Lazy-i Interview: The Both (Aimee Mann & Ted Leo); Maha: The Head Vs. The Heart (in the column)…

Category: Blog,Column,Interviews — Tags: , , , , — @ 12:57 pm August 14, 2014
The Both = Aimee Mann + Ted Leo. They're playing at Saturday's Maha Music Festival.

The Both = Aimee Mann + Ted Leo. They’re playing at Saturday’s Maha Music Festival.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

The Maha Music Festival pre-coverage is hitting the streets today, including the stuff I worked on for The Reader.

Every year I do one Q&A with one of the traveling Maha artist, and this year it was with Aimee Mann and Ted Leo of The Both. Among the questions asked:

  • - Is playing together everything you dreamed it would be?
  • - Are you creating something with a new fan base or building on your solo fan bases?
  • - During the songwriting phase, Aimee, did you ask Ted to throttle back / Ted, did you ask Aimee to ramp it up?
  • - Aimee, did you foresee the decline of the music industry when you created your own record label in ’99?
  • - What do you think of Kickstarter?

And the question I was most interested in asking:

  • - Aimee, I have to ask a two-part Magnolia question: 1) What did you think when PT Anderson had the characters sing the lines to “Wise Up,” and 2) What did you think the first time you saw it in the finished film?

And so on. You can read the answers to those questions and more in this week’s issue of The Reader, or online right here.

Aimee and Ted were a lot of fun to interview, especially Ted, who reminisced about past shows he’s played in Omaha and how lousy they were. Leo came through with Dismemberment Plan in 2001, as a headliner at Sokol Underground in 2003, and opened for Against Me at Slowdown in 2008. He always puts on a great show, whether he thinks he does or not.

I have not had the best shows of my life in Omaha, and that’s not inflective of Omaha per se,” he said. “There’s so many factors that come together like a perfect crap storm to make a show crappy, there are so many moving parts and every day you’re on tour, you can’t blame it on one thing. I’m happy to be back in this context with Aimee at the Maha festival.”

This is the first time Aimee Mann’s been to Omaha, and she had no preconceptions about our fair city.  “I’ve heard nothing (about Omaha), so it’s a lovely clean slate,” Mann said. “The reason any musician doesn’t or does go to a town or area has nothing to do with personal preference, it’s all about the promoter or booking agent. If there’s not a promoter that thinks that people will come to see you, you don’t show up at that town.

Go read the interview. It’s long.

* * *

In other Maha news, my column this week focuses on the future of summer music festivals and how Maha fits into the equation. For perspective, I interviewed Tre Brashear, one of Maha’s founders, about the challenges he and his team face putting the festival together every year, and where he thinks Maha is headed. You can also read that in The Reader or online right here.

* * *

Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

The Faint’s Todd Fink on their return, their new music, and their new attitude (and Digital Leather); Scaphe, Goon Saloon tonight…

Category: Blog,Interviews — Tags: , , — @ 12:54 pm June 12, 2014
The Faint play at Sokol Auditorium tomorrow night and The Waiting Room Saturday night.

The Faint play at Sokol Auditorium tomorrow night and The Waiting Room Saturday night.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

This week’s issue of The Reader features my cover story/interview with Todd Fink of The Faint. The interview was actually conducted months ago, before the band went out on tour, but as Todd said, not much happens on tour, so the data is still current.

Topics include their hiatus, their return, SQE, Saddle Creek, as well as Todd’s roll in Digital Leather and how that experience impacted the songs he wrote with The Faint. You can read the article in the paper or online right here. Go read it!

As of this writing, $20 tickets are still available for both Friday night’s Faint concert at Sokol Auditorium and Saturday night’s show at The Waiting Room. Tix info at onepercentproductions.com.

* * *

The Brothers Lounge has a show tonight with Minneapolis double-bass band Scaphe. Powerslop and Garoted also are on the bill. $5, 9 p.m.

Also tonight, Greenstreet Cycles is hosting its all-city party at its new temporary digs at 2452 Harney St. (making way for the CWS). Goon Saloon performs. Fun starts at 7:30. More info here.

And speaking of cycling, read Pt. 2 of my series on Omaha B-cycle and what it will take to make Omaha a bike-commuting-friendly city. Ben Turner of B-cycle is interviewed. It’s in this week’s issue of The Reader and online right here.

* * *

Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

The Return of Brad Hoshaw and the Seven Deadlies (in the column); Snake Island, McCarthy cinema tonight…

Category: Blog,Column,Interviews — Tags: , — @ 1:47 pm February 20, 2014
Brad Hoshaw towers over the crowd...

Brad Hoshaw towers over the crowd…

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

In this week’s column, an interview with Brad Hoshaw on what went wrong with the last album and what he hopes will go right with the new one. You can read it in this week’s issue of The Reader or online at thereader.com website right here, or since this is a music-related installment, you can read it below:

Over the Edge 95: The Second Coming of Brad Hoshaw and the Seven Deadlies

When Brad Hoshaw and the Seven Deadlies released their debut album five years ago, I thought for sure it was going to be a breakthrough.

That record was pure bliss. If you haven’t heard it (and apparently not many of you have), it’s worth seeking out. It’s as good — if not better than — most records that came out in 2009, loaded with heart-wrenching hook-laden folk-rock songs that once heard are impossible to get out of your head.

Despite my growing pessimism about the ever-decomposing music industry, I still believe the only thing that matters is good songwriting — no matter how much music gets thrown into the giant milk barrel we call the internet, the cream will always rise to the top to be discovered by some enterprising record label exec looking to break the Next Big Thing.

And yet, that Brad Hoshaw and the Seven Deadlies’ debut album went nowhere. What happened?

Hoshaw said the record’s failure to gain traction outside of Omaha wasn’t for lack of trying. “I did as much as I could to capitalize on that last record, but trying to do the job of a record label by myself was probably unreasonable,” he said over a decaf Americano at a Benson coffee shop.

Hoshaw’s formula to break that first record involved a home-grown college radio campaign, where he personally sat down and called more than 300 radio stations from a promotion list he gleaned off a fellow musician.

“I sent out 120 copies of the CD to radio stations, but when it came time to do follow-up calls, I was burned out,” Hoshaw said. “I hit a threshold with what I could do by myself without going crazy.”

What about touring? Hoshaw said his band went on a two-week East Coast tour, but afterward band members said they couldn’t afford to do more. “They have families and jobs, and it didn’t make sense to lose money on the road,” Hoshaw said. Eventually the “Seven Deadlies” evaporated to just one — guitarist Matt Whipkey.

