Lazy-i Interview: David Nance — on his new record, Jack White and how music feeds his soul (at Reverb Lounge Oct. 12)…

Category: Interviews — Tags: , , , — @ 1:15 pm October 11, 2018

The David Nance Band plays at Reverb Friday, Oct. 12.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Last weekend I got a chance to interview David Nance at his Dundee home while rain poured down around us. I sat on the porch swing with my lap-top while Dave walked around with his huge, shaggy head of hair, in a worn-out illegible band T-shirt and flannels and answered my meandering questions for a half-hour before it got too cold. We finished up in his living room with his dog, Wild Man, staring me down and occasionally barking.

Last week Chicago label Trouble in Mind Records released his latest album Peaced and Slightly Pulverized under the name David Nance Group (don’t go looking for it in Spotify under “David Nance” because you won’t find it; better yet, just go to a record store and buy a copy or pick it up at the show). Joining Nance on the record are drummer Kevin Donahue, bassist Tom May and guitarist Jim Schroeder performing a collection of psych-rock anthems — huge, droning monoliths grounded in Nance’s grinding guitar and echoing vocals.

David Nance Band, Peaced and Slightly Pulverized (2018, Trouble in Mind)

AllMusic critic Mark Deming called the record “a raw and raucous exercise in no-frills hard rock” adding that his guitar work is “a style that splits the difference between Neil Young’s primativist noise and Keith Richards’ fractured blues, with a bit more slop than either but a similar passion for volume and blissful crunch.” I guess that’s a compliment — Deming gave the record 3-1/2 stars.

Peaced isn’t so much a natural progression from Nance’s earlier records — last year’s break-through album Negative Boogie and 2016’s More Than Enough (both released on Ba Da Bing!) — as much as a slight turn toward more structured rock songs that evolve into amazing guitar jams — satisfying and easy to get lost inside.

Nance said the album was recorded in Jim Schroeder’s basement. “Jim has a nice tape machine set-up,” Nance said. “He’s a little more focused than me when it comes to fidelity. He’ll dial it in a little more; he cares about tape hiss.

“Out of the gate it’s the record that sounds most like a live band,” he added. “The last one we recorded in a day and then threw stuff on it. This one was recorded in a room with maybe a vocal overdub. It’s 90 percent live and that was the intent.”

Regardless of the live nature of the recording, Nance said the band likely will only play four songs off the record when on stage. “We’re also doing covers and old ones,” he said.

Those live shows used to be a mixed bag. I remember seeing Nance play a few years ago, possibly at Reverb or O’Leaver’s, where the set consisted of a half-hour of drone and feedback with a slight pause in the middle. On the other hand, recent shows, including at this year’s Maha Music Festival, have been relatively straight-forward, focused on selections from his latest albums but always climaxing with him and Schroeder trying to kill each other with feedback.

“I love the way it sounds when we’ve played recently” Nance said. “It’s been really present and in the moment – lots of uncalculated things happened. It’s been deep; I get a deep feeling coming away from it.”

One recent notable gig was opening for Jack White at ONEOK Field in Tulsa (Home of the Drillers) Sept. 17. “I never thought something like that would happen,” Nance said. “Someone from Jack’s team called and asked if we could play Shreveport and Tulsa. I said we already had a gig for the first night but would love to do the Tulsa show. We didn’t hear anything back. I wrote him three days before the show to see if it was still happening and they said ‘sure.'”

Nance said they got the gig thanks to someone who works at White’s Third Man Records who’s a fan of his band. “This guy emailed and we talked back and forth about records we like,” Nance said. “I found out later that he’s the guy running the show with Jack.”

Nance said he only spent a few moments with White in Tulsa. “We were all back stage and they just showed up in a van, got out and 20 seconds later were playing on stage,” Nance said. “As they were leaving the stage, Jack said thanks for playing and apologized for forgetting to say our band’s name from stage. It was insane.”

Old connections also helped land a new label. It was Nance’s history playing with Brimstone Howl that got him in front of Trouble in Mind Records. “I met Bill and Lisa (Roe, the label’s proprietors) through Brimstone,” he said. “When we went through Chicago we stayed with them. I love their label, they put out my favorite current stuff. Years ago they said if you ever want to do a record, we’d be more than happy to release it.”

Connections over the years also helped Nance book his upcoming tour on his own. Nance and his band (Schroeder, Donahue and Sarah Bohling of Thick Paint on bass) start out in St. Louis Oct. 24 for a 22-date tour that takes them south and east, back through The Waiting Room Nov. 13 before ending Nov. 16 in Chicago. Next March they’re headed back to Europe, followed by shows in Australia with indie-punk act Thigh Master.

“I worked at Coachella cooking pad thai and that funded my first tour,” Nance said. “I’ve been booking things myself for awhile. It works out pretty well. I’ve been connected through the underground to a lot of great people doing great stuff.”

Nance said he looks at music as “another part-time job. I would love to do it full-time, but I don’t know if that’s possible. I’m lucky to have the ability to do what I do, book shit myself and come home with enough money for rent. I’ve had opportunities to meet people and see great bands.

“I just want to keep doing it. It feeds my soul. I feel whole doing it. I always go in assuming no one’s going to like anything and nothing’s going to happen, so I’m pleasantly surprised.”

David Nance plays with Closeness Friday, Oct. 12 at Reverb Lounge, 6121 Military Ave. Tickets are $8, showtime is 9 p.m. For more information, go to onepercentproductions.com

Note: This story also appears online at The Reader website.

