CD Reviews 17 Sep 2016

Distant cuzins big cd coverDISTANT CUZINS – Big

(2016  Self-Release)

Buy the CD here.


Distant Cuzins may still be in high school but there is nothing small about their sound and their enthusiasm. Hence the title, Big, complete will beer-swilling toddler and a retro look that emphasizes the quartet’s classic rock vibe. This debut five-song EP channels the Stones, especially with Nic Tierman’s vocals, as well as other foundational acts like George Thorogood and Aerosmith, the twin guitars and driving rhythm section unabashedly re-proclaiming rock’s intensity.

As a judge for the annual youth rock competition produced by Dennis Graham, I’ve watched these guys for a few years and let me tell you, they know how to use a stage. Lead guitarist Sam Miess goes unhinged and could challenge Townshend in a jump-off but rhythm player Nate Krause provides the grooving riffs which keep the band together. They’ll rock back-to-back in archetypal fashion while Tierman holds down the bass line and demonstrates his natural front-man abilities. Drummer Ben Lokuta holds down the beat on drums, playing with enthusiasm and power. This year, Distant Cuzins took it all at Dennis Graham’s Rockonsin competition at Summerfest, a statewide contest that whittled down fifty bands into one champion. There was no denying that their ability to write original music, as well as their already-honed performance skills would single them out.  Here is a clip from their winning performance:



The song is “Need Someone (to break my heart),” and they know enough to lead off with their best.  The twin guitar riffing gives way to a statement by the bass before kicking into the verse. Lokuta’s drums are tight, complementing the proceedings with tasteful tom work. The inventive middle section demonstrates Distant Cuzins’ ability to craft a great rock song.

There is tension and release in “Low” while “Wok-Fried Soba” shows their swagger. “Explain Yourself” is classic rock all the way with chromatic dissonance employed to build to the chorus. “We will not explain ourselves / We will don’t have a story to tell / And when the clock rings it’s bell / We will fall like everybody else,” Tierman sings in the middle section which uses time and meter shifts to good effect. A live take, “Ruttin’ Like a Hog” closes the EP in gritty, blues-rock form. A soundman’s lament, it finishes things out on a humorous note, proving that these guys are having a great time in the moment, not taking themselves too seriously.

Speaking of champions, Blast House Studios has been championing young musicians for a long while now. They also deserve credit and are getting some as their Madison Area Music Award wins demonstrate. Big was recorded there with Dustin Sisson and Landon Arkens.

One of the downsides of being a successful high school group is that life still happens. While Distant Cuzins have undeniable potential, the future will be anything but certain. Whether they hold together or not, their members would be welcome additions to any rock group, in any corner of the globe.

Distant Cuzins at the Red Zone.

Distant Cuzins at the Red Zone.


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About the author

Rick Tvedt

Rick is publisher of Local Sounds Magazine, formerly Rick's Cafe, Wisconsin's Regional Music Newspaper. He is also the Executive Director for MAMA, Inc., a non-profit organization that produces the Madison Area Music Awards and raises funds to promote youth music programs.

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