The Oshkosh Music Scene: Meet “Charley and the Cynics”

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The band consists of UW Oshkosh student Charlotte Nooe, Josh Rankin, Jason Verstegen and Jon Powell.

One thing that is always thriving here at UWO is the music scene. Local bands are alive and well in Oshkosh, Wisconsin and local businesses and campus alike are always hosting one band or another. The Titan Underground is a popular venue on campus to catch a local band, as well as other establishments around town. Students on campus can perform in low-key venues like Live at Lunch or Open Mic nights. People are constantly getting together to form bands and participating in competitions such as Battle of the Bands. It’s really a great place to play and enjoy student-performed tunes.

As far as I’m concerned, I don’t actually play in any sort of band — but that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy the music of  my peers. Personally, my favorite local band is Charley and the Cynics, a “mutt” as lead singer and UW Oshkosh student Charlotte Nooe puts it. They have this crazy unique sound that Nooe says “fall[s] under that indie rock umbrella [with] elements of Americana, Pop, Jazz, Rock, Country and Punk.” An epic combo if you ask me.

Aside from how much I love their sound, probably the coolest thing about Charley and the Cynics are their local influences.

“Our contemporary influences really rest in local music. Wisconsin has some incredible gems that we’re continually impressed by and drawn to… Madison has Blueheels and Jeremiah Nelson. Oshkosh has Haunted Heads, Holly and Plastic, Ian Olvera and the Sleepwalkers, The Traveling Suitcase, etc.”

If you haven’t heard of Charley and the Cynics, I strongly encourage you to check out their Facebook page, listen to “Tradewinds” (it’s epic) and then check out one of the following shows over the summer — conveniently located all over the place in case you’re not from the area.

  • May 6th: Malarkey’s—Wausau—10pm
  • May 21st: Electric Lounge—Oshkosh—9pm
  • May 28th: The Speakeasy—Wausau—9pm
  • June 4th: Fox River Brewery—Appleton—7pm-11pm
  • June 10th: Peabody’s Ale House—Oshkosh—9:30pm
  • June 17th: Ifdakamp—Kiel—5pm
  • June 24th: The Crunchy Frog—Green Bay—9:30pm
  • July 2nd: Sonny’s Pizzeria—Sturgeon Bay with Goodnight Gold Dust—9pm
  • July 8th: Becket’s—Oshkosh—8pm
  • July 15th: Red Sky Lounge—Mankato, MN with Goodnight Gold Dust
  • July 22nd: Cranky Pat’s—Neenah withIan Olvera and the Sleepwalkers

Just seeing that lineup should show you that you could do the same thing someday. If you’re passionate about music and want to get your sound out there, UW Oshkosh is a great place to start.

Anyone else have other local bands they enjoy? I know some of the other bloggers in the office have a band called “Knee High Kind.” (You guys are great too! ;)) Maybe you’re looking to start a band of your own? If you’re thinking about it… go for it!

Check out the whole interview with Charlotte below.

How did Charley and the Cynics form and when?

We’ve gone through a couple lineup changes since late 2009. We were originally a three piece, then became a four piece, went back to the three piece, became a four piece again, lost our drummer, had our bassist switch to drums, found a new bassist, and FINALLY, now, in March of this year we are thrilled with our four piece arrangement.

Where does the name “Charley and the Cynics” come from?

Our first drummer always wanted one of his projects to be called ________ and the Cynics. He heard my father refer to me a “Charley” and it stuck. I opted for Armadillo Fever and was promptly outvoted.

If you had to categorize your genre or style of music, what would you saw you guys are?

I’ve heard a couple different descriptions, the most recent being “a 90’s European experimental and electric Folk-Rock outfit.” I suppose that makes matters more hazy though; we definitely fall under that indie rock umbrella but there are elements of Americana, Pop, Jazz, Rock, Country, Punk…we’re kind of a mutt.

What are your personal influences and/or the band’s overall influences?

Jason (lead guitar) and I have strong punk roots…we listened to The Clash, Ramones, all those early flagship groups. I always dig Joe Strummer’s work, whether it be The Clash or his projects with the Mescaleros. Otherwise our contemporary influences really rest in local music. Wisconsin has some  incredible gems that we’re continually impressed by and drawn to…Madison has Blueheels and Jeremiah Nelson. Oshkosh has Haunted Heads, Holly and Plastic, Ian Olvera and the Sleepwalkers, The Traveling Suitcase, etc. My influences aside from early punk include Wilco/Jeff Tweedy, Built to Spill, Modest Mouse, Pavement, Leo Kottke, and The Pixies to name a few.

Do all four of you go to UW-Oshkosh? If so, what are your majors?

I am the only UWO attendee and my major is English. (A spectacular department with wonderful professors.)

What are the plans for Charley and the Cynics—like do you guys just play for fun or do you want to make a career out of it?

We’ve finally solidified our lineup after a tumultous couple of months. So we’re truly excited at the prospect of writing, recording, and playing a summer full of shows. We put too much time and heart into this project to label it a hobby, but I’m graduating with an English degree…so…it’s not as though I’m very practical when it comes to career goals.

What’s the best part about being in a band?

I really enjoy introducing new songs and working on them somewhat manically as a group, fine tweaking, recording what we have, revising. The simple answer is writing. I really lucked out with this group of guys. Josh, Jason, and Jon play drums, lead guitar, and bass respectively. But we’re all multi-instrumentalists; I’ve never been part of an ensemble that’s able to have such a large, collective insight into the intricacies of song writing.

Does the music of Charley and the Cynics send any particular messages?

Even though we have a propensity for minor keys, our message is pretty optimistic. When I write lyrics there’s a lot more freedom because they don’t always have to follow a logical sequence. I’m able to experiment with language that I find lovely and often nonsensical. I won’t lie and say I don’t write break up songs. I do but they’re often guised with a few pop culture references. So the 20% of people paying attention to lyrical content are unaware or ignore the fact that I am, at times, so clearly a girl.

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