As kids growing up in the Twin Cities, Henry Bergmann, Stephen Sutherland and Kris Bergh shared a passion for music and enough talent to play in Minnesota Youth Jazz bands.
Fast forward a few years and the three Minnesota natives are still making music together, this time in western Wisconsin where they all are students at UW-Eau Claire.
Henry and Kris are music majors, and Stephen is an entrepreneur major.
While all three are active in a variety of UW-Eau Claire bands and ensembles, they also are members of a nine-piece band — Doks Robotiks — made up mostly of Blugold musicians.
In addition to the three current students, band members also include Blugold alumni Andrew Bocher, Rick Haneman and Rob Hagen.
While the band has been playing regularly in the Chippewa Valley for a couple of years, it’s now starting to gain some attention in the Twin Cities.
With Doks Robotiks releasing a new CD this month, the band’s trombonist Henry Bergmann took a few minutes to talk about the band and the many UW-Eau Claire experiences that have helped its Blugold members find success on campus and in the music world.
Tell us a little about yourself and the other Blugolds in the band.
I’m a senior music major from Minneapolis, and I’m also minoring in kinesiology. I help write the horn lines and arrange the songs for our band.
I went to the same high school, Minneapolis South, as Kris, who is a junior music major.
Stephen is a senior from Apple Valley, Minnesota, majoring in entrepreneurship.
Andrew graduated with a degree in liberal studies, and Rob and Rick both earned degrees in music.
The band also includes three friends who didn’t go to UWEC: Adam Gumm, Decarlo Jackson and Matt Mulheran. We met them through friends in Minneapolis and Eau Claire.
How did Doks Robotiks come together?
Rick and I had always talked about starting a group like this, and once I found out that Stephen also went to UWEC we got in contact and started to jam together a little bit.
Rick, Andrew, Kris and myself all played in a jazz combo together prior to us coming together as a hip-hop group.
Doks started as a band in January of 2014 when Rick scheduled a recording session in the living room of the house that he was renting.
The original session was a three-day process with myself, Kris, Andrew, Rick, Stephen, Adam and Rob all recording and piecing together four songs, which we turned into our first album, Doks Robotiks Free Form EP.
That recording session really kicked off Doks Robotiks as a group, and we started playing house shows and local bars soon after the completion of the four-track LP.
Describe the band’s music and style.
Doks Robotiks blends jazz with hip-hop into a volatile cocktail best served in a live setting.
We pride ourselves on being a large cast of musicians that contribute vocal hooks and horn lines to its funky hip-hop core, hearkening back to the golden era ethos of Digable Planets and A Tribe Called Quest, while simultaneously searching for that new, unfound sound.
We originally wanted to create a band that takes the structures, sounds and chords from jazz, funk and hip-hop and add an emcee to the front to create a new project that presents an interesting music blend with a popular genre.
That combination has worked fantastically for us!
People love to come and hear us live. The music relates to both music fans and musicians because of the reliability and accessibility to it.
What are your hopes for the band’s future?
We've performed on the UWEC campus multiple times, most recently this fall at the Gatsby Gala.
After starting out mainly playing shows in Eau Claire, we’ve started gaining recognition in the Twin Cities and surrounding region.
Our long-term goals include playing at large festivals and touring the country.
Our short-term goal is to keep establishing ourselves within the region, compose new tracks and improve as musicians in a band setting and individually.
What UW-Eau Claire bands or ensembles have you been part of?
I’ve played in the jazz big bands and combos my entire time as a Blugold.
Kris and I are currently in Jazz I, and Rick and Andrew were active in jazz bands during their time here.
I’m also currently in Wind Symphony, the top wind band on campus, directed by Dr. John Stewart.
All of us except Stephen have been active in the classical ensembles.
I've also led jazz combos in the Eau Claire community.
What other UW-Eau Claire experiences have you had that influence your music?
UWEC has a lot of great opportunities that I’ve been able to take advantage of.
Playing with the jazz bands, we got to go on tour in the region and play with amazing guest artists, and I got a ton of performance experience.
Same with the wind bands and the symphony orchestra.
I run a jazz big band on campus that plays once a month in The Lookout as a swing band for swing dancers. That’s been a great experience for learning how to organize a lot of people and distribute money.
Through the National Student Exchange program offered at UWEC, I spent one semester studying at a prestigious jazz school out on the East Coast.
Andrew went to Africa with UW-Eau Claire’s percussion program one summer to teach and participate in a festival.
We've all played and performed in jazz combos on campus, which I believe contributed to us starting our jazz/hip-hop band and pursuing careers as performing musicians.
Anyone at UWEC have an especially big impact on you and your music?
My trombone professor Dr. Phillip Ostrander has had a significant impact on my development as a musician and person during my time at UWEC.
He's been amazing. He’s the best mentor anyone could ask for.
Dr. Matt Wiggins and Coach Tonja Englund from the kinesiology department also have had a big influence on me during my years at UWEC.
What are your plans for after you graduate in May?
I’ll be looking to keep improving at my instrument and keep freelancing in Minneapolis.
Also, I hope to go to grad school within the next year or so for sport psychology or sports administration.
I'm moving back to Minneapolis after I graduate in May. I’ll be working as a coach and personal trainer to build up my resume.
Anything else you want to share?
We put on a great show!
And none of this would have been possible without our experiences with and connection to UWEC.
Photo caption: Henry Bergmann, right, performing on trombone.