Freshwater Collins builds upon no-frills approach

It's been seven months since Milwaukeeans have been graced with a concert from homegrown R&B-tinged rock 'n' roll act Freshwater Collins.

It's also been four years since the band put anything to disc, making it more than fair to say the boys have been laying low for quite some time.

However, the band — consisting of Chris Vos (vocals and guitar), Josh Tovar (guitar), Brian Vos (bass) and Justin Krol (percussion) — looks to celebrate the beginning of what should be a big year in the annals of Freshwater Collins lore with a Saturday concert at Shank Hall, 1434 N. Farwell Ave.

"I'm really excited about this show particularly because there's a reason we flew under the radar for a while," Chris Vos said. "We were this, now we're heading toward this."

So what exactly is Vos talking about? Since 2001, the band managed to solidify its lineup by securing the services of Tovar and Krol. After further honing their rock/blues/funk hodgepodge at gigs throughout the country, Freshwater Collins has spent the last several months working on a new album with a to-be-determined 2005 release date.

While the signature aspects of the band's no-frills approach are still present, including Chris Vos' soulful howls, the group members have made even more changes since Freshwater Collins' days as a college rock band. Vos said the band's biggest adjustment has been in its newfound approach to the art of song craft.

"We started to understand the idea of the song as something that we have definitely grown to love more than when we began," he said.

Freshwater Collins has incorporated three-part harmonies into the songs on their latest disc, which is still unfinished and unnamed with sample tracks available at www.freshwatercollins.com. The band also enlisted the aid of widely respected producer Mike Hoffmann (The Verve Pipe, Willy Porter) to make sure they were moving in the right direction.

Krol said Hoffmann was able to help Freshwater Collins take its sound to areas it hadn't previously tapped.

"This is the first time this band has worked with a producer, so that's the other big change," Krol said. "It was a very positive change and we've all agreed that the outcome is better, working with a producer who is smart and able to help us out with what we wanted to do."

Vos said the group hopes 2005 will be just as productive as 2004. The band is currently looking to get its album distributed by a label with as much national pull as possible, and Freshwater Collins will continue to keep their name in the public sphere with a series of regional and national tour dates, Vos said.

They look to be poised for the breakout success they're all hoping for. Though critics with advance copies and fans have been praising the band's new material, Vos said his family's reaction to the sample cuts have been the best yardstick for the group's growth.

"I just look at it as, my aunts and uncles, when I went home and gave it to them for Christmas, I've never had them come back to me and say, 'You know, I really liked that.' Never have I come home for Christmas and heard, 'Hey, do you have any more of those records.' That happened, and that told me something."

Freshwater Collins appears in concert with Rusty Ps and Fat Maw Rooney at 10 p.m. Saturday at Shank Hall, 1434 N. Farwell Ave. Tickets are $7. More information is available by calling 276-7288 or at www.shankhall.com.

This article appeared in The Marquette Tribune on Jan. 27 2005.