The Sunks drop new LP; new Ohtis/Stef Chura (Saddle Creek); Teenage Fanclub…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , — @ 1:23 pm January 26, 2021
Ohtis in springtime? Photo by Andrew Remdenok.

Talk about your boring January’s, there’s just not a whole heckova lot going on. Next week I’ll be posting my February column in The Reader, which has some reporting about when we can expect to see live music return to Omaha. Spoiler alert: It’s gonna be awhile until any tours come passing through, but there’s hope for the future…

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Omaha indie band The Sunks dropped their debut full-length, Wedding Season, today on Bandcamp. The 13-song LP was recorded at ARC by Adam Roberts. “Wedding Season marks the band’s debut album after playing in town for nearly six years,” says the site. “The album is a reflection of the myriad influences the band has and results in a finished product featured a variety of songs that can be enjoyed by any listener.” Check it out!

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This morning Saddle Creek Records announced the next installment in its 7-inch “Document” series will feature Illinois trio Ohtis, with special guest vocals by Stef Chura. “Schatze” b/w “Failure” is slated to come out on 7-inch vinyl Feb. 26, but the amusing video for the A-side dropped today.

From the release: “‘Schatze’ was mixed by Collin Dupuis (Lana Del Rey, Angel Olsen, St. Vincent) and it follows the release of Ohtis’ critically acclaimed 2019 debut album Curve of Earth, which was released via Full Time Hobby.” Ohtis was formed nearly 20 years ago, but went into a 15-year hiatus, according to the announcement. Check out the video below and pre-order the single right here.

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And all you oldsters will love to know that Teenage Fanclub is releasing its next full-length, Endless Arcade, April 3 on Merge Records. The band released the next single from the album, “I’m More Inclined,” this morning, along with European tour dates (September in the UK, and a larger Euro tour in 2022).

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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 © 2021 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


New Unexplained Death track; Jake Bellows sighting; Stef Chura, French Vanilla, David Nance tonight at Reverb…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , — @ 12:38 pm August 7, 2019

Stef Chura at O’Leaver’s, May 30, 2018. She plays tonight at Reverb Lounge.

by Tim McMahan,

Matt Whipkey’s new punk-flavored project Unexplained Death is about to enter the political arena. Whipkey has crafted an album’s worth of angry  rock songs that reflect Nebraska in the age of Trump.

His latest entry is a not-so-veiled attack on Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse titled “Benny and The Sass,” which debuted a lyric video on YouTube yesterday. Who will be the first Washington intern to show it to the senator. And when will Whipkey and the rest of U-Death finally grace a stage near you?

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The Scott McCaughey tour that rolled through an Omaha living room last month rolled into LA’s Bootleg Theater this past weekend with half of R.E.M. (Peter Buck and Mike Mills) in the supporting band. Also on board was Morgan Nagler, Jake Bellows and the rest of Whispertown. Check out the coverage, which includes a shout out and a couple sweet pics of Jake and Morgan. We miss you, Jake…!

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Speaking of living room shows, there’s another one coming up Aug. 28 with Pedro the Lion’s David Bazan. Upon purchasing your limited $25 tickets here, the location of the event will be revealed. No doubt, it will once again be a living room tucked away somewhere in Dundee.

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Tonight at Reverb Lounge it’s the return of Stef Chura and her band. Chura played a sparsely attended set at O’Leaver’s last year (I was there). Her new album, Midnight (2019, Saddle Creek), produced by Car Seat Headrest’s Will Toledo, has garnered plenty of national attention, which could make tonight’s show a bit more crowded.

Toledo and Chura have something in common: Both have voices that are… challenging. Toledo’s voice swings between wobbly half-asleep tone-waddle and full-throat yell-singing. So does Chura’s, at times a scratchy granny (reminiscent of ’70s hippy yodeler Melanie (“Brand New Key”)) at others, angry nasal lady. I find it strangely precocious.

Toledo gets a ton of credit for this new record’s sound, and in a lot of ways, it’s justified. Compared to her Saddle Creek debut, 2017’s Messes, the guitars on Midnight are crunchier, the bass lines are fuzzier and more out front, and the songs are filled with clean drop-outs that wake up the tracks with karate chop precision.

Lyrically, Chura’s outsider / lost relationship musings can walk home in the dark hand-in-hand with Toledo’s lonely guy odes.

Like last night’s Outer Spaces show, this one is a four-band bill (WTF? Don’t you guys know some of us have to go to work tomorrow morning?). Joining Chura is LA art punkers French Vanilla (Danger Collective Records), New Haven rocker Stefan Christensen and our very own David Nance Group. 8 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.


Maha 2019 sched announced (again); new Stef Chura…

Category: Blog — Tags: , — @ 12:50 pm June 5, 2019

by Tim McMahan,

I find it strange that I get more (considerably more) traffic to my website on days when I don’t post an update. Why is that?

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A few days ago the team at Maha Music Festival posted the schedules for this year’s two-day rock show Aug. 16 and 17 at Stinson Park in Aksarben Village. Each night’s performers were already announced back in April. Nothing has changed, but now you have set times as well.

Friday night, Aug. 16

10:30 p.m. Jenny Lewis
8:30 p.m. Courtney Barnett
7:15 p.m. Snail Mail
6:15 p.m. Esencia Latina Band
5 p.m. Sharkweek

Saturday, Aug. 17

10:30 p.m. Lizzo
9 p.m. Matt and Kim
7:45 p.m. Oh Sees
6:30 p.m Duckwrth
5:15 p.m. Matt Maeson
4 p.m. Beach Bunny
3:15 p.m. Omaha Girls Rock
2:45 p.m. Muscle Cousins
2 p.m. Domestic Blend
1 p.m. Sharkweek

As I said back then, I’m surprised Courtney Barnett is playing Friday night instead of Saturday, but I assume it’s more about her schedule than theirs. There’s only two acts on Saturday that are pulling me in: Thee Oh Sees and Lizzo.

Which brings me to ticket prices. They’re about the same as last year:

Looks like no discount if you buy a 2-day music pass, not sure why.  Lost in the discussion has been the so-called “middle show” featuring Pinback at The Waiting Room Aug. 15 — a $15 ticket if you buy it before July 15, and worth every penny.

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The new Stef Chura LP Midnight comes out this Friday on Saddle Creek Records. Leading up to the release is yet another single/video, “Scream.” The new issue of Rolling Stone called out Chura, making “They’ll Never,” No. 1 on their “Play List.” Remember when being mentioned in Rolling Stone was significant?

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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.


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

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

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

by Tim McMahan,

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

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

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

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

Here’s the single:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — 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 Stef Chura; Nebraska mini-doc features Dereck Higgins…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , — @ 12:00 pm March 6, 2019

Stef Chura’s new album, Midnight, comes out on Saddle Creek Records June 7.

by Tim McMahan,

Stef Chura, one of Saddle Creek Records’ more recent signings, announced this morning her new album, Midnight, will drop June 7. The album was produced by Will Toledo of Car Seat Headrest and is likely to be much more rough-hewn than Chura’s 2017 Creek debut Messes. Certainly the first track, “Method Man,” seems to support that theory. 

You can order the limited-edition blue glow-in-the-dark splatter vinyl at the Saddle Creek store.

Chura also announced an Omaha date for her summer tour — Aug. 6 at Reverb Lounge. 

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Musician Dereck Higgins (DHX, R.A.F., ex-Digital Sex) is the subject of a new mini-documentary about Nebraska from filmmaker Brad Barber. 

States of America” is a series of documentary shorts, featuring one person in each of the 50 states. New state episodes are released once a month until all 50 are complete. Higgins said he doesn’t know how his name got submitted for the project. “They interviewed me on the phone. About a month later they called back saying I was chosen,” he said. “I have no idea who suggested me.”

In the 5-minute video, Higgins talks about living in Nebraska and the role music plays in his life. There’s also some tasty footage of Higgins performing in R.A.F. Check it out below. 

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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.


