Diverse mix of influences leads to wider audience

September 9, 2004

Post-Crescent - September 2004

Diversity is key to the five-piece Oshkosh band Copper Box. "We all come from pretty different backgrounds and everyone brings those influences with them," said Michelle Jerabek, who co-leads the band with her husband, Danny. Copper Box performs tonight at Tom's Garage in Appleton with The Wandering Sons. Both Danny and Michelle got their start in polka music. Along with Dan's brother Dave, and their first band, Kick, was known for playing high-energy polka. But a couple years ago the band decided to break on through to a wider audience by changing its name to Copper Box and diversifying its sound, incorporating the various styles the band members love, from '70s rock to Cajun swamp rock to alt-country, without changing the instrumentation, which includes Danny on squeezebox and trumpet; Michelle on sax, keyboards and percussion; Danny's brother Dave on bass and tuba; Nate Grier on guitar and newest member Jeff Roblee on drums. The change has worked. "It's opened a lot of doors for us, to have a more mainstream sound so we're not pigeonholed in the polka category," Michelle said. "A lot of the songs we were writing just couldn't fit that specific genre. So we opened it up so we can play a lot of different clubs and festivals and appeal to a wider range of people." But the former polka connection has paid off for what may lead to national exposure through an ad for Weber grills. "You can never say anything bad about your roots," Michelle said in explaining how the band will play at a backyard party on Sept. 18 in a trial commercial for Weber. The opportunity came about when a producer contacted polka radio station WTKM in Hartford, Wis. "He was looking for some upbeat music and asked if they knew of anything a little more hip and young they could use," Michelle said. "The receptionist said, 'Yes, call Danny.' So he called us. We told him we're not really polka. He said, just as long as it's upbeat. We tossed a few things his way, he liked it, and we're rolling with that." Filming will take place at the home of Michelle's parents in Kewaskum. "It's a farm in the Kettle Moraine," she said. "That's the kind of setting they wanted for the Midwest. "They want it to represent the typical Midwest back yard party. We'll set up and play and, as I understand it, we'll actually be seen in the commercial, if they accept it.? The band will perform one of Danny?s originals called "Surefire," a Cajun rock-influenced song that will appear on the band's followup to its debut CD, "Roots." "Nothing really thought-provoking, but definitely a fun song to play," Michelle said of "Surefire." The band has already cut two songs for the new recording at a Minneapolis studio, but Michelle said the band's busy touring schedule will keep it busy into the fall. "We're still writing for it, but right now we're just trying to finish the touring season," Michelle said. "Once we get into October, the touring schedule will slow and we should be at home more to get something done." Jim Lundstrom can be reached at 920-993-1000, ext. 374, or by e-mail at