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Berwanger delays the label game, releases an EP on its own

Josh Berwanger
Josh Berwanger

Josh Berwanger is familiar with the ways and means of the recording industry. His former band the Anniversary spent more than three years on Vagrant Records, issuing two full-lengths and several EPs. His follow-up band, the Only Children, released two albums on the indie label SideCho Records.

In 2013, after a lengthy hiatus from music, Berwanger self-released “Strange Stains,” a collection of crunchy pop tunes that drew widespread praise and made a lot of Top 10 lists at the end of the year.

This weekend, at shows in Kansas City and Lawrence, Berwanger the band will celebrate the vinyl release of “Demonios,” a six-track EP and the band’s first release in more than two years. For several months, Berwanger has had a full-length done and in the can, awaiting release. He recently talked to The Star about that album and “Demonios.”

Q: You are releasing an EP this weekend, but you have a full-length in waiting. What’s the story?

A: Well, a year ago we started recording a full length. We went into Element (Recording), and Doug Boehm, who worked on the Anniversary’s “Your Majesty” album with Rob Schnapf, flew in for a week and we made a record. We called it “Exorcism Rock.” I think it’s really good.

It took until about March till it was finally all mixed and ready to go. Then we started sending it out, and one label was really interested in it. We were kind of hoping to get with a label that wanted to buy the record from us. One label wanted to, but our manager wanted to wait on it and see what happened after a couple of tours. So we waited and waited and like five months later, (the label) said, “We don’t have the budget for it anymore.”

We hadn’t had a formal release for two years, since “Strange Stains” came out. And I’d been writing a lot of songs, so in the beginning of August we went into Element and recorded the EP. We’ve got all the artwork done and, hopefully, we’ll have the vinyl in a few days. I’m really happy with it.

Q: So what are the plans with the full-length?

A: Our publicist wants to wait until the EP comes out and gets some more reviews and then send a package to a list of labels we haven’t approached yet and go from there. I paid for the whole thing myself, so I’m looking to be able to sell it to a label. But if it comes down to us going, “Here put this out,” it might be getting to that point.

Q: Is the music on “Demonios” like the music on the full-length or are they different?

A: Well, yes and no. The LP is a pretty heavy rock ’n’ roll record with lots of guitars and guitar riffs. It kind of reminds me of some music in the early 1990s. It wasn’t influenced by that, but after listening to it recently — about a year later — it reminds me of how some stuff in the early ’90s had really cool riffs that introduced the song, a lot of Smashing Pumpkins and Soundgarden stuff. They weren’t just rock riffs, they were riffs with really good melodies that introduced the vocal melody. So it’s kind of rocking like that.

The new EP, the first three songs are rocking, but they’re more poppy, punk-ish rock ’n’ roll. The other three songs on it, the flip side, are all acoustic-based. It’s kind of what Guns N’ Roses did with the “Live” record … . It was really fun to do.

Q: You had some guests on the record.

A: Yes, Kian Byrne (the Elders, New Riddim) played violin, which was really cool. And Lauren Krum (Grisly Hand, Ruddy Swain) sang on “Blackheart of Life.” Her voice is out-of-control amazing. She brought this whole other element to that song that we hadn’t thought of and gave it a really cool, different vibe.

John Gourley from Portugal the Man, he’s the whispering dude in the song “Demonios,” during the solo. And at the end of that song, if you listen real close on headphones, you can hear Frank Ferrer of Guns N’ Roses say “Demonios.”

Q: What’s the Berwanger lineup these days?

A: It’s still Ricky Salthouse and Brian Klein. We kind of have a revolving door for drummers. We have three guys who we kind of ask around between. Johnny Phillip is kind of our main drummer. He played on the full-length. We’d love to have a steady drummer, but we tour so much it’s hard, so we haven’t been able to find someone to commit to it. Plus we barely make any money on tour, if any at all.

Timothy Finn: 816-234-4781, @phinnagain

Weekend shows

Berwanger performs at 7 p.m. Friday at Mills Record Co., 314 Westport Road. Rev Gusto will also perform. Admission is free. Berwanger also performs Friday night at the Blind Tiger, 3945 Main St. The Conquerors, Psychic Heat and Drugs and Addicts are also on the bill. Showtime is 9 p.m. Berwanger also performs Saturday night at the Replay Lounge in Lawrence.

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