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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 © 2018 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Ten Questions with Soccer Mommy (at Reverb Sunday); Lord Huron, Cut Worms tonight (SOLD OUT)…

Category: Interviews — Tags: , , , — @ 1:00 pm October 3, 2018

Soccer Mommy plays at Reverb Sunday, Oct. 7.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Soccer Mommy is Sophie Allison, a Nashville singer/songwriter influenced by the likes of pop stars Avril Lavigne and Taylor Swift, though her music is more easily filed alongside fellow indie singer/songwriter projects Mitski, Waxahatchee and Big Thief.

In fact, on her 2018 Fat Possum release, Clean, Allison’s style and voice are reminiscent of ’80s folkie Edie Brickell, and I’d throw early Liz Phair in there as well (someone Allison has opened for recently) except lyrically Allison’s songs are more longing and withdrawn than Phair’s Exile-era, jaded, take-it-or-leave-it love rants.

Instead, Allison often comes off lost or left-behind, as if watching as her lover hits on someone else at a party she wasn’t invited to in the first place. Even on indie radio hit “Your Dog,” the modern anti-thesis of the Stooges’ tune, Allison sounds worn out rather than angry. Clean is, indeed, a beauty of a record, but I’m waiting for when Allison’s had enough and returns as a mad-as-hell reincarnation of early PJ Harvey.

We caught up with Allison and asked her to take our Ten Questions survey:

1. What is your favorite album?

Sophie Allison: It’s hard to pick just one! One of my favorites that I’ve returned to this week is Yankee Hotel Foxtrot by Wilco. It’s a popular choice for a reason!

2. What is your least favorite song?

I really don’t like that F-R-I-E-N-D-S song that is on the radio right now. I don’t know who it’s by, but I hear it all the time. (“FRIENDS” by Marshmello & Anne-Marie — Tim).

3. What do you enjoy most about being in a band?

I like getting to share experiences of traveling and playing music with other people, especially since I really like the guys I tour with.

4. What do you hate about being in a band?

Sharing the bathroom in a hotel is pretty much the worst part. It can be a battle in the mornings!

5. What is your favorite substance (legal or illegal)?

Right now I’m going to just say Malibu so we can keep it user friendly.

6. In what city or town do you love to perform?

I always love playing in New York and Boston. I feel comfortable with both of those cities since I lived in NY and my sister lived in Boston and it’s always just a fun time.

7. What city or town did you have your worst gig (and why)?

Probably Liverpool. We showed up right before the set because we missed the ferry and it was just an odd vibe after that.

8. Are you able to support yourself through your music? If so, how long did it take to get there; if not, how do you pay your bills?

I can at least sort of support myself at this point. I don’t really have another choice since I’m always on the road. It took at least half a year to be able to not be struggling to make it through tours, but sometimes we still struggle through it a bit.

9. What one profession other than music would you like to attempt; what one profession would you absolutely hate to do? 

I don’t really think I’d like to do anything else. I guess maybe I’d be a poet, but that’s basically what I do now. I’d hate to be an accountant or something like that.

10. What are the stories you’ve heard about Omaha, Nebraska?

I haven’t really heard any to be honest! We played there once (with Jay Som and Stef Chura Sept. 12, 2017, at Reverb — Tim) and it seemed like a nice town, the show was pretty small though and not a ton of people came.

Soccer Mommy plays with Sasami Sunday, Oct. 7, at Reverb Lounge, 6121 Military Ave. Tickets are $12, showtime is 8 p.m. For more information, go to onepercentproductions.com.

* * *

Tonight Lord Huron headlines a sold out show at Sokol Auditorium. Opening is Brooklyn’s Cut Worms headed by Max Clarke, whose Jagjuwar release Hollow Ground earned a 7.2 rating from Pitchfork. 8 p.m. start time.

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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 © 2018 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Is Lincoln Calling the next SXSW? (preview/interview with organizer Spencer Munson)…

Category: Interviews — Tags: , — @ 12:46 pm September 11, 2018

Is Lincoln Calling the next SXSW?

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Here’s the nut graph to my Lincoln Calling preview article in the current issue of The Reader:

With more than 70 national, regional and local acts, Lincoln Calling has the makings of the first Nebraska-based festival with a vibe that could be compared to the early days of Austin’s South By Southwest Festival.

Yeah I know, a bold statement, but when you look at the line-up of up-and-comers, there’s no question that Lincoln Calling is the most cutting-edge of local music festivals.

Lincoln Calling organizer Spencer Munson talks about how he and his team booked the bands, the schedules and the non-music activities, as well as how he’s made this year’s event as relevant as last year’s while having access to a much smaller overall budget.

You can read the article online right here at The Reader website or in the September issue, which is on newsstands now.

The full Lincoln Calling venue schedules finally have been uploaded to the Lincoln Calling website. Here’s each day:

If you’re only driving down for one day, Friday is likely the sweet spot, with Parquet Courts, Criteria, Ron Gallo, Nude Party, Fantastic Negrito and Stephen Sheehan among the choices. That said, Thursday’s and Saturday’s lineups are nothing to sneeze at. Full ticket/schedule info at www.lincolncalling.com.

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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 © 2018 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

The return of John Klemmensen; Son Ambulance, Oquoa, English Beat tonight…

Category: Blog,Interviews — Tags: , , , , , — @ 12:15 pm July 12, 2018

John Klemmensen and the Party at Reverb, May 1, 2015. Klemmensen returns to the stage tomorrow night (Friday) at O’Leaver’s as a member of The Candy Boys.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Hard to believe it was more than three years ago — May 1, 2015, to be exact — that John Klemmensen & The Party hosted their album release show for the LP Party All Night at Reverb Lounge.

The album was a career benchmark for Klemmensen, who had been performing music for more than 20 years both solo, with The Party and in a slew of bands, the most recent having been Landing on the Moon.

