Blending elements of rock ‘n roll, folk and country, Great Lake Drifters have a sound that is a conundrum to pinpoint, but can be best described as Midwestern Americana with soaring harmonies and guitars kicked up to 11. Fronted by singer-songwriter and guitarist Ricky Ganiere, Great Lake Drifters have been gigging around Milwaukee since 2010, and have developed a great following for their high energy, powerful shows, which merge pop-songwriting sensibility with the reckless abandon of jammier artists.
Rock the Green recently spoke with Ricky Ganiere about his music and the importance of sustainability. Ricky is passionate about music and making a greater contribution to our community as a whole.
Rock the Green: What have been some of your musical influences as a band, and how have those influences helped mold your sound?
Ricky Ganiere (Great Lake Drifters): We all come from different backgrounds as musicians who just love to play music in front of others. Each of us brings something special and different to the band that helps influence our sound as a collective. I’m personally a big Jeff Tweedy (lead singer of Wilco) fan and a Steve Earle fan. Sturgill Simpson, Drive By Truckers, and Jason Isbell are also all modern artists who I enjoy a lot, and their music certainly has an influence on our sound.
I grew up a jam band guy in my teen days, but in my early 20’s I started listening to Wilco and other bands who were more about alt-country and rock songs. I went from wanting to be the next Warren Haynes to wanting to write good songs- knowing that I had it in there and trying to find an outlet to share some of my passion with others.
We have many guys who play in other bands too, and every musical experience helps add to our band. For instance, our keyboardist, Nick Berg, has played with Field Report and Twin Brother in the past, and currently plays with Testa Rosa, us, and other bands. All of the different bands we’ve played with helps fuse our sound together.
As far as the whole band is concerned, it’s safe to say that every single one of us are totally bonkers for the Beatles. Albums like Revolver and Magical Mystery Tour have been some of our favorites since we were kids and are just such formative albums. We’re also all Pink Floyd junkies…so if you cross the alt-country with Pink Floyd and a little of the pop sensibility of the Beatles you’ve got kinda-sorta an idea of where our sound come from.
Rock the Green: What have been some of your favorite gigs thus far?
Ricky Ganiere (Great Lake Drifters): We love playing outdoor festivals. They bring such a great, eclectic group of fans. We’ve had the pleasure of playing Mile of Music in Appleton the past three years, and myself solo this year. When we played large Houdini Plaza stage as part of the Mile of Music festival we had 2,000 people there listening to us, most of which had no clue who we were. The crowd loved our sound, and words can’t express how awesome that experience was.
Another outdoor venue that is special for us is the Locust Street Festival as we are all Riverwest guys, and that is a homecoming performance of sorts.
In terms of all-time favorite places to play, I’d have to say, Linneman’s Riverwest Inn. It is a huge hub for musicians and music fans in the Milwaukee area and a great place for people to meet and come together.
Rock the Green: How are you approaching your gig at the Rock the Green festival:
Ricky Ganiere (Great Lake Drifters): For all of us, individually and as a band, we embrace diversity. I feel like a large majority of people at Rock the Green will be folks who are into the cause and the theme of sustainability, and are open to hearing different music.
The diversity of artists performing at Rock the Green is just amazing. You have artists like Robert Delong who the first time I heard him on 88.9 Radio Milwaukee, I had to get to a computer to look him up. He isn’t someone who you’d think I’d love, as a “dirtbaggy bearded guy, who performs with no sleeves,” but I’m a fan. I can’t wait for his set. His music starts off really gentle and then he goes into that heavy groove that just gets you and helps you shake your bones, regardless of whether or not you can “dance”!
At the end of the day, this is probably one of those festivals where there is a unity about a cause. That really doesn’t exist in some of the other festivals in the same way and helps make Rock the Green a truly special event for sure.
Rock the Green: As you know, the focus of Rock the Green is sustainability. Why is sustainability important to you as a person and artist?
Ricky Ganiere (Great Lake Drifters): As a person, sustainability is very important to me. I feel like us creative types tend to be a little more concerned with things like our environment, and concerned more about things beyond us and our generation, and ultimately how our actions will impact our world at large for us, our children and future generations.
As artists, having a platform for people to listen to you and hear your music, is a blessing that not everyone has. If we have a way to get people to think more globally about the environment and issues pertaining to it, then that’s something special that we are enthusiastic to embrace.
Rock the Green: Are there any particular things that you do when you are touring to “rock the green?” If so, could you please share some.
Ricky Ganiere (Great Lake Drifters): As you can imagine, it is extremely hard to be “green” when you’re on the road- but the #1 thing that we do to help the environment at large be more sustainable is always buying local. We try to focus on local products wherever we go. Here in Milwaukee we promote local businesses a lot- we want to see our friends succeed and are proud of companies that create unique products using local workers.
When on the road, buying local is important when you think about the economy of local businesses and also wanting to support people who are working hard. Buying local is easier to produce on a smaller scale- when it comes to meat, vegetables, etc. The first thing we do when we go to a new place is to talk about how we want to support the local economy. We support local lodging, local grocers and farmer’s markets. In the grand scheme of things, local will always be in the best interest of the environment, as products and services will travel less and use less fossil fuels. Plus it helps promote the economy and way-of-life for local residents too.
Be sure to catch Great Lake Drifters at 7:00 p.m. on the Pedal Power Stage.
About Will Piper: A lifelong fan of music off all sorts, Will Piper, Rock the Green music blogger, shares stories about the artists and their interests in sustainability. Will is a fifth grade social studies teacher by trade and has a deep passion for global and environmental issues. He also runs a blog about local concerts and music-related events mkerocks.blogspot.com