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Shuffle: Punch Drunk Tagalongs' Big Sound Breaks Through

photo of Punch Drunk Tagalongs
Punch Drunk Tagalongs began as a solo acoustic act. Now it consists of bassist Alex Wright (left), lead singer/guitarist Alisha Stahnke, drummer Wesley Who, guitarist Caleb Lemmo

A Cleveland indie rock band is building momentum after recording its first album with a multi-platinum producer. For this week’s Shuffle, WKSU's Amanda Rabinowitz talked to Alisha Stahnke of Punch Drunk Tagalongs about their big sound and big break.

In 2015, singer-songwriter Alisha Stahnke was coping with a breakup by playing gigs at open mic nights in Akron's Highland Square and hanging out with other musicians.

“And that’s kind of what eventually led me into Punch Drunk Tagalongs.”

Plugging in
Stahnke used to perform on her own with just an acoustic guitar for accompaniment. Eventually, she felt she could only accomplish so much as a soloist. Stahnke decided a full band would give her music more sonic and emotional power.

“I decided to plug in, become electric, and get a bunch of people to back me up,” Stahnke said. Local musicians Caleb Lemmo and Alex Wright joined on guitar and bass, respectively. After a few shows, Wesley Who took on the drums.

'Heck yeah! I love the '90s.'

The foursome’s style is described as grunge with a bit of distortion, fuzzy riffs, and plenty of “quirky, heavy and crunchy sounds.”

It’s all reminiscent of the ‘90s grunge Stahnke was raised on, complete with riot grrrl aesthetic and feminist overtones.

“I thought the music was great,” Stahnke said. When people describe her music as ‘90s-esque, Stahnke takes it as a big compliment.

“I say, ‘Heck yeah! I love the ‘90s.’”

Music continues to be an emotional outlet for Stahnke whether she’s writing songs or performing for a live audience.

“I love jumping around; I love interacting with my bandmates,” Stahnke said.

Credit Punch Drunk Tagalongs
Punch Drunk Tagalongs are known for their fiery live performance

Debut album and a tour
Things have been picking up quickly for the band. They signed with Sun Pedal Recordings and created their first full-length album, “Hazy,” with multi-platinum producer Jim Wirt. He’s worked with artists like Fiona Apple, Hoobastank and Incubus.

As is often the case with bands hoping to make it big, the record deal happened “really randomly,” according to Stahnke. A record-label producer approached the band after a gig in Cleveland and signed them.

The group recorded their inaugural album at Superior Sound Studios in Cleveland, with help from local guitarist Frankie Maraldo. Stanhke says the band spent a lot of time in the studio, perfecting each track. 

“Hazy” comes out this Saturday. The Venus Flytraps and Nights will open the indie band’s album release at the Grog Shop in Cleveland Heights.

After that, the band is going on tour. Stahnke wants the band to work its way up to a month-long regional tour and eventually make its way across the U.S. After that, Stahnke has her sights set on Europe.

For now, the band’s performance schedule is already looking ambitious. According to Stahnke, the group played 50 shows last year, and they plan to top that this year with 75 shows.

Hear the title track from Punch Drunk Tagalongs' first album, "Hazy"