FEAR THE DEER: Local Music Legends Venison Launch New EP

rockers have fresh meat for fans – and say there may be more to come

Andrew Patrie |

VERY VENISON. The band's newest EP, EC6, is the first music release since the band's reunion in 2016. (Photos via Venison's Facebook)
VERY VENISON. The band's newest EP, EC6, is their first new release since the band's reunion in 2016. (Photos via Venison's Facebook)

Once it starts to get easy, make it hard again: this is the artist’s paradox. When seminal Midwestern rockers Venison got their original lineup back together for a 25th-anniversary show in 2016, it was all about the past. And why not? They’d already amassed a sterling discography. No need to prove themselves. However, it seems Venison isn’t content to idle on past glories, but rather to, ahem, continue forward! 

Enter EC6, a brand new EP released in March and the first recorded output since the reunion. I reached out to the band to discuss this jubilant occasion and to reflect on 30-plus years as a flagship act in Eau Claire’s fecund music scene.

“When the original band reunited for V25,” vocalist Rick Fuller writes via email, “the feel of what we started back in ’90/’91 was back again. (However), we all felt to keep things fresh we needed to have some new material.” Also helping “to keep things fresh” was the addition of a third guitarist: Alex Fuller (Rick’s son), making Venison a six-piece, hence, the titular EC6, which is also a clever nod to Michigan rock band MC5. Venison now consists of Rick Fuller (vocals), Chris Jackson (guitar), Jon Olstadt (guitar), Alex Fuller (guitar), Todd Gitzlaff (bass), and Chris “Chicken” Weise (drums).

By 2020, the songs had taken embryonic shape, and then, a familiar refrain: COVID-19. Fuller writes, “During COVID there was a break. (Eventually), the band was able to record some basic tracks at Drum Farm in Menomonie, Wisconsin, for five of the new songs.”

The EC6 EP
The EC6 EP

“The performances were live and first-take, recorded in just a few hours,” enthuses guitarist Chris Jackson. “We definitely captured that raw, tensed-up Venison rhythm section.”

Production then relocated to North Orbit in Saint Paul. Jackson continues, “We were able to relax the process a bit more than normal, stretch out a bit more creatively with the vocals, effects, and thickening of guitars. There are probably at least 10 guitars on (the track) ‘Greener Days.’ ” 

Slowly, notes Fuller, “The songs began to sound more and more like classic Venison.”

Indeed. EC6 is 14 minutes of prime Venison: driving riffs, punchy percussion, boisterous vocals, and hooks galore. Look no further than anthemic opener “EC6” or track two’s wonderfully titled, “Question the Geezer,” for proof. 

And, as one geezer to another, I ask the band – as they look back on the swath of their lives spent playing songs for this community – what does it mean to still be creating vital music for an appreciative audience today? 

Guitarist Jon Olstadt says, “I realize there easily could’ve been an alternate version of my life where I don’t get to do this. I’m so grateful for this band, for these friendships.”

Fuller adds, “The fact we’re still a band, playing great music after all these years, is amazing to me, especially at my old age. You know, some fans at the new shows were just kids when they first saw us in the early ’90s. I only dreamt of a situation like this as a young man at UWEC, and here we are.”

I round back with Fuller about the fact only five of the new songs were recorded for the EP. Does this mean we can expect more “Venison Gold” in the future? Fuller writes, “It’s been a long road, and, for now, I’m just so grateful to be able to throw this (EP) out to the world, but, yes, you can expect more to come.”

Vintage Venison circa 1990-something.
Vintage Venison circa 1990-something.

EC6 is available on CD at Revival Records, and digital downloads are available via Spotify and Apple Music. You can also find Venison on Facebook.