After the sudden death of his father and drifting through school, Robbie Schreiner of Grafton has found his focus in music and the determined belief, shared by a pair of fellow musicians, that the band called Glenview Lane is going to make it big.
Music has been Robbie Schreiner’s passion since sixth grade. All through high school, he frequently skipped classes, except music, at Grafton High.
When he went to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, he again neglected his studies in everything except music and quit after one semester.
He’s never focused on academics, preferring instead to compose lyrics and music late into the night. He formed his first band, Searching for Signal, in eighth grade when he was into pop-punk music. The band’s first gig was eighth-grade graduation. The group played through high school, then broke up.
Schreiner held numerous minimum-wage jobs — working at gasoline stations, fast food restaurants and department stores — so he could focus on his music, developing a sound he calls indie, funky, folk rock.
His lyrics tend to be about love and enjoying life.
Schreiner, 20, feels he and his new band Glenview Lane — a former girlfriend lived on Glenview Lane — are on the cusp of making it, and that makes him work even harder.
“I’m concentrating 100% on the music,” Schreiner said. “I have no other choice at this point. I need to make it happen.”
His partners — Thom Isaacson, 21, of Fredonia and Mike Nowak, 19, a Grafton High graduate who now lives in Milwaukee — share Schreiner’s passion and also devote most of their time to making music.
The band will play wherever people want it. On Saturday, Glenview Lane played at the Glendale Mobil Gas Station at the corner of Port Washington and Good Hope roads, where Schreiner worked until he was laid off Jan. 1.
“We did it to bring in customers for her and so more people could hear us,” Schreiner said. “Nobody plays at gas stations, and everyone has to get gas.”
Stephanie McKee, owner of the station, said she and her customers enjoyed the music so much she plans to have the band back in two weeks.
“It was like, ‘Wow, I’ve known Robbie for so long and didn’t know what talent he had,’” McKee said. “I was impressed with the music. It was something everyone could enjoy. A lot of customers stood around and listened to them. One little boy wouldn’t let his father leave and said it was his first concert.
“Next time, we will have to re-arrange the area and have some seating.”
Band members handed out CDs they recorded in Schreiner’s upper-level flat in Grafton. He will have to vacate the flat at the end of February because he’s running low on money.
His needs are simple, Schreiner said — a guitar or two, a place to sleep, a place to record, a place to practice. If he can eat something other than frozen pizza and ramen noodles, life is even better.
“I’ll be somewhat of a nomad for a while, doing some traveling and making music on the way,” Schreiner said.
Isaacson, who used to play with a heavy metal band and plows snow in winter, and Nowak, who is pursing an on-line music business degree through Full Sail, spend much of their time at Schreiner’s home.
“We all just love music. We feel music and understand it, and we’ve all read ‘The Music Lesson (A Spiritual Search for Growth Through Music)’ by Victor Wooten,” Isaacson said.
The band posts songs on Facebook and purevolume.com, hoping people will want to hear them in person.
They are serious enough that they bought a small bus, a blue 1995 GMC Vandura they named Gus.
When Gus is ready to travel and they have recorded a full-length album, they plan to hit the road, living in the vehicle if necessary, as they go from gig to gig.
“We’ve been talking about it for a couple of months. It’s getting closer and closer,” Schreiner said.
Schreiner took a few guitar lessons, but basically taught himself to play. He plays both acoustic and electric guitar and is the lead vocalist for the band.
Isaacson plays bass guitar.
Nowak can play almost any instrument, but usually plays drums, bongos and other percussion instruments.
“Mike is easily the most talented person here,” Isaacson said. “He can pick up any instrument and play it well.”
Schreiner said he usually comes in with some lyrics and chords and the three musicians work together on the composition.
“I’ll play it and they start jamming around and filling in parts, and it turns into a song,” he said.
When Schreiner was 14, his father Mike died of a sudden heart attack. Music helped him deal with his grief and, even today, brings him closer to his father, he said.
“Music is always something you can turn to when everything sucks,” Schreiner said. “I never did a lot of songs about it (his father’s death). I feel I handled it well for the age I was, but music definitely helped.”
When her son wanted to take guitar lessons in sixth grade, Carolyn Schreiner said she and her husband thought it would be another thing he would try and abandon.
“Once he picked up that guitar, that was it for him. He didn’t really work hard at anything until then,” she said. “Music is the one thing he works really hard at.”
Mrs. Schreiner said she and her husband winced a little when their son’s band played at his graduation, “but they were so excited about it and we were proud for them.”
Her husband died shortly after that, leaving her to raise three children — Robbie, 14, Joe, 12, and Emily, 10. They are now 20, 18 and 15.
“I was so thankful that Robbie had his music. He could express how he felt through that,” his mother said. “My husband was a wonderful man, a wonderful husband and father, and my kids adored him.”
Her son’s first band practiced loud punk rock music in her garage during the summer and in the basement during winter.
“Luckily, I had a sunroom. I would go in there and close the door so I couldn’t hear them,” she said. “I would have such a headache by the time they were done, but I didn’t want to leave them alone and I knew where he was.”
She enjoys her son’s music now.
“I just love their latest CD. Of course, I’m a little prejudiced,” Mrs. Schreiner said.
She supports her son’s efforts to launch a music career, but understandably worries and wants him to have a back-up plan.
“I’m not completely thrilled. I wish he would be in school. He is very, very smart. I wish he was pursuing a degree so he would have that,” Mrs. Schreiner said.
“But if this is the thing he wants to do, this is the time he should do it.”
Glenview Lane band members (from left) Mike Nowak, Robbie Schreiner and Thom Isaacson.
Photo by Sam Arendt