Tag Archives: music

Mark McGaugh

February 27, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Mark McGaugh describes himself as “that kid everybody always thought was going to be a doctor or a president.” Known as a young child for reading the encyclopedia and watching the History Channel, it’s no surprise that this 24-year-old’s inquiring mind was fascinated by the possibilities of music. His musical career began in the fourth grade, with a recorder class at Belvedere Elementary School.

By fifth grade, he made his first forays into hip-hop during freestyle rapping sessions in the library with friends. It wasn’t until middle school at King Science & Technology Magnet Center when he picked up the alto saxophone that McGaugh started to explore the worlds of classical and jazz music. Omaha North brought the opportunity to join drumline, but the music alone wasn’t enough to protect a teenage McGaugh from the social pressures he faced.

“Growing up here in North Omaha, in a single-parent household, it’s rough. The story goes on and on, but I went through it,” he says.

When he found himself embroiled in some trouble during his junior year, the young man had to step back and decide what he wanted his focus to be. “It was a turning point in my life,” McGaugh reflects on getting caught up with the wrong crowd as a moment when he chose to dedicate his life to music.

Although hip-hop, church choir, and the musical endeavors of family members have always been in the background, McGaugh realized that his interests in music could only go so far when limited to school band. “To be a DJ, or you know, a little black boy on the corner rapping bars, you can [only] get so far here in Nebraska.” Fortunately, his mother always strongly supported her son’s musical interests, provided he focus on his education first.

When he graduated from North High in 2011, that focus on academic achievement culminated in an opportunity to attend Florida A&M University.

“I flew the coop,” he recalls. “I went to Florida with a dream.” That dream was centered around widening his musical horizons, but the young man found his perspective changing about life as a whole. “Going to Florida A&M, which is a historically black school, just seeing the different perspective of what’s possible for me, that definitely opened my eyes to a lot of things.”

During college, McGaugh discovered a passion for broadcast journalism. As he earned his degree in the field, he hosted campus radio shows that investigated some of the most intense national news issues of the time. From an exclusive interview with the mayor of Flint in the heat of the city’s devastating water crisis, to reporting on violence against students at a Georgia Donald Trump rally, to debate over Florida’s infamous “Stand Your Ground” law, McGaugh provided valuable insight and information to his community. “That was a big eye-opener,” he says of the talk show.

While diving into broadcast journalism, McGaugh never lost sight of his dream to pursue music. In addition to his more intense Saturday morning show, he covered sports news and hosted a hip-hop show for campus radio. When he wasn’t studying, he was working for a local music promotion agency to help independent record labels distribute their sound.

“That was a good insight into seeing how the music industry works,” McGaugh says. He learned about the importance of understanding what goes into deciding whose music gets played, met artists, and made connections. He reports that “it’s really an effort over talent thing.”

While he was earning his degree and working with promoters across Florida, McGaugh didn’t forget the needs of his hometown. Upon graduation, he returned to Omaha and could clearly see voids in the artistic community—as well as the potential of the city. “There was an actual music scene that was here when I came back from Florida that wasn’t here when I left.” He refers to a number of musical players changing the Omaha scene—Reverb Lounge, Slowdown, One Percent Productions, and Make Believe Records—all giving new energy to budding artists across the city.

Inspired by these new efforts to invigorate the local music scene, McGaugh made a commitment to making a difference in the musical landscape of the city through community radio. The new Mind and Soul 101.3 station, housed inside the Malcolm X Memorial Foundation on Evans Street, was just the type of platform McGaugh wanted to help develop in his community. He began as assistant program director at the station in January 2017, and now hosts “Lunchtime Live,” formats shows, looks up stories, and keeps things running smoothly to give voice to his community.

“My ultimate goal with being at this radio station is making sure that the message of the community isn’t watered down or isn’t ignored,” McGaugh explains. As he continues to pursue his own passion for music and a newfound interest in DJing, he loves being a part of the platform that shares the messages of all types of people in his city and gives new artists a chance to have their voices heard. McGaugh believes that with the help of organizations like Mind & Soul, the future for Omaha music is bright. “Ultimately, the goal is just to help the world.”

This article appears in the March/April 2018 edition of Encounter

Negative Boogie with David Nance

February 23, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

“You gotta live your own authentic experience.”

Omaha musician David Nance, 29, has identified that as a personal mantra. It certainly seems to be serving him well.

His 2017 album Negative Boogie, released by Ba Da Bing Records in Brooklyn, has received rave reviews. One reviewer called it “brilliantly raucous and unhinged.” Noisey (the music channel of vice.com) named Negative Boogie in their “100 Best Albums of 2017.”

