COVID-19 musician / fan resources; new Simon Joyner live album; Bandcamp, Saddle Creek deals; OWH on venues…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , — @ 1:09 pm March 19, 2020

by Tim McMahan,

I’ve got a few musician / fan resources to pass along, but first…

Simon Joyner released a new album today. Some Only Let the Jukebox Hear Them Weep (Live in Phoenix 2014) is an 11-song collection recorded in a living room with professional equipment. On this recording Simon’s band, The Ghosts Trio, consists of Kevin Donahue, Megan Siebe and Michael Krassner. You can buy a limited edition CDR of the set, in a screenprinted sleeve, right here via Bandcamp.

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BTW, Bandcamp is waiving its share of revenues on purchases made at the site tomorrow, March 20, so you may want to wait to order your copy or anything else via Bandcamp.

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From Saddle Creek Records: “We have gotten a lot of questions about how you can support artists who are being directly impacted by the current pandemic. One way to support artists is purchasing physical releases.”

To help, through the end of March Saddle Creek is offering a 15 percent discount on all orders (except preorders) with the code SUPPORT. Check it out here. That info came in an email that included links to organizations that help musicians in need. Here’s the list. Donate if you can.

Musicares –
Sweet Relief –
American Federation of Musicians –

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Seattle radio station KEXP has a handy Guide for Artists and Fans to Support Music During the COVID-19 Outbreak. Lots of good resources, lots of tips for what you can do to help. Check it out.

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Kevin Coffey has a story in today’s Omaha World-Herald on COVID 19’s impact on local venues that includes some words from Slowdown’s Jason Kulbel and 1%’s Marc Leibowitz, check it out here.  Says Jason Kulbel in the story: “It’s just thing after thing after thing. We can’t wrap our heads around it. We’re just scrambling.

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Stay home, order take-out, help out if you can. We’ll get through it.

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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 © 2020 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Clarence Tilton CD release show tonight; Uh Oh album release show, Simon Joyner, Jason Steady goodbye Saturday…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , — @ 1:08 pm August 23, 2019

Clarence Tilton at The Waiting Room, Dec. 23, 2018. The band celebrates the release of its new CD tonight at Reverb Lounge.

by Tim McMahan,

Two big album release shows this weekend and a handful of other things going on musicwise…

Tonight at Reverb Lounge Clarence Tilton celebrates the release of Start Already Lost (Sower Records). The band always gets bunched in with alt country bands by people like me because of the omnipresent twang that bounces throughout their tunes. You can’t deny the urge to do a two-step when you hear songs like “First One Home,” off the new album.

But it may be more accurate to compare them to power-pop bands like Alex Chilton, The dB’s, Big Star and The Soft Boys on tracks like “High Water” and opening track “No One.” But at the same time, you wouldn’t be off base comparing them to, say, The Silos or The Jayhawks, especially on outlaw countrified songs like “B.A.W.” and slow-dancer “Tears Land.” Either way, it’s good company to be in, and on the new album (as well as their debut) it’s apt. Fact is, the songs off Start Already… aren’t much of a departure from their last couple releases. It’s like getting the next chapter of a novel you can’t put down. Minne Lusa opens the show at 9 p.m. $10.

Then tomorrow night at Slowdown, Jr., it’s Uh Oh’s turn.

Their new one, Stay Close, is a collection of old-school indie anthems that recalls acts like The Promise Ring, Sunday’s Best and Knapsack — i.e., acts that were bunched into the emo category in the ’90s. That said, I wouldn’t consider Uh Oh an emo band but more in line with power-pop indie acts like Little Brazil or Lincoln’s Domestica. At the core is jangling, soaring guitars, bombastic drums and Joe Champion’s nerdy vocals singing lovable loser songs rooted deeply in the Midwestern soil. I think I told Joe album capper “We’ll Laugh Again” was my favorite because I’m a sucker for epic closers, but actually it’s the shuffle-beat rocker “Hang On” that will make it onto my annual comp CD if only for its sing-along chorus and Champion’s message of hope for all of us fellow travelers stumbling around in the dark. Stay Close is a familiar light to help lead the way.

Anyway, Uh Oh will be celebrating the release of that album Saturday night at Slowdown Jr. with Histrionic, Eric in Outerspace and Second String. 8:30, $7.

