Saddle Creek Records sells Ink Tank Merch; and the winner is…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , — @ 1:49 pm January 10, 2017

by Tim McMahan,

It was nearly 10 years ago when I reported here in Lazy-i that Ink Tank Merch was open for business. The new  Saddle Creek Records subsidiary, operated by Chris Esterbrooks, screen printed T-shirts and other items for touring bands, including Saddle Creek acts. Esterbrooks came to Ink Tank after working at Impact Merchandising for four years handling their clients’ tour merch. At the time, Esterbrooks also was frontman for punk band Virgasound and was the former guitarist of the legendary Carsinogents.

From that 2007 Lazy-i article:

“Saddle Creek felt they could offer their bands a cheaper product, so why not get into the market?” Esterbrooks said from Ink Tank’s world headquarters, located in the industrial ghetto around 88th and H St. Ink Tank is little more than screen-print presses, a dryer that looks like a giant Quizno’s sandwich oven, and lots of storage. Add some computer equipment and a website ( and you’ve got yourself a start-up.

Now it looks like Esterbrooks has moved on, as Ink Tank has been purchased by Kansas City company Seen Merchandising. The following press release, which announces the change, came to my attention last week, but it was only this weekend that I was able to confirm it:

We are excited to announce that Seen Merchandising has purchased Ink Tank Merch. My name is RL Brooks and I am an owner of Seen Merchandising and now Ink Tank Merch.

Seen Merchandising is a full service screen printing shop and e-commerce distribution center located in Kansas City. We have been in business since 2009 and have over 30 years of combined experience among our leadership team. At our Kansas City location, we have a daily capacity of 20k shirts with a staff of 15 team members to support high quality, fast turn arounds with today’s most progressive inks. Working with acts such as August Burns Red, Hum, Shiner, Eric Andre, Electric Lady Studios, We are Scientists, Marian Hill, Dexter and many other amazing artists and businesses. We specialize in tour merchandising, retail-ready clothing lines and online store fulfillment

I have been a fan of Ink Tank Merch for sometime now and have become good friends with Pat Oakes, the current production manager at Ink Tank Merch. Over the years, I have felt adopted by the people and culture of Omaha and consider myself a Nebraska native son, as I was born in Lincoln, Nebraska. Pat and I have enjoyed several rock and roll excursions together as well as our shared love for all things screen printing. This purchase is an exciting opportunity for me and my company as we partner with Pat to bring Ink Tank Merch to even greater heights. This partnership will allow Ink Tank to grow its capacity, improve production, offer new products and services as well as provide a better overall experience. Ink Tank Merch will continue to operate under the same name in Omaha.

Pat Oakes, the production manager of Ink Tank for the past eight years, has become an owner in the business and will continue to run production at Ink Tank as well as take on operations management. Pat is committed to working with the team at Seen Merch to grow and improve Ink Tank Merch to be able to provide exceptional products and outstanding customer service…. Pat will become your primary contact at Ink Tank Merch with the full support of Seen Merch’s ownership and production staff.

LeAnn Jensen, the current art department manager, will stay with the company and continue to provide the exceptional attention to detail in preparing jobs for for production and lead the outstanding design work you have come to expect from Ink Tank.

Chris Esterbrooks is no longer with Ink Tank Merch and no longer represents Ink Tank Merch in any way.

You may have heard rumors that Ink Tank is closing. We want to assure you that this rumor is entirely false. We have the endorsement of former Ink Tank Merch owner Robb Nansel and Saddle Creek Records to continue and grow Ink Tank Merch. We will be staying open in Omaha with a strong commitment to improving and expanding the services Ink Tank offers you. All online stores will remain up and running without any interruption.

I’m told Esterbrooks is gainfully employed by another local merch/promotions company. I’m also told that Saddle Creek bands will continue to have the option to use Ink Tank, or any other merch company they wish to use, just like they’ve always had.

Why Saddle Creek sold Ink Tank remains a mystery. Believe me, I asked. Considering how merch has become more important than ever to bands as a source of income in a time when bands can’t depend (as much as they used to) on revenue from record sales, you’d think a merch company would be a valuable asset, especially to a record label. On the other hand, Saddle Creek may have seen Ink Tank’s sale as a convenient (and profitable) way of getting out of a costly operating expense they no longer needed to carry to satisfy the bands/musicians on their roster…

* * *

And the winner of this year’s drawing for a copy of the Lazy-i Best of 2016 comp CD is… Joe Liebentritt! Congrats Joe. Your CD will be dropped in the mail tomorrow. Thanks to everyone who entered.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — 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 © 2016 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Another new Faint song ‘ESP’; new video for ‘Young and Realistic’; tour starts tomorrow…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , — @ 12:46 pm September 28, 2016

by Tim McMahan,

The Faint released what I believe is the third new song off their upcoming CAPSULE:1999-2016 album, out Oct. 28 on Saddle Creek. Consequence of Sound got the honors. This one might be my favorite. The tour kicks off tomorrow in Minneapolis, headed to Omaha and Sokol Auditorium on Halloween.