Nance says The Velvet Underground is an influence on the album, and the influence is apparent on the finished product.

“We went into this big studio, ARC [an acronym for “Another Recording Company” in Omaha], and we got money from the label to screw around with stuff there,” Nance says. “They got a bunch of fun toys and stuff like that.”

Indeed, a colorful write-up from NPR praises the album’s variety of sounds and production styles coming together to create a “spastic dance music for rock ’n’ roll deviants, a jabbing pointer finger at the soullessness of the pixelated present, blown out and blown up like a basement tape.”

In mid-December, Nance and his band just recorded a new album (which they are calling Peaced and Slightly Pulverized). The yet-to-be-released album will be his fourth in the past three years. His first full-band, full-length album was More Than Enough in 2016.

What did they decide to do for their first album post-Negative Boogie? “This one we just did in a basement,” Nance says. “It’s more about the performance and us playing off of each other, because the songs are real loose, just two chords and rough ideas.”

That search for variety and freedom has been a driving force in his music career thus far.

“Playing to what people expect of you, I don’t think there’s much fun in that,” he says. “I think it’s fun to throw curveballs constantly.”

Nance is a native of Grand Island who went on his first tour when he was 18, playing guitar for a band called Brimstone Howl. It was an eye-opening experience to go to other towns and see the varieties of groups “making music that you would have no way of hearing otherwise.”

He started writing songs around that time.

“I started doing my own thing just out of boredom, basically,” Nance says. “Writing songs or whatever, and getting a tape machine in the basement and just going for it.”

From there, he recorded his own albums and tapes. Actor’s Diary, released in 2013 on Grapefruit Records, was his first album in 2013

Over the years, he has enjoyed making cover albums of other musicians’ work (with his own signature style, of course). He says the exercise helps him to better understand the creative process without having to worry about making new material.

However, he may have gotten more than just a better understanding of the creative process in the case of an album he made with fellow Omaha singer-songwriter Simon Joyner. (Over the years, Nance has played lead guitar in Joyner’s bands.) They did a cover of the Rolling Stones’ album Goats Head Soup, thinking only a few people would hear it, but it started getting some attention online after it was released in the summer of 2017 and discovered by “some guy in Germany.”

Nance says he and Joyner thought there was a chance they could be sued. In a sense, though, that would be a positive. “[It] could be kind of cool, you know? Then the Stones’ lawyer would know about us…We made a fake cease-and-desist letter,” he says. “Hopefully one of these days we’ll get an actual cease-and-desist letter from the Stones.”

Nance enjoys making albums and treating the mixing like it’s another member of the band, but he prefers live shows. In January, he embarked on his first overseas tour. The two-month European tour was scheduled to start in Aarhus, Denmark, and conclude in Paris, France.

“When we go out and play, we really don’t have any intention of recreating what we did on the record.” The songs act more as guidelines with some chords. The goal is for everyone in the band to be ‘present.’”

“Sometimes we’ll play for an hour; sometimes we’ll play for 20 minutes or something, just try to ride the feeling and make honest music,” he says, explaining that being “present” as a musician means “having to think on the spot, now what do you come up with? As opposed to, ‘This is this rigid thing. We need to do everything exactly the same every time.’”

To Nance, working is all about experiencing. He lists an eclectic mix of influences, including Jimi Hendrix, Joni Mitchell, Funkadelic, Nina Simone, and Lou Reed. And he loves meeting people while touring. “You just feel like you’re a part of something. That’s the biggest thing for me…the not feeling alone.”

Is it ever too much? Can someone have too many influences to the point where it drowns out his or her own voice?

In his case, Nance doesn’t think so.

“I used to get worried about that,” he says. “You just listen to how other people do things, and it’s not necessarily how am I going to filter this through myself. It’s just being inspired by it.”

At the end of the day, Nance just wants to make and find truthful music.

“There’s great music in every genre,” he says. “A person who cares about what they’re doing, who’s being present, I think there’s no flaw to that.”

Visit davidnance.bandcamp.com and badabingrecords.com/david-nance for more information.

This article was printed in the March/April 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine.

High Fidelity Dreaming

January 19, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

When you talk with Kate Dussault, it’s obvious how important music is to her.

“I can’t imagine a life without music,” Dussault says. “It’s where I learned a lot. It’s the focus of so many memories. It invades every part of every one of my senses. You can’t eat music, but if you could, I would.”

Her musical passion isn’t merely a personal preoccupation. Dussault wants to share her passion with others and help grow the Omaha music community. That passion is what led her to found the Hi-Fi House.