Also happening Saturday, Simon Joyner kicks off his national tour with a house show (at his house, no less). Joining Simon and The Ghosts are Jim Schroeder and David Nance. The show starts at 8 p.m. To find out the address, you’ll need to reach out to Joyner via Facebook and ask! Entrance is a donation ($5-$10 or whatever).

Also Saturday night, The Sydney has Pacific Northwest grunge masters Reignwolf with King Nun. $20, 9 p.m.

Finally, it’s with a heavy heart that we say goodbye to Jason Steady Saturday night at The Brothers Lounge. Jason is headed to the California desert to commune with some cacti. You can bid him adieu at this performance, which also includes sets by M34N STR33T and Haunted Gauntlet. Cover is $5, start time is 10 p.m., tears are free.

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 — 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.


New Simon Joyner LP out Oct. 24 on Grapefruit…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , — @ 12:47 pm August 13, 2019

Simon Joyner’s next album, Pocket Moon, comes out Oct. 23 on Grapefruit Records.

by Tim McMahan,

Before we enter full-blown Maha Music Festival coverage, a head’s up that Omaha singer/songwriter/folk-master Simon Joyner announced Saturday that he’s got a new album coming out on Grapefruit Records.

Pocket Moon is available for preorder from and is being co-released in UK/Europe by BB*Island and in Australia/New Zealand by Homeless Records. Recorded this past February in Phoenix, backing Joyner on this LP is an all-star band that includes Michael Krassner, Max Knouse, Joshua Hill, Bennett Sarager, Robin Vining and Ryan Jewell.

More I cannot tell you except the record officially hits the shelves Oct. 24. Will we get a hometown album release show for this one?

Lloyd Cole, Guesswork (2019, Ear Music)

BTW, are oil portrait covers the “new thing”? I ask because here’s the cover of the new Lloyd Cole album, Guesswork, that’s currently playing on my turntable…

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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 © 2019 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.



Simon Joyner drops new album: Low Fidelities & Infidelities (Demos/Covers/Collaborations); Slingshot Dakota tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , — @ 12:42 pm June 11, 2019

Simon Joyner & Friends, Low Fidelities & Infidelities (Demos/Covers/Collaborations) (2019, Grapefruit Record Club)

by Tim McMahan,

Out of the blue yesterday Simon Joyner released a new album, Low Fidelities & Infidelities (Demos/Covers/Collaborations) via Grapefruit Record Club and Bandcamp. The 21-song collection includes Simon Joyner demos from his upcoming album Pocket Moon, due on Grapefruit in October, as well as covers of songs from some of his songwriter heroes including Lee Hazelwood, Lucinda Williams, Bob Dylan, Vic Chesnutt, Randy Newman, Richard Thompson, Phil Ochs and more.

The album is actually by “Simon Joyner & Friends” because the music was created in collaboration with his musician pals The Bruces, Pearl Lovejoy Boyd, The Bingo Trappers, Noah Sterba, Fred Lonberg Holm, Dennis Callaci, Sean Pratt & Megan Siebe, Roy Montgomery, Michael Krassner, Meg Baird, L. Eugene Methe, The Renderers and Irma Vep.

I had all these covers in my (phone’s) voice memos from times when I felt like playing guitar but was unable to write anything myself,” Joyner said. “When I was heading out on this tour I just completed, I thought about putting together a CD of demos so I’d have something new to sell, and while digging through the phone, I found all the covers and had the idea to take my live recordings of the covers and send them to musician friends for them to add their own tracks to, as a kind of through-the-mail collaboration.”

Joyner and his guitar are at the center of all the songs, but his friends add subtle touches of cello, keyboards, pedal steel, drums, harmony vocals and other instruments to make for a surprisingly rich yet personal recording.

Joyner is donating all the digital download proceeds through Bandcamp to abortion access organizations in Alabama, Georgia and Missouri. People can pay what they want beyond the $7 suggested price, and all will be donated.

You can order either the digital album or the CD from Joyner’s Bandcamp page.

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Tonight at fabulous O’Leaver’s Bethlehem, Pennsylvania’s Slingshot Dakota headlines. The duo has a new album, Heavy Banding, out on Community Records (after years of being on Topshelf). Joining them is Muscle Cousins. 9 p.m. $12.

