Shawn Foree’s new TIT; Tawny Peaks, Pinegrove tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 12:29 pm June 25, 2014

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

One big long yawn this week musicwise.

In the news, Shawn Foree of Digital Leather is teaming up once again with Bobby Hussy of The Hussy to form a new project called TIT. The duo’s debut 12-inch is coming soon on Volar and FDH Records. Here’s hoping it’s not a flop (Get it?). You can follow TIT’s latest news on their Facebook page.

Like I said, this isn’t Foree’s and Hussy’s first team effort. They just released a split 12-inch (as DL / The Hussy) on Southpaw that is must-hear for any discerning synth-pop fan. The DL side is downright… romantic, a kind of/sort of collection of twisted love songs that shines a light on Foree the Balladeer. This is the most serene DL recording I’ve heard (I haven’t heard them all), and it still rocks. I wonder if Foree will ever perform this material live?

The Hussy side is a riot, and includes a cover of Digital Leather song “Studs in Love” that’s playful compared to DL’s original, quirky version (that appears on Blow Machine) and the gritty, brutal, desperate recent live DL performances of the song that could have been used in the soundtrack to an uncut version of Al Pacino’s “Cruising.” When Foree sings it these days, you believe him.

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The Sydney tonight is hosting New Jersey indie band Tawny Peaks along with Jersey roots/garage rockers Pinegrove. MushMouth and The Boy and His Wolves also are on the bill $5, 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 © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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First Listen: The Faint returns (in fine form) with Doom Abuse; John Klemmensen / food bank benefit tonight…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , , — @ 1:04 pm March 26, 2014

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

The Faint, Doom Abuse (2014, SQE) is out April 8.

The Faint, Doom Abuse (2014, SQE) is out April 8.

The Faint’s promo company, Big Hassle, is distributing the band’s new album, Doom Abuse, to various and sundry journalists, including yours truly. It’s good. In fact, it’s Blank-Wave-Arcade good.

“Evil Voices” was the record’s first wait-what-the-f***-is-this? moment. It has my vote for first single, though I guess “Help in the Head” has that honor as it’s being premiered on NPR right now (here) with the laser-site-paranoia video for the song up at Pitchfork (here).

“Loss of Head” was another a-ha moment; it sounds like a radio track. As straight-forward as The Faint has ever been.

Another song that raised an eyebrow was album-closer “Damage Control,” which takes the song “B12” by Shawn Foree project Mere Mortals and adds different lyrics and synth textures. There is no mistaking that amazing synth hook at the front end. Foree, who fronts Digital Leather, said he co-wrote “Damage Control” with Faint frontman Todd Fink, who also plays synths in Digital Leather. Needless to say, it’s another highlight in an album filled with them.

As a whole, the record is more immediate than any previous Faint record — and by that I mean there is a no-nonsense, straight-forward approach to each track. I read the band got in and got out quickly on this one — no fucking around, no over-thinking — and it sounds like it. You’ll find out for yourself when the album is released April 8 on SQE Records, though I have no doubt it’ll leak in its entirety before then on NPR or Huffington or some other mega-website (Hey, why not leak it on Lazy-i and give my core 300 readers a head start?).

BTW, once this record gets around, that June 13 Faint show at Sokol Auditorium will sell out. You may want to beat the stampede and buy your tickets now.

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After a rather dull 2013 this has been a very solid first quarter of new music. For those of you wondering where the quarterly wrap-up is, I’m working on it now. Album reviews are easily the hardest thing to write — harder than interviews, features or live reviews. Stay tuned.

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There’s a benefit going on tonight at The Pizza Shoppe in Benson for Food Bank for the Heartland. Featured performer is John Klemmensen and The Party. The music starts at 6 p.m. and there’s no cover, though 10 percent of your food purchases will go to cover the food bank’s administration costs. More info here.  Go ahead, eat pizza.

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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 © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Live Review: Ty Segall, Digital Leather (with Todd Fink on synths)…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 1:55 pm February 11, 2013
Ty Segall at Sokol Underground, Feb. 10, 2013.

Ty Segall at Sokol Underground, Feb. 10, 2013.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Digital Leather frontman Shawn Foree confirmed the band’s line-up change about a week ago. I’d heard about it from someone who knows the guys in the band who e-mailed me simply to say that Todd Fink of The Faint had been practicing with DL in what would likely be a return of synthesizers to an act that had dropped them from their live performances years ago. Foree in the past has explained that his synth-driven recordings are a different animal than DL’s stage performances, which for the last few years has been a guitar-driven power trio.

Digital Leather, with Todd Fink, left, on synthesizer, Sokol Underground, Feb, 10, 2013.

Digital Leather, with Todd Fink behind the keyboards, Feb. 10, 2013.

