Ehson Rad, lead singer and songwriter of the Milwaukee based rock quartet, Devil Met Contention has been thrown his share of curveballs of late due to the COVID19 pandemic. The group had been actively rehearsing and were set for a tour and big release show for their most recent EP, Wait. However, Devil Met Contention, like many other artists around our city, country, and the globe have been forced to step outside of the box and find new and innovative ways to showcase their music and connect with fans during these unprecedented times.
“Wait is the first digital only release we’ve done,” Ehson Rad stated on a recent Zoom call. “We were set to do a big performance and have a physical album to sell. However, that’s obviously not the case right now, so we had to get even more creative.”
With bandmembers unable to connect with eachother as regularly, as they are strictly adhering to social distancing rules, Devil Met Contention has faced new challenges as a group. “We’ve always been a band that has cultivated its sound as a collective unit,” Ehson Rad shared in a recent interview, “One of the biggest creative challenges I’ve experienced of late is taking whole band, multi-instrumental releases, and figuring out how to play the songs on my own. It’s been a lot of fun though and I look forward to sharing the tunes.”
Rad and his bandmates have had quite a musical journey since they last played the Rock the Green Sustainability Festival in 2017. At that show they performed an amazing mid-day set on the Pedal Power Stage in matching suits with a dusty-western, alt-country vibe. Since then the group’s sound has grown and evolved considerably. Never ones to sit on their heels, Devil Met Contention’s latest release, Wait showcases a more refined and deep group that delivers a full wall of heavily nuanced sound in the spirit of later 80’s/90’s David Bowie. Sizziling rock guitar, synthesizers, fantastic percussion and deep bass grooves make the songs on their latest project stand out. Rad’s deep booming vocals are at the forefront of the Devil Met Contention sound still, and as the band’s sound has improved, so too have its singer’s rich vocal range.
Rad commented on this evolution. “As an artist, music is always tied to you in some way. People grow, evolve and change. Music continues to represent them. The biggest leap for our group came two years ago when we went into a studio and wanted to make a record exactly the way we wanted. We learned how to set up a home studio, built everything and mixed the recordings together ourselves. It’s pretty amazing that we live in a day and age where we are able to teach ourselves how to do that.”
When asked about if any of the plans have changed for future releases due to COVID19, Rad commented, “Plans have drastically changed in terms of method but not in terms of timeline. The only big delay has come in the music video shoots. That’s been the biggest bummer as I was planning on shooting my own videos. That has been put on hold. However, we have another EP in the hopper, Out of Time, that is set for release later this year, and I’m hoping to do some of the songs off of that for the Rock the Stream show as well.”
Devil Met Contention was joined by Kimberly Gleffe and Paige Papelbon of River Revitalization Foundation, a group who promotes community outreach and activism. “River Revitalization Foundation is one of the only urban land trusts in the area,” stated Gleffe in a recent Zoom meeting, “Our goal is to protect the land around the waterways. This is challenging and unique work as most land trusts are not found in urban areas and instead are lots of private land set aside for conservation. Our role is unique as we promote education, habitat restoration, and invasive species management.”
Like many fellow non-profit organizations, River Reviatlization Foundation has had its share of challenges due to COVID19. “It’s been hard as we cannot do a lot of our our signature events, including “Full Moon Happy Hour,” or paddles together with our friends and fellow river enthusiasts. However, like others, we’ve gotten creative,” Paige Papelbom shared excitedly, “We have field staff doing stewardship work removing invasive species and planting native plants, and we’ve also created the “Steward at Home” program, a DIY way to help with invasive species. Through this program alone we’ve removed over 3,000 pounds of garlic mustard this spring.” Papelbon added with a grin, “Right now it is important to promote positivity. We are featuring our staff’s favorite parks on our social media in an effort to highlight a park where they like to go and encourage people to get out and explore our beautiful spaces safely. We want to provide people with opportunities to see beautiful things in gorgeous natural settings and get uplifted by nature even if you cannot leave your house.”
If this quarantine has brought out one very positive thing, it may be a generally greater reverence for nature and joy in our beautiful, and often taken for granted, natural surroundings. “It is apparent how fragile our society is and climate change is still a real threat to our world,” Ehon Rad reflected, “It makes me proud to work with folks like River Revitalization Foundation who help educate the public about ways to support the environment. It is always special to play music and even more so when we’re able to couple with an organization committed to helping our environment and perverving its beauty for everyone.”
As a companion to #RockTheSteam's weekly benefit concert series, we ZOOM it up with the musician/s and nonprofit partner of the week to showcase what's going on in their worlds.