There seems to be no shortage of young, fresh bands sprouting up in Madison. That’s testimony to the fact that many initiatives aimed at fostering the next generation of musicians in the city are working, Girls Rock Camp, Launchpad and the Madison Area Music Association being the most prominent and obvious examples. I Saw the Creature is no exception.
In 2009 a young group called Del Preston, led by brother-sister duo Jake and Hannah Ripp-Dieter, won the MAMA Award for Youth Artist of the Year while Hannah took home Youth Vocalist of the Year. That experience led to a new band that included Andrew Schroeder on drums. In search of a bass player, Jake ran into Meghan Rose at a local event. Rose, who grew up on piano, is a talented singer and multi-instrumentalist. She picked up a bass guitar and I Saw the Creature was born. Currently, Rose is a member of three projects: Little Red Wolf, Damsel Trash and I Saw the Creature. All three released recordings in 2014. Rose is also a solo artist working on her own album.
Rose is driven, not just as a musician but is tackling music management, handling bookings and other chores. It’s rare indeed to find musicians with a passion for success that embraces working knowledge of the industry and this gives I Saw the Creature a definite leg up. The band recently completed a mid-country tour that saw them make a loop to Austin, Texas and back with stops in St. Louis and Chicago, all self-promoted.
I Saw the Creature were finalists in the inaugural MAMA Breakthrough Artist competition (which they should have won). Onstage they are a powerhouse, producing a crisp brand of power-pop laced with vocal harmonies and emitting potent sexual energy. They were also chosen as one of the four participants in Madison’s BandSwap celebration this September. Unfortunately, they were unable to perform due to illness and so missed a shot at performing at the 2015 MAMA Awards, an opportunity that seems imminent anyway but proves that any ultimate success requires perseverance. They also recently graced the cover of Maximum Ink, music journalist Teri Barr conducting an interview with Rose. The BandSwap selection came with a pressing of 1,000 CDs and the production of a music video (thanks to the City of Madison’s funding and Madison Media Institute). The band was pressed for time to record, having nothing in the can.
Rose struck up a relationship with Brian Liston, the new proprietor of Clutch Sound, formerly Smart Studios and tracking for You Are Singer took place there. With limited time, Rose took mixing chores unto herself and mastering was done by Eric Oehler (of Null Device fame) at his Submersible Studios. The result is a five-song effort with rising superstar DJ Pain1 and (Clutch Sound recording engineer) Pete Hirsch working up two remixes of the album’s standout track “Tear it Down.” The DJ Pain 1 version is especially revealing, a glimpse of what a multi-faceted keyboardist could bring to the band’s more standard-rock-outfit approach. The second “Exitium” remix, although fun, takes things to the extreme, having little relevance to the original track or the band itself although it does incorporate a nifty eagle screech. “Tear it Down” as originally recorded is a powerful rock tune with the Dieter-Ripp’s guitar and sister Hannah’s vocal solidly in the forefront. The chorus is a real winner and positively explodes out of the song’s bridge. As guitar-oriented as it is, it could easily fill a dance floor.
The band’s strength is easily drawn from Hannah Ripp-Dieter’s singing, a sultry blend of blues-rock swagger with a capability to wail in near-Kate Bush fashion. There really is no need to process it as much as was done here. Awash in over-returned reverb (the volume of the outgoing signal being higher than the one coming in), diminishes the impact. At times the band recalls Living Color, especially the ferocious riffing on “Bird Thoughts.” This monstrous track could have been enhanced by a cleaner vocal, the megaphone effect utilized becoming an unnecessary distraction. “Nobody” fares much better, the use of the reverb a bit better suited to this slow-burner. “Education” reveals the band’s ample strength with vocal harmonies, one that pushes them into more impressive results. Here Hannah’s sexually-charged vocal is more effective, especially in the refrain where she croons “I don’t want to be your inspiration / I just want to be your education,” before the track ramps up to a rousing finish.
The fact that I Saw the Creature has enormous potential is easy to see in just five songs on a somewhat hastily-produced debut. The band stands at the critical juncture of where to push the right buttons musically to take advantage of their obvious talents. As songwriters they already display a natural ability to diversify their compositions with compelling contrasts while keeping things punchy and concise, adding dramatic effect. The fact that they take things seriously as an ongoing concern means that I Saw the Creature are a band that will likely have built-in defense mechanisms that could pay off big time down the road. This is an exciting group that you’ll want to keep an eye on and one that could follow PHOX’s lead by making right choices, leading them to a playing field that exists on a much higher level.