That Saddle Creek at 25 story you may have missed…

Category: Interviews — Tags: , , , — @ 12:49 pm June 28, 2018

Saddle Creek Record’s Benson offices circa sometime in the early 2000s…

by Tim McMahan,

There’s been a bit of a lull in music news lately. It’s the end of the month, it’s summer, it’s Omaha.

That being the case, I’m taking this opportunity to post that Saddle Creek at 50 cover story I wrote for the June issue of The Reader. You may already have read it, I know. This is being posted more for posterity’s sake and to ensure there’s always a version online should something unsavory happen to The Reader‘s website. Because Lazy-i is forever….

I promised out-takes from these interviews, but I haven’t had time to put them together. I will eventually (or I’ll use them for other stories). In the meantime, here’s the story, which is also in the current issue of The Reader. Pick up your copy today before the August issue hits the stands…

Saddle Creek at 25
The label that defined indie cool over a decade ago is suddenly cool again.

by Tim McMahan

It was sometime in 1993 when a group of guys pulled their resources together and released a cassette tape by a 13-year-old boy named Conor Oberst. That cassette, titled Water, was the first release on Lumberjack Records, catalog number LBJ-01.

Earlier this year catalog number LBJ-270, the debut album by Stef Chura called Messes, was released on CD, LP, tape and digital by Saddle Creek Records, the company that Lumberjack Records became. The label’s name isn’t the only thing that’s changed over the past 25 years.

Just ask the Saddle Creek founder Robb Nansel. “What’s changed since we started? Everything.”

Nansel reminisced about days gone by and days ahead alongside Amber Carew, the label’s new A&R representative, over beers at The Trap Room, a small bar he co-owns along with music club The Slowdown, which sits about 30 feet south of us.

Like all independent record labels, Lumberjack/Saddle Creek started as a business run out of a bedroom. “At the time, it was very day-to-day, you know?” Nansel said of the early years. “Our concern was ‘How are we gonna put out this Norman Bailer record?’ When I had to write the business plan for an entrepreneurship class, the goal was to sell 10,000 copies of a record. That was the definition of success.”

It would take years for the label to hit that goal. Nansel said he considers the first “real” Saddle Creek release to be LBJ-19 — Bright Eyes — A Collection of Songs Written and Recorded 1995-1997 — which came out in 1998 and was the first Saddle Creek album distributed outside the area.

“Everything before that was just consignment around town — make a hundred copies of a cassette or seven inches or whatever, take them to Homer’s and The Antiquarium and call it a day,” he said.

By 2005, Saddle Creek Records had become one of the most respected and well-known small independent record labels in the country, thanks to the success of its crown-jewel acts — Bright Eyes, The Faint and Cursive. Nansel points to that period as the label’s most successful era in terms of national exposure and record sales, with all three bands releasing albums that sold more than 100,000 copies.

“That was when reporters were flying in from all around the world to write stories about what’s in the drinking water,” Nansel said, “and when Dave Sink told me not to fuck up Omaha.” Sink, the owner/operator of the late, great Antiquarium Record Store, was revered among local musicians.

“He said ‘You’re gonna ruin this town; it’s going to turn into the next Seattle,’ and I said no it’s not. We have a small label, and that’s it. There’s no venues in town, there’s no other record labels. It’s hard to have that much of an impact on a city.”

Nansel knew all the national attention wouldn’t last. “Everything’s cyclical,” he said. “Scenes happen all over the world. It just so happened that people had their microscope on Omaha then. I knew they’d move their microscope somewhere else soon enough.”

But by the time the national spotlight had shifted away from Saddle Creek, the label had built  new offices in the so-called “Lo-Do” area of Omaha above what would become The Slowdown. The staff had grown to seven, including primary partner Jason Kulbel, who had originally come to Omaha to run a nightclub. Meanwhile, the roster of artists had ballooned to well over a dozen. As the label was entering its next chapter, Saddle Creek faced a number of new challenges.