Dussault, who was raised in Omaha and attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, grew up in a music-loving family. Her father worked in radio and frequently brought records home, and she and each of her six siblings owned a turntable. She then spent a great deal of her career working in music. She worked in radio—for studios on both coasts—and for venture capitalist firms, performing due diligence whenever they sought to acquire the rights to music and evaluating marketing plans and budgets.

But the idea for the Hi-Fi House came about when Dussault, who was living in Los Angeles at the time, learned that the famous Capitol Records Building in Los Angeles was being converted into condominiums. The city landmark is a round building that resembles a stack of music records. Frank Sinatra, Paul McCartney, and the Beach Boys are among the many famous artists who have recorded music in its famous echo chambers.

“It was always to me the most iconic music building in America,” Dussault says. “And the fact that they were turning it into condos was just heartbreaking, and I thought that building should be something else.”

As Dussault sat in front of the Capitol Records Building for around four hours, she began to develop a new idea for the building, one where each floor was devoted to a specific type of music. Instead of apartments around the edges of the building, there would be “listening rooms” where people could listen to the music together.

You can see that idea at work in the Hi-Fi House, “a social listening room” located at 38th and Farnam streets in the building that used to house Joseph’s College of Barbering. From the outside, you may think it appears abandoned, but inside is what looks like a giant, carpeted living room with rings of couches and armchairs. Listeners can listen to everything from digital music to cassette tapes. Pictures of famous musicians hang on the walls, and the building hosts a massive collection of vinyl records.

“I think this place’s mission is a very unique one,” says Jon Ochsner, an employee at the Hi-Fi House who catalogues records and helps host shows and programs. “To me, it’s a dream. It’s like a dream come true that I never knew I had.”

During the day, the Hi-Fi House is a musicology lab, hosting events for children and high school students, providing services like music therapy to the elderly and other programs. Dussault says that the daytime mission of the space is also to help grow and improve Omaha’s music community.

For instance, the house hosts the “Curly Martin Jazz Lab.”

“Curly Martin came to us and said there was no place in Omaha for a guy like him to play,” Dussault says.

Martin is from Omaha and an acclaimed drummer who, along with son Terrace, was nominated for the 2017 Grammy for Best R&B Album. His jazz lab is an ongoing project designed to introduce people to multiple forms of jazz and to teach them about the prolific history of jazz in Omaha.

At night, the venue is a private club that occasionally hosts live shows and album release parties. Dussault says it has also become a popular stop for bands coming through Omaha who just want to unwind before shows.

True to her mission of being an asset to the music scene, as well as a place that is welcome to people of creative and artistic bents, Dussault says it was important to provide something new. The Hi-Fi House isn’t a library or a record store or a coffee shop precisely because Dussault wanted it to be fresh.

“I think the hardest thing in developing a new business is finding out how you can live in a community and not cannibalize what’s already there,” Dussault says. “It’s easy to do what everybody else did and do it a little better, or invest a little bit more money in it, but to me that’s not helping. We want to support the venues in town, not compete with the venues in town.”

Dussault and Ochsner both say they’d like to see Hi-Fi Houses in other cities.

“The last 20 years we had this sort of personal revolution in music,” Ochsner says. “It was my iPod with my music, my headphones, my playlist. I think the mission of bringing people a social listening experience, bringing that back to people…I just think it’s very necessary.”

Dussault says it’s a challenge to not be seen as “elitist,” or to give the impression that people who don’t know a lot about music aren’t welcome.

“We built this place so that it was comfortable for people from age 5 to 99,” she says. “We believe in sharing music with everybody.”

Visit hifi.house for more information.

This article appears in the January/February 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine.


Strumming Up Some Business

Illustration by Derek Joy

Editor’s note: This profile on a local Omaha entrepreneur is not an endorsement by B2B Magazine or Omaha Magazine. Disgruntled customers, employees, and/or suppliers should address any complaints directly to Gear Supply Co.

Omaha World-Herald cartoonist Jeff Koterba is the guitarist, principal songwriter, and lead vocalist—in other words, the catalyst—behind the popular local band the Prairie Cats.

He also isn’t the only musician in the family. Son Joshua Koterba started playing guitar as soon as he could pick one up, and he began playing the trumpet in third grade. He kept playing until he became a teenager.

“Son, you can’t write a love song on a trumpet,” Jeff told him.

So Joshua hung up his trumpet, picked up the guitar again, and wrote love songs. The guitar became a spiritual connection for him, a deep draw to a place of elation and completion.

