January 13, 2020

We love local art and music at the Cream City Hostel and have had great experiences with touring indie bands staying with us as guests. Our new "Local Shows" series interviews bands playing upcoming gigs that we think you should check out. Cream City Hostel recently spoke to Elisabeth Gasparka of Warhola Cats about how the band got started and their plans for 2020 in advance of a couple shows they have coming up later this month.

Gasparka says the Warhola Cats sound is "evolving, but right now: lyrical indie pop...with a bit of a pastoral, middle-school chamber rock feel. There's still a good deal of space in our sound at the moment." You can read our interview below.

Band photos by Christal Wagner

Tell us about the Warhola Cats-- when did you start as a band? Had any of you collaborated before?

Warhola Cats began as a collaboration between Sarah Gail Luther and I. Sarah's a wonderful visual artist with a lot of musical talent, too. We collaborated on our first song together in 2015, "Back to Blue Dress Park," when artist Paul Druecke asked me to say something to commemorate the anniversary of his art project and space, Blue Dress Park. For some reason I felt like picking up an electric guitar and saying something in song, so Sarah and I got to work.

We began meeting weekly to play our way through what would turn into a monumental fall and winter. I live1,000 miles away from where I was raised, and my parents were in the midst of experiencing a series of catastrophic events. First, an emergency heart surgery, then a devastating house fire, and disease, injuries, and battles for both of them. I played through my pain, and Sarah was playing through her own stuff. So, our musical collaboration grew from this place of complete vulnerability and trust as friends-- and also shared humor, love, and major appreciation for the absurd.

We played a very amateurish show at Circle A one night when it was -20 degrees outside, and my amp stopped working. Our friend (artist/writer/musician) Nicholas Frank was there. He was like "Your songs are great! You need a producer!" Among other things. So he played lead guitar and drums with us for about a year before he fell in love and moved to Texas. We then reformed in 2018 when Sarah's childhood friend Jackie Mich moved back to Milwaukee and joined forces with us, and then Alex Cain joined us in late summer 2018.

Where did the band name come from?

The band name was sparked by Julia Warhola and Andy Warhol(a)'s cat illustrations. I saw her drawings at the Warhol Museum before Sarah and I first played out. They were so tender, strange, and perfect. Julia Warhola is not discussed in art history courses, but her son looms large. The largest, maybe. Something resonated with me about her outsider's strength of vision, her confidence. I came away with the sense that she suffused Andy with a magical gift, or a way to channel his inspiration without censorship. So the name is kind of an homage, or mark of whatever "the muse" may be. Also, our first audience when we began to play was made up of Sarah's partner Andrew's lovely little cats. They enjoyed our sound.

What are the big Warhola Cats plans for 2020? 

We approached a really wonderful filmmaker about making a music video for Eros + Vibes, and she turned it around and suggested we consider making a whole visual album. I have impulses in media beyond music--film, performance, visual art, so I want to bear that out. On that note, I worked with the amazing artists of BearBear on some album artwork, and we had intentions of creating a lyric zine with illustrations, so that is still on the docket. I also want to keep matching with the right collaborations with other musicians. Sarah and I worked as backing singers with some talented people in 2019, and I'm eager to get involved again in others' projects. There are wild talents in this town, and it's so generative to be part of someone else's vision.

Hopefully, we will build towards being included in some exciting summer shows. For now, I am writing.

There's a channeled, protracted heartache present in my songs from this last album, but as of late there's an exciting new page that's presenting itself. Songs that are grounding, fertile, and full of more collective power. Rock, and even country impulses, there. I want to move away from anguish-y songs, unless they are wicked clever, or building bridges to healing or connection to a wider community. Our world is really, really dark, and literally on fire, and we need to celebrate how music creates pockets of sweetness and release.

Where can people check you out online?

We hope to have a website later this year where we can bring together all the things. We have songs--old and new, streamable on most services and watchable on YouTube in some cases. For now, you can find us on Instagram and Facebook. I share song lyrics, sometimes right as they are written, and funny little insights. My bandmates are highly entertaining. We like to keep it weird.

Warhola Cats play Saturday, January 25 with Sylmar, Hot by Ziggy, and Peshtigo at Bremen Cafe (901 E. Clarke St.). The show is at 9:30pm and is FREE (donations appreciated).

They also play Thursday, January 30 with Bandoleer Bacall and Vanity Plates at the Pabst Brewery and Tap Room (1037 W. Juneau Ave.) 8pm, $5.

In town to check out a show? Book at the Cream City Hostel and save 15% when you book direct using the code winter love 2020: creamcityhostel.com

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