Brenton Viertel has some impressive musical credentials. He holds a BA from Duquesne University and a MFA from Youngstown State University. He currently plays bass with the Boise Philharmonic and teaches music and orchestra for the Boise School District.
This isn't the CV one might expect from a guy who writes goofy odes to tight pants, androids and attack helicopters from cheesy '80s TV shows. According to Viertel, that's the whole point of his mock-Krautrock group The Dirty Moogs and his pop-punk band Jetski: To get away from the discipline and pretensions of the classical music world.
"I definitely wanted escapism," he said. "On a Friday night, you come out and just kind of forget about the week. You work really hard, and [a Dirty Moogs or Jetski show] is a place to party and have a lot of fun. ... Because, you know, I play serious stuff all the time. And I like serious music. It's not that I dislike it. I honestly find this stuff to be enjoyable also."
Viertel's extracurricular music might be fun, but he and his bandmates still work hard. The Moogs' EP And Now for Something Completely the Same (Sunless Sea Records) was a standout release of 2017. Released on Feb. 2, Jetski's debut album 2PM (Missing Beats Record Company, 2018) is just as excellent, boasting catchy tunes, high-powered performances, bold production by ZV House and sly, funny lyrics by both Viertel and young musician Marcus Roberts.
Born in Wisconsin, Viertel was introduced to music at a young age.
"My mom was a pianist," he said. "I played the piano as a little kid, and then I started to play the violin. I was in orchestra for a long time, and then in eighth grade, I started playing string bass."
In addition to classical music, Viertel soaked up the punk and alternative rock of the 1990s. He attended high school in San Diego as a local band called Blink—later known as Blink-182—was building a following.
"They were blowing up at that time," Viertel remembered. "It was when they were becoming really popular. And there was a lot of ska going on. But I really love stuff like Weezer [and] Fountains of Wayne."
Viertel played in various orchestras and a couple of alt-country bands before landing in Boise. He met Dirty Moogs bandmate Will Gillett when they played together in Gia Trotter's country band Larkspur. A veteran of Boise's punk scene, Gillett was the perfect person to help Viertel cut loose.
"I was in punk bands in town [that played in] garages and gravel driveways and shit since I was 13," Gillett said. Not cool enough for The Brass Lamp or old enough for Neurolux, his bands would play venues, such as "Bug's House and The Oil House that was right around the corner, [which was] the worst place you could possibly play music. They would appreciate that [quote] for sure."
Viertel and Gillette formed The Dirty Moogs with musician Peter Thomas in 2011. While the name was inspired by a malfunctioning synthesizer, the original idea for the group came from Trotter, who was in local group Mostly Muff.
"I don't know. We were talking about synthesizers or something, and Gia was like, 'You should get out your keyboards and play a bunch of 80s tunes,'" Viertel said. "And we were just like, 'Oh, okay.'"
Viertel's connection with Trotter helped bring Jetski about as well. Drummer Robert Reeves and guitarist Brian Anglin play with Trotter in 2x2. Also, singer-guitarist Roberts is Reeves's nephew. The idea for the group arose from Viertel and Reeves' mutual love of Weezer.
"He was like, 'Yeah, I just kinda miss the 90s sort of aesthetic. Do you want to do a recording-project band?'" Viertel remembered.
In Viertel's words, the idea of 2PM was to make "this throwback 90s record on a very limited budget—not a lot of production, just play the songs and go." Jetski recorded the album at ZV House's Rabbitbrush Audio studio in a weekend. Viertel and company told House that they wanted the album "to sound like these Weezer records, right? The old Weezer records."
"So then we got it, and then we were like, 'I don't know,'" Viertel said. But soon, the band realized "he did it exactly like the Weezer records. We just realized that we wanted it a little different."
Viertel's various projects and plans keep him busy. He and his Dirty Moogs bandmates are trying to brainstorm gimmicks for upcoming shows. Don't expect any classical influences to seep in, though.
"I don't think we're gonna be like a rock-opera band," Viertel said. "I think we like doing what we're doing: Simple pop songs that aren't too serious."