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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 © 2019 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Simon Joyner no longer leading Bemis project; Halloween weekend blues; Jason Steady, Kara Eastman tonight; Ian Sweet, Young Jesus, Thick Paint Sunday…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , — @ 12:51 pm October 26, 2018

Thick Paint at Slowdown Jr., March 30, 2018. The open for Ian Sweet and Young Jesus Sunday at O’Leaver’s.

by Tim McMahan,

Looks like Simon Joyner no longer is leading the Bemis’s new Sound Art and Experimental Music Residency Program mentioned here a couple days ago.

From the Bemis Center Facebook page:

Simon Joyner will not be leading the program. We will soon be opening a national job posting to find the best candidate to lead this program. Additional decisions about the program will be made after a reevaluation of the needs is complete. These changes and decisions take time.

It also appears, via Facebook, that producer Ben Brodin never was permanently involved in the project, but merely assisted early in offering some ideas about the space.

Joyner being named to the position last week sparked concern targeted at The Bemis Center. As Kevin Coffey reported yesterday in the GO Section of Omaha World-Herald, the Bemis organization fielded a number of e-mails, text messages and posts on social media. “The responses that we received were either supporting Simon or asking the Bemis to reconsider him as someone that would manage this new program, which we’re obviously thrilled to be launching next year,” said Bemis Executive Director Chris Cook in the OWH article.

Concerns about Joyner stemmed from his use of the N-word in a song he wrote that targeted racists and racism in America, released in 2017. Reporting on the controversy appeared in The Reader last November as well as in Lazy-i, which included a Q&A with Joyner about the topic.

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BTW, tonight’s Bemis benefit concert featuring Azure Ray / Destroyer (solo) is sold out.

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It’s the unofficial Halloween weekend at the clubs, which means krazy kostumes and very few live shows. Boo! (pun intended).

There’s a fundraiser tonight at fabulous O’Leaver’s for Kara Eastman. DJ Tyrone Storm (a.k.a. Roger Lewis), Dirt House, Sean Pratt and Stephen Bartolomei are all slated to perform. The show runs 8 to 11 p.m. and suggested donation is $10.

And here’s a walk on the wild side: Jason Steady and the Soft Ponies are playing a free gig at Burrito Envy in Benson tonight. Bradley Unit also is on the bill that starts at 9 p.m.

And there’s a real hum-dinger of a show going on at O’Leaver’s Sunday in the early evening featuring Ian Sweet, Young Jesus and Thick Paint. Sweet’s new album Crush Crusher came out today on Hardly Art. Young Jesus, the latest addition to the Saddle Creek Records roster, released their new LP, The Whole Thing Is There, last week. And Thick Paint is one of Omaha’s hottest properties. All three bands for just $7. Starts at 6 p.m. Get your tickets online here.

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 — 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.


Azure Ray low-ticket warning, new video; Simon Joyner heads new Bemis Music Residency project…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , — @ 12:43 pm October 24, 2018

Tickets are running low to the Azure Ray / Destroyer solo show this Friday…

by Tim McMahan,

This morning I got a “low ticket warning” about this Friday’s Azure Ray / Dan Bejar (Destroyer solo) show at the Bemis Center Okada Sculpture & Ceramics Facility in Omaha’s Old Market (723 South 12th Street). “Just a few $25 tickets remain” they’re saying.

The concert is part of the Bemis Art Auction and Concert 2018. Get your tickets online here.

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Speaking of Azure Ray, a video for “Palindrome,” the first single off their upcoming EP Waves, dropped last Friday and it’s a hoot. It’s directed by Alan Tanner, who you might remember from the band Artsy Golfer (he also played guitar for Maria Taylor). Waves comes out Friday, and I must tell you, it’s sublime.

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And speaking of The Bemis, Simon Joyner has been named to head The Bemis’ Sound Art and Experimental Music Residency Program. This is a MAJOR deal…

Here’s the Bemis press release, which went out last week:

“Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts has received a $500,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to establish a new Sound Art and Experimental Music Residency Program. This funding will support the first three years of a specialized track within Bemis Center’s international Artist-in-Residence program for artists pushing the boundaries of sound, composition, voice, and music of all genres. National and international artists participating in the program will receive the same level of financial, technical, and administrative support as their fellow artists-in-residence at Bemis, along with dedicated facilities for rehearsing, recording, and performing new works that expand the field of sound art and music. The program will officially launch in 2019.