And yesterday SPIN debuted the video for “Young and Realistic,” the second new song off the new record, directed by Faint frontman Todd Fink and Nik Fackler of Icky Blossoms. It’s creepy.

Feels like old times…

* * *

Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — 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 © 2016 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Album Review Sam Evian, Premium (2016, Saddle Creek); Off With Their Heads, Bad Cop / Bad Cop tonight…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , , — @ 12:59 pm September 14, 2016

by Tim McMahan,

From the label’s earliest days, there have been those who have sworn there’s a “Saddle Creek sound” that iconically identifies every act on the roster. And, of course, they’ve always been wrong. There is no sonic common denominator that linked Bright Eyes with Cursive with The Faint, nor with late-comers like Ladyfinger, Rilo Kiley or Son Ambulance, and certainly not with latter-day acts starting as far back as Tokyo Police Club through the list of artists you may already have forgotten, like Rural Alberta Advantage and Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson.

If there was a common thread among Creek artists, one could point toward solid song-writing and an uncompromising approach to the music that seemed genuine and unselfish. No one can accuse a Saddle Creek act of trying to write a hit song to benefit themselves or the label. Just didn’t happen (as far as I know). Instead, acts were — and are — free to make their own decisions based on the music they want to make, for better or worse, and commerce be damned.

Maybe that same philosophy drives the label’s roster decisions. After all, how does an act like Sam Evian fit into Saddle Creek’s history of signings? What qualities did the staff hear that made them decide, “We need to sign this guy; he belongs on Saddle Creek Records”? It certainly wasn’t a commerce-driven decision. I can’t imagine anyone thought, “Sam Evian’s gonna make this label a fortune.” It’s a head-scratcher.

Sam Evian, Premium (2016, Saddle Creek)

Sam Evian, Premium (2016, Saddle Creek)

So no, after listening to Premium for the past few weeks, the new album by Sam Evian, I can’t figure out why the label signed them. But then again, who would have thought that recent roster additions Big Thief and Hop Along were natural Saddle Creek bands? None have ties with Nebraska or sound like anyone else on the label.

Sam Evian’s music has a casual pop sound, an easy-going, loping meter augmented by glowing guitar tones, lilting synths and Sam Owens’ (the real Sam Evian) cooing voice that add up to the perfect soundtrack for walking barefoot along a West Coast beach at sunset. Call it Indie Yacht Rock; these tracks would sound right at home next to ’70s FM soft rock heroes Boz Scaggs, Player, Stephen Bishop, 10 cc and Bertie Higgins.

There are modern touch-stones as well. I was reminded of laid-back Kurt Vile and Foxygen. Highlights include the screaming sax solo on “Dark Love,” the 10 cc-sh “I Need a Man” and opening track and natural first single “Sleep Easy.” The whole album is warm and pretty and easy to take in, but unlike some of the more substantial Saddle Creek releases over the years, that good feeling is rather fleeting. Like a walk on the beach, the golden moment is lost after the sun goes down. This isn’t life-changing music, but it’s fun.

How does the album fit into the Creek catalogue? For those who’ve come to expect a quality product from the Saddle Creek imprint release-after-release, they won’t be disappointed. And maybe that’s the only requirement that matters. Premium comes out Sept. 30.

* * *

I felt as if I had to write something about Saddle Creek after a post on Facebook a few days ago about tonight’s Off With Their Heads show at Lookout Lounge suggested I only write about O’Leaver’s and Saddle Creek bands. Pshaw… (though, yeah, I do write a lot about Saddle Creek and O’Leaver’s…).

Minneapolis punk band Off With Their Heads records for Epitaph. They’ve toured with Bad Religion and Dropkick Murphys, among others. Openers include West Coast act Bad Cop / Bad Cop (Fat Wreck Chords), Omaha hardcore act Stronghold and The Ridgways. $15, 8 p.m.

* * *

Quick Note: That big (but actually quite small) show I mentioned last week that I didn’t get to announce will be announced tomorrow at noon… probably.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — 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 © 2016 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


#TBT July 14, 2004: 311, GTO, RHCP and the LA Connection; Femi Kuti & The Positive Force, Chemicals, Bus Gas tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 11:50 am July 14, 2016
#TBT 311 circa 2004.

