Last August over 200 artists performed at over 60 venues in downtown Appleton.
Twenty five years ago Rebel Waltz released their album Rubber Walls, to a small but dedicated following. To quote Lou Reed, “Those were different times.”
Think about it. If you were around three decades ago and wanted to hear cutting edge music in the Fox Valley your choices were limited. Forward thinking arbiters like a few Menasha skate punks led the way to weeknight record spins at gay bars, or the Thirsty Whale in Appleton or Lefty’s in Green Bay. WAPL even played a few hours of Punk/New Wave each week. The odd college radio program from Lawrence, UW-Green Bay or UW-Oshkosh might spike the airwaves.
Eventually the soldiers took up arms. Fun With Atoms (Green Bay), East Side Kids (Appleton area), Second Childhood and Twistin’ Egyptians (Oshkosh) may not have been the first but they were all gaining a bit of a local audience.
By 1987 Rebel Waltz had joined the pack. Bassist Timm Buechler and childhood buddy Jeff De Goey (guitar) added Jeff “JJ” Verner (guitar) and drummer Dave Moore, then set their indefatigable work ethic in motion. They chalked up many late-night drives from Kimberly to Oshkosh, doing the work that would result in high energy shows and recordings.
According to DeGoey, by the time the band called it a day, “we had written a couple hundred songs between the four of us. Playing three sets a night was no problem and became a regular gig. Not bad for a couple kids from Westside elementary.”
With their name a nod to the Clash, Rebel Waltz boasted three songwriters. Buechler and Verner operated from a more melodic approach adding vocal harmonies and jangly guitars, while DeGoey’s impassioned vocals perfectly matched his edgier, anguished guitar playing. Moore was simply a fantastic drummer who tied the jigsaw puzzle together.
Boasting a discography that spanned cassettes, 7” singles, LP’s and compact discs, Rebel Waltz has chosen Record Store Day 2015 to reissue their Rubber Walls LP plus additional cuts from the sessions.
Constantly honing new material the band remained in fighting shape. Situated two hours from either Milwaukee or Madison, in those pre-internet days Rebel Waltz was patient and took things one step at a time.
Buechler offers his take on the band’s sense of accomplishment. “I am proud of the effort the guys put into this band to build our success. More miles than money indeed. We played anywhere and everywhere we could just to try and build our fan-base. We worked our asses off to make things happen for us,“ he said. “I also like to think that we were a very good live band who played with a ton of energy and passion, which turned into good reviews and word-of-mouth, so there were usually more people there the next time we played.”
DeGoey echoes the sentiment. “Rebel Waltz was a band that made its own original music in its own time. We have known so many great bands that have done the same. Venison/Drunk Drivers in Eau Claire; Ripp Winkler in Oshkosh; Uncle Eddie/Droids Attack in Madison; Die Kreuzen/Go Go Slow in Milwaukee; Andrew Johnson with Happy/Haunted Heads and countless other great original Wisconsin bands who made their own music in their own time.”
In the twenty years since Rebel Waltz came to a halt (aside from odd reunion performances) the members have kept busy: Verner with Andy’s Automatics, Moore with Scrap Heap Kings, DeGoey with The Catastrophe and Buechler with solo work, tours with Peter Case, Paul Collins and The Lyres, as well as gigs with Half Empty.
“We all have continued to participate in the great evolution of original music,” DeGoey says. “ I consider original music to be a giant centipede….one pair of legs gets the music from the pair ahead of it and passes it on to the pair behind it. To be a pair of legs in the great chain is the ultimate reward.”
For Buechler, the memory of a night in Chicago defines Rebel Waltz.
“We were wined and dined in Chicago one night in 1993, with the chance to sign with an independent label to release an album with a collection of our older songs,” he said.
“We had about 20 new songs at this point and wanted to release the new music instead of rehashing the past. As much as I wanted to sign that deal and fulfill the dream of signing a record contract, it didn’t happen. What I’m getting at is that Rebel Waltz was always looking forward as a band and we didn’t have a lot of interest in taking a step back, just to take it to a national level. For better or worse, we lived in the moment as a band. Knowing that, it feels good to look back and have no regrets.”
Rebel Waltz has confirmed an August 1st show in Green Bay. Details to follow.