The Remainders has perennially reigned atop the annual Best of La Crosse poll as the top local band, and the classic rock quintet draws a big crowd everywhere it goes. Half the band’s shows involve charity fundraisers, and The Remainders have helped raise untold thousands of dollars for good causes — “rockin’ out for _____.”
Not bad for a band that started on a lark.
“It was just going to be one set,” said Remainders keyboard player Steve Duff.
In 2003, with La Crosse Central High School’s 25-year class reunion coming up, classmates Beth Temte, Ed Overholt and Kurt Schuldes decided it would be fun to put a band together to play some songs at the reunion. Temte was singing in two bands at the time, including The Headliners, in which Duff was playing keyboard.
Though Duff was a 1977 Logan High School graduate, they recruited him for the band, along with drummer Mark Kennedy. Bass guitarist Overholt, a medical doctor by that time, played in a band in high school called Sterling, but he hadn’t played much since then. Schuldes, the band’s guitarist, formerly played in a band with Temte called Free Wheelin’ and played in a long line of other rock bands, including a very popular one called Nirvona.
The reunion took place in downtown La Crosse, where the Twisted Moose and Legends are now, and the band had a blast, even Temte’s younger brother, who got up to join the band singing backup on “Carry On Wayward Son.”
“Everybody had so much fun,” Duff recalled. “After the reunion, Kurt and Ed said, ‘This is fun. Let’s keep this going.’”
Singing in two busy and popular bands already, Temte was a little too busy to commit to another band, but her brother, Andy, jumped at the chance to play in a band after almost 20 years of schooling, family and building a successful business instead of rocking out.
Duff, too, was busy with another band, along with running his heating and air conditioning business. “I was kind of on the fence,” Duff said. “Then Andy stepped in and I started seeing how things could go.”
Andy Temte grew up in a musical family. In addition to his sister’s singing prowess, his father, Bill, also is an accomplished singer, and his mother, Louise, is a whiz on the organ (she is featured in one of the upcoming Lenten organ recitals in La Crosse).
As a lad, Temte was a charter member of the La Crosse Boychoir. About the time his voice changed, Temte turned to rock ‘n’ roll, forming a band in eighth-grade called Easy Street, with Paul Leithold also playing guitar in that band. They even had a theme song called “Easy Street,” written by Leithold, who was a few years older than Temte, who broke into singing the first verse of it during a recent interview.
Easy Street also played Wild Cherry’s “Play That Funky Music” and Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop,” Temte recalled, and they were playing everything from school dances and parties to bars. The rock bug bit him hard, and he soon made what now seems like a rash decision: “I dropped out of high school to be a rock star,” he said.
Leithold was a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, and Temte moved there to join Leithold in his band, Centurion, which morphed into Cry Wolf. That band traveled around the Midwest, going wherever the Good Music Agency told its members to go. Temte and the boys in the band called it “the Good Mileage Agency,” because the company apparently booked shows for the band with no concept of how far apart the bookings were.
While they were having fun, they weren’t necessarily making headway toward rock star status. “We had OK talent and could have pushed it a little farther,” Temte said. “The thing I didn’t put together is the link between music and business. If you’re going to make it, you have to have the business along with the musicality. … For me, the party was more important than the business aspect.”
At 21, though, Temte met the love of his life, Linda, and decided it was time to get serious. Nine years later, he had a Ph.D in finance, two children and was on his way to building a successful business, Schweser Study Programs, which was purchased by Kaplan. He’s now president of Kaplan’s Professional Education Division.
In 2003, when The Remainders played that first show for the Class of 1978, Temte had put everything he had into his family and business and hadn’t played music at all in 19 years. But he was ready to rock again. “It was finally time,” he said. “It was a nice time of life to pick it back up.”
After the band’s reunion show debut, The Remainders played its first show with Temte on board singing lead and playing guitar at Drugan’s Castle Mound Supper Club north of Holmen. The show was part of a fundraiser for the Children’s Miracle Network, setting the stage for a long line of fundraising gigs, including everything from Rockin’ the Docks for YMCA to Raise the Roof for Habitat for Humanity to Rockin’ Out Hunger for the Hunger Task Force, which is coming up March 11.
“It feels for me very much rewarding to mix the two (rock and philanthropy) and very natural to mix the two,” Temte said. “Back in the day, it was all about trying to make ends meet and really living on a shoestring. Now it’s about giving back to the community and having a great time doing it.”
Duff recalled that for the band’s first show with Temte they had a modest light show and a small trailer. With successive shows, the light show and the trailer got bigger, and over the years Temte has invested whatever it takes to enable the band to deliver a professional grade show with “wow factor.”
The band’s stage space, for example, is uncluttered by amplifiers and monitor speakers as all the band members are equipped with high-tech, wireless in-ear monitors, fed by the band’s state-of-the-art sound system. And Remainders shows have a distinctive visual element, with overhead video screens behind the band displaying custom visual accompaniments to the songs.
“We’re very fortunate,” Temte said. “I’ve just made sure that we’re having a lot of fun and we make the biggest show we possibly can for each venue, each place we go. It’s kind of a go-big-or-go-home mentality.”
The band has had a couple lineup changes in recent years. Josh Shively replaced Kennedy on drums late in 2012, and Johnny Nielsen took over as lead guitarist in late 2014, with Schuldes going on to form a new band, The Stays. And the band is joined onstage on occasion by Greg Balfany on saxophone.
The band’s website lists the songs in rotation in the Remainders’ current repertoire (complete with links to lyrics), in a spreadsheet that can be arranged by title, artist, year and peak chart position. These days, most of the material falls in the 1980s. Temte’s exceptional high-end vocal range allows the band to do songs by artists a lot bands wouldn’t dare try (think Rush, Yes and Journey).
The band only does one song from the 1990s (barely ... 1999’s “Learn to Fly” by Foo Fighters) and includes a few songs from the 2000s, including Train, Foo Fighters and Shinedown. The band also has five original songs worked up and more in the pipeline, and its members always are learning new cover songs. At one recent weekly rehearsal, they banged out a few new Bad Company songs from the 1970s.
“We’re starting to run out of classic rock songs. They don’t make them anymore,” Duff said with a chuckle.
Over the years, The Remainders have gotten the chance to open shows for a lot of the bands that made those classic rock songs, including Bad Company, the Steve Miller Band, Styx, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Heart, Chicago, America, Foreigner, REO Speedwagon and Three Dog Night.
It kind of blows Duff’s mind to think about that. “Are you kidding?” he said. “I used to play air keyboards to their records when I was a teenager.”
Most likely the band will get to add at least one big name to the list this summer as The Remainders have become sort of the house band for the annual Freedom Fest concert in La Crosse. For Temte, Freedom Fest is one of a handful of “best nights of the year,” which also include the nights when The Remainders play Oktoberfest and Riverfest.
This year for the first time, The Remainders will play the Moon Tunes series of weekly free concerts in La Crosse’s Riverside Park, most likely another “best night.”
“We get to get loud and sweaty. There’s just nothing else like it. It’s just so much fun,” Temte said. “We’re not showing any signs of slowing down. … We do the very best we can every time that we play. We put a lot of effort and energy into what we do, and hopefully it shows up on the other end.”