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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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.

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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.

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For Against reissues via Saint Marie (and Pledge); New Stef Chura (w/Will Toledo); Eric Stoakes remembered…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , — @ 1:25 pm March 7, 2018

For Against’s ’90s albums get the reissue treatment from Saint Marie.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

I’ve been under the weather the past few days. What ever’s going around finally got me, but I’m on the mend. With that in mind, here’s some catching up.

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Dreampop label Saint Marie Records is reissuing three ’90s-era For Against albums — Aperture, Mason’s California Lunchroom and Shelf Life. The label released frontman Jeff Running’s solo album Primitives and Smalls a couple years ago, which got them talking about this reissue series.

Each record has been fully remastered and includes updated and expanded artwork. But that’s not all. Saint Marie has created a For Against Pledge page that not only offers pre-order of those three albums, but lots of other goodies, like T-shirts, posters, even a $1,700 signed Fender Modern Player Starcaster Guitar.

Check it out at https://www.pledgemusic.com/projects/foragainst

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Saddle Creek Records latest roster addition, Stef Chura, today released a new single produced by Will Toledo fo Car Seat Headrest. “Degrees” and it’s b-side, “Sour Honey” were originally supposed to be included on Chura’s debut, Messes, but instead got a collab treatment from Toledo, who also plays guitar and bass on the A-side. The limited single will be released on Record Store Day April 21. If this is any indication, her next album, which will also include Toledo, could be a knock-out.

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Finally, I worked with Eric Stoakes for a number of years at The Reader. While John Heaston is the paper’s guiding torchlight, Eric was the one who stoked the flame and hustled to keep it lit. He passed away last month. Here’s a remembrance that also appears in the current issue of The Reader. Goodbye Eric, we miss you.

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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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How Saddle Creek signed Stef Chura (and more); Night Shapes, Box of Stars, The Drums, Methyl Ethel, TOP Nachos tonight…

Category: Blog,Interviews — Tags: , , , , , , — @ 1:44 pm November 7, 2017
The Drums at The Waiting Room, May 1, 2012.

The Drums at The Waiting Room, May 1, 2012.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

About that recent signing by Saddle Creek Records…

Saddle Creek executive Robb Nansel said the label’s signing of singer-songwriter Stef Chura was the handiwork of the label’s new A&R rep Amber Carew.

Carew said she discovered Chura via a friend of hers from Houston who sent her Chura’s Bandcamp link.

“At that time, I was working for Anti Records and was considering pursuing her for them,” Carew said. “After a few missed connections between me and Stef over the following year, we finally connected during my transition to Saddle Creek.”

Chura’s debut LP, Messes, already had been on store shelves for some time, and Chura expressed interest in reissuing it. “We really clicked and I trusted her passion and plans for the future,” Carew said. “I felt more confident in her as a fit for Saddle Creek than I did Anti, so I felt compelled to explore that.”

Carew said that beyond Chura’s songwriting and tenacity as a musician, she understands and promotes community-based ethics “much akin to the Saddle Creek spirit — authentic and compassionate. Some artists on the label, like Big Thief, were already fans as well. It just felt right. I thought that Messes was great and deserved another push, so we made it happen.” Saddle Creek will reissue Messes on CD, cassette and LP Feb. 2.

Carew said the follow-up to Messes already has been recorded, produced by one of the hottest new names in the indie world. You’ll just have to wait to find out who that is. Here’s a clue: The producer has performed in Omaha a few times in the past couple years.

Chura and Carew represents one aspect of the continuing expansion of the Saddle Creek empire. Nansel said Saddle Creek also is opening a formal office in Eagle Rock, a section of Los Angeles between Burbank and Pasedena. He and Carew will eventually be joined by a marketing director, which the label currently is seeking, and “we’ll likely be inviting some other music industry friends in to the space to share it with us.”

Now we all have somewhere else to visit the next time we’re in La La Land.

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There’s a good rock show going on tonight at The Brothers Lounge. Oakland’s Night Shapes headlines. They’re described as what would happen if “Yuppies and Nick Cave joined forces.” Opening is Vermont band Box of Stars, New Englander Jake McKelvie and our very own FiFi NoNo. $5, 9:30 p.m.

Also tonight, Brooklyn band The Drums (Anti Records) plays at The Waiting Room with Aussie act Methyl Ethel (4AD). $15, 8 p.m.

That’s not all. There’s an indie punk show tonight at OutrSpaces, 528 So. 24th St. The headliner is TOP Nachos from New Paltz, NY. Also on the bill are NYC’s Dolly Spartans (Noble Media) and Omaha faves Hussies and Magu. $10 donation, 7 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 © 2017 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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