Brad Hoshaw and the Seven Deadlies, Funeral Guns (self-released, 2014)

Brad Hoshaw and the Seven Deadlies, Funeral Guns (self-released, 2014)

Now Hoshaw has a chance to try again. He’s celebrating the release of his new Brad Hoshaw and the Seven Deadlies album, Funeral Guns, this Friday night at The Waiting Room. The 10-song opus continues along the same path as the debut, with songs destined to be radio-station fodder (if they ever catch a programmer’s ear). Tunes like sinister opening ballad “New Tattoo,” sleek West Coast-rocker “Company” and album-closing magnum opus “It Falls Apart” continue to define Hoshaw as one of the best songwriters to come out of Nebraska.

So what’s he going to do differently this time ‘round? “I want to widen my fan base,” Hoshaw said. In collaboration with Whipkey, Hoshaw has picked Minneapolis, Des Moines/Ames and Kansas City/Lawrence as target markets where he’ll play gigs at least once a month.

Funeral Guns got made thanks to the support of 130 people who funded a Kickstarter online crowd-funding campaign. Hoshaw said he wants to keep that fan base happy and grow it as much as possible because he’ll need to call on them again when it comes time to fund his next record. Call it a grassroots effort rather than the traditional music career path that involves attracting the attention of a record label with hopes of signing a contract.

“Record companies are difficult; the odds are always against you,” Hoshaw said. “On the other hand, every time you go on stage you have a chance to make connections with new fans. It’s not a comfortable living, not like having a record deal where you can say, ‘We’ve made it.’ It’s hard work and constant stress.”

That said, Hoshaw still wouldn’t mind landing a record deal or a booking agent or a promotion company that could take some of the load off his shoulders so he could focus on what he says is his biggest priority: songwriting. He’s already talking about recording his next album this year, and has reached out to producers, including Saddle Creek Records’ veteran Andy LeMaster, whose credits include albums by Bright Eyes, Azure Ray and Now It’s Overhead.

And then there’s Nashville. “I have some friends who are songwriters down there,” Hoshaw said. “I’ve considered moving to Nashville. It would be more as a songwriter than a performer. I would pursue writing songs with other songwriters for other artists. For me, all the business stuff begins with the song — it’s the most important thing to develop, and writing with different people will make that stronger.”

Imagine Hoshaw selling a song like “Funeral Guns” to a hotshot like Blake Shelton. “I would consider it,” he said with a smile. “I would have to look at the contract and decide if it made sense.”

But what would make even more sense is writing songs for other Nebraska musicians. Hoshaw originally wrote the track “Delta King” off the new record for local band The Black Squirrels, while “New Tattoo” was written in collaboration with three other songwriters and album closer “It Falls Apart” was written by former Nebraska songwriter now poet Kyle Harvey.

Hoshaw’s contemplated recording an entire album of covers of songs by local songwriters, and would love for a fellow Omaha songwriter like John Klemmensen to record one of his songs.

“I would love more of that to happen locally the same way Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard and Kris Kristofferson played each other’s songs,” Hoshaw said. “I would love to see less fear about sharing art and letting other people interpret it, because in the end, it’s really about performing the best songs.”

* * *

Over The Edge is a weekly column by Reader senior contributing writer Tim McMahan focused on culture, society, music, the media and the arts. Email Tim at tim.mcmahan@gmail.com.

First published in The Reader, Feb. 20, 2014. Copyright © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

* * *

Tonight at The Waiting Room Snake Island headlines with Swamp Walk and Time Cat. $5, 9 p.m.

Also tonight, it’s the first in Film Streams’ Hitchcock 9 Silents in Concert Repertory Series featuring the silent films of Alfred Hitchcock brought to life sonically by live musicians. Tonight it’s the 1929 film The Farmer’s Wife featuring live music by Dan McCarthy and James Maakestad. Tickets are $12 general; $10 students and $8 for Film Streams members. The curtain rises at 7 p.m. Find out more here.

* * *

Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Opening Pandora’s Box (and finding Matt Whipkey inside)(in the column); Phantom Scout, Sowers tonight…

Category: Blog,Column,Interviews — Tags: , , — @ 1:20 pm January 23, 2014

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

In this week’s column, a look at Pandora from the vantagepoint of local singer/songwriter Matt Whipkey, who outlines the steps he underwent to get his music included in the streaming service, and included in the Music Genome Project. You can read it in the current issue of The Reader or online right here at thereader.com, or, since the column is centered around music, you can read it below…

Over the Edge No. 91: Opening Pandora’s Box

pandoraIs Pandora the new “radio”?

And by that I’m asking, could digital music streaming services such as Pandora replace terrestrial radio stations, especially after car stereos become “internet ready,” allowing drivers to punch in a website from their dashboards?

While I can’t answer that in this column, I can say that Pandora at least gives unsigned musicians a glimmer of hope that a stranger will find their music, a glimmer of hope that they’ll never get from old-fashioned radio.

That hope is what drove local unsigned singer/songwriter Matt Whipkey to submit his latest album — an ode to the late, lamented Peony Park called Penny Park — to Pandora.

Before we get to that, what is Pandora? The service is a website and a smartphone app that plays music based on an artist’s “station.” For example, when I typed in “Led Zeppelin Radio” the four songs Pandora belched out were Zep’s “Whole Lotta Love,” Pink Floyd’s “Have a Cigar,” Jimi Hendrix’ “Voodoo Chile” and Rolling Stones’ “Beast of Burden” — basically the same thing you’d hear on Z-92.

Where Pandora gets interesting is when it “suggests” songs you haven’t heard before. That rarely happens when tuned into dinosaur acts like Zep; but it happens all the time when tuning into indie band “radio stations.”

Not just any act can get its music in Pandora. Whipkey said bands signed to record labels have a clear path. Unsigned artists, on the other hand, undergo a process that isn’t exactly easy.

Step One: Open an Amazon Marketplace Account and offer a physical copy of your CD for sale. Step Two: Submit two songs from your record to Pandora. Whipkey said it took two months for someone from Pandora to notify him that his music had been accepted. Hooray! Step Three: Fill out a ton of legal forms. Step Four: Send Pandora a complete copy of your CD.

Three months after Whipkey began the process, “Matt Whipkey Radio” was on the air, but more importantly, his music became part of Pandora’s sci-fi sounding “Music Genome Project.”

According to Pandora, every song in the Music Genome Project is analyzed using up to 450 distinct musical characteristics by a trained music analyst. Those attributes capture not only the musical identity of a song, but also the many “significant qualities that are relevant to understanding the musical preferences of listeners.” Pandora does not use machine-listening or other forms of automated data extraction.

I envision a huge warehouse filled with hipsters and tweed-wearing music professors sitting behind row after row of desks like headphoned elves. As they thoughtfully listen to each CD, they check boxes from a long list of descriptions that includes traits such as rhythm syncopation, key tonality, vocal harmonies and displayed instrumental proficiency (i.e, bitchin’ guitar solo).

“By utilizing the wealth of musicological information stored in the Music Genome Project, Pandora recognizes and responds to each individual’s tastes. The result is a much more personalized radio experience – stations that play music you’ll love – and nothing else.”

