Column 249 — Loaded Capgun; Snomaha…

Category: Blog — @ 6:39 pm December 9, 2009

This is a busy week for content in that The Reader‘s annual “Music Issue” hits the stands. The theme this year is “the cost of rock.” There are four articles total. I interview Brad Hoshaw, Greg Edds of Little Brazil and Matt Maginn of Cursive about the costs of going on tour and living the life of a musician. Brad shares a lot of numbers that will be no surprise to other musicians but might open some eyes from the general public. That story will be online here at Lazy-i tomorrow.

A second story looks at how musicians are coping with health insurance issues. The third is a list of various costs, from studio time to CD production to practice space rental, and so on. The fourth story is the annual Reader Top 20 list of the top bands in the area, plus the 15 to watch out for in 2010 — always controversial, always fun.

And then there’s the following column — an interview with Sam Martin of Capgun Coup, where he gives his take on the topic and talks about the band’s new album. Lots didn’t make it into the column because of space. Among the comments was his thoughts on Simon Joyner. I’ve always thought that Martin had a similar vocal style as Joyner — that wonky, off-kilter, almost purposely off-pitch vocal style that can make you feel uneasy.

“I didn’t really like Simon’s music until about three years ago,” he said. “I guess I hadn’t been that depressed before, I hadn’t been looking at myself with that much of a magnifying glass. His songs really spoke to me. I’m sure there’s an influence there subconsciously. I like his lyrics and his voice.”

Capgun will be putting out videos for every song on Maudlin. Last week was the release of the video for “Only the Times Are Changing,” an eye-popping piece of data-moshing fun directed by Jacob Thiele of The Faint that perfectly captures the chaos of the song (check it out here). Martin said he wants to get involved in film making and has been writing scripts and working with local film maker Nik Fackler (Lovely Still). He says he thinks Omaha should be investing in the film making industry so that people don’t have to move to California to make films. “It’s sad for Omaha to be putting money in things like Midtown Crossing. We already have enough stores, why not build another industry instead of more stores?”

We even chatted a bit about national healthcare. “I think it’s a big band-aid on a body that’s already dead,” he said. “If they want to do free healthcare for everyone with psychological problems, that may be beneficial, but I think there are way bigger problems. The government itself is a big fucking problem. I’m for the Public Option, I’m for people staying alive and being happier, but I don’t think it’s going to make people happier. If people aren’t happy when they’re sick, they’re not going to be happy when they’re not sick.”

Fun interview. Fun band.

Column 249: Capgun Confessions
It’s all about the attitude…

“I’m pretty poor, I guess. I don’t have a job and I live in my mom’s basement for now. After this tour I’m going to get a job and save money to travel. You can’t be really poor and do your art, but to be a songwriter, all you need is a guitar and to be alive.”

That’s Capgun Coup’s Sam Martin on the poverty of being a musician. He was responding to having his band’s press materials read back to him, the part where it says how they “willingly dove head first into poverty in order to pursue music, bidding farewell to the possibility of financial stability.” It conveniently ties to the theme of this year’s “Music Issue” — the price of pursuing the life of a musician.

But while Martin and Co. are indeed paying that price, they’ve had a pretty sweet gig since they first surfaced in 2007 with their jangling, shrill noise rock. Capgun Coup’s music is sonically dense and frenetic, like watching a group of 7-year-olds dancing a hyperactive shag to the Sex Pistols, not understanding what they’re hearing, only reacting to the energy and the noise, moments away from flying out of control, from taking a forced naptime. In the middle of the group is Martin yelling out the words like a high-strung dodgeball captain at recess.

You either get their music or you don’t. Most critics don’t, and write them off as “sloppy” and “unfocused.”

“That’s the attitude,” Martin says of the criticism. “It’s nice to know our attitude shows through the music. It’s also sloppy because we don’t practice that much, and sloppy in that there’s a lot going on at some points. We play what’s fun to play.”

He sounds like he doesn’t give a shit about the critics, and why should he? Conor Oberst “got it,” and agreed to release Capgun Coup’s music on his Team Love record label, starting by reissuing their debut, Brought to You by Nebraskafish (originally released on Slumber Party Records), and now releasing their sophomore effort, the more refined Maudlin, recorded in April by local studio pro A.J. Mogis at Oberst’s ARC Studios. To capture the chaos (and to save money on studio time), Mogis recorded the band live in one room. “We told him how we wanted it to sound, and he got it exactly right,” Martin said.

