Column 84: A Loftis Pattern; Stay Awake tonight…

Category: Blog — @ 12:23 pm July 6, 2006

There’s a lot that was left out of this column about Greg Loftis due to space. Like the part about his relationship with Idlewild’s Roddy Woomble (They’re old drinking buddies), and the part about his girlfriend Anna also being a medical doctor and former clothes folder (which is how she met Hilfiger), and the part about how the recent Iris Pattern sessions were the last recordings by A.J. Mogis at the legendary Presto! Studios in Lincoln (“He popped open a bottle of Champaign.”), and the part about how, despite spending so much time in Poland, Loftis can’t speak a word of the language (“They think it’s cute and no one gives me shit as long as I keep my mouth shut.”), And the part about what needs to be done to improve the Omaha scene (“It needs to be more organized; we need more professional-sounding venues.”). And so on. What, will come of An Iris Pattern (whose lineup also includes James McMann (Grasshopper Takeover), Ben Zinn, Lincoln’s Lars Gallagher and Dave Collins)? An early incarnation that included Kyle Harvey and Reagan Roeder imploded, partially because Loftis doesn’t like to stay in one place for very long — he’s been known to miss band practices because he’s flown to Spain with Anna on a whim. It’s not the kind of thing that record labels (especially majors) want to hear about their artists. Regardless of what happens with Warners and Atlantic, Loftis says An Iris Pattern CD will be released soon, even if he has to press it himself. In addition to Saturday’s show at Sokol Underground, the band will also be playing with In Praise of Folly and Shipwreck next Monday at O’Leaver’s, and will be opening for Now It’s Overhead and Orenda Fink’s new band, Art Bell, at Sokol Underground July 18.

Column 84 — Urban Legend
An Iris Pattern’s Greg Loftis revealed.
Who is Greg Loftis? I’d heard the stories about him for months. Stories? More like urban legends. He’s the world traveler that could be calling from his cell anywhere on the globe. He’s the guy that hangs out with Idlewild and Greg Dulli and Tommy Hilfiger. He’s that guy whose mysterious girlfriend has a curious eastern European accent (A spy perhaps?). Loftis? “Have you seen him? He owes me money.” Loftis? “Watch out for him, he’s a shady character.” Loftis? “I hear he’s got the majors sniffing around.”

Mention his name and anyone who knows him will smile knowingly. Everyone, it seems, has partied with Loftis, and has a story to prove it.

The one and only Greg Loftis addressed these legends Sunday afternoon in a near-empty 49’r Tavern. Looking rockstar dapper in a gray corduroy jacket worn over a Stone Roses T-shirt, he could have been mistaken for Jeff Tweedy’s shaggy brother.

He told me about the bullfight. “We were kicking a ball around outside a soccer stadium in Madrid. Some Spanish guys with a good sense of humor said, ‘Why don’t you kick it in the middle of that stadium.’ Great idea! Once we got inside, they let loose two bulls and we realized we had to get out of their fast or we’d be gored.”

He told me about the time he ran naked across the Ukrainian border on a 35 zloty dare (about $10 American). “I’m quick like a bunny,” he said, adding that no one shot at him. “It was a bear sanctuary, the only place where there’s no border patrol. The only thing I had was a bowie knife. It was the freest thing I’ve ever done.”

Interesting. Amusing. But what’s it got to do with the Omaha music scene? Well, in addition to being an adventurer, Loftis is (surprise!) a musician, and his new band — An Iris Pattern — is pretty damn good. Find out how good Saturday night when they open for Brandston at Sokol Underground. Or go to myspace.com/irispattern, where you’ll hear their unique style of rock that blends indie with arena with psychedelia with something distinctively Midwestern… and Nebraskan.

Raised on an acreage in 29 County, just north of the dusty little town of Tekamah off Highway 75, Loftis is a 27-year-old country boy who discovered his roots late in life. He started wandering at 19 after a semester at Midland Lutheran, which he attended on a football scholarship. “My heart yearned for something more,” he said. “I drove out to the East Coast and lived in a tent on Myrtle Beach. One guy showed me how to play a few chords on guitar and turned me onto my own music scene. He was telling me about Conor Obest, about all these bands that were from where I was from and knew nothing about.”

Loftis bounced around the East Coast, eventually making the acquaintance of a Polish girl named Anna Petri while laying down some background vocals for a friend’s band at a New Jersey recording studio. That was three years ago and they’ve been together ever since.

It’s Petri who’s inspired the trip to Madrid and the Ukrainian streaking episode and a lifestyle that includes long visits to her family’s small estate in Lublin, Poland (a little town about 90 minutes east of Warsaw), which Loftis calls “one of my favorite places.”

And it’s Petri that introduced Loftis to fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger. “She lived with him for two years as a nanny,” he said. “We met in New York at a birthday party. Tommy is curious and sweet.”

He’s also a fan of An Iris Pattern. Loftis gave Hilfiger a CD of some of the band’s recent tracks recorded by A.J. Mogis at Presto Studios. The next thing he knew, he was talking to A&R executives from Warners and Atlantic. “We’re getting calls back now. I have to fly out to New York next week for some meetings,” he said. That’ll be followed by a New York showcase sometime in the near future.

Has the Omaha scene come up in his conversations with label execs? “I know that Steve Lunt (Atlantic Records) knows about it,” Loftis said. “He asked ‘Are you associated with Saddle Creek?’ and I said ‘I guess so, if you consider buying those guys a shot an association.'”

But the fact is that it was the Omaha music scene that drew Loftis from a job managing a resort near Lake Waramaug, Connecticut. “I came back here because of the music scene and only for the music scene,” he said. “There’s no other reason. I make fun of it every chance I get, but that’s why I’m here.”

And that’s why he’s staying. He has an idyllic vision of where he wants the scene to go. “I love the idea of an incestuous, awesome music community where people know each other and believe in each other.”

For now, Omaha and An Iris Pattern is keeping Loftis from Poland and Spain and the rest of the world. “I’ll do my thing in New York. And even if Warners pulls the trigger and Tommy is a hero, I’ll still call this place home.” Spoken like a true legend.

If you’re looking for a good show tonight, check out the punk stylings of The Stay Awake when they open for Hunters Run and Ari.Ari at O’Leaver’s. Just $5! 9:30 p.m.

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