October 15, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

We’re literally like clones,” says Gabriel Burkum, describing what it is like to be in a band with his twin brother, Graham. The 29-year-old, Council Bluffs-born twins are the musical duo behind JAGAJA (pronounced jag-uhh-jaw).

Their sound breaks away from what many expect from the Omaha scene. Dense guitar riffs, played by Graham, cascade over layers of rhythm, melody, and reverb. Then comes Gabriel with the bass line. Mixed with instruments and vocals, the brothers blend modern pop with tinges of psychedelia. Gabriel described it as if early 2000s Flaming Lips were recording in New York with the Strokes. In their terms, they’re happy to be from the Omaha area, but they claim to be an “American band” and try their best to take “all our influences and make them ours.”

jagaja2They started playing together in a band called Skypiper, their first official band (from 2007 to 2015). “Skypiper was more folky, or adult contemporary,” recalls Gabriel. It began as an acoustic project, but became more elaborate once they hit the studio. When Skypiper called it quits last year, Graham and Gabriel trudged on and formed JAGAJA. They are the only official members of JAGAJA with an ever-changing lineup of drums, synthesizers, and other instruments that they add into the mix. “It has to be just me and Graham,” says Gabriel. Graham plays guitar, Gabriel plays bass, and they share vocal duties. They try to keep JAGAJA small and between the two of them because “we want to make the record we want.”

“The best part about being in a band with your twin brother is you can (want to) kill them, but like 10 minutes later you’re still twin brothers and can get back to business,” Gabriel says. Their close work relationship is assisted by time apart. The brothers write songs separately and collaborate later. “Half of the album was written by me, and the other half was written by Graham,” says Gabriel. When it comes to process, Graham says, “Maybe I’ll have a hook, and we’ll build on that…We like hooks.”

They have been steadily touring and hope to play an Omaha homecoming show in December. Graham says, “When we play a show, we want it to be an event.”

The band self-released their first, self-titled album in June, which is available on streaming services and at many record stores in Omaha.

Visit jagajamusic.com for more information.

Encounter

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