And nothing else.

So what does Matt Whipkey Radio sound like? In the first hour I heard songs by Delorentos, Second Dan, Boys School, Sissy and the Blisters, Two Cow Garage, Kirby Krackle and Peter Elkas — all artists and bands I’ve never heard of. Whipkey thinks Pandora groups unsigned indie artists with other unsigned indie artists.

Not everything on Matt Whipkey Radio was anonymous. I also heard songs by The Thermals, The Cynics, Gasoline Heart, Maps & Atlases and one of my all-time favorite bands, The Feelies. Pandora lets users “thumbs up” songs they like, and as a result, it learns a listener’s tastes. I “thumbed up” The Feelies, for instance.

As a whole, the music streamed for Matt Whipkey Radio was pretty good and in character with Whipkey’s style of music. I can’t say the same for “Eli Mardock Radio.”

Mardock is one of my favorite Lincoln singer/songwriters whose debut album was released by tiny label Paper Garden Records. An hour of his station included commercial-friendly music by unknown acts Black Lab, Golden Bear, No Second Troy, The Click Five, a Pat Benetar cover (“Love Is a Battlefield”) by Jann Arden, and songs by familiar (but dreadful) artists Blue October and Travis. None of the music bore the unique, sinister quality that makes Mardock’s songs so interesting.

On the other hand, listening to “Little Brazil Radio” (a popular local punk band) resulted in a very satisfying hour of music that included songs by classic indie bands Superchunk, Silkworm and The Academy Is… Cursive Radio was a veritable hit parade of ‘90s indie, with songs by Radiohead, The Pixies, Modest Mouse and Brand New. The groupings oddly made sense.

What would make Pandora really cool? Imagine the thousands of people listening to “Bruce Springsteen Radio” being fed a Matt Whipkey song. Whipkey says it (probably) will never happen, though he’s heard of bands that have become “Pandora famous.”

“Someone listening to Led Zeppelin Radio who was fed an indie band that sounds like Led Zeppelin probably wouldn’t be too cool with that,” he said.

Whipkey said he submitted to Pandora purely for the chance of gaining wider exposure (He never expects to see a royalty check). “When you tell people you’re on Pandora, they think it’s cool,” he said. “It’s kind of an achievement of sorts. They did have to pick me. They won’t take just anything.”

And who knows, strangers might actually hear his music, which is something they won’t hear on the regular radio. Whipkey said he’s done his share of in-studio performances on local radio stations, “but I never understood how my two minutes live on the air is different than putting on one of my CDs and hitting ‘Play,’” he said. “That’s a no-no. They can’t do it. The guys that host the shows say they have to play what they’re told to play, and that’s it. On the other hand, it’s super-cool that they let me come on their shows.”

So is Pandora the new “radio”?

“I think of Pandora as radio,” Whipkey said. “It’s out there, it’s always on my phone, it’s easy. I just hit the button and there it is. That’s kind of cool.”

Over The Edge is a weekly column by Reader senior contributing writer Tim McMahan focused on culture, society, music, the media and the arts. Email Tim at tim.mcmahan@gmail.com.

First published in The Reader, Jan. 22, 2014. Copyright © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

* * *

Before radio host Dave Leibowitz can chime in with “What about my show, New Day Rising on 89.7 FM The River? We play local music,” I want to point out that Whipkey did mention how much he appreciated Sunday programming on The River. And I’ve written a couple times in my column about Dave’s radio show, which airs from 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday afternoons (In fact, New Day Rising was the subject of the very first installment of my former music column, way back in 2004).

But I don’t think I need to remind Dave that three hours — along with a couple other shows aired on Sundays — do not make up for The River’s abhorrent play list the rest of the week. I explored this topic with Sophia John in my column as well — go here, and scroll down to the May 9, 2005 entry. The River’s perceived shift in format referenced in that column never happened. The station is still a glowing bastion of growly, Cookie Monster goon-rock, and  likely will remain so until Sophia moves on. Her justification for not changing format: “If I did that, I wouldn’t be doing what’s best for everyone. I want to bring the masses what they really want while opening their minds to something different.

Argue all you want about the quality of terrestrial radio, it’s not changing. If you like the kind of music The River spins, then you’re lucky; you’ve got an outlet right here in your home town. If you wish a station had a full-time playlist similar to what Dave plays on his show — or for a radio station that spins local musicians regularly — well, you’ve always got Pandora, Spotify and your record and CD collection. Technology will catch up eventually, and you’ll soon be able to tune into that music in  your car as if it were a terrestrial radio station.

This begs the question: Why doesn’t someone create an online radio station that focuses solely on Nebraska music? Keep watching, folks, it’s just around the corner.

* * *

Tonight at The Barley Street Tavern it’s Phanton Scout (featuring Jeremy Stanosheck). Also on the bill, Sacramento band Misamore and Sowers. $5, 9. More info here.

* * *

Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Are record collectors the same as comic book collectors? (in the column); Jake Bellows tonight…

Category: Blog,Column,Interviews — Tags: , , , , — @ 1:56 pm January 9, 2014

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

In this week’s column, a discussion about 2013 music sales and industry trends with Mike Fratt, general manager of Homer’s Records. While national album sales were down, Homer’s enjoyed a double-digit increase in business vs. 2012. Read about it in this week’s issue of The Reader or online right here at thereader.com. Or, since the column is centered on music, you can read it below…

Vinyl Sales Help Homer’s Buck Industry Trend

by Tim McMahan

After spending the last two weeks writing about the current state and predicted future of the music industry, it’s time for a dose of reality in the form of the 2013 Nielsen SoundScan numbers.

Billboard Magazine reported last week that album sales suffered an 8.4 percent decline in 2013, CD sales declined 14.5 percent, even digital music sales declined last year for the first time since the iTunes store swung wide its online doors in 2003. Digital track sales fell 5.7 percent, while digital album sales fell 0.1 percent, all according to SoundScan.

The Billboard story said industry executives concede that “ad-supported and paid subscription services were indeed cannibalizing digital sales.” Call it the Spotify effect. Those same execs went on to say growth in streaming revenue offset the decline in digital sales.

But what about brick-and-mortar? That’s where Mike Fratt comes in. Fratt is the General Manager and buyer at independent record store Homer’s Music, 1210 Howard St. In the face of all the doom and gloom, Fratt said 2013 was a good year for Homer’s.

“Sales were up 10 percent, vinyl was again a big driver, up 40 percent for the year,” Fratt said. “DVDs, gift, accessory and lifestyle sales were also up.” It’s a trend that began in 2010. But it wasn’t all good news for Homer’s. Fratt said CDs saw their first sales decline at his store since 2009, slipping 3 percent.