“Omaha-based musician Simon Joyner will join Bemis staff to lead the program. Local sculptor and past Bemis exhibiting artist Sean Ward and local architect Jeff Day of Actual Architecture are collaborating with Joyner, and sound experts Phil Schaffart, Thorin Dickey, and Ben Brodin to design the program’s performance venue and rehearsal and recording studio in Bemis Center’s 25,000 square foot basement space. Under the guidance of Day, graduate-level architecture students in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s design-build program, FACT, are developing conceptual designs for the build-out and will begin construction in October 2018 with completion in early 2019.

“The fully equipped artist-designed performance space will offer free live shows to the community. When artists in the program are not utilizing the venue, it will be programmed with local, national and international sound artists and experimental musicians. Free public access to these performances aims to not only build greater appreciation and new audiences for sound art and experimental music but also to liberate the artists on stage to take risks and present avant-garde work.

“An international advisory committee comprised of artists, curators and other leading experts in the field will assist with the curation of the Sound Art and Experimental Music Residency Program for 2019 and 2020. Beginning in 2020, Sound Art and Experimental Music residencies for 2021 and beyond will transition to Bemis Center’s regular annual open call for applications.”

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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 © 2018 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Simon Joyner & The Ghosts, Lupines, Little Brazil listening party tonight; Domestica, House Vacations Saturday; La Luz Monday…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 12:43 pm May 25, 2018

Simon Joyner at O’Leaver’s, July 1, 2016. Joyner and his band, The Ghosts, kick off an East Coast tour tonight at Brothers Lounge.

by Tim McMahan,

No national touring shows this weekend, except one:

Simon Joyner & The Ghosts kick off their East Coast tour tonight at Brothers Lounge. Simon will be out supporting his latest, Step Into the Earthquake (2017, Shrimper / Ba Da Bing!). It’s been forever since Joyner/Ghosts have played in Omaha and the first time they’ve ever played at Brothers. This one’s stacked, with Lupines and The Wagon Blasters opening. $5, 9 p.m.

Also tonight, Lash LaRue & Hired Guns play at The Barley Street with Ragged Company. $5, 9 p.m.

Scott Severin plays tonight at The Down Under Lounge with The Show Is the Rainbow and Wendy Jane Bantam. 9:30 p.m., no cover listed.

And tonight Little Brazil is hosting a listening party at Hi-Fi House for their new album Send the Wolves, which drops June 1. You can read all about the new record here. Wonder if they’ll have any extra copies of the vinyl for sale tonight? I’m told merch will definitely be on hand. The listening party is from 8 to 11 p.m. and is free.

Tomorrow night (Saturday) Cami Cavanaugh Rawlings celebrates her 50th birthday at The Down Under with a rock show featuring Domestica, The Ronnys and her band, Bathtub Maria. This one’s free (though Cami’s asking for canned food for charity Completely Kids). Starts at 8 p.m. More info here.

Over at fabulous O’Leaver’s Lincoln act Red Cities headlines with The Ramparts and Dead on Dust. $5, 10 p.m.

House Vacations are having an EP release party for their new one, Pictures of Friends, at Petshop Saturday night. Orca Welles, Mago and Threesome Egos open at 8 p.m. No idea what this will cost you to get in.

Strangely, there’s no shows slated for Sunday, which sucks because we all have Monday off for Memorial Day. Come on, people!

It being a 3-day weekend, I might as well mention what’s happening Monday night. LA surf/psych-rock band La Luz plays at O’Leaver’s. They’ve got a handful of albums out on labels like Hardly Art and Burger Records. Kansas City power pop band The Whiffs open along with Omaha’s Dirt House. This one starts early at 6 p.m. $8.

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 — 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.