But shortly after that album release show, Klemmensen’s world unraveled. Among the lows was when Klemmensen stole a King Kong poster from a King King fast-food restaurant wearing a panda hat — an act that got broadcast on Crimestoppers. It was just part of a downward spiral.

“The underlying story was depression, massive prolonged intake of HARD drugs, overall bad decision making. A lot of self-sabotage, basically,” Klemmensen said.

“I never planned on taking such a long hiatus, but getting myself out of the trouble I had caused myself took some time,” he said.  “I’m still working on being human.”

And among the best parts of his humanity is his music. Klemmensen will return to the stage tomorrow night (Friday) at fabulous O’Leaver’s fronting a new rock band called The Candy Boys. The band consists of Vern Fergesen on bass, Daniel Dean Leonard on drums, and Klemmensen on guitar and vocals.

Klemmensen said it’s “a little more sloppy and loud (on purpose) than ‘the Party.’ I think it’s closer to where I came from, like Reset or Revilo (although I wasn’t in Revilo).”

Tomorrow night’s set will focus on all new music, a reflection of Klemmensen’s new life. “I’m better now,” he said. “Weed, ice cream maybe an occasional shot of whiskey. I’m a good boy now.”

The Candy Boys play tomorrow night (Friday) at O’Leaver’s with Columbus/Omaha punk/folk act Not Funny.

* * *

OK, but what’s going on tonight at O’Leaver’s? Just another stacked bill. Headlining is Oquoa (Max Holmquist and the boys) with Saddle Creek Records band Son, Ambulance. Joining them is Denton, Texas act Claire Morales, whose new record All That’s Wanting, was released June 29. $5, 9 p.m.

Also tonight, The English Beat, who probably plays more often in Omaha than in their origin city of Birmingham, England, returns to The Slowdown. The Bishops open at 8 p.m. $28.

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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 © 2018 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

That Saddle Creek at 25 story you may have missed…

Category: Interviews — Tags: , , , — @ 12:49 pm June 28, 2018

Saddle Creek Record’s Benson offices circa sometime in the early 2000s…

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

There’s been a bit of a lull in music news lately. It’s the end of the month, it’s summer, it’s Omaha.

That being the case, I’m taking this opportunity to post that Saddle Creek at 50 cover story I wrote for the June issue of The Reader. You may already have read it, I know. This is being posted more for posterity’s sake and to ensure there’s always a version online should something unsavory happen to The Reader‘s website. Because Lazy-i is forever….

I promised out-takes from these interviews, but I haven’t had time to put them together. I will eventually (or I’ll use them for other stories). In the meantime, here’s the story, which is also in the current issue of The Reader. Pick up your copy today before the August issue hits the stands…

Saddle Creek at 25
The label that defined indie cool over a decade ago is suddenly cool again.

by Tim McMahan

It was sometime in 1993 when a group of guys pulled their resources together and released a cassette tape by a 13-year-old boy named Conor Oberst. That cassette, titled Water, was the first release on Lumberjack Records, catalog number LBJ-01.

Earlier this year catalog number LBJ-270, the debut album by Stef Chura called Messes, was released on CD, LP, tape and digital by Saddle Creek Records, the company that Lumberjack Records became. The label’s name isn’t the only thing that’s changed over the past 25 years.

Just ask the Saddle Creek founder Robb Nansel. “What’s changed since we started? Everything.”

Nansel reminisced about days gone by and days ahead alongside Amber Carew, the label’s new A&R representative, over beers at The Trap Room, a small bar he co-owns along with music club The Slowdown, which sits about 30 feet south of us.

Like all independent record labels, Lumberjack/Saddle Creek started as a business run out of a bedroom. “At the time, it was very day-to-day, you know?” Nansel said of the early years. “Our concern was ‘How are we gonna put out this Norman Bailer record?’ When I had to write the business plan for an entrepreneurship class, the goal was to sell 10,000 copies of a record. That was the definition of success.”

It would take years for the label to hit that goal. Nansel said he considers the first “real” Saddle Creek release to be LBJ-19 — Bright Eyes — A Collection of Songs Written and Recorded 1995-1997 — which came out in 1998 and was the first Saddle Creek album distributed outside the area.

“Everything before that was just consignment around town — make a hundred copies of a cassette or seven inches or whatever, take them to Homer’s and The Antiquarium and call it a day,” he said.

By 2005, Saddle Creek Records had become one of the most respected and well-known small independent record labels in the country, thanks to the success of its crown-jewel acts — Bright Eyes, The Faint and Cursive. Nansel points to that period as the label’s most successful era in terms of national exposure and record sales, with all three bands releasing albums that sold more than 100,000 copies.

“That was when reporters were flying in from all around the world to write stories about what’s in the drinking water,” Nansel said, “and when Dave Sink told me not to fuck up Omaha.” Sink, the owner/operator of the late, great Antiquarium Record Store, was revered among local musicians.

“He said ‘You’re gonna ruin this town; it’s going to turn into the next Seattle,’ and I said no it’s not. We have a small label, and that’s it. There’s no venues in town, there’s no other record labels. It’s hard to have that much of an impact on a city.”

Nansel knew all the national attention wouldn’t last. “Everything’s cyclical,” he said. “Scenes happen all over the world. It just so happened that people had their microscope on Omaha then. I knew they’d move their microscope somewhere else soon enough.”

But by the time the national spotlight had shifted away from Saddle Creek, the label had built  new offices in the so-called “Lo-Do” area of Omaha above what would become The Slowdown. The staff had grown to seven, including primary partner Jason Kulbel, who had originally come to Omaha to run a nightclub. Meanwhile, the roster of artists had ballooned to well over a dozen. As the label was entering its next chapter, Saddle Creek faced a number of new challenges.