#TBT 311 circa 2004.

by Tim McMahan,

On this red-hot Thursday, we step into the Wayback Machine and pull up this Lazy-i blog entry from July 14, 2004, featuring Nick Hexum of the band 311. I had interviewed Nick in support of the band’s Memorial Park concert, organized by then Mayor Mike Fahey as part of Omaha’s 150th birthday celebration. The full interview with Hexum is here, but there were interesting leftovers that never made it into the final article…

TBT: 311 and GTO and Saddle Creek July 14, 2004

An interview with 311’s Nick Hexum is on the site (read it here). Nick once and for all disputes the age-old stigma that 311 turned its back on Omaha by denying its Midwestern roots. Nothing could be further from the truth, Hexum says, categorically denying the accusation. And it only makes sense. Why on earth would they not take advantage of the novelty? Especially at a time when Omaha was only known for being in the center of the country? No, there is no cache in telling anyone that you’re among the thousands of faceless bands from LA. Who cares? Now, telling them you’re from Omaha… instant interest. The novelty has been somewhat blunted since the emergence of Saddle Creek Records.

Speaking of which, among the interview highlights that didn’t make it into the story is a back-and-forth about Omaha band Grasshopper Takeover and the Creek scene. I asked Hexum why GTO’s move to LA didn’t propel them to the same commercial heights as 311. “There’s an element of luck involved,” he said, adding comments (included in the story) about how 311’a move had nothing to do with their signing to Capricorn. 311 and GTO go way back. In fact, Hexum said he recently was on some sort of fishing trip with the band’s members. And GTO is opening for 311 at Friday’s Memorial Park concert.

Then I asked him about Saddle Creek Records. Had he heard of it or the bands on the label? “I know of them, but haven’t listened to them,” Hexum said. “I asked Curt Grubb (GTO lead singer) why those bands don’t embrace GTO. GTO sounds like emo and Jimmy Eat World. Curt said (the label) is very clique-y. I don’t know a lot about it, but I’m happy to see any band from Omaha doing well.” Interesting. I wouldn’t categorize GTO as sounding like a Creek band, and I certainly wouldn’t categorize Creek bands as sounding like Jimmy Eat World, but then again, I’ve had the advantage of having listened to them.

One other interesting aside that didn’t make the story: While Hexum was describing how 311 was driven to make it in the music world, he said, “Most of the bands that we were in competition with have broken up. How many bands in ’93 are headlining tours?”

I jumped in. “Well, there’s the Red Hot Chili Peppers.”

Hexum paused. “Yeah, the Chili Peppers were plugging away. We did a show with them New Years 2000. We were so influenced by them, they kicked open some doors and we went through them and kicked open some doors for some other bands.” A gracious comment, especially considering that when 311 was just emerging in the early ’90s, they were often compared to RHCP because both bands shared a similar hip-hop-meets-rock style. Years later, it doesn’t matter who came up with the sound first. — Lazy-i, July 14, 2004

If you have time, read the original feature story. It references a 1993 story about the band written for The Note with the headline “Sometimes It Pays to Be Assholes.” Said Hexum, “Folks in Omaha have been great supporting us, but we’ve been faced with a lot of assholes, too – bands downtown who really wanted to keep us out.” There’s more, lots more.

And in Hexum’s defense, he’s always been nothing but a nice guy to me whenever I interviewed him or the rest of the band.

* * *

Huge show tonight at The Slowdown: Nigerian afro-beat legends Femi Kuti & the Positive Force take the big stage.

From Wiki: “Femi, the son of Afrobeat pioneer and political activist Fela Kuti, inherited his father’s zeal for both music and activism. He started playing the saxophone and keyboard with his father’s band when he was 16 and stepped into the spotlight, writing and singing after his father’s demise. Femi remains politically inclined grooving to high energy funk, jazz and traditional African-fueled songs about political corruption, poverty and primitive living conditions suffered by most inhabitants in Nigeria’s oil-rich nation.”

This is the kind of show where a venue like The Slowdown could really shine. Surprisingly, tickets are still available for $28. Edem Soul Music opens at 8 p.m.

Also tonight, a different kind of jazz will be in concert at The Waiting Room when Chemicals opens for Stu Hamm Rock Experience. I don’t know a lick about electric bassist Stu Hamm, but can tell you that Chemicals is worth the $22 to see on TWR stage. Show starts at 8 p.m.

And then there’s what’s happening tonight at fabulous O’Leaver’s: Drone/ambient band Bus Gas says goodbye at what they’re calling their “last memorial service.” No doubt they’re going on an indefinite hiatus. Helping wave goodbye are Routine Escorts, Chalant and Jim Schroeder. $5, 9 p.m.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — 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 © 2016 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


#TBT May 11, 2000: Saddle Creek announces two major releases (Bright Eyes, Cursive)…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , — @ 12:48 pm May 12, 2016

by Tim McMahan,

On this Throwback Thursday we’re turning the Wayback Machine all the way back to May 11, 2000, a simpler time before 9-11, before the first iPod and before Nebraska had defined itself as an indie music Mecca. The two releases mentioned in this old Lazy-i blog entry (that also was published in the old Omaha Weekly) would impact the scene for years to come…

Lazy-i May 11, 2000: Saddle Creek Records announced two major CD releases for late spring and early June.