So is it time to go all-in with vinyl? Not so fast. According to SoundScan, vinyl sales indeed rose from 4.55 million in 2012 to 6 million last year, but that’s only enough to make vinyl 2 percent of all U.S. album sales. CDs are still king of the mountain commanding a whopping 57.2 percent of the market, while digital albums sales comprised 40.6 percent.

Still, Fratt says Homer’s business plan is to continue to focus on vinyl and lifestyle/gift items. “We embarked on a project to replace all our vinyl browsers in 2013 to increase space efficiency and improve merchandising of 7-inch singles,” Fratt said.

In addition, Homers will continue to broaden its CD selection. “We have been adding new distributors that stock imports, budget and rarities,” Fratt said. “Despite potential declining sales (in CDs), customers will still expect a large selection.”

Fratt said streaming services such as Spotify and Pandora actually have driven his sales numbers. Customers often come into his store asking to buy an album that’s streaming on their phone.

He said overall, consumers’ buying habits are shifting. “As mall music stores have disappeared and mass merchants (Target, Walmart, Best Buy) reduce selection to below 1,000 different titles, music buyers are forced online to buy CDs,” he said. “This has also helped the indies.” Billboard reported that indie merchants as a whole saw a nearly 12 percent decline in album sales last year. Fratt said that number was wrong, and closer to a 5 percent decline.

“Right now, SoundScan only pulls sales data from about 60 indies nationwide and attempts to determine total national sales for indies,” he said. “Record Store Day website lists 1,000 stores in the U.S.” Fratt thinks vinyl sales were probably closer to 10 million last year. We won’t know the real numbers until a new media company begins tracking physical and digital sales this year.

I told Fratt I noticed another shift in consumer buying. More and more, record buyers are following a model similar to comic book collectors — they’re buying vinyl and limited edition hard product based on collect-ability (and maybe investment).

I speak from personal experience, as both a record and comic book collector. There is certain vinyl I collect just because I want to own it — Factory Records stuff, early copies of Smiths albums with unique cover art, for example. These are albums I probably will only listen to once, but will display in my house or just want to have. If I want to listen to the actual music, I listen to a digital version.

The amazingly successful Record Store Day in some ways supports my idea — it’s a great way for collectors to find and buy cool collectible limited-edition pieces. But I wonder how many people who buy rare or limited edition stuff actually play the recordings, especially if the music is already available online via Spotify?

The old arguments about purchasing physical seem to be dying away. The “need for a back-up” argument will disappear when people become familiar/comfortable with cloud computing. The “inferior audio quality” argument will eventually fade when technology provides a better, flawless audio file type (which is inevitable). Spotify gives access to nearly everything now, and if you’re a paying user (as I am) you can even listen when you’re away from a wi-fi/cellular connection.

So why buy hard assets like vinyl? Because you want to own it. You collect it. It’s finite. It’s physical in a world where fewer and fewer entertainment options involve physical things. If the above is true, than records stores will become like comic shops. Maybe they already are?

“Collectors certainly make up a strong customer group for us and play a large roll in RSD, but vinyl has become so big, it draws all kinds of customers, both casual and hard-core collector, young and old,” Fratt replied.

He said cloud computing, streaming and cars with internet will impact how people collect and access music, but early adopters (like me) remain a minority. “Over the last few years I’ve read that CD is dead, is dying and will be gone. Yet it is still 60 percent of album sales. So, a lot of people are still buying CDs to listen to and load onto their phone or PC.

“Vinyl is a fad,” Fratt added. “Yet, even a recent iPhone commercial started with the image of a record spinning on a turntable only to have an iPhone set down next to it. It’s 10 million new (vinyl albums) being bought (per year) and another 30 million used trading hands. Somebody’s playing this stuff, not just collecting.

“Collecting occurs in so many categories anymore. What you’re saying is not untrue. I think only a small minority sees it the way you do. Right now. We’ll see how that evolves. Ask me again next year.” I’m sure I will.

Over The Edge is a weekly column by Reader senior contributing writer Tim McMahan focused on culture, society, music, the media and the arts. Email Tim at tim.mcmahan@gmail.com.

First published in The Reader, Jan. 8, 2014. Copyright © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

* * *

Tonight at Pageturners Lounge, 5004 Dodge Street, it’s a homecoming of sorts for Nebraska’s favorite wandering musical soul, Jake Bellows. On a brief tour through the Midwest, Jake is taking a evening between gigs to play a show in his hometown. If you have yet to check out Pageturners (and I haven’t, even though it’s been open for more than a year) tonight might be the perfect opportunity. The show is free and starts at 9:30.

Also tonight, Lincoln blues rock guy Josh Hoyer and his band The Shadowboxers are playing at The 21st Saloon, located way the fuck out on 4727 96th St. (south of L on 96th). This is their International Blues Challenge send-off show before they head to Memphis for a battle royale. $10, 6 p.m.

* * *

Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Unread Records and the joy of cassettes (in the column); The Stone Roses tonight…

Category: Blog,Column,Interviews — Tags: , , , , , — @ 2:01 pm November 6, 2013

Unread Records logoby Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

In this week’s column, the story of Unread Records and why the label, which is celebrating its 19th birthday this Saturday with an 11-band concert at the Sweatshop Gallery, continues to release (primarily) cassettes. It’s in this week’s issue of The Reader, and online right here

And heck, since the column is music-related, online below.

Celebrating Cassettes: The Joy of Low Fidelity

by Tim McMahan

Every year right around now, I put my Mini Cooper convertible in storage and replace it with a ’96 Geo Tracker. My Cooper has virtually no ground clearance, which makes it useless in any measurable snow, while the Tracker not only stands high above the ground but also is four-wheel-drive, making it virtually unstoppable.

The downsides of my Geo: It’s beginning to rust. The driver’s side door handle is broken. The rims are the wrong size, so the tires have a habit of deflating overnight. It smells like my dogs.

The upside: It has a cassette deck. There’s something particularly awesome about digging out a mixtape from the summer of 1994 and listening to forgotten bands like Uncle Joe’s Big Ol’ Driver or Morphine or The Wedding Present or Game Theory.

But for Chris Fischer, the label executive behind Unread Records, cassette tapes are more than just a nostalgia trip. The motto on the homepage of unread-records.com: “Creating homemade tapes from empty aluminum cans since 1994.”

Fischer used to live in Omaha. The Lancaster, Pennsylvania, native, now living in Pittsburgh, was wooed to our city in the late ‘90s by none other than Conor Oberst after Fischer set up a show for him in Lancaster back in the early Bright Eyes days.

Back then, Fischer’s Unread Records was part of the underground world of cassette-tape-only record labels. Now 19 years later, it still is, even though super-cheap digital music technology should have made cassettes obsolete. Instead, Unread boasts a catalog of 148 cassette tapes by artists such as Charlie McAlister, Ramon Speed, Spirit Duplicator and Omaha’s own Simon Joyner.

