Saddle Creek Records update: Ada Lea joins the roster; new Stef Chura; Treadles gets Document(ed)…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 12:45 pm May 14, 2019

Ada Lea is the latest artist signed to Saddle Creek Records.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

It’s a quiet Tuesday so might as well catch up on some Saddle Creek Records news…

The label announced May 8 that it signed Montreal singer/songwriter and visual artist Ada Lea. A follower of Sylvia Plath and Nina Simone, Lea’s Saddle Creek debut, What We Say in Private (I added the capitol letters), “began with a need to document the ending of an important romantic relationship. Following a tormented period of staying up all night (sometimes days at a time), frantically painting or writing songs as a means of coping, she journalled for 180 days in the hope of finding herself again.”

Yikes. The first single, “The Party,” has already dropped. The rest of the album comes out July 19.

There’s not a lot online about Ada Lea. No Bandcamp; one song in Spotify. Methinks the Saddle Creek digital team scraped the usual sites of any tracks she might have lying around. There is one live set on YouTube from May 2018.

Here’s the single:

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Seems like we’ve been waiting for the new Stef Chura album for a 100 years. Titled Midnight, it’s slated to drop June 7. It wa produced by Will Toledo of Car Seat Headrest.

To keep you psyched, Stef dropped a new video for single “They’ll Never,” below. This one’s a kicker in the Angel Olsen vein. Chura could have a second career as a country crooner if this one doesn’t work out (but I think it will).

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And I forgot to mention that New Orleans band Treadles is the subject of the eighth installment of Saddle Creek’s Document singles series. Their 7-inch, “Cold” b/w “Iron,” comes out May 24.

This is an interesting statement that came with the press release for the Treadles single:

In the beginning, Saddle Creek was simply a way for us to highlight the music and art community in our hometown of Omaha, NE. Over the years, we have grown and our roster expanded to include artists from all over the world, but we never lost our love for the spirit in which the label was founded. While the scope of the label may have evolved over time, we know there are great music scenes all around the world that are in the same place we were in the beginning: a group of creators coexisting and collaborating within an artistic community that they know is special, but hasn’t quite gotten the spotlight it deserves.

I bring it up only because someone recently asked me if I consider Saddle Creek to be an Omaha label. I do. In fact, I would venture to guess that one of their biggest selling albums so far this year is the new release by The Faint, an Omaha band whose core members are scattered throughout the country, but still… an Omaha band (if you ask me).

Despite having offices in Los Angeles, Saddle Creek will always be considered an Omaha label, just like it continues to be referenced in reviews as “Conor Oberst’s label” even though Conor moved onto other labels years ago. It was Saddle Creek where Conor got his start and where he’ll forever be identified with…

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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 © 2019 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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Saddle Creek nominated for medium-sized label of the year; The Nadas, Basement tonight; ADULT. Saturday…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 12:29 pm March 29, 2019

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

The American Association of Independent Music (A2IM) unveiled the nominees for its 2019 indie music-celebrating Libera Awards and Saddle Creek Records has been nominated as Label of the Year (Medium).

Creek’s competition in the category is Bloodshot, Mom + Pop, Partisan and Yep Roc. Last year Dead Oceans won in the “big” label category, which was for imprints with more than six employees. The org has since revamped its categorization and added a “medium”-sized company category.

Last year Big Thief’s Capacity was among the nominees for Album of the Year and Best American Roots and Folk Album. The album was released by Saddle Creek in 2017.

The Libera Awards will take place in New York City June 20, the culmination of A2IM’s “Indie Week.”

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Onto the weekend…

Emo is still a thing, even in the UK. Tonight Ipswitch emo rockers Basement headline at Slowdown Jr. Joining them are Salt Creek and Dear Neighbor. $18, 9 p.m.

Also tonight, Des Moines folk-rock act The Nadas returns to The Waiting Room. Matt Whipkey and Wasted Highway open the show at 9 p.m. $25.

There’s also a benefit show tonight at The Brothers Lounge for Jordan Jmal Maly. Performing are Iowa City’s Dryad, Houma and Bed Rest. $5, 9 p.m. with all proceeds going to Jordan.

Tomorrow night, Detroit electronic duo ADULT. headlines at Slowdown Jr. The husband-and-wife team Adam Lee Miller and Nicola Kuperus have been doing their style of synth rock since ’96. Their latest full-length, 2018’s This Behavior, was released on DIAS Records. Cult Play and HXXS open at 9 p.m. $15.

And 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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High Up calls it quits (and goodbye Finks); Saddle Creek makes Paste list; new Jason Steady…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , , — @ 1:45 pm January 7, 2019

High Up at The Slowdown, Nov. 28, 2015. The band announced this weekend that it’s breaking up.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Happy Monday. Here are a few news items from the past week…

Yesterday, High Up announced via Facebook that it’s calling it quits. From the post:

“Between beautiful and healthy new additions to Matt and Josh’s families and new journeys to other parts of the country for Orenda, Todd and Christine, we felt it was best to move on and move up, and we wish the same happiness and positive change to you and yours.”

The Finks moving from Omaha is a major blow to the local music scene. All three Finks were among the city’s most talented musicians, and will be greatly missed. Obviously, it could be a long time (if ever) until we see another Closeness concert in this city.

We likely wouldn’t have seen much of Todd next year anyway. The Faint will be busy with the release of Egowerk March 15 on Saddle Creek Records. No announcement has been made concerning a national tour, but you have to believe one is in the making. And Azure Ray just announced a couple January dates in San Francisco and Brooklyn. Could more be on the way?

High Up was one of Omaha’s biggest hopes for breaking through to a larger audience after the release of their debut full-length You Are Here on Team Love Records in early 2018. But after some initial touring, things went quiet for the band. Here’s hoping frontwoman Christine Fink finds a new gig in Savannah — it’d be a shame to never hear those golden pipes again.

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Saddle Creek Records got a nice tip o’ the hat from Paste Magazine last week when it made their list of the 10 best record labels of 2018.

Saddle Creek, the Nebraska label that started as a college class project in 1993, now boasts one of the most focused rosters in indie rock,” said the article, which also lists such stalwart labels as Sub Pop, Merge and Secretly Canadian among the best.

Matador Records topped the list at No. 1, and See Through Dresses’ label, Tiny Engines, was named Boutique Label of the Year. See the full list here.

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Finally, last Thursday Jason Steady (Talking Mountain, Wolf Dealer) released a new video for the track “Deep Lucy.”

Cosmic midwestern music! I’ll be touring again in May with my buddy Chris (Slushy/Lemons/Nobunny/Cowboys/etc.) and this song is part of a forthcoming release,” he said.

Check it below:

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Lazy-i Best of 2018

It’s the final day to ask for a copy of the Lazy-i Best of 2018 Comp CD. The collection includes my favorite indie tunes I’ve come across throughout last year as part of my tireless work as a music critic for Lazy-i. Tracks include songs by J Masic, Sextile, Father John Misty, Campdogzz, Those Far Out Arrows, Boygenius, Your Smith, Nik Freitaz, Ron Gallo, Adrianne Lenker and lots more. The full track listing is here, or listen on Spotify.

To enter to win a copy of the CD either: 1) Send an email with your mailing address to tim.mcmahan@gmail.com, or 2) Let me know you want one via Facebook comments, or 3) Retweet a Lazy-i tweet (If you use social media and win, I’ll reach out later for your mailing address). Hurry, contest deadline is tonight at midnight.

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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 © 2019 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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Review: The Sun-Less Trio ‘The Willow Tree,’ release show tonight; Saddle Creek’s latest ‘Document’ (featuring Hovvdy)…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , , , , — @ 12:37 pm August 29, 2018

The Sun-Less Trio at Reverb Aug. 18, 2017. The band celebrates the release of a new EP tonight at Pageturners Lounge.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Tonight The Sun-Less Trio celebrates the release of a 5-song EP called The Willow Tree at Pageturners Lounge. S-L T is a project helmed by singer/songwriter Mike Saklar, who us old-timers remember for his guitar work in a number of bands including late-’90s post-punk projects Ritual Device and Ravine.

S-LT is geared differently than those metal-tinged efforts, leaning more toward minor-key slow-burners a la Disintegration-era Cure (but with more emphasis on guitars than keyboards). Dim-lit, tonal, emotional and ultimately atmospheric, The Willow Tree turns and sways on a dark edge. Saklar chose to open the collection with “Branches Sway,” the most somber song on the EP, desribed as “A hypnotic monotone rhythm captures the minory chords in a classic manner, only to be destroyed by an unforeseeable middle 8.”

A pity he didn’t come out of the gate with the title track, a rocker centered around a guitar riff and Marc Phillips’ pounding drums (of the dry-echo recording, Saklar does a particularly awesome job with Phillips’ booming stickwork). Drums are right in the middle of “The Station,” a slow-swing dirge that closes out the EP. “Exposure” is another echoing ghost track.

By contrast is the EP’s other highlight, “X-Y-Z,” a self-proclaimed drug song that features Saklar’s best guitar work.

This is one of those recordings that takes multiple plays to absorb. Saklar makes the most of his vocals, using them as a secondary tonal instrument that bends with the chords (lyrics, thankfully, were included in the liner notes I received).

The EP will be available as a 7-inch vinyl. The album’s Bandcamp page includes 14 additional tracks (including different mixes of the EP’s songs). Also on tonight’s bill at Pageturners are Styrofoamy (Jim Schroeder/Colin Duckworth) and Stephen Bartolomei. The free show has an 8:30 start time.

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Saddle Creek Records’s 7-inch “Document Series” continues with a new release by Austin band Hovvdy.

Hovvdy (pronounced “howdy”) is the writing and recording project of a couple drummers, Charlie Martin and Will Taylor. Their debut album, Taster, originally released on Sports Day Records was reissued in 2017 by Double Double Whammy. The follow-up, Cranberry, came out this past February.

“Easy” b/w “Turns Blue” 7-inch drops Oct. 5. Pre-order here.

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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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Big Thief’s Adrianne Lenker gets Saddle Creek solo; new Tomberlin video…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 12:51 pm August 7, 2018

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Saddle Creek Records announced this morning that it’s releasing the solo debut by Big Thief’s Adrianne Lenker, titled abysskiss.

Songs can be slippery and following a 2+ years on the road with Big Thief, Lenker felt a growing need to document this particular time in her life in an intimate, immediate way. The result is her new album, abysskiss, out October 5,” sayeth the press release.

The album was co-produced with Luke Temple (Here We Go Magic) and recorded by Gabe Wax (Soccer Mommy, Ought, Palehound). This looks like another big score for Saddle Creek. Pre-order it here.

Speaking of Saddle Creek releases, the next one out of the gate is the Tomberlin’s LP At Weddings, which comes out Friday. Sarah Beth released a new video, “Any Other Way” this morning.

No shows tonight!

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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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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.

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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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Azure Ray heads East; Saddle Creek signs Tomberlin…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , — @ 12:46 pm June 5, 2018
Azure Ray at The Slowdown, Nov. 3, 2010.

Azure Ray at The Slowdown, Nov. 3, 2010. The duo is headed to China in a couple weeks.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Some news…

If like me you’ve been wondering what Azure Ray has been up to, well, the duo of Orenda Fink and Maria Taylor are headed east, as in the Far East for a tour of China.

The dates for this mini tour, announced on Facebook and elsewhere:

June 17 / Shenzen, A8 Live House
June 19 / Ghungzhou, Mao Live House
June 21 / Shanghai, Modern Sky Lab
June 23 / Beijing, Tango Live House

If you’re in the area, drop by one of the shows! Seriously, I didn’t even know the duo had been playing together. The last release I’m aware of was EP As Above So Below, released on Saddle Creek Records in 2012. Their last live show was a reunion gig at Lodge Room Highland Park this past Jan. 20.

BTW, this is not the first Asian tour for Azure Ray. The duo played China and Taiwan back in 2013.

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Speaking of Saddle Creek Records, the label today announced that it’s signed Tomberlin a.k.a. Sarah Beth Tomberlin. Her debut album, At Weddings, was released as part of Joyful Noise Records’ “White Label Series” last October. Saddle Creek is re-releasing it Aug. 10 with three new songs added (pre-order here).

Born in Jacksonville, Florida, and now based in Louisville, Kentucky, Tomberlin wrote most of At Weddings while living with her family in southern Illinois during her late teens and early twenties,” according to Saddle Creek. “At Weddings is laden with reverence for music itself, for the power it has to heal others and help people navigate their lives.”

It’s turning out to be a big year for Saddle Creek, and I’m sure there are more announcements to come…

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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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Live Review: Stef Chura; 15 Passenger signs Campdogzz…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 12:35 pm May 31, 2018

Stef Chura at O’Leaver’s, May 30, 2018.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

It was a small but lively crowd for last night’s Stef Chura concert at O’Leaver’s. Chura wisely played third among the four slated performers, possibly to prevent getting Omaha’d. Her act was a trio with bass and drums and Chura handling electric guitar and vocals.

I assume the first couple songs were new ones off the upcoming record produced by Will Toledo as they were heavier than stuff on her debut album and featured “trick endings” or at least they tricked the audience, who weren’t sure if the song was over or… oh, I guess there’s another verse. Super cool and catchy.

She brought it down in the middle of the set for a few songs off Messes, including a stirring version of personal favorite “Human Being,” where she sounded like a nerdy Stevie Nicks. Chura has a sweet croon that easily slips into a high, country-esque warble that could become her trademark if she’s not careful. On the whole, her vocals were under-powered last night and hard to hear except for those quiet moments.

Other highlights included the new singles, which also were produced by Toledo and are  catchy. Who knows how much influence Toledo will have on her sound. I guess we’ll have to wait unto the new album. Regardless, I think she’s going to be another strong addition to the “New Era” stable of Saddle Creek artists forging the label’s future.

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I’m a few days behind in mentioning that the Cursive guys’ new record label, 15 Passenger, just signed its first act – Chicago band Campdogzz.

According to their bio, the band has been kicking around for years, self-releasing their debut, Riders in the Hills of Dying Heaven, back in 2015. The new one, In Rounds, which comes out Aug. 3 on 15 Passenger, was written over a couple years and recorded in 2017 in Chicago. They’ve played around a lot, opening for Saddle Creek acts Big Thief and Sam Evian, among others.

The new record is solid and sounds like something that would fit into Saddle Creek recent catalog. Check out the first single below and pre-order here.

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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

Stef Chura (Saddle Creek Records) headlines tonight at O’Leaver’s…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , — @ 12:49 pm May 30, 2018

Stef Chura plays tonight at O’Leaver’s.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

I had a chance last week to talk to Stef Chura about a number of things, but mostly about recently signing to Saddle Creek Records. Chura, who’s played DIY shows in the Detroit area for 10 years, talked about how she was re-introduced to the label by Creek’s new A&R person Amber Carew and why ultimately the signing made sense. “I like what they’re doing now with Big Thief, Hop Along and Land of Talk,” she said. “I relate to them; sonically it’s a good fit.”

There’s more to the interview, but you’ll have to wait until the big Saddle Creek at 25 story comes out in next month’s issue of The Reader (the annual music issue!).

Saddle Creek already has re-released Chura’s debut album, Messes, and will be releasing the follow-up, which was produced by Will Toledo of Car Seat Headrest. The first products of her pairing with Toledo were released April 20 in the form of the single “Degrees” b/w “Sour Honey,” which you can check out via Bandcamp below. Something tells me Saddle Creek has another hit on their hands.

Come hear what the hubbub is all about tonight when Chura plays at fabulous O’Leaver’s. It’s a stacked show with Jordan Smith, House Vacations and Joe Knapp of Son, Ambulance opening. $7, 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.

Lazy-i