Maudlin takes a sort of natural right turn from its predecessor. Instead of the minor-key indie rock of the debut, Martin and the band fused elements of surf and garage rock into the mix, giving it a psychedelic flare. Martin said the style came naturally, having grown up listening to his parents’ 45s in his dad’s ’50s-diner-style basement, complete with jukebox. “Velvet Underground, Beach Boys, Mamas and the Papas, stuff like that,” he said. “I don’t listen to that much new music.”

Laced among the spy guitar and noise are Martin’s lyrics for songs like “I Wish I Was a Fag.” He says that anyone who follows the words will know that it’s not a homophobic song, but if, like me, they download the record, they’re going to be out of luck. The only words that I can make out are “I can’t but I want you bad every girl that I had was a jerk I wish I was a fag so this party…” and then I’m lost.

“The group I hang out with, their scene is very androgynous,” Martin explained. “I like that. It’s not masculine or feminine in any given person. The song was written in that context. It’s about being broken up with, and not wanting to be, and getting the run around by a certain person and finding a safe house in friends, in guys, and thinking about how easy it would be if we could just date and I wouldn’t have to deal with motives.”

Team Love was “weird about” the song title and wanted them to change it. “They didn’t want it to be a speed bump,” Martin said. “Well whatever. That’s the title of the song and there’s no need to change it. I don’t think about what people think outside of Omaha. I write (songs) for people that are close to me.”

Martin says all of this over a cell phone from somewhere in Gainesville, Florida, on the road with Cursive — a fortunate situation for any young band, and he’s grateful. But he knows touring has a price.

“If you think about how far we drive every day and how much it costs to eat and smoke and drink, we probably won’t come back with much money,” he said. “It’s hard on relationships as well. It’s hard to keep a relationship if you’re going to be gone for months at a time, especially young people who haven’t worked through everything. Young people seem more jealous and wary of their partners than mature people.”

Sounds like Martin is still licking some wounds. “I regretted it at the time,” he mused. “In the long run, it’s good what happened.”

He knows the road won’t last much longer, and then it’ll be back to working a regular job, at least part-time. “I like to be able to eat well,” he said, “and most of my calories come from liquor now, and I don’t want it to be that way much longer. If you work more than 25 hours a week, you don’t have the passion and energy to do music and think about things as much.

“You can take things for granted. It can always be better. I’m trying not to focus on what’s good and focus on how other parts of my life could be better, and ride this one out.”

Capgun Coup plays with Cursive, Brad Hoshaw and Vago this Sunday at The Waiting Room, as part of the Lash LaRue toy drive.

* * *

I told you I’d pass along the info regarding the Comme Reel CD release show when I found it. The show is Dec. 19 at O’Leaver’s.

I also got an e-mail from Mal Madrigal pointing out that the CD included in their new vinyl record is a “real CD” and not a CDR. They went all out this time.

Digital Leather’s new album, Warm Brother, got reviewed at Pitchfork, here. It got a 7.3, and a closing line of “The balance between carefully fitted parts and their edge-of-danger deployment keeps us on thrillingly unsteady footing for the album’s duration. It’s a kitschy, shticky, charming curio.” Digital Leather plays at The Slowdown Dec. 12 (this Saturday).

Everything got cancelled last night, and judging by the streets, I wouldn’t be surprised if a few get canceled tonight, especially shows that involve out of town bands. That being said, Flobots is scheduled to play at The Waiting Room tonight with Kinetix. $15, 9 p.m. Just got word that Flobots is canceled.

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2 Comments »

  • Tim, – Everybody for that matter, here's what you do. When new music comes along, you buy the album (or cd), take it home or to your car, take out the lyric sheet, and sit and listen to the whole thing, loud, and read the lyrics as you go. I have been doing this for very many years, trust me. I've tried short cuts, this is the only way I've found to truly check out an album. By the way, "Maudlin" is a fucking fabulous trip.

    Comment by dodmar — December 9, 2009 @ 9:25 pm

  • It's problem if you downloaded the CD from iTunes or elsewhere — no lyric sheet!

    Comment by Tim McMahan - Lazy-i.com — December 9, 2009 @ 10:20 pm

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