Pale Young Gentlemen formed in a large, unused bedroom in Madison, WI in August of 2004. Brothers Michael & Matt Reisenauer and friend Brett Randall started out as a three-piece (piano, drums, guitar), but soon added Milwaukee-based musician Andrew Brawner on bass and cellist Elizabeth Weamer. Drawing upon the folk-classical movements of Brahms, the evocative storytelling of Randy Newman, and the pop orchestration and sensibilities of Brian Wilson and Paul McCartney, this group fashioned a unique and compelling sound.
PYG's self-titled debut (self-released in 2006) was a demonstration of musical imaginativeness. The songs ranged from dark tales of pulsing theatricality expressed through bouncy piano and old dance hall beats, to delicate and powerful narratives with soft vocals and quivering cello in the foreground. After the album was finished, PYG's music continued to evolve, and so did their lineup. Currently, the band consists of original members Brett Randall (bass), Matt Reisenauer (percussion) and Michael Reisenauer (vocals, guitar, piano), accompanied by Beth Morgan (cello, backing vocals) and Gwen Miller (viola, bell kit).
In October 2008, PYG finished the creation of their sophomore album, Black Forest (tra la la). Musically and emotionally expansive, Black Forest twists and flows and weaves like scenery on an uncertain path. The tracks tie together by shared musical and narrative threads, with each building upon the next for an astounding, cinematic effect. The album is rich and diverse, ranging from the frantic guitar-and-drum-driven “Coal/Ivory”, to the languid lyrical meanderings of “Kettle Drum (I Left a Note)”.
As with their debut, Black Forest was recorded and mixed at Smart Studios in Madison, Wisconsin and produced by Beau Sorenson (Death Cab For Cutie, Sparklehorse). This is Pale Young Gentlemen’s first release with Science of Sound.
Featured on Black Forest (tra la la): Mike Reisenauer - Lead Vocals, Guitar, Piano Matt Reisenauer - Percussion Brett Randall - Bass Guitar Liz Weamer - Cello Beth Morgan - Backing Vocals, Bell Kit Gwendolyn Miller - Viola Derek Powell - Violin Leelanee Sterrett - French Horn Margaret Mackenzie - Harp Matt Peters - Xylophone Jacqueline Reisenauer - Flute
Current lineup for live shows: Mike Reisenauer - Lead Vocals, Guitar, Piano Matt Reisenauer - Percussion Brett Randall - Bass Guitar Beth Morgan - Cello, Backing Vocals Gwendolyn Miller - Viola, Bell Kit
Praise for Black Forest (tra la la):
"Black Forest (tra la la) is an understated gem full of warm but striking chamber pop." - Skyscraper Magazine
"Within the relatively tight confines of twelve mid-paced, carefully orchestrated tunes, there's a surprising amount of variety, depth and genuine feeling. Pale, and most definitely interesting." - Music OMH
"In terms of indie-rock music based chiefly around orchestral string instruments, there’s absolutely nothing in the same class as Pale Young Gentlemen in 2008." - No Ripcord
"An excellent and surprising followup to their first full-length, and one that should certainly be heard by a few more ears." - PunkNews.org
"Progressive yet embracing the past, full of fit and flourish without ever sounding fanciful, Black Forest (Tra La La) is one of the most unique and glorious albums of the year." - Pop Matters
"It’s a soundtrack to a masterpiece film that hasn’t been shot yet, an album that gets stronger as it progresses and with repeated listens; it’s damn well near flawless and scoffs at the shadow of its predecessor." - Ear Farm
"It’s an album that goes about reluctantly wedding past and present influences, impressively, and refreshingly favoring the former." - Cokemachine Glow
"It’s a soundtrack to a fairytale, telling a dream — like fable of a man looking back on his life and searching for answers." - Venus Zine
"Once again, Pale Young Gentlemen have crafted a singularly noteworthy record unlike anything else." - Delusions of Adequacy
"If their first record was year-end worthy and critically acclaimed, Black Forest (tra La La) advances them past those well-earned accolades into an entirely different level of success." - Muzzle of Bees
"They can write string parts as off-kilter as Danny Elfman and as energetic as Ra Ra Riot, and back it all up with a solid melody that makes you want to come back. I still feel as I did a year ago- this is one of the best indie bands around, and one that definitely deserves more attention…" - The Yellow Stereo
"Pale Young Gentlemen use cellos, violins, and pianos, among other things, to create their distinct sound. And they do what they do as good as, if not better than, anyone." - Tastes Like Chicken
"This isn't "Wail on the electric guitar and scream bloody murder" swagger or "Dig my blues riff and my street cred" swagger or even "Be awed by my laptop skills" swagger--it's "We know exactly what we're doing and don't really sound like anyone else" swagger. The best kind, in other words." - Fingertips
Though still vocally arranged in deliberately disorganized harmony, as in the band's self-titled debut, this album is presented with more melody, more emotion, and, in general, more depth. - Amplifier Magazine
"A cerebral rock and roll orchestra whose arrangements are as smart as their lyrics." - HearYa
"Pale Young Gentlemen have returned with a lovely vengeance...making one of the most impressive bids for fame of recent memory."
- CMJ New Music Report, October 6, 2008