real or imagined, rather than writing about being in love, wanting to be in love, being confused about God, or whatever. Stories are better for me, and I think hearing them with music could be important to others, too.”
– Eric Charles Christenson, on songwritingWhile he is joined on stage by Thom Fountain regularly and Davy Sumner and Maggie Armstrong occasionally, Christenson records all of Wisconsin Built’s music by himself. The band’s first effort, 2012’s Rest Less, was characterized by a minimal, lo-fi aesthetic achieved through Christenson’s home recording techniques, and he retains that quality throughout Drinkable. Many songs were constructed using nothing but a rummage-sale organ and subtle drum programming, a bare-bones structure that places Christenson’s voice and lyrics squarely in the foreground.
Eschewing the romance and heartbreak traditions of indie rock lyricism, Christenson instead writes songs that are more narrative-driven; “Outside” is about his winter commute from Black Creek to Green Bay, while “Country Mile” reflects his father’s regular walks around a large country block. “I just like to tell stories, real or imagined, rather than writing about being in love, wanting to be in love, being confused about God, or whatever,” he says. “Stories are better for me, and I think hearing them with music could be important to others, too.”
Constructing intimate time capsules of specific points in his life seems to be Christenson’s ulterior motive for Wisconsin Built, but the songs on Drinkable are also spattered with audio samples. One in particular to note is an interview with Andy Kaufman at the end of “Church Bells,” in which he discusses his grandfather dying and processing that loss. For Christenson, the audio samples are all about creating an extra dimension to the band’s music. “The lyrics by themselves might mean something, but I like to think that if you listen to the song with an audio clip of someone talking about something bigger, that the songs might turn into something bigger,” he says. Aside from enhancing the lyrics, the samples smooth out transitions throughout the album and turn Drinkable into a cohesive snapshot of the past year.
Wisconsin Built’s new album, Drinkable, is available as a free download at wisconsinbuilt.bandcamp.com.