In 2008, Conor Oberst signed to Merge Records, while The Faint started its own record label, Blank.Wav. And for the first time, Saddle Creek had turned its attention away from Omaha and began signing bands that had no real local connection— acts like Tokyo Police Club and Two Gallants and Canadian acts like The Rural Alberta Advantage and Land of Talk. It was a dramatic departure from the early days when Saddle Creek only signed bands that either came from Omaha or were friends of bands already on the label.

At the same time, Saddle Creek finally began to feel the impact of technology that had been ravaging the music industry for years.

Until then, the internet had been the label’s best friend. “It was so important for our growth,” Nansel said. “It allowed Saddle Creek to exist on a national level. When the major labels were yelling ‘The sky is falling,’ our business was growing. They were seeing the massive catalog sales that they’d had for decades plummet. We didn’t have a catalog, so all we saw was growth. There was a point when Saddle Creek could put out anybody’s record, and it would sell at least 5,000 copies,” Nansel said.

Fast forward just a few years and “we were putting out records that were selling like 150 copies,” Nansel said. “This was what everyone had been talking about when they said (the internet) was going to ruin the industry.”

It was a problem no one at the label had an answer for. Instead, Nansel and his staff simply put their heads down and kept going.

“We always felt that solving the music industry’s problem was not something that we as Saddle Creek were going to be able to do,” Nansel said. “That was going to be figured out by tech companies and major labels. All we could do was find bands we were passionate about and work with them and hope everything sorted itself out in time.”

Part of the answer for small independent labels like Saddle Creek has been banding together to create trade organizations that can compete with major labels for the attention of massive tech giants like Apple and Spotify, who now control the industry. The American Association of Independent Music (or A2IM) and global rights agency Merlin Network are two primary examples.

“If Saddle Creek goes up against Apple and tries to get a better deal, Apple tells Saddle Creek to fuck off,” Nansel said. “But if Merlin goes to them representing Beggars Group and Matador and 4AD and hundreds and hundreds of independent labels, then they can get a seat at the table. In a sense, Merlin and A2IM are pushing things forward on behalf of the independent label community.”

While signing those non-Omaha-related acts, Saddle Creek continued to release albums from old favorites like Cursive, The Good Life and Azure Ray while signing locals and friends like Icky Blossoms, Twinsmith and pals Big Harp. Nansel said despite new struggles to generate income via music sales, the label never signed an act with the intent of striking it rich.

“I guess I’d be naive to say that (album sales) are completely not in my mind,” he said. “There might be some super-aggressive weird punk record that I love, but then realize we can’t do anything with it. We wouldn’t be doing them a service by working with them. It would be a disastrous relationship. But I don’t think we’ve ever signed something because we thought it would sell. We have to like it first and figure out if it’s a good partnership.”

Has making money ever been a motivation?

“No,” Nansel said. “I think that’s boring. You have to work with these people every day. Imagine having to work with a band that you don’t like. You might make money, but that doesn’t sound very fun.”

Sticking with that philosophy would eventually pay off. In October 2014, Saddle Creek signed Philly band Hop Along. The folk-rock four-piece fronted by singer/songwriter Frances Quinlan hit pay dirt with its third full-length, Painted Shut, released in May of the following year. Songs like album opener “The Knock” and “Well-dressed” earned millions of Spotify plays, while publications like AllMusic.com called Quinlan “among the most captivating rock singers of her generation.”

Next Saddle Creek signed Brooklyn band Big Thief in February 2016. The four-piece, fronted by Adrianne Lenker, saw its debut, Masterpiece, released in May 2016 to a hail of critical huzzahs, but it was the follow-up, Capacity, released in June 2017, that really caught fire, making it onto a number of national critics’ annual top-10 lists. The infectious single “Shark Smile” would gain heavy rotation on nationally broadcasted (via satellite) radio station Sirius XMU.

Brooklyn singer/songwriter Sam Evian (a.k.a. Sam Owens) would come next in June 2016 and in March 2017, Saddle Creek launched its “Document” singles series that featured unreleased music from artists outside the Saddle Creek roster, starting with bands Posse, Palehound, Hand Habits and Wilder Maker.

The label was entering a third life that included opening a satellite office in Los Angeles’ Eagle Rock neighborhood with new-hire Amber Carew, the label’s first-ever A&R representative responsible for talent scouting and artist development. One of Carew’s first run-ins with Saddle Creek was when the label signed Sam Evian out from under her while she was employed at label Anti- Records.

“At the time I was like ‘Saddle Creek? I didn’t know they were still doing stuff,'” Carew said. “I was in my own bubble. Then I looked at the label and realized that Saddle Creek was putting out records I like and doing new things.”

Carew’s first signing for Saddle Creek, Detroit singer/songwriter Stef Chura, who joined the label last November and whose debut album, Messes, was re-released by Saddle Creek in February, said she was familiar with the label in high school because of Bright Eyes, who she counts as an influence.

“When (the signing) was announced, I got a lot of ‘They’re still a label?’ questions and asked if I was going to meet Conor Oberst,” Chura said. “I love a lot of their stuff, new and old; I love what they’re doing now. There are separate eras (of the label) that are attracting different audiences. They’ve always signed artists with a lot of integrity, really good songwriters. It’s a big compliment to be on the label.”

At around the same time Chura joined Saddle Creek, the label signed Chicago rockers Young Jesus, whose debut, titled S/T, they re-released in February. The album is a departure for the label, with tracks that range from six minutes to over 12 minutes, jangly noise collages and epic jams that could be filed under “experimental.” Far from a commercially influenced acquisition.

“We’re not playing the analytics game,” Nansel said. “We’re not seeing who’s got a bunch of followers on Facebook.”

“If that were the case, we would have never signed Young Jesus,” Carew adds, “or Stef. I’ve made a concerted effort to talk about the new era of Saddle Creek. When I talk to new bands, I ask them if they want to be part of it.”

Nansel said plans call for doubling the number of releases the label puts out next year. He discussed new acts that Saddle Creek is either about to sign or announce (including an Omaha band), many of which will be unknown to most fans. “They’re not even necessarily known within their communities,” he said. “They’re just brand new bands. The goal is to give people their first shot at putting out a record. It’s hard to build a band from the ground up. It’s fun. It’s the most rewarding thing possible.”

So how does a label like Saddle Creek judge success in 2018? “It’s all about streams,” Nansel said. “It’s not really about physical sales anymore. I mean, that’s an important piece of it for us and our fan base. We still like to sell records, but the number of streams is the barometer of success — how many people are listening to your band online.”

And while getting your artists’ songs added to a Spotify curated playlist is a boon, Nansel said the key is for listeners to add albums and artists to their personal lists. “That’s how you retain that listener,” he said.

Streaming also is what pays the bills these days, specifically with checks from Spotify and Apple Music. “Those two primarily,” Nansel said. “Pandora and YouTube not so much. It’s like real money now. Our Spotify check is our biggest check every month; they’re bigger than ADA, our (physical) distributors.”

Good thing, too, because the label has a lot of mouths to feed. Nansel said the staff is the largest it’s ever been with the addition of Marketing Director Katie Nowak, who literally joined the label the day of this interview. Nowak, a New Yorker, will be joining the Los Angeles staff. The Omaha staff consists of C.J. Olson, radio/project management; Jadon Ulrich, art director; Jeff Tafolla, licensing, and Sarah Murray, retail/distribution. Nate Welker, digital marketing, lives in Seattle. Jason Kulbel, who manages Slowdown and other properties, stepped away from the label years ago.

Why does the Saddle Creek bother to keep an Omaha presence? Nansel, who’s lived in LA for nearly four years, points to the staff who live here. “I have a lot of roots in Omaha,” he said. “It’s an important place to me.”

Nansel, who turns 43 this year, never thought he’d still be running the label 25 years after releasing that Water cassette.

“That’s because I’m not a planner in that way,” he said. “I never saw myself doing anything else, either. People kept making music. We kept caring about it. We kept having opportunities to do stuff with it. As long as that happens, why would we stop?”

First published in The Reader, June 2018. Copyright © 2018 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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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 © 2018 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Ten Questions with Sunflower Bean (at Reverb 6/25); Whipkey tonight; Eric in Outerspace Saturday; Bambara Sunday…

Category: Interviews — Tags: , , , — @ 12:00 pm June 22, 2018

Sunflower Bean plays Reverb Monday, June 25.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Few bands have taken indie stardom by storm quite like Brooklyn’s Sunflower Bean. The trio of Nick Kivlen (lead guitar and vocals), Jacob Faber (drums) and Julia Cumming (bass and lead vocals) exploded onto the scene with the critically lauded Human Ceremony (2016, Fat Possum), a compilation of songs the trio wrote while still in their teens.

Their new maturity is apparent on Twentytwo in Blue (2018, Mom + Pop), released this past March. The band takes on a more rock-fueled tone while Cumming, who handles the lion’s share of vocals, comes off like a modern-day Harriet Wheeler but without the acoustic lilt of The Sundays.

I caught up with the band and gave them the Ten Questions treatment. Here’s what they had to say:

1. What is your favorite album?

Julia Cumming: Transformer – Lou Reed

2. What is your least favorite song?

Cumming: Anything by the Chainsmokers.

3. What do you enjoy most about being in a band?

Cumming: It’s a dream come true. I love being on a team with people I trust and care about, and making art with them. We get to travel the world, and no show we play is the same as any other. Each show has improvisation and is kept super live so that we can create these special moments every night. Creating those moments is the best part of being in a band.

4. What do you hate about being in a band?

Nick Kivlen: There’s nothing we really hate about being in a band but sometimes when you’re on a 4-week tour you really start missing your own bed.

5. What is your favorite substance (legal or illegal)?

Kivlen: Coffee

6. In what city or town do you love to perform?

Jacob Faber: NYC will forever be the best.

7. What city or town did you have your worst gig (and why)?

Faber: Not sure of the worst gig but one that stands out is when we played a frat house and fight broke out and everyone went to watch the fight instead of our show.

8. Are you able to support yourself through your music? If so, how long did it take to get there; if not, how do you pay your bills?

Faber: We are lucky enough that we can support ourselves through music, nothing is ever guaranteed, but we work really hard and are able to do it full time.

9. What one profession other than music would you like to attempt; what one profession would you absolutely hate to do?

Faber: Would love to be a traveling food critic; would hate to be a car salesman.

10. What are the stories you’ve heard about Omaha, Nebraska?

Faber: All I know about Omaha is that Nick’s old dog, Casey, was from Omaha and he was a great guy RIP.

Sunflower Bean plays with Public Access T.V. Monday, June 25, at Reverb Lounge, 6121 Military Ave. Showtime is 8 p.m., tickets are $12 Adv./$14 DOS. For more information, go to onepercentproductions.com.

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OK, but what about this weekend?

Tonight Matt Whipkey is playing a free show at Harney Street Tavern. Whipkey has grabbed some national attention lately when his cover of The Beatles’ “Drive My Car,” which appears on his new album Driver, was played on both Little Steven’s Underground Garage and Breakfast with the Beatles, a show hosted by Chris Carter, founding member of Dramarama. Both shows are on Sirius XM satellite radio. Driver also received a positive nod from roots music journal No Depression. See what the buzz is about starting at 9 p.m.