In 2008, Conor Oberst signed to Merge Records, while The Faint started its own record label, Blank.Wav. And for the first time, Saddle Creek had turned its attention away from Omaha and began signing bands that had no real local connection— acts like Tokyo Police Club and Two Gallants and Canadian acts like The Rural Alberta Advantage and Land of Talk. It was a dramatic departure from the early days when Saddle Creek only signed bands that either came from Omaha or were friends of bands already on the label.

At the same time, Saddle Creek finally began to feel the impact of technology that had been ravaging the music industry for years.

Until then, the internet had been the label’s best friend. “It was so important for our growth,” Nansel said. “It allowed Saddle Creek to exist on a national level. When the major labels were yelling ‘The sky is falling,’ our business was growing. They were seeing the massive catalog sales that they’d had for decades plummet. We didn’t have a catalog, so all we saw was growth. There was a point when Saddle Creek could put out anybody’s record, and it would sell at least 5,000 copies,” Nansel said.

Fast forward just a few years and “we were putting out records that were selling like 150 copies,” Nansel said. “This was what everyone had been talking about when they said (the internet) was going to ruin the industry.”

It was a problem no one at the label had an answer for. Instead, Nansel and his staff simply put their heads down and kept going.

“We always felt that solving the music industry’s problem was not something that we as Saddle Creek were going to be able to do,” Nansel said. “That was going to be figured out by tech companies and major labels. All we could do was find bands we were passionate about and work with them and hope everything sorted itself out in time.”

Part of the answer for small independent labels like Saddle Creek has been banding together to create trade organizations that can compete with major labels for the attention of massive tech giants like Apple and Spotify, who now control the industry. The American Association of Independent Music (or A2IM) and global rights agency Merlin Network are two primary examples.

“If Saddle Creek goes up against Apple and tries to get a better deal, Apple tells Saddle Creek to fuck off,” Nansel said. “But if Merlin goes to them representing Beggars Group and Matador and 4AD and hundreds and hundreds of independent labels, then they can get a seat at the table. In a sense, Merlin and A2IM are pushing things forward on behalf of the independent label community.”

While signing those non-Omaha-related acts, Saddle Creek continued to release albums from old favorites like Cursive, The Good Life and Azure Ray while signing locals and friends like Icky Blossoms, Twinsmith and pals Big Harp. Nansel said despite new struggles to generate income via music sales, the label never signed an act with the intent of striking it rich.

“I guess I’d be naive to say that (album sales) are completely not in my mind,” he said. “There might be some super-aggressive weird punk record that I love, but then realize we can’t do anything with it. We wouldn’t be doing them a service by working with them. It would be a disastrous relationship. But I don’t think we’ve ever signed something because we thought it would sell. We have to like it first and figure out if it’s a good partnership.”

Has making money ever been a motivation?

“No,” Nansel said. “I think that’s boring. You have to work with these people every day. Imagine having to work with a band that you don’t like. You might make money, but that doesn’t sound very fun.”

Sticking with that philosophy would eventually pay off. In October 2014, Saddle Creek signed Philly band Hop Along. The folk-rock four-piece fronted by singer/songwriter Frances Quinlan hit pay dirt with its third full-length, Painted Shut, released in May of the following year. Songs like album opener “The Knock” and “Well-dressed” earned millions of Spotify plays, while publications like called Quinlan “among the most captivating rock singers of her generation.”

Next Saddle Creek signed Brooklyn band Big Thief in February 2016. The four-piece, fronted by Adrianne Lenker, saw its debut, Masterpiece, released in May 2016 to a hail of critical huzzahs, but it was the follow-up, Capacity, released in June 2017, that really caught fire, making it onto a number of national critics’ annual top-10 lists. The infectious single “Shark Smile” would gain heavy rotation on nationally broadcasted (via satellite) radio station Sirius XMU.

Brooklyn singer/songwriter Sam Evian (a.k.a. Sam Owens) would come next in June 2016 and in March 2017, Saddle Creek launched its “Document” singles series that featured unreleased music from artists outside the Saddle Creek roster, starting with bands Posse, Palehound, Hand Habits and Wilder Maker.

