In the early 1980s, high school friends Sammy Llanas and Kurt Neumann formed a band in Waukesha, Wisconsin, called Da BoDeans. Neither had much experience with singing, but they decided to give the music thing a shot and began to play shows in the area, rehearsing in a friend’s garage. By 1985 they had added a few members to the band and their audience had expanded to include Milwaukee. By the end of that year they were signed by Slash/Warner Records.
The following year, the BoDeans (encouraged by their label to omit the “Da” from the band name) released their debut studio album, titled Love & Hope & Sex & Dreams. The album, produced with the help of T-Bone Burnett, was a huge success, drawing nationwide praise for its “passion and sincerity”. Mixing rock and Midwestern roots with “elements of adult contemporary pop”, the BoDeans were voted Rolling Stone’s “Best New American Band” in 1987, the same year that their second album, Outside Looking In, was released. Over the past three decades, the band has continued to bring unparalleled energy to stages around the world, releasing more than 10 studio albums and 3 live albums along the way.
The band’s stage presence is central to their cause, and frontman Kurt Neumann says “I realized some time ago that the key to the BoDeans identity is the fans’ connection to our music […] We will continue to play as long as they continue to come out and sing along.”
While 30+ years have brought along several changes to band members, including the 2012 departure of founder Sam Llanas, the group prides itself on staying true to itself and the Midwestern roots so integral to their sound. Since first finding support in Milwaukee, the BoDeans have maintained a strong presence in the city; June 16, 2016 was named “BoDeans Day” in Milwaukee and the band released a single titled “My Hometown” the very same day. The BoDeans have also been a Summerfest staple for decades, a testament to their ability to connect with a crowd and bring the stage to life year after year.
Neumann spoke about the importance of returning home to the midwest in a Summerfest interview last year, explaining that “With Bodeans… Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the Midwest – has always been a part of us, a part of our sound, we’ve been bigger here than any part of the world […] we’re all kind of connected.”
In April of 2017, the BoDeans released their most recent studio album titled Thirteen, featuring the aforementioned “My Hometown”. The album itself comes at a time of resurging interest in the band following a feature on the Netflix original show “The Ranch”.
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