Also tonight (Friday) Denver’s Slow Caves (Old Flame Records) plays at O’Leaver’s with Ojai and Win/Win. $7, 10 p.m.

Saturday night Eric in Outerspace celebrates the release of their new album Later Days at Brothers Lounge. Joining them are Chicago’s The Sueves and The Cassowaries (Andrew Gustafson). $5, 9 p.m.

Also Saturday night Montee Men opens for Jump the Tiger at O’Leaver’s. Living Conditions kicks it off at 10 p.m. $5.

A busy weekend for O’Leaver’s ends with a special Sunday matinee featuring Brooklyn’s Bambara (Wharfcat Records). FiFi NoNo and The Show Is the Rainbow opens at 6 p.m. $5.

That’s all I got. If I missed your show, put it in the comments section. Have a great weekend.

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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 © 2018 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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Saddle Creek at 25 — a look at the label’s past, present and future; Oquoa, Ojai tonight…

Category: Interviews — Tags: , , , — @ 12:38 pm June 11, 2018

The Saddle Creek staff circa 2003, from left, Matt Maginn, Jason Kulbel, Jadon Ulrich, Jeff Tafolla and Robb Nansel. Photo by Ryan Fox.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

The June 2018 issue of The Reader — The Music Issue.

The June issue of The Reader — The Music Issue — is out. Or at it’s online. The cover story is a lengthy piece written by me about Saddle Creek Records on its 25th anniversary, and includes comments from label chief Robb Nansel, new A&R rep Amber Carew and recent label signee Stef Chura.

Titled Saddle Creek at 25 with a subtitle “The label that defined indie cool over a decade ago is suddenly cool again,” the story focuses not so much on the label’s early years (which you can read about here and here) as much as how they survived though the changes impacting the music industry, and how they’re positioned for the future.

As detailed in the story, I characterized (and Nansel generally agreed) Saddle Creek’s history in three eras — the time up to and including the label’s biggest successes, the awkward middle years right after their heyday when they began booking non-Omaha-connected acts, and the “New Era” they’re currently enjoying hallmarked by the success of roster acts Hop Along and Big Thief and a handful of other up-and-comers.

Nansel and Co. touch on the label’s history but also talk about adjusting to technology’s negative impacts, how the philosophy behind who they sign hasn’t changed and the future.

You can read the story online right here.

The interview with Nansel took two hours and was around 20,000 words of transcribed copy, so yeah, there’s out-takes, which I’ll likely post in the coming days, along with the full text of the story (for posterity’s sake, and to ensure that if The Reader ever goes belly-up there will be another copy online). Among those out-takes are Nansel’s self-proclaimed biggest success and biggest disappointment. You’ll have to wait to read the answers.

Anyway, give it it read, and pick up a copy of the printed version at your favorite news stand. Also included is The Reader‘s controversial list of Omaha’s Top 20 bands. More on that here in the very near future (including my own list)…

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Pageturner’s summer concert series continues tonight with Oquoa and Ojai. The fun starts at 9 p.m.

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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 © 2018 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

 

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Ten Questions with Black Rebel Motorcycle Club (at Slowdown May 17); Helmet tonight…

Category: Interviews — Tags: , , , , , — @ 12:39 pm May 15, 2018

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club plays Thursday night at The Slowdown. Photo by Tessa Angus.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club — a.k.a. BRMC — have been a force in the West Coast psych rock scene since the band formed in the late ’90s. The core has always been guitarist Peter Hayes and bassist Robert Levon Been, who have shared the vocals throughout the band’s eight studio albums.

Their style: a grimy gutter groove, a loud fuzz guitar and a gritty growl spitting out words about the wrong kind of love. Rock stomps like “Beat the Devil’s Tattoo” off the 2010 album by the same name, and “Spread Your Love” off their 2001 debut B.R.M.C. are the perfect soundtrack for anyone who wants to feel like a bad-ass. The band keeps the grind going strong on their latest, Wrong Creatures, released this past January by Vagrant Records.

We caught up with BRMC’s Robert Levon Been and asked him Ten Questions:

What is your favorite album?

Robert Levon Been: Still waiting for it.

What is your least favorite song?

Nearly all of the them, except the very few that somehow give just enough hope to music to trick it into believing it might all carry on into infinity and beyond.

What do you enjoy most about being in a band?

It’s the real dream: to find a place where you set aside all your differences with another person and create something new, beautiful, and unexpected with another person. It’s not far from child birth or any great work of art that’s a collaborative exploration into violent and unknown territory.

What do you hate about being in a band?

The sex, drugs, lies, egos and the distractions. But then again, what would rock ’n’ roll be without all those things?

What is your favorite substance (legal or illegal)?

MUSIC. I know it’s like the most pretentious answer of all time, but I don’t care. It really comes down to the song, atmosphere, weird sonic vibrations, and soul. Everything else is just is surface, sugar, icing on the cake, and always fleeting…

In what city or town do you love to perform?

Our dream is to play Iceland, which is the only place we’ve never played and we’ve always tried year after year after year… so please start a petition! To get BRMC TO ICELAND, please.

What city or town did you have your worst gig (and why)?

I think most towns we’ve bombed as many time as we’ve soared, so it kinda balances out. As far as why…I don’t know, I guess we all get nervous and choke just as much as the next guy or gal.

Are you able to support yourself through your music? If so, how long did it take to get there; if not, how do you pay your bills?