Those artists will join seven more from the Unread Records roster for Junkfest #19 — a concert at the Sweatshop Gallery in Benson this Saturday at 6 p.m. Fischer said the event, which celebrates the label’s 19th birthday, will be “a great show, very bizarre, an experience.”

When I interviewed Fischer back in 2000, the central question was: Why cassettes? Not so strangely, the question remained at the forefront when I talked to him last Saturday. He admitted cassettes have inferior sound quality, degrade faster and are more expensive to mass produce than CDRs. And if you thought finding a turntable was hard, finding a cassette deck means scouring eBay, Craig’s List or your local pawn shop.

Fischer said his love of cassettes is a product of growing up idolizing tape labels of yesterday like Shrimper, Catsup Plate and Omaha’s Sing! Eunuchs. “Cassettes are more artistically attractive to me,” he said. “It’s a mechanical thing, a physical object. It feels better to hold a cassette. It jangles around a bit. It has screws. It’s not that I’m anti-technology, there’s nothing wrong with CRSs, they just don’t look as attractive, and I don’t understand how they work.”

Plus, like vinyl records, cassettes have two sides. “Everyone now just wants to purchase a song off iTunes or just buy increments of music as opposed to a whole album,” Fischer said. “There’s nothing better than listening to an album — the A side, the B side, hits or no hits, I like to hear it all for what it is.”

Over the years, Fischer has gone from a production process that involved plugging tape decks together to dub six tapes at a time to using professional dubbers. He dubs between 50 and 150 tapes per title, depending on how well he thinks they’ll sell, then gives half of them to the artists. Not a total Luddite, Fischer said if an artist provides the master on CD, he makes the tracks available for digital download. But it’s the cassettes that are the cool, collectable thing, not the downloads.

Simon Joyner, who ran Sing! Eunuchs with Chris Deden, said cassettes became an important medium in the late ‘80s into the ‘90s because everyone had a cassette player and recorder at home. “So, people who wanted to create music could do it very easily and inexpensively. They could try anything they wanted because no studios were necessary, no label was necessary. Out of this, labels formed around this DIY concept that artists were everywhere and here’s the music, cheap and accessible.”

But Bandcamp and other digital music file-sharing sites have made cassettes unnecessary. “What’s going on now is fetishistic, econo-chic,” Joyner said. “There is nostalgia around the cassette medium because so many great, important artists and bands started out that way, during that time when it was the cheapest, easiest way to get music out there. (Today) most people releasing music on cassette are feeding that population of cassette fetishists while also releasing the same music in other ways, having their tape and eating it, too.”

Joyner said when he was putting out tapes, he “longed for vinyl, and that hasn’t changed.” Fischer agreed, and Unread has released a number of vinyl records. “I would love to do a lot more,” Fischer said, “but 80 percent of my catalog is cassettes only because of cash flow. If I won the lottery, I’d do more vinyl.”

But even if he did, there would still be a fascination for cassettes. “Nowadays, cassettes are cool and retro,” Fischer said. “A friend of mine approached me to put out a cassette and didn’t have the first idea how they worked or what they were. It blew my mind.”

Joyner, who never liked the “low-fi” label placed on him early in his career, accepted tape hiss as an unavoidable product of recording limitations.

“You should only love that sound if the music in the foreground is good,” Joyner said. “Then as now, a lot of music released on tape is no good, and having it on tape doesn’t change that fact. But when it is good, there is something nice about the hum and hiss as I drive around the city in my decrepit Ford Escort just to hear it.”

Or in my Geo Tracker.

Over The Edge is a weekly column by Reader senior contributing writer Tim McMahan focused on culture, society, the media and the arts. Email Tim at tim.mcmahan@gmail.com.

First published in The Omaha Reader, Nov. 6, 2013. Copyright © 2013 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

The latest mysterious message about O'Leaver's Black Friday event...What could it mean?

The latest mysterious message about O’Leaver’s Black Friday event…What could it mean?

* * *

Village Pointe Cinema is hosting a special screening of Made of Stone: The Stone Roses. The documentary by covers the Manchester band’s 2012 and 2013 reunion tours, which culminated with a headlining spot at the 2013 Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival in California. The screening is scheduled for 7:30.

* * *

OK, now O’Leaver’s is just playing with us. This showed up on the email right before lunch. Can you decipher its meaning?

* * *

Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2013 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Desaparecidos’ Denver Dalley says it’s ‘For real this time;’ Desa plays tonight at The Waiting Room…

Category: Blog,Interviews — Tags: , — @ 12:57 pm October 22, 2013
Desaparecidos rock the Holy Name Fieldhouse in April 2001.

Desaparecidos rock the Holy Name Fieldhouse in April 2001.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

First, Desparecidos is playing tonight at The Waiting Room and believe it or not, there’s still tickets available as of noon today. If you have any interest in going, you should go to the this e-tix page right now and buy your $25 tickets.

Next, you should read my interview with Desaparecidos’ Denver Dalley where the guitar-playing blond wonderboy testifies that the current incarnation of Desa ain’t no reunion gig, it’s the real deal. The boys are back for good this time, and that means new music and (maybe) a new album.

The story was written for The Reader, which means you’ll have to go here to The Reader website to read it. Just click this link. DO IT NOW.

Okay, if you don’t want to do it now, you can wait until tomorrow when the story appears in the printed version of The Reader. Yes, I know this should have come out last week, but there was a snafu with the deadline and, well, JUST GO AHEAD AND READ IT NOW.

And then go to tonight’s show, which should be a freakin’ blast. The So-So Glos are opening. Show starts at 9.

* * *

Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2013 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Lazy-i Interview: Brad Smith talks about Benson’s Almost Music; Lincoln Calling Day 3, Rig 1 tonight…

Category: Blog,Column,Interviews — Tags: , , , , — @ 12:52 pm October 17, 2013

In this week’s column, an interview with Brad Smith of Benson record store Almost Music. Brad talks about his days spent working at The Antiquarium, time spent in a veal-fattening pen at H-P, and his new life selling vintage vinyl. You can read it in this week’s issue of The Reader, or online right here, or, heck, you can read it below:

Benson’s Almost Music Serves Vinyl, along with Coffee and Conversation

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

The story of Almost Music, the vintage record store that just opened at 6569 Maple St. in Benson, is the story of a guy who escaped a life caged in a cubicle to pursue a dream he’s held for 20 years.

Brad Smith got into the record business way back in 1993 at age 20 when he joined the staff of the legendary Antiquarium Record Store in the Old Market. Tucked away in the basement of a massive bookstore on Harney Street, The Antiquarium was the touchstone of the Omaha music scene throughout its heyday in the mid-‘90s.

Smith joined a staff that included Chris Deden, singer/songwriter Simon Joyner and The Antiquarium’s legendary frontman, Dave Sink.

