Energy, humor, squeezeboxes.
It's tempting to attribute the existence of Oshkosh's Copper Box to fate. Founders Danny and Michelle Jerabek grew up together, surrounded by music. Their fathers played in polka bands together, along with Michelle's grandfather.
"When we got old enough to learn an instrument in middle school, it wasn't a question of 'Are you taking band?' It was 'What are you going to play?'" says Michelle, who handles vocals, saxophone, flute, guitar and washboard. She and Danny will perform at the High Noon Saloon on Jan. 9 with a new album, After the Rain, in tow.
The Jerabeks discovered the surprising range of the accordion, an instrument Danny has loved since age 9, when they encountered zydeco.
"Buckwheat Zydeco and Clifton Chenier were our introduction to some of the zydeco stuff," Danny says. "We really like the culture in Louisiana, and the music coming from New Orleans struck a chord, so we have a bit of that influence."
The result is a fascinating sound that injects polka's energy, humor and unabashed accordion into American roots rock, jazz and blues.
"We're not tied to one style, and we can be creative that way and mix and match different rhythms," Danny adds.
Danny and Michelle are now a husband-and-wife team, joined by Jason Van Ryzin on drums and Kevin Junemann on bass and ukulele. Copper Box have enjoyed considerable success: seven albums, multiple Wisconsin Area Music Awards, national TV performances, and shows supporting Buckwheat Zydeco, the Doobie Brothers and the Spin Doctors.
After the Rain includes original songs and several fan requests from Copper Box's much-loved live shows.
"Our fan base is pretty unique in that it's so diverse," Danny says. "There are older people in their 60s, 70s, and even a couple in their 90s dancing on the floor once -- it was the cutest thing I ever saw. Then we have fans who are more our age and bring their little kids out. We also have a twenty-something following that wants to hang out and soak up something different. I love that."