By Sam Watson,
A conversation with Burgundy Ties frontman Pat Dermody
No, “Burgundy Ties” isn’t a niche wedding dress code; it’s a five-piece rock band that’s been lighting up venues in Milwaukee and beyond for around 20 years.
We sat down with guitarist/vocalist Pat Dermody to ask them how they do it. The conversation has been edited for clarity.
Sam Watson (SW): What’s up with the band name?
Pat Dermody (PD): Originally, it was the name of a song our keyboardist [Nate Gray] had written. When I saw the name, I didn’t see it as literal. It was a representation of who we are – burgundy like blood, and ties like brothers. Blood brothers. That’s what we are, brothers from different mothers.
That wasn’t what Nate had really intended – he wrote the song about chasing a girl at a wedding and spilling wine on his tie.
SW: How long has the band been together?
PD: Going on around 20 years. We’re all from the southeast Wisconsin or Milwaukee area. Nate and I have been together for this iteration of the band for the longest, then Nate’s buddy, Jacob Miller, joined us on drums. Soon after, Peyton Lencho started on bass, then Geoff Felsher started on lapslide/guitar.
SW: How do you keep your shows interesting after being together for around 20 years?
PD: We like to play our own material, which we’re continuing to write. We’ve written and recorded four albums, and we have enough new songs to make a fifth one this year. We also play material from our influences – we’ve got a pretty deep catalog, being together as long as we have, and we stretch into deep cuts from the 70s, 80s and 90s. We play music from Tom Petty, Kenny Loggins, Eric Clapton, the Grateful Dead.
I’m kind of the music curator of the band, and I write up a unique setlist for every show we do. That helps keep it fresh.
SW: What does the band’s songwriting process look like?
PD: I’m the primary songwriter for the band, but other band members have brought songs to the table that we’ve recorded and played, too. When I write a song, I’ll present it with the lyrics and chord progressions to the guys. Then they’ll put their own personality into it. It comes to life after that.
SW: When did the band start playing in Door County?
PD: Our first gig was on my daughter Adelyn’s birthday, Aug. 15, 2015. She was born earlier in the day, then the band went up to play a show at Husby’s that night.
SW: How did your wife react to that?
PD: Well, the show had been on the calendar for a while, and my wife knew it was a big deal to me. She had family staying with her so she didn’t mind me going.
And Adelyn was our third kid; this wasn’t our first rodeo. I actually just wrote a song for her, “I’ll Still Be Here.” I wrote it so she could listen to it when she was older and know that she’ll always have me in that song.
SW: Why was the show at Husby’s a big deal to you?
PD: I’ve been going to Door County since I was a kid on vacation with my family. Also, my childhood best friend moved up to Sister Bay, so I’d spend summers with him getting to know the non-tourist side of Door County. It really kind of opened my eyes to the beauty of the people and the land – riding bikes down the back roads, meeting kids who lived here year-round, going to baseball games and hanging out at bonfires, way beyond the city lights. The quieter side of Door County really attracted me, and to get a chance to perform up there was just huge.
Burgundy Ties is playing Aug. 25 at 9 pm at Waterfront Mary’s Bar and Grill in Sturgeon Bay and on Aug. 26 at 7 pm at The Garage at Husby’s.