Bright Eyes, Fevers and Mirrors (2000, Saddle Creek Records)

Bright Eyes, Fevers and Mirrors (2000, Saddle Creek Records)

Bright Eyes’ Fevers and Mirrors, the full-length follow-up to last year’s Every Day and Every Night EP is slated to hit the streets May 29. Pre-release hype is huge and already the CD has debuted at No. 42 on the College Music Journal (CMJ) charts, says Saddle Creek’s Robb Nansel. Unlike sales charts, CMJ compiles college and non-commercial radio airplay reports, as well as other key industry indicators,

Fans of Bright Eyes singer/songwriter Conor Oberst’s moody, confessional style won’t be disappointed by what arguably is his most thought-out and well produced effort to date. Oberst has developed a rep for writing rather dreary songs that depress more than uplift. From that standpoint, Fevers and Mirrors is quite a departure, featuring some pretty heavy numbers as well as fully realized accompaniments that move things along quite nicely (look for a full review in an upcoming issue of Omaha Weekly).

Recorded over a month at Lincoln’s Dead Space Studios, the CD features a stable of Saddle Creek special guests, including Lullaby for the Working Class’s Mike and A.J. Mogis, The Faint’s Todd Baechle, and Cursive’s Matt Maginn and Clint Schnase.

Cursive, Domestica (2000, Saddle Creek Records)

Cursive, Domestica (2000, Saddle Creek Records)

Speaking of Cursive, Domestica, that band’s full-length follow-up to 1998’s The Storms of Early Summer, has been pressed and is ready to hit the store shelves June 19. Those who are expecting a quiet return to form from a band that has gone through a break-up and a reunion over the past year, guess again. This one is brutal.

We’re to believe that Cursive singer/songwriter Tim Kasher’s recent marriage and subsequent divorce had nothing to do with these stark rockers that make Trent Reznor’s darkest moments sound like the theme from The Newlywed Game. Song titles like “The Casualty,” “The Martyr” and “The Night I Lost the Will to Fight” paint a not-so-pretty picture of domestic despair.

Despite the mid-June street date, fans can pick up copies of the CD at Cursive’s CD-release party May 27 at Sokol Underground.

With their stable of releases ever growing, Saddle Creek just signed an exclusive distribution deal with Southern Records in the United States, Nansel said. Southern also has exclusive distribution deals with Dischord, DeSoto, Teen Beat, Simple Machines, Tree and Thick as Thieves records. “We think they’re much more representative of our style of music,” Nansel said. “We’ll still be able to consign material and sell CDs at venues.”

The exclusive deal with Southern means the distributor will get a bigger cut of the revenue, but Nansel said that would be offset by better promotions as well as placement in regional chains. — Lazy-i, May 11, 2000.

Pitchfork would place Fevers and Mirrors at number 170 on their list of top 200 albums of the 2000s; while Domestica is listed as No. 25 on Rolling Stone’s “40 Greatest Emo Albums of All Time.” Many point to these two releases as the start of what would become a hitting streak for Saddle Creek and its artists, though The Faint’s Blank-Wave Arcade was actually released the previous November. It would be followed by Dance Macabre in 2001. And the hits just kept on coming…

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — 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 © 2016 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


#TBT: March 22, 2006: When The Faint flew the coop…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , — @ 12:41 pm March 24, 2016
The Faint circa August 2001, from left, Jacob Thiele, Joel Petersen, Todd Fink (then Baechle), Dapose and Clark Baechle.

The Faint circa August 2001, from left, Jacob Thiele, Joel Petersen, Todd Fink (then Baechle), Dapose and Clark Baechle.

by Tim McMahan,

Here’s another Throwback Thursday from the Lazy-i vault. From 10 years ago, to be exact. The first two paragraphs are the blog intro, followed by the column, which also was printed in The Reader. Seems like only yesterday. Lean back and enjoy this music history lesson…

Lazy-i: The Faint headed to American? – March 22, 2006

Let me take a moment to reiterate my policy regarding rumors — I don’t print ’em. Now, a certain promoter in town does not agree with this assessment — he calls me a “gossip columnist,” which is fine since he doesn’t know what I’m calling him behind his back (just kidding). Look, I hear more than my share of rumors on any given night at the bar, club or venue, but I don’t publish any of them unless I get some sort of official verification about their truthfulness. At which case, it ain’t a rumor no more. To a large part, I depend on people passing me information, and they do so with confidence that 1) I’m not going to reveal my sources unless they want to be revealed, and 2) I’m not going to print anything until someone is willing to verify the information “on the record.” Consider it my own, personal Woodward & Bernstein clause. So when I heard rumors about The Faint leaving Saddle Creek five or six weeks ago, I sat on the story because no one would comment “on the record.” Meanwhile, everyone short of the late Mayor Ed Zorinsky let me know all about it “on the down low.”

