Editor’s Note: Kicks presents 20Q, a feature that introduces readers to people involved in the area’s arts and entertainment community. Compiled by kicks Editor Greg Little, each piece will include a short bio, photo and answers to questions that provide insight into not only that person’s artistic interests but also his or her unique personality.
Among a generation of jaded millennial angst and cynicism, Justin Cisewski can be seen as a renaissance man.
The Janesville native fronts Banana Wind, the area’s only Jimmy Buffett tribute band, alongside his father, Donald. Two years into this experience, the group is continuing to gain ground in the community music scene not only as a well-polished performance piece but as a mouthpiece for what live music should be above all things: fun.
Along with Justin on acoustic guitar and lead vocals and his father on guitar, harp and vocals, Banana Wind consists of Greg Logue on bass and vocals, Johnny “Bongo” Schultz on drums/percussion and vocals and Steve Christophersen on guitars and vocals.
For more information about the band, search for “Banana Wind” on Facebook. For bookings, message through Facebook, call 608-346-1359 or email BananaWindBuffett@yahoo.com.
1. Why Jimmy Buffett? Growing up, Jimmy’s music was always something that brought me wonder and excitement toward the world and all the things we have to experience in it. He made his mark in the music industry through unique and personal storytelling without massive amounts of airplay. I think his writing and sound resonate with a lot of different walks of life, because it reminds us that so much our lives are dictated by deadlines and commitments. It speaks to the adventurer in each of us who dreams of packing up everything and living the dream life in a tropical paradise. When I first came to my father with the idea for this project, I really felt like this was something people would take to.
2. Do you have any pre-gig rituals? Not specifically. The interesting thing about playing live music is the variance between performances. I feel like doing things a certain way limits that emotional vigor that makes for an earnest performance. Some days, I might feel a little more depressed or angry than others. Or perhaps I am excited and full of energy. Different kinds of emotions drive different performance styles. This may lead to some gigs being more energetic or more somber than others, but it makes for a different experience than the last show. The last thing I want to do is give people the same show they saw before.
3. Is Banana Wind your first band, or have you been in others? Banana Wind is my very first band, and I could not be more satisfied with the experience so far. I would play and jam with friends throughout high school and college, but nothing comes close to the making of an actual band. I suppose you could count the rap album that a friend and I made a few years back as a band, but I normally don’t talk about that in vivid detail outside of my close circle. Some things are best kept a secret.
4. What inspired you to become a musician? Music has always been the primary source of happiness in my life outside of friends and family. I see it as the ultimate art form because it paints a picture of a person that you just cannot get in other mediums. It has always seemed fitting to me that artist releases are called “records” because it really is like a record of events. I’ve always been more of an introvert, so the idea of putting myself in a position to be a performer has always satisfied my need for being the center of attention without the mental exhaustion of mingling with scores of people.
5. At your favorite restaurant, what is your favorite thing to order? I suppose that depends on what I consider my favorite restaurant at any given time. Probably one of those burritos from Qdoba that are the size of a small child. I eat one of those at least once a week. Other than that, usually it’s the greasiest piece of meat on the menu for me. If I am paying to eat somewhere, I’m going to make sure I enjoy every bite of it.
6. Share a skill you wish you had. I wish that I had a better knack for writing lyrics. Even more than a great novel, I feel like great lyrics are even more difficult to accomplish since the writer basically needs to tell the same story in such a sparse number of words. I think that I tend to ramble on too much in my writings to accomplish this, unless I start trying to write 30-minute prog-rock epics or something.
7. When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? I really liked astronomy when I was a youngster, but I don’t know if I ever really had a grasp on what sort of jobs would really be associated to that kind of interest. Looking back now, I hate math too much to ever want something like that as a career. Honestly, I have always seen careers as such an antiquated way to define who you are. I don’t think that there is any perfect job out there, and it should more or less be something to help you afford to do the things that do make you who you are.
8. Have you ever gone to see a movie that was so bad you left before it was over? I love bad movies, especially the ones that are so outlandish in their delivery that you can’t help but laugh. Movies like “Roadhouse” or “Bloodsport” are always the kind that I will purposely put on with my buddies to enjoy. I suppose something like long biopic movies could make me tap out due to the lack of anything exciting happening. The last movie I fell asleep to was “Lincoln.”
