Nihiloceros by by Kate Hoos
Nihiloceros by by Kate Hoos
New Music

“Martian Wisconsin”: NIHILOCEROS’ Grungy Pop Punk Rock Exploration of Alien Earth

5 mins read

Known for its raucous blend of punk pop and a heavy dose of grunge, Nihiloceros join us today with their latest single “Martian Wisconsin” from the new album “Dark Ice Balloons.” Hailing from the vibrant punk scene of New York, Nihiloceros has carved out a niche for itself with influences ranging from The Replacements to Placebo, crafting a sound that’s as evocative as it is honest and organic.

Martian Wisconsin” invites listeners to explore the alien terrains of Milwaukee through the eyes of its protagonist—a cosmic traveler camouflaged among the working-class bustle of factory families, local bars, and the quintessential summer fest cheeses.

This song serves as a metaphorical bridge between the worlds we know and the strange, uncharted realms that lie just beyond our understanding.

The band’s approach to this album has been to venture further into the musical unknown, eschewing guitar solos for bass leads that blur the lines between rhythmic backbone and melodic forefront.

Alex Hoffman, the band’s bassist, uses an array of effects to transform his instrument into what frontman Mike Borchardt affectionately calls a “spaceship doom machine.” This choice not only highlights the trio’s inventive dynamics but also punctuates their music with an unexpected pop sensibility cloaked in existential musings.

In “Dark Ice Balloons,” Nihiloceros delves into the themes of life, death, and the afterlife, with a focus on the spaces in-between—whether they be different heavens, hells, or the surreal landscapes of songs like “Skipper” and “Killing Ghost.” The album is an exploration of what might lie beyond the expiration date stamped on human existence, challenging listeners to imagine the unimaginable.

During our intimate interview, Borchardt shared his desire for there to be something beyond this existence, though he admits to struggling with faith. Each band member, from Glenn Gentzke’s skeptical musings to Alex’s playful environmental plea, offers a personal message to the afterworld, encapsulating the band’s quirky yet poignant take on the afterlife.

Dive deeper into the mysteries of “Dark Ice Balloons” and learn more about Nihiloceros in our interview below.


If “Dark Ice Balloons” was a journey through a newly discovered planet, what surprising landscapes and life forms might fans encounter?

That’s basically the plot of Martian Wisconsin in a nutshell, except earth is the alien planet. The song’s protagonist does their best to blend in living undetected amongst the strange unfamiliar Milwaukee surroundings. They walk among working class factory families and disappear within the summer fest cheeses and frozen custards. On every other corner an Old Style sign hangs like a friendly beacon from the neighborhood bar calling them in for a pint with the locals.

Dark Ice Balloons as whole explores the unknown places. It lives in the cracks between the worlds we know. I hesitate to assign it much form and function because I’d rather the listener’s imagination determine its boundaries. For me places like Krong and Purgatory are beautiful and strange, lush overgrown and full of hope for today and an anthem for even better tomorrow. There’s also leveling ominousness of ravage and destruction but much of it is also rebirth and rebuilding.

At the same time, so much of DIB lies in waste, barren like the frozen salt tundras and broken bodies drifting out to sea. Songs like Skipper and Killing Ghost and Halo tilt toward those bleaker hellscapes just because those are the most fun for me to write about.

But it’s really just a matter of where you choose to put your head. Outside the limitations of this world, we really have no clue what the heck is out there. It could be amazing or it could be awful. It could be literal oblivion. Or maybe we smash through parallel dimensions riding on a space rhino made of nothing.

Reflecting on no guitar solos on the EP, if you had to replace the traditional guitar solo with any other instrument or sound, what would it be and why?

Alex always does a really good job shepherding the rhythm section in Nihiloceros. As a bass player, he also goes pretty deep down the rabbit hole of pedals and effects, so on this record we thought it would be fun to really lean super hard into that. I don’t think Alex had intended for there to be zero guitar solos when we started writing the record, but I thought it would be kind of fun to try and pull off.

As a three piece, we have a lot of room for Alex to plug into his spaceship doom machine and have fun jumping from rhythm to lead to DEFCON 1 on bass. His bass leads often get mistaken for guitar or synthesizer, and that always makes me smile. So I was pretty adamant that there be no traditional guitar solos anywhere on “Dark Ice Balloons.”


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Your music blends a sense of existential dread with a pop sensibility. Can you share a paradox in your music that fans might not notice but you find fascinating?

We try and drop little Easter eggs here and there without being heavy handed or too obvious with it. Even things like our band name suggesting meaninglessness while lyrically we like to bite right into the complexity of existence and the human condition. From the very beginning, we named a rather serious song A.N.U.S. which is an absurd acronym that stands for absolutely nothing.

This go round on Dark Ice Balloons we explore the afterlife even though none of us really believe in one. Immediately Penguin Wings from the very opening line and Skipper are both rife with metaphors involving travel and movement through universes that defy natural physics and evolution. This record also brings back some old characters that have popped up over the years in previous Nihiloceros songs that aren’t quite what they seem.


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With themes about the afterlife and what lies beyond, if each band member could send a message to the afterworld, what would it say?

Mike: I desperately want there to be something beyond this existence. I just lack both the faith and evidence to stand by that conviction. I do however very much believe in a certain order and design to the universe, and I’d be lying if I said I haven’t tasked more than one person to promise to try everything within their power to come back haunt me after they die to let me know what’s up. There have been moments where I’ve wondered whether or not I’ve heard back.”

Glenn: “I don’t believe in an afterlife. I would love to hear answers from people I’ve lost, but only sending a message into the ether is an interesting concept. Maybe I’d just let some particularly important beings know that their favorites are still thinking of them. Give them a bit of warm celebrity.”

Alex: Give a hoot, don’t pollute. Like sand through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives. I love you, dad.

The band has evolved over years and across geographic shifts. If NIHILOCEROS were a book, what would be the title of the chapter about your latest evolution?

It’s hard for me to wrap my head around Nihiloceros as a book. I am, however currently in the process of writing a book of my own with Lit Riot Press that should be coming out probably sometime next year.

It’s a memoir of stories put together sort of like a mixtape. It’s about identity and relationships through addiction and recovery and takes place in a world of music, but is very much not about being in a band.

The whole process so far has felt a bit transformative for me and I’d have to say now that Nihiloceros and Dark Ice Balloons feels a lot more like a pivotal chapter in that story in ways I have yet to quite understand.

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