New Simon Joyner (sort of); Steve Earle & The Dukes tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , — @ 12:52 pm March 20, 2018

by Tim McMahan,

Simon Joyner, A Rag of Colts: Disgraced Songs 1987-2012 (Gertrude Tapes, 2018)

Simon Joyner yesterday announced that Gertrude Tapes is taking pre-orders for a limited edition (300)  vinyl issue of A Rag of Colts: Disgraced Songs 1987-2012. The collection previously was issued on cassette by Unread Records. The new vinyl features remastering, new cover art and printed insert with liner notes. Street date is May 1

Simon says on the Bandcamp page:  “A Rag of Colts is part three in the “Iffy” trilogy, all of which  were tapes first and foremost, the cheapest tour offerings for the skeptical or nearly busted, who tend to drain their money on drinks and tips but can still be persuaded (at the right price) to purchase  some music before see-sawing down the sidewalk. It’s some kinda mess, it’s my youth in splinters and crawling with medium and low-brow dirge and spoof, distillations from crumbling demo tapes and dubious high school juvenilia. And yet, it makes me smile that it has grooves now and Gertrude’s kiss, and that it starts with the late great Jackson C. Frank, rest his soul but never his songs!”

Check out the first track, where Simon gets an assist from David Nance:

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Tonight at The Waiting Room it’s Steve Earle & The Dukes 30th anniversary of Copperhead Road. The Mastersons open at 8 p.m. $45.

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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 © 2018 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Sara Bertuldo (See Through Dresses) on racism and exploitation in art; Thick Paint, Anna McClellan tonight…

by Tim McMahan,

In my November column in The Reader, I wrote an essay titled “With the Best of Intentions: Yellow face, the N-word and a divided music community.” The column discussed accusations of racism made toward members of the Omaha music community. If you haven’t already, read the column now to understand the context of the rest of this post.

As an addendum at, I also posted a Q&A with Simon Joyner about the controversy, which you can read here.

After I posted links to both the column and the Q&A in Facebook, a number of people reacted, saying I didn’t capture both sides of the issue. Someone suggested I ask See Through Dresses front woman Sara Bertuldo for her thoughts on the matter, and Bertuldo indicated she’d be willing to do an interview or answer questions.

See Through Dresses was on tour at the time, so I suggested we do it via email (as I’d done with Joyner’s Q&A), and sent Sara the following questions to be published with her responses as a post in Lazy-i.

My questions:

— What was your reaction to: Joyner’s song, Noah Sterba’s song, Harouki Zombi?

— Do you think the artists in question have done anything wrong or were trying to intentionally hurt anyone through their actions?

— Is it OK for artists and musicians to broach these sorts of topics in their work? Why or why not?

— Were you satisfied with the apologies or explanations offered by these artists about their choices?

Sara sent her responses late last week in the form of the following essay:

The first reaction is anger.

Imagine someone says something bad about you. What you did. What you said. Or maybe what you wore. How would you feel? I’d feel pretty angry. Is it really bad? Was it something to feel ashamed about? Did you make a mistake? Can you apologize for it? Should you?

Now imagine someone says something else bad about you. Only this time it’s something undeniably true, like something about your identity. Or the color of your skin or shape of your eyes. Something you can literally do nothing to change. How does it feel? I know I was angry. 

When you react with anger, people say things like “don’t take it the wrong way” or “it’s a joke” to minimize it. What it feels like when that happens is that they minimize me and my experience.


It’s a scary word to a lot of people.

My experience with racism is like a book I carry with me. That book is a heavy weight that sits on my chest. And every time I experience something like this, that book opens. It is filled with my memories of prejudice. Memories of being asked if I was Chinese or Japanese in elementary school, being told I “act white,” being fetishized, and learning my mother withheld our language from me to make me more American. She did this to help me fit in. She was treated poorly because of her accent when she immigrated to the U.S. in the 1970s. When she had children she promised herself that wouldn’t happen to them.


Racism is a normal word to me.

I believe it is embedded in all of us and the only way we can fix it is by educating ourselves.

I’m really tired of absorbing everything and keeping silent. It makes me feel sick.

There was a time that I let things slide. I kept quiet because I wanted to preserve some sort of peace. Talking about it was way too real. And people say things that make you question how you feel. To make you quiet. But all these little things that have been said just add up. Every single thing I hear or read, it just eats at me.


I had written something before detailing my experience post-Harouki Zombi stuff. I personally left out names. I didn’t want people to feel attacked. I did not want them to feel the way I felt. I was so angry when this all started, but I tried to let go of that for a moment and write my story. I felt by offering a personal account on what it feels like to be a person of color I could help them see how upset I was. I thought my way for me to change someone’s views was through compassion and not anger.

