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Arts & Culture

Sam Llanas: Career in Deja Vu

Photo by Eric Mills, Summerfest 2014

Released early this week, “The Whole Night Thru” is the new album by singer, songwriter, and acoustic guitarist Sam Llanas, a founding member of Waukesha-based rock band, the BoDeans. After years of writing music and touring, the 53-year-old rock n’ roller is setting his sights on a newfound solo career. Performing three tracks off “The Whole Night Thru,” including song Deja Vu, Llanas sat down with Bruce Winter in the WUWM@Nite studio to talk about his new material, “reestablishing” his brand, and his musical guilty pleasures.

Sam Llanas first established himself as a solo act in the late 1990s, and with the release of “4 A.M. (The Way Home)” in 2011. Llanas founded the band Absinthe along with Milwaukee musicians Jim Eannelli and Guy Hoffman. The trio released one album, “A Good Day To Die” in 1998. In 2011, he left the BoDeans for unknown reasons. Today, Llanas is slowing carving out a new identity within the music industry, adhering to both old and new fans of his work.

“When I was with the BoDeans, whenever I made a solo record, I was careful not to tread into ‘BoDeanland’,” says Llanas. “Now it doesn’t matter, I can just make the best record I can”  

Many cite Llanas’s new material as a nod to his previous work. Indeed, “The Whole Night Thru” is a true rock album, a stark contrast to Llanas’ prior solo albums which boast a quieter, more acoustic feel. His first record since Ilanas’ separation from the BoDeans, the new album was produced by longtime collaborator Gary Tanin. Establishing himself as a new artist and brand, especially given today’s music industry, has proven to be a challenge for the old time rocker.

Newfound solo artist Sam Llanas talks and performs in the WUWM studio.

“It has been a lot more difficult than I thought it would be, unfortunately people know the BoDeans’ name but they don’t necessarily know my name,” says Llanas. “But I’m confident if you make good music people will hear it eventually.”    

Speaking about his guilty pleasures Llanas cites Rihanna and rapper Macklemore as some current acts that have impressed him with their songwriting chops, both of which he was introduced to by his young son’s musical tastes.

“I don’t care what genre it is, if it’s a good song it’s a good song,” says Llanas.     

On stage Llanas, who provides both vocals and acoustic guitar, is joined by three musical performance veterans,  Ryan Schiedermayer (drums/percussion), Matt Turner (bass guitar), and Sean Williamson (electric guitar).

Sam Llanas and his band are playing tonight, 7:30pm, at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music, and on Dec. 27 at Shank Hall in Milwaukee. 

Llanas' new album “The Whole Night Thru” can be heard here: