Five genre-defying musicians based in Wisconsin

By Katherine Reed

Within the heart of Wisconsin, a state known for its rich musical tapestry, there is a wide assortment of genre-blending artists who embody the spirit of Curb: Fusion. These musicians fearlessly transcend conventional boundaries, crafting unique sounds that challenge and redefine traditional genres.

From electronic to indie rock and hip-hop, Wisconsin’s musicians do it all. Only a select few, however, have the unique ability to seamlessly blend diverse genres into a cohesive fusion of styles. With heartfelt lyrics, innovative melodies and captivating performances, they invite us on a journey that celebrates the boundless possibilities of music. 

Here are five genre-blending musical acts making waves in Wisconsin and beyond.

Immortal Girlfriend

Immortal Girlfriend, consisting of Milwaukee-based brothers Kevin and William Bush, are widely referred to as the “Dark Knights of Synth.” An innovative alternative, electronic, retrofuture band and production duo, their music has a unique, forward-thinking edge. 

Immortal Girlfriend members Kevin and William Bush
Immortal Girlfriend members Kevin and William Bush. Photo by Weston Rich.

The brothers are best known for their distinct blend of synthwave, pop and R&B genres, creating dreamy electronic music with their signature rich synths, intricate melodies and silky vocals. “We have a little bit of synthwave influence, but I think it goes a little musically deeper than that. It goes back to more R&B and pop song structure,” William Bush says. “Soundtracks also have played a big part. Just our overall vibe, I think, is a really cinematic narrative.”

Beyond releasing songs for their own catalog, Immortal Girlfriend’s music has also been featured in many major TV shows and video games, including Netflix’s “Wednesday.” As accomplished composers and producers, much of their recent work has been for picture and soundtracks, a venture they began exploring during COVID-19 lockdowns in 2020. This gave the duo an opportunity to step out of their comfort zones and explore new creative styles of music. “We’re just trying to marry those worlds together a little bit,” William Bush says. “I think that’s how we grow as artists.”


Overcome the Night” (2017)

Seeker” (2021)

Our choice:

Moon (Runner)” (2017)

Feed the Dog

Hailing from Appleton, Feed the Dog is a dynamic and experimental jam-grass band formed in 2015. The lively four piece — composed of singer and violinist Tim McIlree, drummer Erik Juvonen, guitarist Jon Miller and bassist Nick Spielman — has a genre-transcending style that is a “unique blend of genres, including jam, bluegrass, soul, funk and Americana,” McIllree says. Their vivid lyrics, like the deadly Western showdown depicted in “The Stage,” seamlessly blend captivating storytelling with an irresistible instrumental groove.

Feed the Dog performs with Tim McIlree on the fiddle, Erik Juvonen on drums, Jon Miller on the guitar and Nick Spielman playing bass. Photo by Chad Stueland.

The group’s instrumental prowess allows it to cross musical boundaries, seamlessly shifting from one style to another within a single song, creating a signature sound that’s both versatile and captivating. McIlree, also known as Timmy Mac on stage, says the group takes inspiration from a wide variety of bands also known for pushing the envelope, including The String Cheese Incident, Grateful Dead and Talking Heads. “[We have] different types of music getting melded together,” he says. “We’re not trying to stick to any rules in general, just letting come out what feels good and what we think is right.” 


Goodnight Moon” (2021)

Deep South Doug” (2021)

Our choice:

The Stage” (2018)


Not many artists can sing as well as they can rap, but J.P., hailing from Milwaukee, is one of those exceptional talents whose multifaceted abilities defy musical boundaries. A current sophomore at UW–Stevens Point, J.P., also known as Josiah Gillie, brings his diverse musical background, spanning rock, R&B, hip-hop and country, to the forefront in his discography.

J.P., a Milwaukee-based rapper and singer, poses for a picture. Photo via Josiah Gillie.

With an even mix of lighthearted and deeply personal songs, his music resonates with a wide audience. For instance, in “Recognize,” Gillie crafts an anthem of resilience and triumph, which he says serves as a testament to his perseverance. “[It’s about] me just getting out of my situation and putting on for the people that I have rooting for me back at home,” Gillie says.

Crafting his unique sound by fusing a captivating beat with raw, tongue-in-cheek rhymes and catchy vocal melodies, Gillie is behind many viral sounds and videos on TikTok. “You wouldn’t listen to one of my songs and just listen with a straight face,” Gillie says. “It makes you want to move and dance.” With millions of likes and hundreds of thousands of streams, his music has garnered recognition from chart-toppers such as Lil Uzi Vert, Sada Baby and more.


Recognize” (2022)

Juicy Ahhh” (2022)

Our choice:

Bad Guy” (2023)

Crystal Knives

Crystal Knives, the dynamic music project headed by Milwaukee-based producer Spencer Mutsch, is a captivating blend of electronic, pop and future bass styles. With a background in audio engineering and drumming and a knack for crafting innovative beats and melodies, Mutsch has garnered recognition for pushing the boundaries of electronic music.

Spencer Mutsch, who performs under the name Crystal Knives, performs to a crowd at a festival. Photo by Yuvraj Singh.

Drawing inspiration from a range of influences, he creates tracks that are both emotionally impactful and dance floor friendly, showcasing a unique sound easily distinguishable in the electronic music landscape. “I really listen to a little bit of everything,” Mutsch says. “I’ll take influences from indie rock stuff, pop stuff, electronic, from just about anywhere.”

Crystal Knives’ growing discography has made him a staple in the Wisconsin electronic music scene. Tracks like “Superhuman” featuring Brooke Williams and “Beautiful Chaos” with Kayla Diamond and Kiso showcase Mutsch’s ability to seamlessly blend pop and electronic elements, creating an infectious sound. “Half of the time, I’m just starting with a sound that I think is interesting and playing around on the keyboard until I find some notes that work,” Mutsch says. “I’m just stacking up the things I like from there until it starts to take shape.”


Mannequin” featuring Casey Cook (2018)

Impossible to Love” (2023)

Our choice:

Superhuman” featuring Brooke Williams (2018)


Seasaw is a Madison-based indie pop rock duo consisting of Eve Wilczewski and Meg Golz. Their music is characterized by captivating harmonies, intricate melodies and emotionally resonant lyrics, making for a sound that’s both introspective and engaging. Their unique blend of folk, pop, rock and synth elements creates a sound that’s both dreamy and evocative. “We have some songs that are more pop-leaning and synth heavy, but we’ve also written a lot of songs that are just full-blown rock and roll chaos,” Golz says.

Seasaw members Eve Wilczewski and Meg Golz pose for their newest album, “Projecting.” Photo via Seasaw.

Both having classical string backgrounds, Wilczewski and Golz bonded over their shared music tastes more than a decade ago while working at the same restaurant, and their enduring partnership has given rise to a remarkable music journey. “Over time, we’ve just become really confident with one another,” Golz says. “We’re able to write more confidently now and expand the songs to a place that we maybe didn’t have the tools to do before.”

Seasaw’s music frequently explores personal and relatable themes, touching on subjects like love, self-discovery, and the ups and downs of life. “Our recordings are not ever quite 100% polished,” Golz says. “We have a little bit of a more human element in our recordings.” It’s this remarkable talent for crafting emotionally charged songs, complete with rich vocal harmonies, that has earned them a dedicated following. 


Dial Me Up” (2023)

Pinky Promise” (2023)

Our choice:

Big Dogs” (2018)