Milwaukee rockers Freshwater Collins have been through a lot after 10 years of writing, recording and touring. The veteran quartet — that have experienced the highs of sharing stages with Robert Plant and the lows of nearly starving together on tour — will return to Marquette for back-to-back shows at UpFront and Company on Friday, Nov. 24 and Saturday, Nov. 25.
The melodic-alternative rock group, set to record their fifth studio album in January, was founded by frontman Chris Vos and his bass-playing brother Brian Vos. The lineup has been in flux over the decade of their existence, but for four years, guitarist Josh Tovar and drummer Justin Krol have kept the group constant. As with many bands that change members, their influences and sound followed suit.
“Now, I’d say that [the sound] is just a lot more of a thunder-ish rock approach. When you change band members, it changes your sound because their influences come in and it changes the way the music is made,” guitarst and vocalist Chris Vos said.
Their latest album, 2005’s “These Days Lately,” is another step forward in the evolution of the band’s sound.
“Each record has gotten successively more aggressive,” Vos explained. “Not aggressive in a brutal, metal sort of sense, but in a raw, rock-n-roll sense. It’s a very jump-all-over-you sound.”
The band’s name originated from Vos’ grandfather, a veteran of World War II. When Vos was a child, he was always told war stories. One of them happened to stick.
According to the tale, a platoon of Americans were trapped in Berlin at the start of the war. Without food or water for days, a mysterious sergeant known only as Collins managed to take out a group of German soldiers and retrieve water for his men. Thus, Vos dubbed his group Freshwater Collins.
“It never left my mind. It’s weird, because it’s such a nice, noble story behind the name but I’ve gotten more questions about what the heck it’s supposed to mean,” Vos said. “It’s sort of a light tribute.”
The group cites influences from nearly every genre of rock-n-roll; from Led Zeppelin and The Who, to The Flaming Lips and Wolfmother. Although influenced, newcomers shouldn’t expect to hear Freshwater break out any renditions of “Stairway to Heaven.”
“When we first started out . people were kind of looking at us shocked that we were playing original music,” Vos said. “We were trying to topple over people who were like ‘Oh, we really love your stuff, do you guys know any covers?’ We’re like ‘No! And we don’t take requests! We’re not a wedding band!'”
Vos said Freshwater Collins has wound up giving Vos and his bandmates opportunities to meet their heroes, including Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips and Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant — each headliners of shows with Freshwater on the bill.
“As a band who grew up listening to Led Zeppelin, being able to stand face-to-face with this guy didn’t even seem real. And then he’s just a guy — and he’s a nice guy,” he said.
The 10-year experience hasn’t been simply smiles and handshakes with legends, however. Endless touring and a lack of cash often takes its toll on the band.
“It’s just that the human psyche and body can only take so much when your only nutrients are beer and Ramen noodles for three months,” Vos said. “I’ve gone out for 90-day trips where I’ve lost 20 pounds and come back looking like I’d just been stranded on a desert island.”
Vos said the band will probably be playing at the South by Southwest festival this spring in Austin, Texas. Beyond that, their only focus is getting into the studio for the upcoming record.
“My biggest goal is to put out the best [expletive] record that we possibly can make.”
To check out Freshwater Collins on the Web, visit FreshwaterCollins.com or MySpace.com/freshwatercollins. Their album, “These Days Lately,” is available on iTunes and other major record stores.