“It’s magic, you know,” Koterba, now 31, explains.

Koterba took the plunge into the music retail business two years ago with his start-up, Gear Supply Co. As a musician and a freelance audio engineer, Koterba developed a set of unique skills. He knew how to make his low wages work in creative ways. He has a scrappy, lean mentality that translates perfectly into the world of entrepreneurship. It takes blood, sweat, tears, and soul.

Koterba, though, did not run full tilt into the fire. It started with Koterba’s own adventure seeking strings for his 15-year-old Fender guitar. The stores he visited didn’t have what he needed, so he bought it all online.

The purchase left him feeling disconnected. A musician’s guitar is like an artist’s brush. The tools matter and artists have emotional attachments to their instruments.

Not having customized supplies turned into a problem Koterba itched to solve. He spent months researching his client base. He knew other artists in the industry felt the same way and needed a buyer bond. Could he start a business from his garage in Florida with little income? The risk, in his eyes, seemed worth it. Koterba didn’t have a business degree, just a dream.

“It doesn’t matter how hard it gets if you know you are helping people,” Koterba says.

He used a couple thousand dollars from his tax return to buy products. Specifically, three different types of guitar strings. He knocked over the dominoes on his marketing plan: an e-mail with an opportunity to win free items if someone brought in more sign-ups. Koterba’s gamble paid off and he collected 5,000 e-mail addresses, along with 100 paying customers.

Eight months or so later, his company drew interest from an angel investor from Nebraska. The hard- working mentality of Midwesterners and the central location seemed ideal for his idea. He moved back to Omaha and was accepted to NMotion, a 90-day accelerator in Lincoln. The final project was to pitch his ideas in front of thousands of people to draw in capital investors. Eight more came on board. The money gained from the investors went towards testing and determining growth strategies, investing in customer acquisition, and employee wages.

Koterba retains more than 51 percent of the company, and Gear Supply Co. is breaking even after two years. Entrepreneurship takes a remarkable amount of hard work. Koterba clears his mind with decompressing silence on his trips to Florida to see his two children. It helps him brainstorm innovative ideas or think about new supplies.

Customer demand means Koterba has added gauges and straps to his inventory. He added guitar pedals using crowdsourcing as an additional method of gaining capital. Koterba has a hand in designing products and it allows him to make connections with like-minded artists.

Blues player and shredder Sebastian Lane buys many of these products on Gear Supply Co.’s list, including custom picks.

“They are the leading forefront when it comes to quality guitar goods,” Lane says.

Koterba still plays his instrument daily, strumming in his chair and trying out product lines while responding to e-mails. At the end of the day (even if that means 1 a.m.), nothing replaces diligence because, “no one is going to work as hard as you.”

Visit gearsupply.co for more information.

This article was printed in the February/March 2018 edition of B2B.

Sax with Ed Archibald

January 17, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Fresh out of Technical High School, Ed Archibald and his bandmates had dreams of becoming the next Commodores.

Then life happened. Jobs. Marriage. Kids. The dream and Archibald’s saxophone were tucked away.

It took a serious injury and more than two decades to draw Archibald back to playing music.

Archibald’s musical career has a second life now. He’s added writing, producing, and arranging into the mix.

“It gives me so much joy,” he says.

Born in 1958 in Pensacola, Florida, Archibald was 10 years old when he moved into his grandparents’ home in the small town of Monroe, Alabama.

His memories of those early years are dotted with musical references: His alcoholic father pretending to play the saxophone. His uncles taking him to juke joints to hear the popular music at that time in Pensacola, the blues. The tunes of Roy Clark and Chet Atkins playing on the radio in Alabama.

Archibald moved twice more before he wound up in Omaha in 1971 and stepped into the classroom of Al McKain. Then, everything changed.

McKain taught music at Tech High and introduced Archibald to the likes of Charlie Parker and John Coltrane.

“When I listened to their music, it was very complicated,” Archibald says. “I found myself wanting to imitate and emulate their abilities and style.”

Archibald learned the saxophone, becoming so engrossed with his new interest that he skipped math and science to practice. McKain pretended not to mind.

“My teacher was a strong jazz advocate,” Archibald recalls.

During his four years at Tech, Archibald also studied classical music, playing baritone saxophone in an all-city music festival. Archibald caught up with his required courses and graduated on time in 1975. He jumped into the live music scene in Omaha, playing in bands for about five years, including Wild & Peaceful and Brass, Rhythm & Funk. They spent more money than they made, usually.

“Those early years were nonprofit years,” Archibald says. “We didn’t make a lot of money, but we had a lot of fun.”