But months later, it keeps coming up so here we are again.

So to Orenda, Noah, and Simon:

With all due respect, yes, you are all artists. And you are all white. You benefit from things I do not. You absolutely have the freedom to do whatever you wish in your art. But if you are so progressive minded, if you are as compassionate as your friends say you are, please treat our culture and words with reverence. Keep making art, but please do not exploit us. I don’t believe there was intent to cause harm. But the fact of the matter is, you did. I believe it’s more meaningful to take a step back and listen now. Listen to us.

I resent this whole ordeal. I am upset it’s taken so much time from me. I spent so much time thinking about it, crying about it. I’ve cancelled band practice over it, been depressed about it at work, and now I’m out on tour writing about it when I should be enjoying where I am.

And to the people that were so outwardly angry about it, I sympathize with that anger. I really do. People called them bored, childish, social just warriors… You know why marginalized people react that way sometimes? It’s because people don’t listen to us. And it happens again and again.

Here is one marginalized person’s opinion. Because we coexist in this community, I thought you should hear it. You can take it or leave it.

I find solace in my friends and family that support me. I can only work on the people I care about or people that want to be better and if you don’t want to learn from this, that is totally fine.

I’m sorry if that sounds angry, but if anger is all you see then you’re missing the point.
— Sara Bertuldo

Thanks, Sara, for the thoughtful comments on a very difficult subject.

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Tonight at Brothers Lounge it’s the return of Thick Paint. The band has been on the road for awhile and swings back into Omaha with Anna McClellan, who just leaked the first single, “Heart of Hearts,” from her forthcoming album Yes and No, due in February on Father/Daughter. Dilute also is on tonight’s bill. $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 © 2017 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Simon Joyner on ‘As Long As We’re in Danger’ – Q&A…

Category: Interviews — Tags: , , — @ 1:44 pm November 14, 2017

by Tim McMahan,

Simon Joyner, Step Into the Earthquake (2017, Shrimper)

A follow-up to yesterday’s entry

Prior to leaving on his European tour at the end of October, I asked Simon Joyner about his song “As Long As We’re in Danger,” mentioned in the column that appears in this month’s issue of The Reader, which you can read online here. In fact, if you haven’t read it yet, please do so now to put the following in context.

Joyner posted the song’s lyrics on his Facebook page, along with comments about why he wrote it and what it means. As mentioned in the column, the timing almost seemed like Joyner was making a pre-emptive move to head-off any controversy surrounding the song’s lyrics. So I asked him about it.

Was the song written before the blow-up over Noah Sterba’s song?

Simon Joyner: The song was written a year ago, during the election year, long before any blow-ups in Omaha on social media that I was aware of. It takes awhile to get an album recorded and then manufactured and released but it is, in fact, an older song.

Was publishing the lyrics and the explanation a way to get the issue out in the open rather than wait for those who might be offended to discover it?

Due to the corrosive nature of social media, I wanted to contextualize my song before it could be taken out of context by anyone who wanted to misrepresent its themes and intentions. So that’s why I posted the song and explanation. But Facebook and Twitter, it’s like Telephone, things spread and get presented out of context and editorialized for new people on so many different threads where my statement and the full lyrics couldn’t be seen for context. Knowing it would happen either way, I at least wanted to set the tone on my own page. The song is unambiguously targeting racists and racism in the country, xenophobia generally speaking, and the identity politics that are used to divide us. I hoped that by explaining who the narrator was in the song and exactly what my intentions were and what I was targeting, it would help direct the conversation so we could start in the place of recognizing we’re on the same side here on the broader points the song addresses. Whether or not people agreed that I should have used the word in my effort to paint a scathing portrait of America at its ugliest, I wanted them to know that the rage in the song is directed at those who hold those feelings and I wanted them to know I think this is an age-old American trait, not something new.

Most people at least understood my intentions and appreciated that I was commenting on our culture even if some thought that using the word to expose those painful realities was insensitive or unnecessary. I’m sensitive to those views and found that criticism valuable. But some people promoted the idea that the use of the n-word even in a song obviously against racism made the song racist and made me a racist. That’s a really irrational take. I’m not a racist and neither is the song. I was describing the world we actually live in, not the one we aspire to live in. That’s why I used the word in the song but would never use it in my life.

