Yipes! it's all fun -- and profit
by Eddie Finocciaro
YIPES! AND IT'S CONCEPT are still the same. Even a major record contract couldn't faze it.
Thriving on its energy and emotion, Yipes! is musically impeccable. Its songs epitomize contemporary British satire. The musicians rip through a set of music like a hungry lion digging into a steak.
Special effects, strobes, lasers and smoke aren't Yipes! What is Yipes! ls quality music and boundless energy.
The members write songs about East Side kids and about girls from Divine Savior-Holy Angels High School. Their writing at times reflects the reckless abandon very evident in '60s rock and now seen in New Wave music such as "Let's Go" and "Kiss Me."
The group's style was responsible for building a big local following, being named best band in Wisconsin by WLPX and winning 12 hours of recording time at Shade Tree in Lake Geneva.
It was there Yipes! was seen by producer-star maker Jimmy Ienner. Ienner liked what he saw, and recently signed them to a record contract with RCA.
IENNER HAS A KNACK for discovering winners. His last one was Star Wars.
After its recent Milwaukee farewell concert played to a nearly full house at the Stone Toad downtown, Yipes! went to a preproduction recording studio, the Music Factory in Mequon, to rehearse before returning to Shade Tree in mid-May to cut its first album, "This Is Your Life."
The group will return to playing nightclubs in the Midwest in June.
Yipes! also tested its brand of pop on the East Coast last winter, playing Max's Kansas City in New York.
"The management wanted us back (at Max's)," said guitarist Andy Bartel. "He liked us, even though we played late at night and there were only about 12 people in the place."
But Yipes!, after emerging from its humble beginnings and enjoying some success in the Midwest, remains virtually unspoiled by these recent developments.
"WE'RE JUST GOING to record the album and take it from there." said Bartel. "When It comes out. we'll still play places like the Palms, and if the album sells well, we may tour (nationally) in January."
Yipes! was organized by longtime friends Pat McCurdy, lead singer, and guitarist Mike Hoffman, both of whom grew up in Brookfield.
McCurdy, while working toward a degree in mass communications at the University of Wisconsin - Madison, met bassist Pete Strand, a journalism major. Strand, Hoffman and McCurdy played in a hand called Slick and released a single, written by McCurdy, which was best suited for use as a Frisbee.
In August, 1977, they auditioned drummers, and decided on Teddy Freese, who could win the Wisconsin Elvis Costello look-alike contest hands down, were Elvis not about 5 feet tall and Freese about 6 feet 5. Bartel, who lives in Kenosha, also joined at about the same time, and Yipes! was born.
IN ITS EARLY DAYS, Yipes! played mostly in clubs and on college campuses around Madison, Milwaukee and northern Wisconsin. The band played old, energetic tunes, like Chuck Barry's "Around and Around." the Monkees' "Pleasant Valley Sunday" and the Kinks' "Till the End of the Day." Yipes! still plays them.
These tunes and the intensity with which the group plays them are part of the reason the band decided on its name.
"We thought of it because it's a cartoon name, and we're a cartoon band," McCurdy said. "It's easy to shout. Thousands of people say 'Yipes!' every day. Little Orphan Annie said it all the time."
McCurdy, who does most of the writing for the band claims he doesn't write at conventional times of the day.
"I write best under pressure," explained McCurdy. "I also like to write late at night while watching old movies on TV. It's gotten to the point where I can write anywhere, anytime, like when we're driving to a show."
YIPES! TRAVELS AROUND southeastern Wisconsin in a behemoth of an old, gold Plymouth, which, as Strand says, "is very temperamental. Sometimes the brakes give out for two weeks at a time, and then, poof! They come back."
Yipes! has yet to define its style of music. Some call it punk, some New Wave, some '60s Old Wave.
"Because of the nature of the music we write and play," said Bartel, "We could be classified as a pop band."
Bartel hopes the album, which will be released in August, will appeal to many different kinds of people, reflective of their local crowds.
"When we play here (at the Stone Toad), different types come to see us. They like us because we have fun, and they have fun. You see, you really don't have to stifle yourself to have fun."