Anyway, Foree confirmed the rumor, but said he wanted to keep it on the down low at least until this show. Sure enough, last night on stage this new version of Digital Leather was unveiled with Fink behind a keyboard. And the result was, to say the least, satisfying, but not a night-and-day difference from what we’ve been hearing from these guys for the past few years. DL is still fueled by the rhythm section of bassist Johnny Vrendenburg and drummer Jeff Lambelet — the best bass & drum duo in Omaha — as well as Foree’s voice and guitar (and his spleen-bleeding songs), but Fink’s keyboards add that element that’s been missing for a lot of the band’s fans — a sinister, other-worldly quality that underlies the neo-futuristic nature of DL music. They also sound pretty cool. Fink’s backing vocals were an added bonus.

So what’s this addition mean for future Digital Leather set lists? Well, for the most part, last night’s set wasn’t much different from the Nov. 28 set, when DL opened for King Khan at Slowdown. Both included a rousing version of fan favorite “Studs in Love” (well, at least it’s one of my favorites). That said, I don’t remember DL playing “Styrofoam” last November, a song in which the synths take the anthem to a whole ‘nother level.

Will DL now dig back to other early material where synths play a central role? Will we finally get to hear songs like “Modern Castles” and “Gold Hearts” (both from Warm Brother)?  I doubt it. It also will be interesting to hear if Fink will add anything to future DL recordings — a process that Foree has always commanded by himself. And what’s the lifespan for this collaboration now that The Faint are back together? Does it matter? Just enjoy it while you can, and that includes March 8, when Digital Leather is slated to return to one of their favorite stomping grounds — fabulous O’Leaver’s.

OK, what about the rest of the show? Opener, Memphis band Ex-Cult (formerly Sex Cult) was bad ass, a five piece that played a refined, aggressive indie garage punk that had a few kids in front of the stage shoving each other.

But the night’s centerpoint was Ty Segall and his band — a well-honed noise machine, easily the loudest thing I’ve heard on a stage in a few years. Playing songs off a number of his albums, including Twins and Slaughterhouse, Segall blazed through one monster rocker after another, leaving a wake of bleeding ears in front of the stacks. I stood on a chair along the wall and watched the crowd writhe in ecstasy to the knuckle-bleeding music.

You got a sense that you were seeing this guy at the height of his power, still flying under the radar, ready to explode. Something tells me in the next few years Segall could blow up to become as big as Jack White. If it happens, we’ll look back at this show and say “I saw him back when he played Sokol Underground.”

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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 © 2013 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Live Review: King Khan BBQ Show, Digital Leather; Lazy-i Interview: The Millions; Pine Ridge listening party tonight…

King Kahn and BBQ Show at The Slowdown, Nov. 28, 2012.

King Khan and BBQ Show at The Slowdown, Nov. 28, 2012.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

I never got my free booze at last night’s King Khan and BBQ Show concert at The Slowdown, but it’s not Sailor Jerry’s fault. The booze maker, who sponsored the event, had a converted Streamliner camper parked on the curb outside the club with blinking lights and signs and such. I didn’t bother to climb inside, and found out later that’s where they were distributing drink tokens. Kind of a weird deal, but there’s probably some sort of law that prevented them from setting up a table right inside Slowdown. Or something. I didn’t want to go back outside so I skipped it. I’d already bought my Rolling Rock anyway.

The “free” element was an ongoing riff played on by the KKBBQ duo, who kept prodding the rather large crowd about the freebies. “How’s your free booze?” said a smirking Mark Sultan sitting behind his two-piece drum kit, almost accusatory. Odd. Sultan, playing drums, guitar and singing (simultaneously), and King Khan on guitar and vocals were dressed in Mardi Gras-quality royal attire, complete with capes and feathered chapeaus. Glittery and cool. So was their music, a combination of garage, punk and sock-hop doo-wap, Chubby Checker meets Elvis meets Jack White meets the cast of Treme. They prodded the crowd to dance, and got a few to do a half-assed Frug.

Digital Leather at The Slowdown, Nov. 28, 2012.

Digital Leather at The Slowdown, Nov. 28, 2012.

Digital Leather opened the show with their usual grinding garage attack. I’ve seen these guys a hundred times and they never fail to bring it, but were especially on point last night. As I was sitting there wondering how many times I’d heard this set (or a slight variation), Shawn Foree and Co. threw out a golden nugget I thought I’d never hear them play again — “Studs In Love,” the homo anthem from Blow Machine re-engineered from an electronic hump fable to a roaring, spitting metallic confession. Foree launched it with a full-on riff attack aimed directly at the rhythm section of bassist Johnny Vrendenburg and drummer Jeff Lambelet (the best bass & drum duo in Omaha) settling into a tense, unrecognizable grind before barking out the line “I’m a man’s man / I don’t need no bitch.” F*** yes! They closed out their set with another classic — “Styrofoam,” from 2008 album Sorcerer.

