The landscape of rock
music today is so convoluted you
need an ethnomusicologist's degree
to navigate it - unless you're
describing Union Pulse.
they cite early '90s alternative
rock bands like the Gin Blossoms,
Soul Asylum and Live as primary
influences, Union Pulse's straight-ahead
rock has a timeless quality to
it that prevents it from fitting
neatly into one of rock's many
subgenres. Lead singer, guitarist
and songwriter James Redding says
he doesn't think about what style
of music he plays when he writes
songs. Instead, he lets the music
serve the song, which is why his
trio is adept at performing acoustic
folk-rock as well as balls-to-the-wall
"The important thing is
to get the message out,"
he says. "I thought about
being a teacher or even going
into the priesthood, but I think
the best way is being a musician."
The 23-year-old Redding, however,
says sharing his message is becoming
more difficult to do in the band's
hometown of Milwaukee, Wis., where
he says audiences don't embrace
original rock music liked they
used to do. He says cover bands
and touring groups have hijacked
the city's live music scene, forcing
local original bands like his
to hit the road in search of appreciative
venues and fans.
"Milwaukee doesn't like
original music so we try to take
our wares elsewhere," says
Redding, noting the group plays
about 60 shows a year. "They
look for the import, something
foreign and fancy. I don't think
they think it through this much,
but I prefer someone who has a
real story to tell."
Since its first Java Joes Coffeehouse
show in June of 2004, Redding
says Union Pulse has found a musical
home and a following at the downtown
Des Moines venue. The trio, which
includes Redding, bassist Ryan
Eckert and drummer Nick Bromley,
returns to Java Joes on Saturday
for a free show at 9:30 p.m.
"They've been kind enough
to have us and we've fallen in
love with the place," Redding
says. "Everyone's been real
open to hear our stories. We get
people who connect with us."
Earlier this year, Union Pulse
hosted a CD release show there
to promote its new album, "I
Hate You, You Always Do This."
The record's predominant theme
focuses on Redding's tales of
love - lost and won.
"Girls are my downfall,"
he says. "I have a heart
that doesn't know what it wants.
And I get a lot of people who
tell me they feel the same way
at the shows."
Finding true love might be a
work in progress for Redding,
but he is determined to make a
living playing his own music.
In May, he graduated with a bachelor's
degree in psychology from UM-Milwaukee,
but he works as a part-time maintenance
man to help pay the bills. He
says he earned a college degree
to appease his parents, and that
Union Pulse, which he formed four
years ago, is his true calling.
It's a choice, Redding says, that
allows him to make the most of
abilities and satisfies his yearning
to help people.
"I want people to know
that they're not alone through
my songs," he says. "And
I want to make them think. It's
all about the stories." CV
on this story | Return