Michigan band Frontier Ruckus is driving through the badlands of Wyoming.
“I’m in the middle of nowhere in Wyoming,” says Matt Milia, Frontier Ruckus vocalist and primary songwriter. “The cell service is a little spotty.”
This sense of expansive loneliness permeates the bittersweet power-pop of the band’s 2014 release, Sitcom Afterlife.
“It was a break-up record,” Milia says. “It was an interesting juxtaposition of dark subject matter and power-pop.”
There are distinct echoes of REM in the guitar lick that kicks off the Sitcom Afterlife track “Sad Modernity,” in which Milia sings alliteratively: “Back when this fresh-faced world was still a friend to me.”
Elsewhere, in the melancholy “Crabapples in the Century’s Storm,” Milia’s warbling tenor recalls Bright Eyes’ Conor Oberst.
Milia explains that some members of Frontier Ruckus met at a Catholic high school and the rest in college. The quartet takes inspiration from seminal power-pop bands like Big Star, he says, as well as ’80s- and ’90s-era college-rock greats like Matthew Sweet and Teenage Fanclub.
But on top of these influences, the band is rooted in traditional acoustic music, such as the banjo-propelled, Pernice Brothers-style track “Little Henrietta.”
Milia says when Frontier Ruckus performs live, the band tries to encompass all aspects of its sound, ranging from intimate to full band and very rambunctious. “I like to show that all of those things are part of the band,” he explains.
Frontier Ruckus plays with Caitlin Jemma & The Goodness 9 pm Thursday, July 2, at WOW Hall; $10 adv., $12 door. All ages. — William Kennedy