I accepted years ago that Foree considers Digital Leather’s garage-rock stage presentation to be a completely different animal than the band’s electronic, proto-New Wave music heard on the recordings. I get it. But I’m beginning to wonder how long it will be until he breaks down and breaks out the Korg on stage once again. Maybe never. And that’s fine as long as he keeps putting out great records. Again, if you’ve only heard Digital Leather on stage over the past couple years, check out their recordings for a whole different take on their music.

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Below, for your reading pleasure, is this week’s column, which also is printed in the current issue of The Reader. I include it here instead of merely providing a link as I usually do because of the topic. Saturday night’s Millions show definitely is worth the trip to Lincoln for any Millions fan, as there’s a good chance you’ll never hear this band play again.

The Millions, circa 2012. Photo by Ted Schlaebitz.

The Millions, circa 2012. Photo by Ted Schlaebitz.

Column: A Million Reasons Why

Marty Amsler, like some of us, lives two lives.

Most know him as the mild-mannered “creative” at Nebraska advertising agency Bailey Lauerman. He’s a Mad Man ad guy who heads a team of Mad Men ad people that do some of the best creative work in the country. I know because I’ve seen it first hand in my “other life” at Union Pacific.

(To this day, I still meet people who think I make a living writing this column for The Reader. These are the same people who watched Sex and the City and thought Carrie Bradshaw could afford her cool Manhattan apartment and countless pair of $300 Manolo Blahnik shoes on what she made writing her weekly column in some faceless newspaper…)

Aside from Bailey Lauerman, there’s Marty’s main gig — his wife, Julia, and their son, Truman.

And then there’s The Millions, the band Amsler started way back in the late ‘80s in Lincoln with guitarist Harry Dingman III that included vocalist Lori Allison and drummer Greg Hill. Over the course of about six years, The Millions lived the rock ‘n’ roll dream. They generated a large following playing local gigs, got signed by Smash Records (a subsidiary of major label Polygram), quit their day jobs and recorded and released their debut album, M Is for Millions in July 1991. They toured, and then released their second album, Raquel, in September 1995. They toured some more. And then broke up and went their separate ways, leaving behind some great music and fond memories.

And now, just like that old rock ‘n’ roll story always seems to go, they’re getting back together again, for one night only — Dec. 1, 8 p.m., at Lincoln’s Bourbon Theatre. Well, at least three of them are, anyway. Greg Hill no longer plays drums and doesn’t want to. Drummer Brandon McKenzie will be sitting behind the drum kit that night. So can you really call this a “Millions reunion”?

“Lori, Harry and I don’t look at this as a ‘reunion’ show,” Amsler said. “Just old friends getting together again to play some songs we wrote a while ago to help some other old friends release a project they’ve worked tirelessly on.”

The Millions, Poison Fish (Randy's Alternative Music, 2012(

The Millions, Poison Fish (Randy’s Alternative Music, 2012)

The project is Poison Fish, a collection of lost, unreleased Millions recordings that capture the unbridled spirit of the band before they got signed.

The collection (under the name The Millions NE, because a different band now controls “The Millions” name) is being released by Randy’s Alternative Music, a record label run by Randy LeMasters, a Pittsburgh-based music entrepreneur who said the Millions’ music “turned my world upside down.”

LeMasters has spent nearly a decade working with the band and Millions’ fan Malcom Miles piecing together tracks heard on the new release from remastered cassette tapes, as the original master tapes (apparently) no longer exist.

Despite the frustration of spending years trying to track down those original masters, LeMasters says the release’s timing couldn’t have been better. “The band might not have gotten together for the CD release show in years past due to commitments with family and careers,” he said. “The time is right.”

And the timing may be right for other reasons. There’s a resurgence of interest in the post-punk, pre-Nirvana, “first wave” bands that influenced The Millions, such as REM, Throwing Muses, Cocteau Twins, Kate Bush and The Sundays. Some of the best new music released this past year, from indie darlings like Twin Shadow, Wild Nothing and DIIV, are revising the post-punk new wave sound for a new generation of listeners who may also discover something new in The Millions.

And if you’re wondering, no, LeMasters isn’t doing it for the money. “I’ve never been in the music ‘business’ to make money,” he said. “I do it for the love of the music and for my passion to get music into the ears of other fans. Other than the love one gets from family and friends, I believe there is no greater pleasure than sharing music with willing, eager ears.”

For Amsler, playing with his pals in The Millions again fills a void he didn’t realize he had.

“I have a very fulfilling career in advertising,” he said. “I get to spend my days working with some of the most talented people in the industry. I have great clients and more creative opportunity than I know what to do with.”