Why has this rumor become so pervasive? I think because there’s a tremendous amount of concern as to what it could mean to Saddle Creek and the Omaha music scene if it becomes a reality. The Faint, Cursive and Bright Eyes are the holy triumvirate that has made the label what it is today. There was a similar level of concern a few years ago when rumors began circulating that Cursive was breaking up (a deep throat fed me that tidbit weeks before it become public as well). Different bitter factions may snipe endlessly about how much they don’t like the label or its bands, but at the end of the conversation, they always punctuate it with a statement like, “regardless, I admire what they’ve accomplished, it’s been good for the Omaha music scene as a whole.” Everyone wants Saddle Creek to succeed — there’s nothing but upside to their continued prosperity. So when word of a breakup or defection gets hung on the grapevine, brows furrow and anxiety ensues that perhaps a turnaround in Omaha’s good fortune may be in the offing. If this becomes a reality and contracts are indeed signed, I see downside for some, upside for others and hope in the fact that The Faint are investing a lot of time and money in facilities right here in river city. The band is putting down roots even though they could live anywhere in the country that they wish.

Column 69 — Not for The Faint of Heart
Is one of Saddle Creek’s biggest bands flying the coop?

Omaha is a very small town. And once a rumor gets traction — any traction — there’s no slowing it down. We are a species of gossips and information whores, constantly on the look-out for hot scoop (or poop, in some cases). Information isn’t power in Omaha, information is the new smack that forces those locked in the music scene to stumble around for their next fix.

There was plenty of smack on the streets last weekend in the form of a rumor that The Faint, one of the holy triad of Saddle Creek Records’ bands, is leaving their home-town label for greener pastures. Specifically pastures fed and watered by hip-hop guru and professional turn-around artist Rick Rubin.

I could not grab a beer at any bar without someone leaning in and whispering, “I’ve got a lu-lu. But you didn’t hear it from me,” then saying that The Faint are not only sniffing around, but have already signed a deal with American Recordings and are flying Rubin to Omaha in a silver dart to begin recording sessions post haste at The Faint’s swank new rehearsal space.

It wasn’t exactly fresh news. I had heard about it five weeks ago, maybe more. A well-connected deep throat sent me an e-mail with a single sentence: “The Faint are leaving Saddle Creek.” It sounded like shit to me. The band has been solid all around with the label from day one; no one’s held up the Saddle Creek banner higher. Whenever it came press time, the Baechle brothers were always first in line with a faithful quote. “Why would we leave when we got it so good here? You think we’re stupid?”

But my source had never been wrong. Never. Every bit of info no matter how lame-brained always proved solid. Even when I thought it was pure cockamamie, asking around always came up diamonds. But this seemed too big.

I immediately asked Creek about the rumor, but got zilch back on the record. Weeks went by with nothing new from the grapevine. Deep Throat was swollen shut. Then out of the blue a week ago, I got another tip from a different source. Same story. More details. This time Rick Rubin was mentioned by name along with his record label, American Recordings, home of Johnny Cash, Neil Diamond and Slayer. By last weekend it was all over the streets; it was just a matter of time until I’d read it in the World-Herald, until it was old news.

Calls and e-mail to a member of The Faint went unreturned. No surprise there. So I tried Saddle Creek again, figuring label executives Robb Nansel and Jason Kulbel would be too busy schmoozing at South by Southwest to reply. Lo and behold, Nansel clarified the rumor. “They have not signed anything with American,” he wrote in an e-mail. “Not sure if they will. They are still talking to them, but that is all at this point.”

Nansel went on to write that Rubin has indeed expressed interest in working on the band’s new record, “but I don’t know that he ever expressed doing that in Omaha, let alone at their space.”

What’s in it for Saddle Creek? One story had it that negotiations were under way to compensate the label for its years of support, promotion, and all the other benefits. Apparently not.

“We are not negotiating any compensation with the band,” Nansel wrote. “We have briefly discussed different ways we could/could not be involved with their future records (assuming they don’t end up on Saddle Creek). (We) have not come to any agreement on whether we would be involved at all or not.”

None of this can be a complete surprise to Nansel or anyone at the label. It’s only a matter of time until one of their biggest acts leaves the nest. There are limits to the meaning of the word “loyalty” in the rock and roll business, especially when millions of dollars are at stake. The Faint have had offers before, but always turned them down. Something else must be driving this new level of interest beyond cash.

So, if it’s all true, why isn’t Nansel pissed? “The possibility of a band leaving has always been there,” he wrote. “The bands will ultimately make a well-informed decision about what is in their best interest. We will support their decision regardless of what it is, and hope that all parties are satisfied at the end of the day. Certainly (we) would not be pissed.”

