The Cukes Cover It All
The Screamin' Cucumbers have a combined 60 years experience.
Originally formed in 2004, The Screamin’ Cucumbers is one of Milwaukee’s most successful cover bands. The group is also one of the most experienced in southeastern Wisconsin, as its members boast more than 60 years combined band experience. Commonly known as “The Cukes”, the band puts on fun and energetic shows that typically include lots of jokes and a big light show.
The WISN A-List has ranked The Screamin’ Cucumbers in the top five for “Best Local Band” nine times. The group won the award in 2008, and finished as a runner-up in both 2007 and 2009.
An impressive past-performance list includes shows at Summerfest, the Wisconsin State Fair, casinos like Ho-Chunk and Potawatomi, Miller Park, the BMO Harris Bradley Center and endless bar gigs throughout the Milwaukee area. The group has upcoming shows at Dugout 54 in Milwaukee (April 8, 9:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m.) and Paullie’s Pub in Milwaukee (April 15, 10 p.m. to 1:30 a.m.).
The group answered a few questions about the band:
How did The Screamin’ Cucumbers get started?
The band got started in October 2004. Originally we were four guys coming off other projects, and we really just got together to jam occasionally for fun. We never really expected anything to ever play out. The four original members were Rob Olson (bass, vocals), John Heckel (guitar, vocals), Mick Kanyuh (lead guitar) and Dan Schroeder (drums). Dan soon moved to Phoenix and was replaced by Brandon Nelson. We were soon asked to play at a Christmas party for a friend of ours, and then a backyard party, and eventually it snowballed into regular bar gigs and festivals. The current members of the band are John (guitar, vocals), Elise Haschker (lead vocals), Jim Cornelius (lead guitar, keys, vocals), Elias Silva (bass, fiddle, vocals), and Glen Schroeder (drums, vocals). The ages of the band members ranged from mid-thirties to forties.
What’s the meaning behind the band’s name?
The question we get asked the most. As mentioned earlier we had been getting together to jam occasionally and when we were asked to play a Christmas party in December of 2004 we decided we’d probably need a name. Everyone came to the next rehearsal with ideas, we wanted something that was fun, not too serious, and memorable. No one liked anything that anyone came up with and as we were leaving, our bass player’s son was watching “Veggie Tales” on television. It was an episode where Larry the Cucumber was in a band, screaming out rock vocals. His boy turned around and said, “Why don’t you call yourselves The Screamin’ Cucumbers?” We thought this might be our first and last gig so nobody really cared if the name had staying power or not. Thirteen years and hundreds of shows later the name has remained and has reflected our penchant for fun and our goal to not take ourselves too seriously.
How would you describe the band’s style?
Most of us come from other projects or currently have side projects that include some form of original music but this band has always been strictly a cover band. Our set list mainly consists of songs we deem as “Danceable Rock”. Our goal for every show is to keep the dance floor packed and to play songs people recognize and want to dance to. We try to keep a balance of older tried-and-true favorites and newer hits that get cycled in and out of the show to keep it fresh.
What kind of music influences your group’s style?
I think each of us has had many different musical influences in our lives that affect our style. We all come from different musical backgrounds from funk to classical to pop to hair metal to punk so it is interesting to see how many ideas come out when we are trying to put a fresh spin on a song we want to cover.
The scene is alive and well. It is a tight-knit community of musicians, many of which are playing in multiple projects so there is a lot of crossover. For some reason this market tends to lean towards cover bands, but there are so many talented original artists in town as well. We like to get out and support both. With both original and cover bands this market is flooded with talent, and pretty much any night of the week you can catch some amazing live acts all over town.
Does the group have a favorite place to play?
Our favorite place is probably the JoJo’s Martini Lounge stage at Summerfest. There are really so many great venues that we are fortunate enough to play, but Summerfest has always been a favorite. We also have played the rock stage there a few times.
Where has the band traveled in past years?
We have done shows all over the state but a couple years ago we were fortunate enough to land a corporate gig at a resort in Panama City, Panama. We were flown down to Panama and put up at an all-inclusive resort for five days. We played for the opening ceremony and the closing ceremony for this specific company’s annual convention and it was a blast. It was pretty surreal to play a show with the backdrop being the Pacific Ocean with ships lined up to go through the Panama Canal. It’s an experience we will never forget.
What’s difficult about being in a band?
It requires a huge time commitment. There’s a lot of practice time on your own learning the material, a lot of rehearsal time with the band mates putting the songs together, early load-in times on show day, loading out of a venue at 3 a.m., not to mention the hours spent taking care of the business side of things. All these difficulties are outweighed greatly by the positive experience of it all. Being able to perform live music in front of a crowd is a rush like no other.
Do “The Cukes” have any plans for the future?
We hope to continue to play as we have been for the last 13 years. As long as we are able to have fun and provide entertainment so people can enjoy themselves and maybe forget about the workweek for a few hours. It’s really all about having a good time