And though he gets the same creative fix from working with his B-L team, “I didn’t realize how much I missed just playing a song together – being super ‘cops-show-up (which they did) loud,’ getting in the zone and drowning all else out,” he said. “It’s so powerful, perfect and precarious. I didn’t realize how much I missed that — or them.”

Motivation to strap on his bass again also came from his family. “They see how much I’m enjoying it,” he said. “I get to share a side of me that neither of them knew.”

So I had to ask Amsler, the way the music industry is these days, would he do it all over again?

“That’s something I’ve thought about during the years,” he said. “Looking back, I’d have killed for the internet, e-mail, downloads or a damn cell phone (imagine being on the road for six weeks without one). That certainly would have made our lives easier on many fronts. But there was something about the music scenes when you had to be an active participant (not optional/digital) that was pretty amazing. I also think we were the last generation to get the big ‘quit-your-day-job’ record contract. Obviously, it wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be, but for a while, recording, touring and playing WAS our day job. That was pretty cool.”

The Millions play this Saturday, Dec. 1, at The Bourbon Theatre, 1415 ‘O’ St., Lincoln. Tickets to the all-ages show are $10 adv.; $12 DOS. Show starts at 9:30 p.m., with no opening bands (so get there on time). For more information and tickets, go to bourbontheatre.com.

First published in The Reader. Copyright © 2012 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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Here’s one that was flying under the radar: Tonight at The Waiting Room is the listening party for this year’s Christmas for Pine Ridge compilation.  The CD includes tracks by So-So Sailors, The Whipkey Three, Gerald Lee Jr. (Filter Kings) and a bunch more. The music starts at 8 p.m. Consider it a warm up for Saturday night’s benefit show, also at The Waiting Room.

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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 © 2012 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Digital Leather signs to Absolutely Kosher (if this translation is correct); Cursive back in the studio; Blitzen Trapper tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 8:16 pm July 26, 2011

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Omaha punk rock band Digital Leather has been in the news recently. Frontman Shawn Foree just did an interview with Hear Nebraska (here) where he talks about his new yet-to-be-released EP Infinite Sun and his almost spiritual relationship with the late, great Jay Reatard.

But just as newsworthy was Foree’s interview with Mala Vida, Buena Musica, a Puerto Rican blog, published in Spanish, requiring the use of the good ol’ Babel Fish translator. In the interview with the headline “I Was Forced to Smoke Crack at Knife Point,” Foree talks about the history of Digital Leather, the new EP and then just drops out of the blue that he signed a deal with Absolutely Kosher Records, home of such acts as Goblin Cock, The Wrens, Pinback, The Mountain Goats and Xiu Xiu. Impressive.

Foree goes on to say that his split with Fat Possum Records, his label for one record, had to do with the label’s focus on “commercial sounding music.” He also discusses some of his past tour exploits involving street cocaine deals gone wrong and the aforementioned smoking-crack-at-knife-point incident that took place in Portland “which was awesome.” All of this, of course, depends on the accuracy of the Babel Fish translation…

We’re lucky to have Digital Leather in Omaha. If you haven’t already, I strongly suggest you seek out copies of Blow Machine, Sorcerer and his most recent full-length, Warm Brother. You will not be disappointed. BTW, Digital Leather was another band that I suggested to the MAHA organizers for their music festival (for the past two years). I think they were spooked by the, uh, graphic nature of some of Foree’s songs. My response to that: If what you’re listening to isn’t risky, than it’s not rock music. Find out how risky DL really is by checking out their set Thursday night at The Slowdown, where they’re playing a MAHA showcase curated by the more daring lads in So-So Sailors.

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Cursive’s press agent issued a release today stating what most people around here already knew — Cursive is working on a new album over at ARC Studios. Joining the core band of Tim Kasher, Ted Stevens and Matt Maginn are Patrick Newberry, who recently became a permanent member of Conduits, tour drummer Cully Symington, with producer Matt Bayles behind the soundboard. Bayles recorded the last Ladyfinger full-length, and he’s also worked with Mastodon and Isis.

After Cursive performs as this year’s MAHA Music Festival Aug. 13 at Stinson Park with original drummer Clint Schnase (read an interview where Schnase talks about the reunion, here), Kasher will hit the road on a solo tour in support of his new EP, Bigamy: More Songs From The Monogamy Sessions, which will be available on CD and vinyl only at the upcoming shows and in the Saddle Creek webstore. The digital download will be available Aug. 16.

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Apologies for the weirdness on the timing of these posts lately. I’m on the road right now. Which is why I’ll be missing tonight’s big show at Slowdown: Blitzen Trapper with AgesandAges. $13, 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 © 2011 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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