The group compose songs over email.
A band's homecoming is often a special occasion to celebrate the city where everything started. For the Emperors of Wyoming -- which features Madison natives Phil Davis, Pete and Frank Anderson, and Butch Vig -- their homecoming at the High Noon Saloon next Wednesday has extra significance: It'll be their first live performance in the same room.
While they've played together live in various bands over the past few decades, things are different for the far-flung Emperors of Wyoming. Vig and Pete Anderson moved to California, while Davis stayed in Fitchburg and Frank Anderson moved to Appleton. As a result of the long distance, the band had to flip the script when creating their self-titled debut album. In place of working together in a studio, they emailed music to each other and pieced their parts together into songs, relying on their instincts to guide them. The album was created in four cities and mixed in a fifth, Milwaukee.
"We've done the whole thing backwards," says Davis (an Isthmus contributor). "Normally you started at one end, live, and worked toward recording it. We did it the opposite way and even did it further because we hadn't been in a studio first. Now we're moving toward the beginning, which is playing it live...which is a different challenge, really, than recording."
While they initially released their album in Europe, this spring they rereleased it in the States as an expanded version featuring three new songs. Despite the restrictions of email, they found the environment to be completely open and inviting for trying out any kind of idea.
"One of the most interesting things about the Emperors of Wyoming is how many types of influences and musical styles are at work, sometimes at the same time," Davis says. "Everything from classic pedal steel to country to spaghetti western to electric guitar to drum machines to electric sitar to big folk-rock harmony vocals."
"Never Got Over You," for instance, started as a slow acoustic ballad but got fleshed out with drum machine, electric sitar and pedal steel. While working on "Avalanche Girl," Davis woke up late one night with the lyrics even before he heard the music. But it ended up fitting perfectly with music Vig later provided.
"It was almost this kind of mystic synchronicity that probably wouldn't have happened if we were in the same room," Davis says. "It could have easily not worked at all, but it worked perfectly."
The band plan to record live during Mile of Music in Appleton on Aug. 7-10. But before then, they want to get on the stage and see what they have. And what better way to play than for a familiar audience?