This is actually a good question, because when the band started we ALL AGREED for each member to only be paid a monthly salary (as if we had normal jobs). So if we got a huge licenses for $800,000 dollars we would still just take out a small allowance of that, and that kept us from blowing through our money super fast (with fur coats and lambos). What I’ve noticed though is that after each album we usually have about one year before the accountants start saying ‘Hey look, you’re gonna completely run out of your savings in about six months unless you deliver another new album.’ And that fucks with your head, because you’re just not always inspired every single year to write a new album, which is why I think ‘Wrong Creatures’ took longer than most because we didn’t want to release an album just for, like, tax purposes, which would be almost sacrilegious artistically. So we dragged our feet more than ever before and waited until the songs came more naturally, and it started to feel like an album that we needed in these times. And that’s the only thing that really matters at the end of the day.

What one profession other than music would you like to attempt; what one profession would you absolutely hate to do?

A film director or an astronaut. I would hate to vacuum the floors at an airport at like 3 a.m. on the slow Zamboni they’ve got there. I’ve never seen anything more mind numbing than watching a human sitting on a vacuum cleaning going 5 miles per hour, and very understandably looking half asleep while doing a job that’s only purpose is to ease all creativity and soul from your body. But what do I know? Maybe there’s an upside that I’m missing.

What are the stories you’ve heard about Omaha, Nebraska?

Just the title all of our all time favorite Bruce Springsteen album, ‘Nebraska’. And that album alone got us through a lot of long van drives cross country in the early days of the band. It’s a spooky album to listen to on an open highway in the dead of night.

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club plays with Pete International Airport Thursday, May 17, at The Slowdown, 729 No. 14th St. Tickets are $25 Adv/$28 DOS. Showtime is 8 p.m. For more information, go to theslowdown.com.

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The ’90s are back loud and clear tonight at The Waiting Room — Helmet headlines a show alongside metal dudes Prong. $25, 8 p.m.

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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 © 2018 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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Little Brazil: Don’t Call It a Comeback; new album, new line-up, new record label; Modest Mouse tonight…

Category: Blog,Interviews — Tags: , , , — @ 12:44 pm May 9, 2018

Members of Little Brazil talked about the new record over slices at Virtuoso Pizza in Benson. From left are Shawn Cox, Landon Hedges and Danny Maxwell. Drummer Nate Van Fleet was missing in action.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

The May issue of The Reader is on the racks and with it, my Over the Edge column which this time features an interview with Little Brazil. The band has a new record, Send the Wolves, that drops June 1 on new label Max Trax Records. Conor Oberst contributes to one of the tracks. The album release show also is June 1. I suggest pre-ordering some tasty blue vinyl from this here website. Look, it’s all covered in the article, which is on news stands now, online right here or, heck, just read it below.

Don’t Call It a Comeback
Little Brazil returns with a new album, line-up and record label.

Little Brazil is back with a new album that, in my humble opinion, is their best ever.

I write the above without any explanation assuming you and everyone else knows who Little Brazil was, is and will be. Because if you live in Omaha, listen to indie rock and know even a scintilla about the local music scene it’s virtually impossible to not know about the band and its history over the past 14 years.

With frontman Landon Hedges and bassist Danny Maxwell at its core, Little Brazil was always in the conversation as the “next big thing” during the mid-2000s when Saddle Creek Records bands were international commodities and Omaha was being heralded as the “New Seattle” by the likes of the New York Times, Rolling Stone and every publication that followed college music.

The band hit the ground running in 2004 with its debut LP, You and Me, released by former Omahan Mike Jaworski’s Mt. Fuji Records. It was followed by Tighten the Noose in ’07, also on Mt. Fuji, and Son in 2009 on Kansas City’s Anodyne Records. The line-up for those last two featured drummer Oliver Morgan and guitarist Greg Edds. In addition to becoming a staple on Omaha stages, Little Brazil toured the country both as an opening act and headliner.

What kept people coming back was Little Brazil’s sound — part indie, part emo, part punk and unmistakably Nebraskan. Or as I wrote in my first feature on the band way back in 2004: “What gives Little Brazil a leg up on the plethora of indie competition is Hedges’ love for basic melodies, great guitar lines and his strange, childish warble.” No one sings quite like Landon Hedges, his high croon/wail cuts through the deafening wall of guitar, bass and drums like a 10 million lumen beacon through the densest fog.

Little Brazil was always on the edge of breaking through to the next level, but after a year of touring Son, the band hit a wall in 2010 in the form of another band — Desaparecidos. Hedges held a central role in Conor Oberst’s punk-rock side project that re-emerged from a long hiatus with the Concert for Equality. But Desa wasn’t the only reason for Little Brazil’s slowdown.

“I moved to San Diego in 2010 to be with my wife,” Hedges said over slices of pizza and beer at Virtuoso Pizzeria in downtown Benson alongside Maxwell and new guitarist Shawn Cox. “I got married and DMax got married the same year. There was a member switch and, yeah, Desa got back together.”

At the time, Little Brazil was in the middle of writing its next record with new drummer Matt Bowen and new guitarist Mike Friedman, but when Conor calls, you pick up the phone. Desaparecidos recorded and toured off and on for the next five years. “Little Brazil went from doing five shows a year to two and then one,” Maxwell said.

Then in 2015 after Oberst suffered a number of health-related issues, Desaparecidos came to an end. The following January Little Brazil entered ARC Studios with producer Ben Brodin and laid down the tracks for what became Send the Wolves, the new album that comes out June 1 on Max Trax Records (more on that in a minute).

The end of the last Desaparecidos tour is the subject of the first single off the album, “Making a Mess,” that features Oberst once again singing alongside Hedges. “We were sitting in the studio and I texted Conor, ‘You’re missing out on the dubious honor of singing on a Little Brazil song.’ He knew exactly what song I was talking about because Brodin had told him.”

Oberst walked over to the studio (He lives next door) and laid down his vocals. “It was the last song we wrote for the album, it was very special and it was nice that he sang on it,” Hedges said. The two-and-a-half-minute song carries the same energy as a Desparecidos song, with opening lines: “It feels like you’re making a mess / It seems that you’re walking away from something / That you don’t want to say or admit to.”

