Madison rock band Sunspot revels in the weird
Musicians/podcasters have a penchant for the paranormal.
Not content to write predictably sappy love ballads, Madison-based rock band Sunspot’s songs profess love for werewolves, Bigfoot and aliens. -, attracting fans to the band from disparate corners of less mainstream popular culture.
Each episode of “See You on the Other Side” — the weekly podcast that Sunspot bassist, guitarist and lead singer Mike Huberty and drummer Wendy Lynn Staats have co-hosted since late 2014 — ends with an original song or cover inspired by their guest, which have included authors, ghost hunters and other fringe characters.
“We’re tongue-in-cheek but not disrespectful,” Huberty says of how he and Staats approach their subject matter. They say they are more prone to make jokes than their inspiration: Art Bell, the founder and original host of the syndicated paranormal radio show “Coast to Coast AM.” Like Bell, Huberty and Staats walk the line between skeptics and true believers. “We’re about having fun but also finding as much truth as we can,” Huberty says.
With bandmate Ben Jaeger, Sunspot has recorded nearly 200 songs for the podcast, including “I Know What I Saw” (named after Wisconsin writer Linda Godfrey’s 2019 book by the same title) and “Patty” (the nickname of the Bigfoot allegedly caught on film in 1967). The songs can be heard on Sunspot’s Bandcamp webpage and on its latest two albums, “The Wonders of the Invisible World” and “Weirdest Hits.”
Huberty and Jaeger formed the band in 1991 and renamed it Sunspot when Staats joined in 1997. All three were University of Wisconsin–Madison students watching “The X-Files” and discussing alien abductions in their dorm rooms late into the night. These would become themes for the band, which would go on to play more than 1,100 shows in more than 20 states over the nearly quarter century that followed.
Currently unable to play live with music venues across the country shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic, the band is livestreaming conversations twice a week with fans over Facebook and releasing new video versions of its songs. They also invite podcast listeners to live tapings on YouTube at 8 p.m. on Tuesdays.
The band members talked to Madison Magazine the same way they’ve been meeting with each other and recording since they started sheltering at home months earlier — via videoconferencing. “This is the longest we’ve gone without seeing each other face to face in decades,” Staats says.
The band is no stranger to new technology, however. They were multimedia pioneers with Sunspot Radio Mania, which started as an audio podcast and later became a vlog livestreamed from the band’s tour van en route to shows. They put out 213 episodes over nine years before ending Radio Mania in May 2014.
Huberty says Sunspot has benefited from continued livestreaming and the subscription platform Patreon. But he looks forward to having fan interactions in live venues again.
“The livestreams we’ve been doing every week have got me more excited about getting back out and playing and creating new music and spending more time with people than I’ve been in a long time,” he says.
Joel Patenaude is associate editor of Madison Magazine.
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