Last week was particularly momentous for Fever Marlene, the Milwaukee-based indie pop duo by way of Chicago and Los Angeles that got its start at a Madison bike shop nearly six years ago. In between a pair of weekend shows at Shank Hall in their current home and at the Majestic Theatre in their former, Keven Dunphy and Scott Starr made their way to the Chelsea Hotel in New York to record their new album White China. This breakneck schedule and the response to their cluster of concerts provides a clear sign of a band going for broke.
Their big week started with a concert at Shank Hall on Friday, January 11. "Milwaukeeans Fever Marlene are playing to consistently larger crowds every time they visit Madison, and judging by the size of the crowd at Shank tonight they are doing just as well there," writes Kiki Schueler in a review of the band's first show of the year. "A duo that sounds like a power trio thanks to the bass pedals that lead singer/guitarist Scott Starr works with his feet, Fever Marlene play the kind of songs that get stuck in your head, in a good way." She also praises the group's formidable marketing presence, visual presentation, and versatility of Dunphy on the drums, mic, and bass.
Comments along similar lines were also made by Nick Giffin in his review of the show. "It's a perfect mix of rock without losing me with excess distortion (both intentional and unintentional) or guitar solos," he writes of their sound. "Their synth has a gravely electronic sound that couples perfectly with their music." Additionally, numerous photos of their performance can be viewed in one gallery shot by Schueler and in a second set taken by another fan from Madison.
Fever Marlene was only getting started though. The duo made their way to New York City as the new week started, sequestering themselves in a suite at the rock history-rich Chelsea Hotel in midtown Manhattan over the course of four nights to record their sophomore album, the follow-up to their 2007 debut Civil War. By last Friday, the duo had wrapped up their sessions and hopped on a plane back to Wisconsin for a pair of shows in Madison.
Up first was an in-store performance at Strictly Discs in the Monroe-Dudgeon neighborhood. Instead of their usual set-up, though, both Dunphy and Starr wielded acoustic guitars, setting aside their regular instrumentation in the small record-shop storefront. Giffin attended this show as well, and once again praised the band's sound. "It turns out those synth pedals are less important than I thought, because the six or so songs they played were all fantastic," he writes. "Clearly they're just good musicians."
The main event, though, was a full-blown concert at the Majestic Theatre later in the evening. As with the previous two, this show likewise garnered an enthusiastic review from a growing fan of their catchy tunes and bigger-than-expected delivery. "Fever Marlene played a flawless set that even MC Hammer couldn't touch," declared this listener, noting their single "Red Fire" along with "When Daniel Goodings Made It Rain" and "Khemitones" as standout songs. "Their artistic understanding of catchy melodies and powerful guitar riffs make this band worth a listen."
There are several videos of their appearance at Strictly Disc available online for viewing. A live clip of the pair playing "Red Fire" follows below, along with a couple of others.
This videographer also shot Fever Marlene playing acoustic versions of "We Are All Colors" (here), "Khemitones" (here), and "All the Kites in the World" (here) at the in-store show, this final song also posted on Dane101. On the Saturday night following their pair of performances in Madison, the band made its way to Minneapolis for another show at the Fine Line Café.
Already the recipients of significant radio airplay in Milwaukee, Fever Marlene is preparing to leap from their busy week into a big spring. The band recently gave an interview in which the pair discussed their origins, their independent approach to the music biz, their DIY video for "Red Fire," their recording process, and their plans for the future, which include hopes that a record company will support the promotion of and a tour for the new album.
White China is officially being released on March 7 with a party at Turner Hall in Milwaukee. Madison fans of Fever Marlene will be able to get a jump on the fun, though, as the band is playing at the High Noon on Thursday, March 6 in a show with The Redwalls and The Selfish Gene. The group will return to town shortly thereafter with a March 15 concert at Café Montmartre. Don't miss 'em.