They’re Big. They’re Strong. And they’re Men. With a name as imposing as the Big Strong Men, not many bands would dare to pick a fight with the Minneapolis-based foursome: Guitar and vocalist Ben Greenwald, keys and vocalist Philly Williams, UW-Madison alum and drummer Joe Silberschmidt, and bassist Jon Camp. The Big Strong Men return to Madison this Saturday to wow Badgers with their melodies and of course, their muscle.
The Big Strong Men don’t fit neatly into any musical genre. They infuse their brand of rock ‘n roll with elements of power pop, harmony, blues and piano, a throwback to a time when the beer was colder and the beaches cleaner. Fans surfing the group’s Myspace know the Big Strong Men allegedly sound like they’ve won the Presidential Fitness Award. It’s difficult to describe the sheer jubilation that accompanies such an honor, but the Big Strong Men have compared the feeling their music inspires to R. Kelly’s “Sign of a Victory,” the 2010 FIFA World Cup anthem.
“It’s rock and roll to put it simply. … A lot of it makes you feel good. A lot of it makes you want to dance, ” guitar and vocalist Ben Greenwald said in a recent interview with The Badger Herald.
The band hopes to pioneer a new genre classification with their music. The genre? Man rock. Other bands attempting to find their niche in the man rock genre have ‘big’ shoes to fill.
“We want to be humorous and accessible. Sometimes we want to be epic and bombastic. Sometimes we want to be slick and mean. I’d say it’s got a kind of rockabilly mentality,” Greenwald said.
In concert the Big Strong Men just want to have a good time. Audience members can look forward to dancing tunes and the occasional smooch laid on a particularly fine instrument. No really – usually a keyboard.
“A lot of our shows are very focused on high energy, having a good time and dancing,” Williams said. “If we’re going to play an hour set for a group of people, we’re going to have as a good a time as we possibly can, then they can have as good of a time as [we do.]”
Audiences can also expect a few tall tales thrown in the mix.
“I have a song that we often say is about me traveling back in time and falling in love with a dinosaur and then coming back to our present time but knowing I can never go back again. … All I can do is just dig up her bones,” Williams said.
Big Strong fans should ready their ears for the aforementioned dinosaur song, “Tenderly.”
The Big Strong Men clearly know how to throw a good party, but members look to music for more than just entertainment value. It’s often cathartic to explore themes like fatalism in their work.
“There’s actually something very empowering about writing a song about a feeling or something that happened,” Williams said. “[Music] can be something that helps you get to know yourself better.”
Ultimately, it’s a form of therapy others can enjoy.
“It’s therapy on a level that you can’t get in many public settings, ” Greenwald said. “Obviously for us it’s a good release, but we think that our songs are meaningful enough that people can listen to them as a rock ‘n roll song … they can drink to or like a piece of art.”
Back at their Twin Cities stomping ground, the Big Strong Men have carved an interesting niche on the local scene: A pop-rock influenced group operating on an indie circuit.
“We’re not really different in our thinking from a lot of bands, but our answer is we’re going to write pop songs. We’re going to write them well. We’re going to play them well, and we think that’s going to work,” Williams said. “It’ really nice because we can play with bands that do a lot of different things and still work well with them.”
Despite their rock, pop and indie leanings, the Big Strong Men know how to drop a beat.
“We spent a solid 70 percent of our time in the car rapping. That’s kind of our thing. We freestyle most of the time we’re on the road,” Williams said. “We say we’re a part of the ‘in car nation,’ the nation of people who are currently in cars.”
The Big Strong Men performed Feb. 19 at 9 p.m. at Revolution Cycles to celebrate a CD release for Screamin’ Cyn-Cyn & the Pons.