Rock band Yipes! aiming at stardom
by Divina Infusino
About a year ago, a little-known Milwaukee band, Yipes!, played at the Palms nightclub as the opening act for Bad Boy.
When the group returns today and Saturday, it not only will be the headliner, but it will have fled far from obscurity.
Now when Yipes! opens for acts, it's for the likes of The Jefferson Starship and Foreigner, and those superstar bands watch and listen carefully from the sidelines.
For Yipes! is part of pop music's new breed that writes short, punchy songs in the spirit of early and mid-'60s, called "power pop." It is as much a contender for success in the '80s as its counterparts Shoes, The Beat and 20/20. And Yipes! aims to succeed.
"We're going to have to be better than our competition," said bassist Pete Strand, who, along with composer / lead singer Pat McCurdy, talked the other day about the band's past and future. "You don't enter music without thinking you're going to be a success. You think about it the first time you pick up the guitar."
But reality has replaced wishful thinking for Strand, McCurdy, lead guitarist Andy Bartel, rhythm guitarist Mike Hoffman and drummer Teddy Freese. Unlike so many other bands that have hammered away on the Madison-Milwaukee bar circuit for two years, Yipes! has seen its rock 'n' roll fantasy become concrete. The band's first album, "Yipes!", released in August, climbed to 171 on Billboard's charts and 103 on Record World's. It received airplay on New York radio station WNEW once an hour and on stations in Chicago, Phoenix, Albuquerque, San Jose and Milwaukee.
With this track record, Yipes! has managed to survive recent industry upheavals. While other groups are being dropped by record labels, Yipes! is preparing material for its second album. Said McCurdy:
"Millennium's interest in us first began in March of last year. The trend at that time was to sign bands that could write three-minute songs that didn't sound too punky. The wanted bands that were melodic and not heavy metal."
Yipes! fills that bill with good-humored lyrics, hook-filled melodies and a stage act that is, to say the least, energetic. Yet Andy Bartel's guitar comes on strong enough to appeal to an audience raised on the long ferocious guitar solos of heavy metal.
Because it plays mostly original material, Yipes! was ready when opportunity knocked.
"We didn't do cover versions of existing New Wave groups," said Strand. "We decided we eventually wanted to complete with these people."
And now they are.
"But we're at stage one," said McCurdy. "Our first album was material written as a bar band. But our second album will be written for an album for people who will hear us but never see us."
With an eye continuously on success, Yipes! will strive to become accessible to more fans.