But what would it mean if The Faint does leave the label? How would it financially impact Saddle Creek, especially during a time when so much of the label’s money is tied up in a new, untried venture — the Slowdown entertainment complex slated to begin construction this week just a couple blocks west of The Qwest Center? Nansel didn’t say. Maybe it’s too early to speculate. After all, Elvis hasn’t left the building… yet. — Lazy-i March 22, 2006

* * *

Well, for whatever reason, The Faint didn’t go to American Recordings or work with Rick Ruben on their next record, but they did leave Saddle Creek. Their next album, 2008’s Fasciinatiion, was released on their own blank.wav label.

Some point to the The Faint’s departure from Saddle Creek as the beginning of the record label’s decline. Fact is, no one expected The Faint, Bright Eyes or Cursive to stay on a small label like Saddle Creek forever. All signs pointed to The Big Three eventually flying to the majors. In the end, only The Faint stepped out on the label. Bright Eyes stayed with Saddle Creek (though Conor Oberst struck out on his own), while Cursive never left the nest. And all three continue living happily ever after.

As for Saddle Creek, the label had a great year in 2015, and with new records by The Thermals and new addition Big Thief on the way, things continue looking up…

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — 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 © 2016 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Saddle Creek signs Big Thief; Tim Kasher to debut film in Omaha; Athens band Mother tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , , — @ 1:42 pm February 16, 2016
Presumably one of the people in this photo is Tim Kasher filming a scene from his new film No Resolution, which will have its premiere right here in Omaha.

Presumably one of the people in this photo is Tim Kasher filming a scene from his new film No Resolution, which will have its premiere right here in Omaha.

by Tim McMahan,

Watched the Grammy’s last night. Somewhere, David Bowie is spinning in his grave. That, and Courtney Barnett got robbed. But who (other than Kanye) gives a shit about awards, anyway?

Some news:

Saddle Creek Records yesterday announced they’ve signed a new act to the label: Brooklyn band Big Thief. The project is helmed by singer/songwriter Adrianne Lenker, whose last known musical product was a solo album that came out in 2014 (embedded below). Pretty stuff.

No doubt Big Thief will be a departure from her more winsome acoustic material. The first song off the debut, “Masterpiece” (also embedded below) is a full-out four-on-the-floor indie rocker that reminded me of Centro-Matic and whose video features the band’s adorable dog. I do believe the Creek might have another hit on their hands. When combined with Hop Along, they make a matching set of salt-and-pepper hit makers.

The band is out with Eleanor Friedberger right now and will be swinging through Omaha April 3, opening for Yuck at (wait for it) Lookout Lounge. Big Thief also will be at SXSW this year, but alas, I won’t be there to see them (after last year’s nightly riot-squad 6th St. beat-downs I declared myself “too old for this shit”).

Check out Ms Lenker’s new and old stuff below. Welcome to the big leagues, kid…

Saddle Creek has been keeping themselves pretty busy this year. In addition to that Big Thief release, they’re reissuing Hop Along’s debut, Get Disowned, March 4, and they’ve got a new Thermals album, We Disappear, coming out March 25.

* * *

Over the weekend the Omaha Film festival announced that Tim Kasher’s feature film debut, No Resolution, will be screened at this year’s festival (specifically March 11 at 6 p.m. at Village Point Theater).

From the press release:

The debut feature film by songwriter Tim Kasher (Cursive, The Good Life), No Resolution explores the relationship of never-was musician Cary and his newly pregnant fiancé Jean as they struggle with concepts of family and settling down. New Year’s Eve becomes a fitting backdrop for the disparity of their combined future; Jean longs for a nice night staying in, but the temptations of a decadent evening are too much for Cary to avoid. The engaged couple reaches a boiling point of anger and resentment as their upstairs neighbors stoke the flames with a raging New Year’s party.

The film stars Maura Kidwell of the USA network TV series Sirens, who also appeared in a couple episodes of Chicago Fire. And Erin O’Shea, who in addition to acting in two episodes of The Dreamers TV series is listed in IMDB as having appeared in an episode of Iron Chef America as the sous chef for challenger chef Michael Solomonov!

Mr. Kasher also wrote a soundtrack for the film (He’s a regular John Carpenter!) that he says he’ll be releasing toward the end of the year.

* * *

Big show tonight at fabulous O’Leaver’s. Athens band Mothers headlines. The band was rumored to have been courted by some high-falutin’ labels, including one that’s near and dear to all our hearts. I asked the band via their publicist if that rumor was true, but didn’t hear back (probably because I didn’t ask until last Friday). BTW, Grand Jury Records will have the honor of putting out Mothers’ debut, When You Walk A Long Distance You Are Tired, Feb. 26. Opening tonight is Thick Paint and Eklectica. $7, 9 p.m.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — 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 © 2016 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Desaparecidos ‘don’t give a f***’; new Good Life; Sturgill Simpson tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , , — @ 12:57 pm July 15, 2015
Desaparecidos rock the Holy Name Fieldhouse in April 2001.

