You may remember Keefe Klug as a finalist from Project M, the songwriting reality show hosted by 105.5 FM (Triple M). His soulful pop tunes made fans swoon, and his cover of the BoDeans' "Do I Do" drew comparisons to Prince and the Black Crowes from the judges.
While Klug didn't win the competition in June, he's been quite busy since then, blazing a trail toward the big time. He's formed a band called the Surgical Precision with bassist Thomas Johannsen and drummer Sam Legg. He's played nightclubs, sporting events and pizza parlors. He's even recorded an album called What You Do to Me, which he'll release Friday, Nov. 5, at the Annex, the night of his 26th birthday.
The album is tough to categorize, Klug admits, but one thing's for sure: It's got a lot of heart and plenty of soul. And its release is about the best birthday present - and party - he can imagine.
"Other bands I've been in have been your usual pop-rock, with a guitar, bass, drums and vocals, but this one is pulling from the hip-hop scene, not so much in how it sounds but how it feels at the shows," he says. "What draws people to shows is having a good time and dancing, so our shows are about the crowd, not someone onstage being overtly introspective."
The band's sound ranges from bass-heavy, dance-friendly roots-rock to bluesy power-pop to funky ditties with traces of electronica. It's party music built from the good old-fashioned rock 'n' roll of Buddy Holly and the soul tradition that bred Wilson Pickett and Otis Redding.
"We take a lot of that '50s rock 'n' roll, blues and roots music, then flesh it out and put a pop spin on it. And the CD was recorded right above State Street, so that background noise might just be you," he says with a laugh.
While the album features several Klug originals that appeared on Project M, it also includes a handful of tunes the band composed as a team. Some were inspired by Klug's time in Nashville, where he cut his teeth with a funk-rock band called Dyne from 2006 to 2007.
After that band dissolved, he returned home to Madison, finished his degree at Edgewood College and found his way to Project M.
"When I came back, I was surprised how open and inviting the Madison music scene is and how well everyone works together," he says. "In Nashville, there's a lot more competition. That can be a good thing, but I'm enjoying my comfort zone for a little while."
Klug's not divulging which city he and the Surgical Precision want to take on next. Chicago, L.A. and Nashville are all in the running.
But for now, Madison is the right place to be: "I love this group, and things are going great right now, so we're going to try to do everything we can do here first."