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The Spirals: Press

MinkTronics Present Poetry, Music, Love, Death (and Mink?)

Charles P. Ries and the MinkTronics were brought together by a confluence of commonalities. Heading the list, as their name suggests, are shared experiences in a little-known rural Wisconsin industry: mink farming. Bassist Kevin Rautmann and guitarist-keyboardist Mark Truesdell used to work on a mink ranch in Mukwonago.

Their frontman, poet Charles Ries, grew up on one near Sheboygan. But the business they have together isn’t about hats or stoles but performing (along with drummer Ron Baake) a set of songs that flow together like stanzas in a poem to suggest a larger story.

Truesdell and Rautmann have been writing songs together since high school and performed together as an acoustic duo and in groups such as Umberto Vata—which recorded an album with fire buckets and chainsaws alongside conventional instruments. Encountering Ries, a published poet and storywriter with several books to his credit, was an opportunity to reinvent themselves as songwriters. “All these songs poured out of me from ages 16-22—and then my muse walked away,” Truesdell says.

After they saw Ries read at Marquette University, the muse whispered in their ears: “collaborate.”

“It took six-to-nine months before we got together,” Truesdell says. “Kevin and I spent a lifetime playing our songs; it was nice to apply elements of those songs as a framework for something new.” It wasn’t simply a matter of setting Ries’ words to existing Rautmann-Truesdell melodies but of “creating a new form,” Truesdell explains, “taking elements and ideas from old songs and applying them in a new way.”

“I’m flashing back to the first time we got together with Charles,” Rautmann says. “He read a poem, and we thought, ‘should we make up music on the spot?’ But we had an old song of ours that fit the mood of that poem.” Eschewing faint Impressionism and self-absorption, Ries’ poems tell stories that condense experience into strongly incised phrases and sentences. Leonard Cohen might be the closest reference point.

“Narrative poetry with music gives the audience more to hold on to—a poetry reading tends to be a one-note medium,” Ries says. “The music amplifies the story.” He adds that he’d never worked with musicians before. “I didn’t know what a chorus was or when to shut up and allow the musicians to play.”

For the site of their next performance, Ries and the MinkTronics chose the historic Polish Falcon Hall. “We didn’t think it would work in a pure bar. We needed a performance venue,” Ries says. “When I was growing up, everything important was held in halls behind bars—weddings, baptisms. There aren’t many halls left.”

Ries describes the themes running through the nine pieces on the program as “love-death-mink—they’re all tied to those ideas,” he says with a smile. As for the band’s sound, Truesdell explains, “You take the early Violent Femmes, put a sheen of jazz around it and a sheen of avant-garde improvisation around that—and then a sheen of the Everly Brothers around that.”

Milwaukee jazz pianist Anthony Deutsch, performing as Father Sky (“my dad worked at a mink farm” he says, seriously) will open the performance. Also on the bill is Poets Monday MC Tim Kloss—perhaps the only performer that night with no ties to fur-bearing mammals.

Charles P. Ries and The MinkTronics perform Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017 at Polish Falcon Hall, 801 E. Clarke St.
'Sounds Take Shape' looks at how we make music
Woodland Pattern Bookstore exhibit explores how we visualize sound and music

By Mary Louise Schumacher of the Journal Sentinel

A new exhibit called "Sounds Take Shape," opening Sunday at the Woodland Pattern Bookstore, 720 E. Locust St., will look at the ways we look at music. Musical instrument inventors and experimental composers from Wisconsin, Illinois and Minnesota will exhibit unusual objects that make music a visual experience.

"From violins in the shape of fish to painted musical scores that direct musicians into the most complex of musical interaction, this exhibition celebrates both the mysterious and the inspiring relationships between how we visualize sound and music," the organizers write in a statement about the show, which is being dedicated to the memory of the author, educator, artist and instrument builder Barbara Lindquist, who died earlier this year.

Artists with work on view include Hamid Alwan, Douglas R. Ewart, Wilhelm Matthies, Steve Nelson-Raney, John Preus, Hal Rammel, Kevin Schlei, Amanda Schoofs, Mark Truesdell, Ken Vandermark and Johnny Washday."

For more information contact:

Candice Nokes


August 10, 2010 (Milwaukee, Wisconsin) The Indian Summer Music Awards (ISMA) committee recently announced finalists in a wide variety of categories for this annual competition with a posting on the Indian Summer Festival web site ( Local musician, Candice Nokes, was thrilled and honored to see her song, A Whole Long While, listed as one of the finalists in the Blues Category. This is ISMA’s 7th year providing a musical platform and recognition for Native American artists, specifically at the Milwaukee-based Indian Summer Festival, hosted on the Henry Maier Festival Park grounds, September 10 – 12, 2010. The Award winners will be announced on Saturday, September 11, 2010 at a special show on the Miller Stage, 6:30 – 8:00 p.m. Candice Nokes and Mark Truesdell (The Spirals) will be performing at the festival on Friday, September 10, 2010 from 8:30 – 9:30 p.m. Details can be found at

The ISMA competition is for all Native American people, both emerging and established artists, including many Canadian finalists this year. Other finalists hail from locations such as Minneapolis, MN and Nashville, TN. Nokes’ work is the only Wisconsin-based nominee for ISMA 2010. “I am honored to be recognized among such talented company,” reports Nokes. “A Whole Long While was written with the East Side as the song’s cityscape, during a formative time in my life. It was also recorded in a Milwaukee studio with Milwaukee musicians. This is a proud moment.”

Candice’s recording was made in 1997 as a member of Mark Truesdell and the Lost Pioneers, at Walls Have Ears Studio, Milwaukee, WI (owned by Bill Stace). Brian Egeness, formerly of Die Kreuzen, co-produced, engineered and mastered this song. Other members playing on this song include Lost Pioneers’ founder, Mark Truesdell, background vocals / instrument arrangement, Tom Plutshack, guitar and mandolin, Brian Hill (guest Pioneer), trombone, Jared Drake, bass guitar, and Bob Mueller, drums. Candice now plays both solo and as a partner in the Spirals, with her husband, Mark Truesdell ( Candice is part Oneida as well as Bad River, Lac Courte Oreilles, and Lac du Flambeau Ojibwe. Nokes reported that she is very grateful for this recognition by the American Indian community.

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Candice Nokes
Candice Nokes - Press Release (Aug 10, 2010)