Desaparecidos rock the Holy Name Fieldhouse in April 2001. And they still don’t give a f***.

by Tim McMahan,

I’ve been interviewing members of Desaperacidos since the band first formed way back in 2001. The guys have a new album called Payola, which came out on Epitaph last month, that just happens to be No. 14 in the College Music Journal top-20. With a show coming up Sept. 10 at The Waiting Room (which, btw, is bound to sell out, so if you want to go, you better get your $20 tix now), it would seem like an opportune moment to interview the band again.

However, I’m not sure what I’d ask the band that didn’t get covered in technicolor in this Noisey interview with Dan Ozzi that dropped today with the headline ‘Desaparecidos didn’t give a fuck back then and they don’t give a fuck now.’ In it, Conor Oberst and Matt Baum give candid, straightforward answers to questions that I probably would have asked, such as “Why did you go with Epitaph instead of Saddle Creek?” “What’s wrong with journalism these days?” and “Why has public opinion (in this case, Pitchfork) about Desa changed over the past 12 years?”

Perhaps the most controversial answer in the interview involves Saddle Creek:

You guys are so strongly associated with Saddle Creek. Why did you decide to go with Epitaph on this one?

Conor: Well, the Saddle Creek thing has been kind of unraveling for a long time. They’re still our friends, and I’ve definitely got no ill will. When the label started when we were all kids, it was very much a collective thing. I’m talking way back in like, ’93, ’94. The record label honestly started with me and our friend Ted Stevens, who plays in Cursive, and my brother Justin, and we started in my parents’ attic making Kinko’s copies of record sleeves. Anyway, the collective aspect sort of fell to the wayside and it became more of a regular business and certain peoples’ names ended up on the paperwork and other people’s didn’t and it… I don’t know. After years, it kind of soured a little bit and we happened to go our own way. I wish all of them the best, but we knew we weren’t gonna do it with them and we started talking about what label would make sense with our band, and what’s the label we respect, and can get it out there, and Epitaph was the very first one that…

OK, wow. There’s no question that Saddle Creek V.2015 is a lot different than Saddle Creek V.2001. The only artist from the label’s original “crown jewels” that’s stuck around is Cursive/Tim Kasher. Not sure what “certain peoples’ names ended up on the paperwork and other people’s didn’t…” means, but I can venture a guess, especially if things “soured a little bit…” Certainly Oberst and Co. didn’t go to Epitaph because it’s some sort of “collective” (’cause it ain’t).

Anyway, after I read this interview (and there have been countless others recently) I wondered what’s the point of pursuing an interview of my own? What could I ask that hasn’t already been asked? Just read these ones if you want to know what’s happening with the band.

That said, if anyone from the band wants some press in ol’ Lazy-i (and, I’d love to shoot the shit with them…

BTW, Desaparecidos starts their next tour tomorrow in Indianapolis. Digital Leather opens that show along with the show the following night in St. Louis.

* * *

Speaking of crown jewels, here’s yet another new song off The Good Life’s upcoming album, Everybody’s Coming Down, out Aug. 14 on Saddle Creek Records.

* * *

We all know MarQ Manner, even some of you readers who don’t live in Omaha. MarQ is sort of the ex officio mayor of Benson and a strong supporter of bands that haunt Maple Street’s liquor corridor. While MarQ and I don’t always share the same taste in music, I pay attention when he goes ga-ga over anyone other than Prince (to which I’m already a fan). Kind of like he did with Sturgill Simpson.

I don’t follow country music, but I must say Simpson puts a modern face on a traditional approach to C&W that is hard to resist, even on first listen. Which is a round-about way of saying MarQ is right about this guy; he is special, and he’s playing tonight at Sokol Auditorium. So dust off your cowboy boots and scoot on down at 8, when opener Cody Jinks starts things off. Tix are $25.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — 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 © 2015 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


New Twinsmith track in the wild; Saddle Creek Records at SXSW 2015; New Madrid tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , — @ 1:55 pm March 3, 2015
The latest promo shot of Twinsmith. The band is headed to SXSW again this year...

The latest promo shot of Twinsmith. The band is headed to SXSW again this year…

by Tim McMahan,

Saddle Creek band Twinsmith today leaked the title track off their forthcoming album, Alligator Years. It’s jaunty! Listen below. The band returns to Austin for SXSW this year, playing the Saddle Creek/Nicodemous SXSW Day Party April 19 at Stay Gold and the Saddle Creek SXSW Showcase April 21 at Red Eye Fly.