“Dave was the mouthpiece, the spokesperson,” Smith said. “That’s what he liked to do — drink coffee, smoke cigarettes and BS with people. Chris and I actually worked really hard because we had to make up for the fact that Dave didn’t.”

While Smith, Deden and Joyner broke their backs keeping the shelves stocked, Sink stood behind the counter and shared what he knew about the music business (and baseball) with young bands, young record labels and, yes, young music journalists. Sink and the store played a central role in creating a scene that spawned Saddle Creek Records and bands such as Bright Eyes and Cursive.

Technology eventually drove Smith out of The Antiquarium in 2000. He and Deden had set up a website called Starsailor Records and began selling rare albums on a new online marketplace called eBay. Smith said Sink viewed the Internet as a passing fad.

“Dave’s quote was, ‘This is the new CB radio. It’s hot right now, but you’re wasting your time.’ The whole idea of cyberspace was a hard concept for someone Dave’s age to grasp.”

As you might guess, a career selling records isn’t exactly lucrative. Smith said his years at the Antiquarium brought in just enough to pay the rent. “I was single and so were Chris and Dave,” he said. “It was enough to make a meager living for a single person. I would have made a better living if I hadn’t spent so much on my own record collection.”

Needless to say, things changed when Smith had his first daughter, Matilda, in 2001. Now with a child to support, he felt he needed a more substantial career, one that actually supplied health insurance. Smith had earned a degree in Business Administration from UNO while working at The Antiquarium, which helped him land an insurance job and eventually a credit analyst position at Hewlett-Packard in 2007. By then he’d met his current girlfriend, Sarah Gleason, who had two kids of her own, Nora and Jack. Together, the couple had Dorothy, who just turned 3 and a half.

Even with a “regular job,” Smith said there was no real security at H-P. Shortly after he joined the company, the bottom fell out of the economy and the layoffs began. “We went from four floors of employees to two,” Smith said. “We had waves of layoffs every nine months. I survived four of them.”

His number finally came up in April of this year. By then, he already had the idea of opening Almost Music. “I knew a record store could be successful if I did it right,” Smith said. “Even before I got laid off, Sarah said, ‘You have to do it.’ She knew I hated sitting in a cubical all day. Once I got laid off, there was no excuse not to.”

Smith already had begun accumulating inventory when the storefront became available. Located a few blocks west of the heart of Benson, Almost Music shares the space with Solid Jackson Books, a satellite location of Jackson Street Booksellers. The bookstore’s name is an homage to ‘90s rock band Solid Jackson, which released a record on a label run by Deden and Joyner.

“I really wanted to do something like The Antiquarium, where it’s not just a retail shop, it’s a place to hang out and have discussions and have a cup of coffee,” Smith said. “That wasn’t feasible without the bookstore.”

Open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 6, Almost Music sells an eclectic mix of vinyl — everything from high-end collectables (a Sun Ra album from 1968 is priced at $350) to clean, cheap copies of albums by bands like The Go Go’s and Fleetwood Mac.

“I try to make it a well-curated selection,” Smith said. “The Antiquarium did the same thing. We had our cheap section and kept the good stuff separate. Ninety-eight percent of our albums is really clean and in nice shape. You don’t have to check the condition.”

On a trip to Almost Music last weekend I picked up a rare copy of a Smiths 12-inch single (“Barbarism Begins at Home” b/w “Shakespeare’s Sister”) and Richard Thompson’s Hand of Kindness LP, while Teresa snagged Claudine Longet’s debut album and Queen’s The Game, both for $2.

It’s only been open three weeks but the shop is already doing well. Smith said the store isn’t the couple’s only source of income. Sarah also has a part-time job, and they both intend to take advantage of insurance available through the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare).

Still, was opening the store scary?

“Oh yeah,” Smith said. “I kept looking for a job I couldn’t say ‘no’ to. It never happened because my heart was never in it. My heart was in this.”

Almost Music and Solid Jackson Bookstore celebrate their official Grand Opening this Saturday, Oct. 19, from 7 to 10 p.m. . Festivities include live performances by Simon Joyner and Noah Sterba of The Yuppies. Come on down, have a cup of coffee and listen to some good music.

Over The Edge is a weekly column by Reader senior contributing writer Tim McMahan focused on culture, society, the media and the arts. Email Tim at tim.mcmahan@gmail.com.

First published in The Reader, Oct. 17, 2103. Copyright © 2013 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

* * *

The bar-hopping begins tonight at Lincoln Calling as the festival will be in full multi-venue mode with acts performing at six venues throughout the Star City.

Here’s tonight’s Lincoln Calling sched:

Bourbon Theatre
Early show
Huntress
Ezra
Gallows Majesty
Haggard Mess
6 p.m., $5 for 21+, $7 for 18-20

Late show
Desert Noises
Rock Paper Dynamite
The Kickback
Skypiper
9 p.m., $8 for 21+, $10 for 18-20

Duffy’s Tavern
Masses
The Whipkey Three
Tie These Hands
Ouqua
8 p.m., $5 for 21+, $7 for 18-20

Zoo Bar
The Renfields
John Klemmensen and the Party
Christopher the Conquered
Brad Hoshaw and the Seven Deadlies
Tsumi
Jack Hotel
The Bottletops
5 p.m., $5, 21+

Yia Yia’s Pizza
Burning Down the Villager
Domestica
10 p.m., no cover, 21+

Mix Bar and Arcade
Bass Invaders w/
Bassthoven
Wrekafect
Trill Ferrell
9 p.m., no cover, 21+

Fat Toad
DJ JAB
Nick the Quick
9 p.m., no cover, 21

For more info go to lincolncalling.com.

* * *

Also tonight, Rig 1 headlines at The Waiting Room. The hip-hop project is led by Ian McElroy of Desaparecidos fame. Backing him as part of Rig 1 is Clark Baechle (The Faint) and Dustin Bushon (FVTHR^). For a taste, check out “Walking Zombie” from the North of Maple release. Openers are Nuit and Touch People. $7, 9 p.m.

* * *

Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2013 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Lazy-i Interview: Tim Kasher, Pt. 2 (his voice, criticism and his ugly album art explained); QUASI, Jeffrey Lewis tonight…

Category: Blog,Column,Interviews — Tags: , , , — @ 11:49 am October 3, 2013
Tim Kasher, Adult Film (Saddle Creek, 2013)

Tim Kasher, Adult Film (Saddle Creek, 2013)

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

And here’s Pt. 2 of the Tim Kasher interview. Pt. 1 was posted yesterday. Both parts are in this week’s issue of The Reader. Pick up a copy at your local news rack or bar or coffee shop or convenient store today.

Over the Edge: Leftover Kasher

Like the headline says, here’s some leftover wisdom from Tim Kasher that didn’t make it into the feature story.  I thought it would be a shame to leave it on the cutting room floor.