It’s not the only song on the album reminiscent of Desaparecidos’ style and energy, but instead of politics, Hedges writes about his life, from meeting his wife (“Wait for You”) to growing up in Benson (the infectious “Motorbike”) to his friendship with Maxwell. “This record is as honest as I’ve been on an album,” Hedges says, “and it makes me nervous to have the lyrics printed on the sleeve.”

The lyric sheet is a first for Little Brazil. Another first is releasing the album on vinyl. The label, Max Trax Records (maxtraxrecords.com) was the idea of Marty and Frank Maxwell, Danny Maxwell’s brothers. When Frank passed away unexpectedly in the summer of 2016, Marty and Danny launched the label as a tribute to their brother. Today, Max Trax is home to five bands including Little Brazil, with more on the way.

With the new record and new label also comes new personnel for Little Brazil. The aforementioned Shawn Cox has replaced Mike Friedman on lead guitar, while See Through Dresses’ drummer Nate Van Fleet has taken over behind the kit for Matt Bowen. The new line-up already is working on the followup to Send the Wolves, with plans to enter the studio soon.

Hedges and Maxwell will tell you they never had any allusions of making a living just playing music, and now in their mid-30s, they still don’t. “The motivation is just writing and creating new music with the guys,” Hedges said. “I’ll play music ’til the day I die.”

Little Brazil plays with Pro-Magnum and Eric in Outerspace June 1 at The Waiting Room, 6212 Maple St. Tickets are $8, showtime is 9 p.m. For more information, go to onepercentproductions.com

Over The Edge is a monthly 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 May 2018 in The Reader. Copyright © 2018 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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Lest we forget that tonight Modest Mouse plays at the Ralston Arena. The band’s last album was Strangers to Ourselves in 2015, which also happens to be the last time they came through Omaha, as headliners to that year’s Maha Music Festival. NYC band Mass Gothic opens. The band’s self-titled debut album came out on Sub Pop in 2016. Tickets are $39.50 to $55. 8 p.m. start time.

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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 © 2018 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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Ten Questions with Stelth Ulvang (Lumineers)(@ The Slowdown 4/20); review: Clarence Tilton / Monday Mourners split LP……

Category: Interviews — Tags: , — @ 12:00 pm April 19, 2018

Stelth Ulvang plays with Wild Child at The Slowdown April 20.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Though singer/songwriter Stelth Ulvang makes his nut as a traveling member of The Lumineers he’s got his own thing going. His sophomore album, American Boredom, was written between tours with his Lumineer pals and has that same winsome folk-rock style of acts like John Wesley Harding and Michael Penn. “I somehow never stop touring,” said the Ft. Collins native. “I enjoy the DIY and indie contrast (of his current tour) to the Live Nation/ Universal shows the rest of the time.

I caught up with Stelth and he did the ol’ Ten Questions survey. Check it out.

What is your favorite album?

Stelth Ulvang: Forced to pick one, probably Built to Spill, There’s Nothing Wrong With Love.

What is your least favorite song?

I really hate “Summer Lovin” UGH it grinds my bones.

What do you enjoy most about being in a band?

Paid travel

What do you hate about being in a band?

Being in 3 to 5 to 9 relationships.

What is your favorite substance (legal or illegal)?

Easy, I believe strongly everyone should try psych mushrooms at least once.

In what city or town do you love to perform?

Cape Town, South Africa, has pulled me back 5 or 6 times. Love it.

What city or town did you have your worst gig (and why)?

Has ANYONE actually had a good gig in Milwaukee? For a city that prides themselves on their beer consumption, racial segregation, has more riverbank or lakeshore that smells like fish than Chicago, and the cities nickname is “Cream City” Easy answer.

Are you able to support yourself through your music? If so, how long did it take to get there; if not, how do you pay your bills?

Music (with the Lumineers) has become my day job of sorts, but also I suppose last time I brewed coffee for money was 10 years ago! (Salud!).

What one profession other than music would you like to attempt; what one profession would you absolutely hate to do?

I think I’d be a pretty good salesman at ACE hardware; I would never be a dental assistant. One time a dental assistant asked me what I did for a living, I said, “I’m a musician.” She replied, “I don’t really listen to music.” Jaw dropped.

What are the stories you’ve heard about Omaha, Nebraska?

Haha. I have weird hitch hiking stories from Omaha, too long for here. But I’m a big fan of Saddle Creek Records. Shaped my musical scope as I became a musician undoubtedly. But also the Lucky Scalpee is a good one, the one about the crane that stole a child, and the weird one about Pete Postlethwaite having a nervous breakdown in The Drover and a waitress calmed him down and they fell in love and got married…. that one.

Stelth Ulvang plays with Wild Child at The Slowdown Friday, April 20. Tickets are $15 Adv/$17 DOS. Showtime is 9 p.m. For more information, go to theslowdown.com.

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Q1 2018 record reviews continue. Read them all here at The Reader website.

Clarence Tilton / Monday Mourners, split LP (2018, self-release)

Clarence Tilton / Monday Mourners, split LP (self release) — This is like getting two albums in one because there’s so much material from both of these local bands — six tracks per band. Side one is Clarence Tilton, who provides another set of the best alt-country you’re going to hear this side of Uncle Tupelo. Des Moines’ Monday Mourners is a new discovery, with a sound that ranges from more traditional C&W (“Steal My Time,” “Trouble at Home”) to heavier, snarling country rock (“Blood on the Wheel”) with twanging guitars that float atop a cushion of organ tones. Giddy-up!

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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 © 2018 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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