Do you have any regrets using the N-word in the song or posting the lyrics/explanation?

I don’t regret posting the lyrics and explanation at all. I think it made space for a lot of good dialogue on very important issues and that was really encouraging. Once the lyrics of the song were taken out of context on different threads and people started targeting me rather than discussing the issues the song brings up, it took a turn and followed a predictable corrosive path we are used to seeing on social media platforms. It became obvious that most of the people commenting at a certain point hadn’t read the lyrics of the song but were reacting to things they were hearing and seeing posted which weren’t accurate. The conversation is over when it gets to that point. But I’m not going to throw the baby out with the bath water, I had a lot of good discussions with people who wrote me directly and I saw a lot of people really engaging the topics on my thread too and being respectful of those with different opinions. Even for the brief window of time that was happening, it was nice to see.

Do I regret the word choice in the song? I am definitely sorry that people experienced pain because of my word choice. I know the n-word is a painful reminder of the racism black people have experienced personally throughout their lives. Since the object of my song was to target the racism all around us, within our institutions and out of the mouths of actual racists who have been emboldened by the current administration, I was especially sad to hear that even some of the people who agreed with the points I was making also felt hurt over how I chose to make those points.

When I wrote the song I thought about the master/slave dynamics at the root of modern racism and on display in the NFL, for example. Colin Kaepernick hadn’t yet begun his kneeling protest when I wrote the song but I think the overwhelmingly negative reaction to his dignified, respectful protest, makes those master/slave dynamics all the more apparent to the naked eye. We have the manager of the Cowboys telling his players if they kneel, they don’t play, using threats to suppress their first amendment rights. So, although I was tempted to use a euphemism or a weaker word about how America feels about black people, and spare myself the controversy, I thought I’d be letting America off the hook. When people talk about moving away from use of the word, I always assume they mean in our lives and public discourse, which I totally agree with. But that’s aspirational, it hasn’t happened yet, not everyone in our lives has gotten that memo. So as long as we have people still talking that way and thinking that way, and more importantly, systems still designed to marginalize people of color, it seems important to be able to call attention to it and to use the language these people are actually using if we want to depict how vile this thinking really is. I don’t think it’s a bad thing for us to have extreme reactions to art we experience, I think it’s good, but I personally don’t enjoy making art that creates painful reminders for people. So, in that sense, I regret using the word, but I wonder if I’d have been doing black people a disservice to suggest in my song that America feels less harshly towards them, when all evidence points to the contrary.

From what I can tell, you’ve stayed out of the fray on your Facebook post, standing back and letting the critics voice their concerns. Why haven’t you reacted online (or have you been responding privately to these critics?)

I stated on Facebook that I didn’t think social media was a healthy place to have real dialogue about important issues and encouraged people to write me directly if they wanted to discuss my statement and my song. I responded to anyone who wrote through direct message or email and I did have some good discussions that way. But it’s impossible to reply thoughtfully in real time when so many people are commenting on something. A mob mentality can develop really quickly on all sides so it gets pretty gross. People will say things to one another that they’d never say to the other’s face. So much of it is because their “friends” are watching too. You get the feeling that people are addicted to shaming more than they are interested in convincing anyone of anything in particular or reaching an understanding of different viewpoints. It’s not interesting to me at all to watch people behave that way. It’s depressing. So, I stay out of that stuff in general. If I hear about someone I know writing something or saying something that surprises or concerns me, I call them up or text them or email them to talk to them directly. I think people deserve that courtesy and respect and no one deserves to be publicly humiliated. People seem to love it though and some are building identities around this behavior.

Finally, after your European tour, do you intend on hosting a local album release show for Step Into the Earthquake?

I don’t know. I don’t have anything set up in town yet but we’ll see if it works out with everyone’s schedule when we get back from this tour.

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It’s worth noting that there have been a couple national reviews of Step Into the Earthquake that mention the controversial lyrics. Dusted Magazine went as far as publishing a portion of them in its review. So did in its review. We’re still waiting for that Pitchfork review, however…

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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 © 2017 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.