9. Share something people would be surprised to find out about you. I always try to remain an open book about myself. I would say that people might be surprised to find out that I have struggled my entire life with very heavy anxiety and depression. I remember sitting in tears on my 5th birthday because I was one year closer to dying. I really wish there was less of a social stigma with mental health because more people suffer than you think, and it doesn’t ever get better until people are open to discussing it—as uncomfortable as it may be.
10. Are you a gamer? I’m definitely a Nintendo fanboy. I actually have a very extensive collection of NES and SNES games. Super Nintendo has always been my favorite gaming console, and honestly, most current games don’t do that much for me. I play platformers the most (stuff like “Mega Man,” “Metroid,” “Castlevania”), but anything from my childhood holds a special place in my heart, for sure. I love to imagine my generation sitting in nursing homes, playing games on headsets with grandchildren. Amazing how technology changes between generations.
11. What do you do that you would consider a guilty pleasure? That’s tough because, if you like something, you should always be earnest about it. One thing I hate about our culture these days is how nobody seems to truly like something wholeheartedly. People do things ironically or sarcastically, or at least put on the guise that they don’t care that much. Those are the people that never get to truly enjoy life because they spend their time worrying about what the general public thinks.
12. At the grocery store, what item always goes into your cart whether you need it or not? Probably milk because I can never remember how much I have left. And I do not want to find myself unable to eat my breakfast cereal in the morning because I was too forgetful to pick up more milk. That and white Russians are delicious.
13. What are the best and worst purchases you’ve ever made? The best would probably be the NBA Jam arcade machine I have in my kitchen. It’s a great excuse to have people over at the house. Oh yeah—I suppose my house is a pretty good purchase, as well. My worst might be the time I bought an authentic Eddie Lacy jersey, after which he immediately got injured and left the Packers. No fun wearing his name when he isn’t playing.
14. What is it like playing in a band with your dad? It’s kind of surreal. I have been playing and learning from him since I was a little kid. He used to play all of my favorite Beatles songs while I would sing along. Fast forward to now, we really built this band together with his experience in the area music scene. He found the most talented and easygoing guys to work with, so it has really been amazing building a rapport with the guys. Honestly, I feel like this is more of a dream project for him than it is for me. We have disagreements from time to time, but we try to settle it as peers rather than father and son.
15. Is island music really that popular during winter in Wisconsin? More popular than you would think. Perhaps it has more to do with the longing for sunnier days and warmer weather again. Obviously, there is a lull in local music as a whole during this time of year, but I definitely think that there is something to the concept of thinking hot and fun with your music when the weather outside is cold and dreary.
16. What is your favorite Jimmy Buffett song to perform? Obviously, the well-known ones like “Margaritaville” and “Fins” are great for the fact that the audience becomes more engaged with the songs they know, but my favorite one to play on most days is a tune called “Coconut Telegraph.” It’s a catchy one that a lot of people get into even if they aren’t familiar with it. We do a lot of other covers that Jimmy plays that are fun, as well: “Southern Cross,” “Iko Iko” or “Brown-Eyed Girl,” for example.
17. If you could get the absolute and total truth to one question, what would it be? What happens when we die is really the ultimate question, isn’t it? However, I feel like that might be a door that would be dangerous to open. I would love to know everything that our government knows about extraterrestrial life, but I do think some things should remain a mystery. I love conspiracy theories and how deep people go.
18. Do you have any useless talents? I can name all original 150 Pokemon in order, I am really good with a yo-yo, and I play a mean game of rod hockey. So no, nothing useless at all.
19. If you could take any song by any other artist and convert it to a Buffett-style tune, what would it be and why? This one is tricky because you definitely would want to pick something that, at its core, sounds different enough from the rhythmic steel drum sound to make a unique cover. At the same time, you want something that melodically and lyrically embodies the escapism lifestyle that a Buffett song entails. I would say something feel-good like “Summer of ‘69” by Bryan Adams would be a fitting one.
20. If Banana Wind was suddenly signed to a multimillion-dollar record contract, what would be the first thing you’d do with your share of the money? Hire a lawyer, probably. Otherwise, if I’m being honest, I’d probably do something simple like go and get a giant bowl of ice cream to celebrate. I don’t need anything too lavish. I’m more of a “meat and potatoes” kind of guy anyway.