For example, nowhere in the feature story did I explain the title of Kasher’s new album, Adult Film, and the origin of its hideous cover art. Hopefully Eric in production has a copy of the artwork to include with this column so you can see just how repulsive it truly is. So gruesome is the cover that I almost dropped the CD’s jewel case when I took it out of the promo mailer’s envelope.

The artwork is actually quite simple — it’s a nude head-and-shoulder photo of Kasher covered in some sort of greasy, slimy substance, as if a giant woman-thing gave birth to him full-grown only moments prior to the shoot. Mixed in with the shiny, viscous substance are bits of what look like shit or placenta or snot balls. Even Kasher’s well-combed hair lays flat like it hadn’t been washed in a couple weeks. The photo is just straight fucking gross; so ugly you can practically smell it.

The art is made all the more disturbing by the placement of the words ADULT FILM in yellow all-caps on top of a black bar that blocks out Kasher’s eyes, as if to hide his identity even though his name appears right above his head.

Creepy. Needless to say, there had to be some sort of meaning behind it.

“There’s not a ton to it, and I feel like I suffer when I explain it,” Kasher said sheepishly. “I just quite simply saw the two words ‘adult film’ in my head and I separated them from what they’ve come to mean in our society. I tend to play around with words, and it occurred to me how odd those words were together. They’ve come to mean ‘pornography’ and nothing else. but if they had never been used for pornography they would conjure this gross thought; this film that people collect that gets wrinkled and corse as it goes old and untouched.

“I think (in that context) it’s fitting for the album’s subject matter. That meaning casts a wide net. It’s a catch-all for mortality and getting older, but also about career and dating and aging and whatever pursuit you happen to be in.”

He said said he’s “a little uneasy with the porno aspect” of the title. As for the guck, “It’s Vaseline and dirt; potting soil and some mulch and some green dye to give it a bit of a sheen.”

Aren’t you glad I asked?

At one point during our interview I also asked Kasher about his vocals on the album’s roaring, rolling opener “American Lit,” and told him it reminded me of something from Slowdown Virginia, one of Kasher’s first bands from way back in ’93 that some say was a starting point for what would become the Saddle Creek scene.

“That’s a relief to me,” Kasher said. “I sing lower almost always now. I’ve been having vocal issues over the last four years. I write in low registers just in case. I just can’t stay on top of it. I don’t know when it’s going to go out next, with bronchitis or something.”

That was a surprise. So was Kasher’s comments about Help Wanted Nights. I mentioned that Adult Film was my favorite Kasher album since that classic 2007 album by his other band, The Good Life. It turns out that Help Wanted Nights also was notable to Kasher, but for a different reason.

“It was the first time that I got bad reviews,” he said. “It knocked me down for like two days, and then for the next few records I watched (the reviews) a little bit more than before. It became a sick curiosity, and I got a little obsessed.”

Kasher said he eventually got past his preoccupation with critics. “I’m not going to do that anymore,” he said. “It’s not that I’m against critics, it’s that they’re not the ones who I should be writing for.”

Help Wanted Nights was actually a sort of soundtrack to an unproduced script of the same name. Written a few years prior to the album’s release, it was the first script Kasher tried to get produced, catching the interest of a handful of Los Angeles money people. Still, six years later, the script remains unshot.

“I set it aside just before I began working on (The Game of) Monogamy (Kasher’s 2010 debut solo album). It had some renewed interest for a few months.”

Kasher hasn’t given up his silver-screen dreams. “I have another script being worked on to go into production,” he said. The new one is about couple swapping — ironic, considering the title of this new album.

Kasher said the movie business is “a hard game with a lot of money involved I keep writing and handing stuff out, and here and there get reactions. I’ll cautiously kind of let it play itself out and see what happens.”

One last thing I forgot to mention in the feature: Adult Film doesn’t come out until next Tuesday, Oct. 8, on Saddle Creek Records (of course). You should pick up a copy when you go to see Kasher and his band celebrate its release at The Waiting Room Saturday night. Whatever you do, don’t judge the record by its cover.

Over The Edge is a weekly column by Reader senior contributing writer Tim McMahan focused on culture, society, the media and the arts. Email Tim at tim.mcmahan@gmail.com.

First published in The Reader, Oct. 2, 2103. Copyright © 2013 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

* * *

One of the biggest shows of the month takes place tonight at Slowdown Jr.

Some of you may not be old enough to remember Quasi and the Portland band’s seminal 1998 album Featuring “Birds,” but it was one of the defining albums of the late ’90s and the high water mark this band. Frontman Sam Coomes had just left two pretty successful bands — Donner Party and Heatmiser, a band that also featured Elliot Smith — to form this band with Sleater-Kinney’s Janet Weiss. Featuring “Birds” came out of nowhere and was a critical smash thanks to ultra cool songs like “I Never Want to See You Again,” “The Poisoned Well,” and of course “California.” Heck, every track is good.

Six more albums followed, including their just released Mole City, which came out Tuesday on Kill Rock Stars. Tonight’s show kicks off their tour in support of that album.

Joining Quasi is Jeffrey Lewis, who’s album End Result (2007, Rough Trade), is one of my faves. Lewis has recorded with Kimya Dawson and most recently with Peter Stampfel. Our very own See Through Dresses opens. You get all three for a mere $15. Starts at 9. GO!!

Also tonight, Louisville, KY singer/songwriter Cheyenne Mize (Yep Rock Records) plays at fabulous O’Leaver’s with Eli Mardock and Blue Bird. $5, 9:30 p.m.

And The Waiting Room is hosting another Songwriter Death Battle featuring 40 or so local singer/songwriters passing around John Klemmenson’s beat-up acoustic guitar for one song apiece. Hear Nebraska has the line-up info right here. $5, 9 p.m.

* * *

Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2013 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Lazy-i Interview: Tim Kasher Pt. 1 (on Adult Film, O’Leaver’s, The Good Life, and getting older); Marisa Anderson tonight…

Category: Interviews — Tags: , — @ 12:57 pm October 2, 2013

TIm Kasher promo photo

This is (sort of) the first part of a two-part feature/interview with Tim Kasher. Pt. 2 appears in this week’s column, which is essentially outtakes from Pt. 1. Look for that tomorrow. In the meantime…

Tim Kasher’s Adult Film

The Cursive frontman celebrates the release of his second full-length solo album.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

There’s a lot of death on Tim Kasher’s new album, Adult Film.

On the record’s first single, “Truly Freaking Out,” Kasher wrestles with the idea that his friends and family will all die some day, and he isn’t too happy about it. He bleakly points out over rolling keyboards: “I know, I know, I know the end is near / I know, I know it’s all downhill from here. / We’re all cascading to our graves / Tugging back at gravity’s reigns.”

At age 39, has Kasher, a staunch atheist, finally come to the realization that dead means dead, and there’s no coming back?

