Up-and-coming band has more to share

Story by Karl Enghofer, Freelancer

“This is it.”

That is what Matt Hasenmueller and Kyle Culver thought when they heard each other’s musical talents at a summer bonfire.

Nearly four years later, Hasenmueller and Culver established the band The Last Semester, with Hasenmueller on lead vocals and Culver on lead guitar. The duo added guitarist Aaron Kelley and drummer Jamie Berger to complete the band.

Now, The Last Semester has performed across the Midwest, from Minneapolis to Milwaukee, including over 30 shows in the Eau Claire area, and has even opened for Grammy Award winners Fun.

“We decided to be The Last Semester because we never intended on being a band past that summer,” Hasenmueller said.

The band has come a long way in three-and-a-half years. They originally recorded with basic hand-held recorders in “Harmatone Studios,” which really was just a clever name for Hasenmueller’s basement. Now, they record with multi-thousand dollar equipment in Minneapolis’ Falcon Studios.

Hasenmueller said the band considers themselves perfectionists and are very “self-deprecating.”

The band is constantly tweaking their lyrics and adjusting things they dislike in their songs. After minutes of trying to label their genre of music, they finally agreed upon “Lyrically cynical, disguised with happy pop.”

With song lyrics such as “Don’t shake your fist at me,” and “The more that we risk, the better the kiss,” the band has a variety of themes in their songs, and they have songs fit for everyone, they said.

The Picture Perfect is an Eau Claire band that shares a friendly relationship with The Last Semester.

The two bands have played shows together, one recently at Christie Mountain ski hill. They don’t necessarily need to compete for fans or venues, because The Picture Perfect’s fan base is primarily in the Cities, and also because of their more electric and “loud energy” style, said Kyle Featherstone, a member of The Picture Perfect.

The Last Semester’s 2009 download-only debut album, “Everyone is Anyone” received around 11,000 downloads. They are anxiously waiting to release their second album, “Keep Smiling Kid,” which is a five-track EP and has a strong theme, Hasenmueller said.

“The main theme is about sticking with what you want to do, and trying to maintain this sense of young adulthood, when life is creeping in so fast,” Hasenmueller said.

He said a typical album can cost up to $6,000 to release, and with the cost of gas to Minneapolis, rent, and school, the album release is taking longer than expected, but it’s not just the finances that hinder them.

The band released an acoustic online-only bonus track on Feb. 17 titled “Sips of Sin” in order to get their fans excited about their new album.

“We’ve put in a lot of time, care and careful planning into making it something that we enjoy as artists and they enjoy as listeners, “ Hasenmueller said.

Keri Pietsch, a junior at UW-Eau Claire who had never listened to The Last Semester, said she wanted to download the album after listening to the single for the first time.

“Sips of Sin” can be downloaded for free, or as a pay-what-you-can option on their Facebook page through PayPal. Culver said the band appreciates those who do donate a few dollars. The entire album will be ready for download or purchase using the same ideology coming this summer, Hasenmueller said.

After almost four years of the struggling musician lifestyle, Hasenmueller said he has had doubts of quitting.

“Of course I could go back to school and do the suburbia dream, and I’ve considered it so many times, “ he said.

But then he and Culver have a “high-five” moment, where they both excitedly agree on an idea, and that reassures his confidence.

“I always thought it would be easier to quit,” Hasenmueller said. “But it only gets harder to quit, because you sink your life into it.”