In fact, heck why not, here’s the full schedule for Saddle Creek bands at this year’s SXSW Fest in Austin:

Orenda Fink

Thu-Mar-19 Stay Gold – Saddle Creek/ Nicodemous Day Party 1:35
Fri-Mar-20 The Liberty – Breakthru Radio Day Party 12PM
Sat-Mar-21 Wonderland – BirdDog Promo / Paper Garden Party 12PM
Sat-Mar-21 Red Eye Fly – Saddle Creek Showcase 11PM

Icky Blossoms
Thu-Mar-19 Stay Gold – Saddle Creek/ Nicodemous Day Party 5:40PM
Fri-Mar-20 The Liberty – Breakthru Radio Day Party 4PM
Sat-Mar-21 Red Eye Fly – Saddle Creek Showcase 1AM

The Mynabirds
Thu-Mar-19 Stay Gold – Saddle Creek/ Nicodemous Day Party 4:50PM
Thu-Mar-19 Mohawk (inside) – Domino Party 12:30AM
Sat-Mar-21 Red Eye Fly – Saddle Creek Showcase 10PM

Mon-Mar-16 Hotel Vegas 7pm with Jacuzzi Boys, Twin Peaks
Tue-Mar-17 Maggie Mae’s – KLBJ Showcase 11pm with Turbo Fruits. Free (no wristband required)
Thu-Mar-19 Container Bar – Culture Collide 1:45pm
Thu-Mar-19 StayGold – Saddle Creek / Nicodemous Day Party 4pm
Thu-Mar-19 Swan Dive – Infinity Cat Showcase10:05pm
Sat-Mar-21 Red Eyed Fly – Saddle Creek Showcase12am

Thu-Mar-19 Stay Gold – Saddle Creek/ Nicodemous Day Party 2:20PM
Sat-Mar-21 Red Eye Fly – Saddle Creek Showcase 9PM

Unfortunately, the label’s latest and greatest signing, Hop Along, won’t be at SXSW this year. Looks like we’ll just have to keep waiting before we can see them in the flesh.

Who you can see in the flesh tonight is Athens indie band New Madrid, who headlines at Slowdown Jr.  Opening is local trio Fake Plants. $8, 8 p.m.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — 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 © 2015 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


The return of Steve Bartolomei (Mal Madrigal); Saddle Creek Records news; Black Friday O’Leaver’s revealed…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 2:07 pm November 12, 2013


by Tim McMahan,

You remember Steve Bartolomei, right? The guy behind Mal Madrigal?

Well, ol’ Steve’s got a new album coming out under the moniker Steve Bartolomei and his Comrades called All the Ghosts. Steve’s “comrades” on this collection are pretty much the same ones I remember from his Mal Madrigal days: Ben Brodin, Ryan Fox, Dan McCarthy, John Kotchian and Mike Saklar.

But get this: “We recorded and mixed the album at Chicago’s Electrical Audio with the mighty Steve Albini at the helm.” Whoa!

Bartolomei said the album was recorded in three days. “With the completion of each ‘tight rope take’ the six of us claimed a small victory, one song at a time,” he said in an email. “As such, All the Ghosts is a performance album with all the nuance, spontaneity, and spirit of a live show. Recording All the Ghosts was something special, and I hope you’ll hear it there in the grooves of this vinyl record.”

Yeah, vinyl record. In fact, he’s already taking pre-orders for the vinyl record (Who needs Kickstarter?). Those who pre-order will reserve a hand numbered LP with silk-screened jacket (Shipping ASAP in December), a download copy, plus bonus video downloads and access to demos, alternate versions and live recordings in the weeks leading up to the album’s official release.

You can pre-order your copy right here for $18. Or pick one up at the official album release show, Dec. 28 at The Slowdown, but who can wait that long?

Here’s a taste from the new album via Vimeo:

Faces Made Of Clay by Stephen Bartolomei with His Comrades from Stephen Bartolomei on Vimeo.

* * *

Saddle Creek Records issued its monthly newsletter today. The highlights:

— Bright Eyes’ A Christmas Album is now available in stores for the first time ever.

— The Rural Alberta Advantage as the three-piece enters the final stages of writing before hitting the studio to record their forthcoming third LP – due out in 2014.

— The new 7″ from Omaha’s own Twinsmith. Honestly, comes out next Tuesday.

In additional Saddle Creek news, Tim Kasher was the guest for the latest installment AV Club’ “hatesong” column, where he lambasts the song “Some Nights” by Fun.  Though after reading it I’m not entirely sure Kasher actually hates the song. I guess you can talk Tim into anything…

* * *

The Black Friday show at O’Leaver’s was revealed yesterday. It is, in fact, Talking Mountain, Video Ranger and M34n Str33t, Nov 29. Did you figure it out on your own?

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