The label was entering a third life that included opening a satellite office in Los Angeles’ Eagle Rock neighborhood with new-hire Amber Carew, the label’s first-ever A&R representative responsible for talent scouting and artist development. One of Carew’s first run-ins with Saddle Creek was when the label signed Sam Evian out from under her while she was employed at label Anti- Records.

“At the time I was like ‘Saddle Creek? I didn’t know they were still doing stuff,'” Carew said. “I was in my own bubble. Then I looked at the label and realized that Saddle Creek was putting out records I like and doing new things.”

Carew’s first signing for Saddle Creek, Detroit singer/songwriter Stef Chura, who joined the label last November and whose debut album, Messes, was re-released by Saddle Creek in February, said she was familiar with the label in high school because of Bright Eyes, who she counts as an influence.

“When (the signing) was announced, I got a lot of ‘They’re still a label?’ questions and asked if I was going to meet Conor Oberst,” Chura said. “I love a lot of their stuff, new and old; I love what they’re doing now. There are separate eras (of the label) that are attracting different audiences. They’ve always signed artists with a lot of integrity, really good songwriters. It’s a big compliment to be on the label.”

At around the same time Chura joined Saddle Creek, the label signed Chicago rockers Young Jesus, whose debut, titled S/T, they re-released in February. The album is a departure for the label, with tracks that range from six minutes to over 12 minutes, jangly noise collages and epic jams that could be filed under “experimental.” Far from a commercially influenced acquisition.

“We’re not playing the analytics game,” Nansel said. “We’re not seeing who’s got a bunch of followers on Facebook.”

“If that were the case, we would have never signed Young Jesus,” Carew adds, “or Stef. I’ve made a concerted effort to talk about the new era of Saddle Creek. When I talk to new bands, I ask them if they want to be part of it.”

Nansel said plans call for doubling the number of releases the label puts out next year. He discussed new acts that Saddle Creek is either about to sign or announce (including an Omaha band), many of which will be unknown to most fans. “They’re not even necessarily known within their communities,” he said. “They’re just brand new bands. The goal is to give people their first shot at putting out a record. It’s hard to build a band from the ground up. It’s fun. It’s the most rewarding thing possible.”

So how does a label like Saddle Creek judge success in 2018? “It’s all about streams,” Nansel said. “It’s not really about physical sales anymore. I mean, that’s an important piece of it for us and our fan base. We still like to sell records, but the number of streams is the barometer of success — how many people are listening to your band online.”

And while getting your artists’ songs added to a Spotify curated playlist is a boon, Nansel said the key is for listeners to add albums and artists to their personal lists. “That’s how you retain that listener,” he said.

Streaming also is what pays the bills these days, specifically with checks from Spotify and Apple Music. “Those two primarily,” Nansel said. “Pandora and YouTube not so much. It’s like real money now. Our Spotify check is our biggest check every month; they’re bigger than ADA, our (physical) distributors.”

Good thing, too, because the label has a lot of mouths to feed. Nansel said the staff is the largest it’s ever been with the addition of Marketing Director Katie Nowak, who literally joined the label the day of this interview. Nowak, a New Yorker, will be joining the Los Angeles staff. The Omaha staff consists of C.J. Olson, radio/project management; Jadon Ulrich, art director; Jeff Tafolla, licensing, and Sarah Murray, retail/distribution. Nate Welker, digital marketing, lives in Seattle. Jason Kulbel, who manages Slowdown and other properties, stepped away from the label years ago.

Why does the Saddle Creek bother to keep an Omaha presence? Nansel, who’s lived in LA for nearly four years, points to the staff who live here. “I have a lot of roots in Omaha,” he said. “It’s an important place to me.”

Nansel, who turns 43 this year, never thought he’d still be running the label 25 years after releasing that Water cassette.

“That’s because I’m not a planner in that way,” he said. “I never saw myself doing anything else, either. People kept making music. We kept caring about it. We kept having opportunities to do stuff with it. As long as that happens, why would we stop?”

First published in The Reader, June 2018. Copyright © 2018 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — 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.


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,

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 — 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.



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,

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 — 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.


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,

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 — 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.


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,

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

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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 — 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.