“I touch on it a lot it seems throughout the record,” Kasher said via cell while walking to Logan Square in his newly adopted hometown of Chicago. “There’s this kind of sobering that comes with age that anyone of us experiences who has gotten older and on the other side.”

One of Kasher’s dreams in his youth was to be a jazz drummer when he retires. “I wanted to be the cool guy that plays at a bar down the street,” he said. “Now that I’m turning 40 next year, I’m putting that aside. You start having sober realizations of how much time you have left. I also know that so much time has been nicked off, trimmed, shorn from our existence. I don’t feel like I’ve wasted time. I want to keep having more time, if anything.”

He may never become the next Buddy Rich or Joe Voda, but if the clock quits ticking for Kasher, he would leave behind an impressive list of other musical accomplishments that his loved ones would be proud of.  Kasher is arguably one of the best personal songwriters to come out of Omaha in the past 20 years, alongside his old pal Conor Oberst and local folk legend Simon Joyner.  Since ’97 he’s written and produced 12 full-length albums both as a solo artist and with his bands Cursive and The Good Life, almost all of them released on indie label Saddle Creek Records.

An entire generation of Nebraska singer/songwriters credits Kasher both as an influence and a survivor. In a time when musicians are being strangled by the economics of a financially crippled music industry, Kasher has continued to make a living doing nothing but music, though he’s beginning to diversify.

Last year he became partners in one of Omaha’s most notorious bars — O’Leaver’s on South Saddle Creek Rd. Kasher is a co-owner along with Cursive bandmates Ted Stevens and Matt Maginn, and long-time O’Leaver’s manager Chris Machmuller, lead singer of Saddle Creek band Ladyfinger.

“It’s hard to consider it my bar,” Kasher said. “It’s really their bar, but I’m glad to be able to contribute monetarily.”

While portfolio diversification was the main reason for joining the partnership, “the first reason was because Matt was interested in buying it,” Kasher said. “We’ve been working together forever and he’s always wanted to diversify but wanted to do it in a way that seems enjoyable. Who wants to buy a paper company because he hears it’s a good investment?”

Kasher said eight or so years ago when Cursive and The Good Life were at a financial peak, people just assumed he was “living high off the hog. I’m basing this on people I run into in other states who have lofty concepts of my success that don’t even remotely match reality,” he said.

“When someone writes a book, you figure ‘Well now, they must be loaded. They wrote a book.’ But in reality they’re actually a struggling teacher. These days most people think that I should have another job. I’m pretty much off the radar; nothing I do elicits some kind of suggestion of a lot of success, but I manage to do okay anyway. My career, at this point, has some girth to it.”

It also helps that Kasher does more than one musical project at a time. “A lot of why music is still a full-time job is because I tend to do it about twice as much as other musicians in that I release under multiple monikers” he said. “I always knew that (Cursive and The Good Life) kept each other afloat. When I set The Good Life aside it was like I had stopped my bar tending job. The money dwindled.”

Not for long. Kasher began releasing solo work with 2010’s The Game of Monogamy and its follow-up, 2011’s More Songs from the Monogamy Sessions EP.  The perennial question with every release is how Kasher decides which material will go toward which project. Cursive music tends to be harder, faster and more acidic than the lighter, more melody-driven tunes heard on Good Life albums. The music for Adult Film falls somewhere in between.

Recorded at Steve Albini’s Electrical Audio Studio in Chicago and mixed by John Congleton at Elmwood Recording in Dallas, Adult Film is the most tuneful Kasher project since The Good Life’s Help Wanted Nights in 2007. Songs like failure anthem “A Raincloud Is a Raincloud,” breakup drama “The Willing Cuckold,” and the pounding “A Looping Distress Signal” are as close to straight-up rock songs as Kasher can probably get.

Never has keyboards played such a dominant role in one of his productions. From the pounding organ on “Life and Limbo” to the wonky rolling synth on the aforementioned “Truly Freaking Out” that sounds like a Kubrick-ian nightmare to the piano-tightrope walk on “Where Your Heart Lies,” keys are on almost every song.

“We had that in mind from the onset,” Kasher said, pointing to collaborator Patrick Newbery who is credited with organ, keys, synths and horns on the recording. Newbery is joined on the record by Sara Bertuldo (bass, vocals), Dylan Ryan (drums) and a handful of other musicians caught in Kasher’s orbit.

So why were the songs on Adult Film used for a solo album?

“It’s just what I’m doing right now, and it’s logical,” Kasher said. “I want to get my own name off the ground a bit more. We’re all getting older and if I were to continue to do any of this, it’ll be easier to lean on just myself to put out an album.”

That said, there’s little doubt about Cursive’s future. Last year the band released the full-length I Am Gemini on Saddle Creek Records and spent a good part of the year on the road. Saddle Creek Records said the album had U.S. Soundscans of 10,379 and more than 430,000 track streams on Spotify. Kasher said he was satisfied at how well that record performed.

“It gave us (Cursive) a lot of vigor, we had a great time being together and felt good about the finished product,” he said. “We got a chance to play the songs every night to a lot of people who were crazy for it. It was a lot of fun. In the largest sense we’ve become a niche band. We’re kind of a small posse, but a good community.”

The future of The Good Life, however, is more in question. “I feel that all the projects are still alive. Some are more dormant than others,” Kasher said. “The Good Life is very dormant now, but we still chat and think about it. I still try to look at my schedule long-term and think where I might do this or that band. In my head, it’s not dead at all. My impression is that we’ll all get back together in time.”

Even if that time is running out. While there is a looming sense of despair on his new record, Kasher said, “We’re still living in a good age. There’s a lot of joy everywhere. Everyone is having babies. We’re on the edge between getting joyful phone calls that someone is in labor and getting calls that someone is in the ICU.”

Tim Kasher plays with Laura Stevenson and The Brigadiers Saturday, Oct. 5, at The Waiting Room, 6212 Maple Street. Showtime is 9 p.m.. Admission is $11. For more information, go to onepercentproductions.com.

First published in The Reader, Oct. 2, 2103. Copyright © 2013 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

* * *

Tonight at O’Leaver’s, composer, guitarist and multi-instrumentalist Marisa Anderson takes the stage. According to her online profile, Anderson’s second solo record, The Golden Hour (Mississippi Records 2011), features “12 improvisations inspired by Delta blues, West African guitar, vintage country and western, gospel, noise, rhythms, cycles, mortality, and praise.” Grapefruit Records, the label run by Simon Joyner, is releasing Anderson’s next album in December. Opening for Anderson is Rake Kash (Lonnie Methe’s latest project) and Zach LaGrou. $5, 9:30 p.m.

Marisa Anderson from De Kreun on Vimeo.

Also tonight, Chris Carrabba of Dashboard Confessional’s new band Twin Forks plays at Slowdown Jr. with Matrimony and Skypilot. $15, 8 p.m.

* * *

Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2013 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i