As everyone aged, fell in love, married, and started families, the fun faded. The music stopped. Archibald met his wife, Lisa, and the two had a daughter, Adriene. Their focus turned to parenting and working. In a blink, Archibald spent a combined 21 years working for two different building materials companies.

One day, Archibald suffered a back injury on the job. Unable to work following surgery, he was drawn back to music. He began to play again.

“During the recovery period, it was sort of therapeutic to focus on the music, ” Archibald recalls.

He discovered the music scene had changed, for the better. His style of music—smooth jazz—had become popular in the main- stream. Archibald also learned how easy it was to produce music and share it online. He started writing and began recording it at home, layering piano and saxophone. In 2006, he released Smoove Grooves on iTunes and cdbaby.com. His second album, Love, Jazz, and Soul, was released in 2015.

“You could call it homemade; I did it myself,” says Archibald thinking back to Smoove Grooves. “I didn’t know what I was doing.”

His abilities grew, and recording and producing that digital album was an important step in getting him back into the local jazz scene. He started playing with other musicians at clubs and restaurants. He began producing more recordings, and he developed Glenwood Heights Music, which has expanded from music production into promotions.

Archibald landed steady gigs at country clubs in Omaha and beyond, including a yearlong stint at Wilderness Ridge in Lincoln. He became a regular at Happy Hollow Country Club, as well.

“We have him for all our club functions as his group is extremely entertaining for all age groups,” says Kelly Smith, clubhouse manager at Happy Hollow. “The members always look forward to his group on Mother’s Day, as he plays for both our brunch and dinner buffets that day.”

Through the years, he’s shared the stage with notable jazz artists and vocalists locally and in Denver. He backed Al Green at the Mid- America Center in Council Bluffs, and had an impromptu concert with Chaka Khan in the Hilton Omaha lobby.

These days, Archibald plays at Omaha Lounge with his trio on Thursday nights.

It was at that lounge where he met Julie Baker, a vocalist and musician. Baker had recently moved to Omaha when they met, and the two became fast friends thanks to a mutual, eclec- tic taste in music. Baker says she’s amazed by his ease of switching genres while playing.

“You can’t fit him into a box,” Baker says.

What makes Archibald a standout musician isn’t just his ability at playing a variety of genres, according to Baker. It’s his passion.

“He’s a consummate musician,” Baker says. “When Ed plays, he plays from the heart. Every note when he plays, he feels it. And people feel it.”

Follow updates from Ed Archibald on Facebook at @edsmoovegroovesarchibald.

20 November 2017- Ed Archibald is photographed at Omaha Publications for Omaha Magazine.

This article was printed in the January/February 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine.

The Boner Killerz

January 15, 2018 by
Photography by Keith Binder

Make no mistake about it — Eris Koleszar, Cara Heacock, and Anna Schmidt knew what they were doing when they named their band The Boner Killerz. Koleszar, a big fan of musician/comedian Lane Moore, noticed a photo Moore had posted on her Twitter account boasting a “Feminist Killjoy” necklace, which sparked the entire idea.

“The way the necklace looked and the way I was feeling about myself, my world and my desire to be in a band all connected through that phrase,” Koleszar explains. “I knew I wanted a band with a name that screamed the same values. One night, The Boner Killers popped into my head. I grabbed up the social media handles and when I formed the band, Anna gave it the final touch with the ‘z’ at the end.”

With Koleszar on guitar/lead vocals, Schmidt on drums, and Heacock on bass (which is really all that’s needed for a proper rock band), The Boner Killerz have dialed in on their ideal musical formula — loud, explosive, and full of heart. But they also have a very specific mission in mind. Koleszar, who identifies as transgender, strives to be influential for all types of people.

“We want to be an inspiration for young women, queer people, and trans folx, and show that they can form bands and rock out,” Koleszar explains. “In a sea of music that is cisgender, heterosexual, white male-dominated, we want to create a space for other people, too.

“I would love to see a world in which all kinds of people had access to equipment, spaces, and mentorship to create, perform, and record music,” she continues. “I don’t think there’s a lot of overt exclusion from spaces and access, but I still see a lot of music in the scene created by the same kinds of people.”

Although the group formed in March 2016, The Boner Killerz have just released their first proper EP, All Boner Killerz/No Boner Fillerz. It’s the result of the trio’s instant chemistry, something they’re all grateful for having.

“I feel like compared to other band experiences that I’ve had, this is by far the most chill one,” Heacock says. “The Boner Killerz is my first serious band venture, and to be honest, it has been the most fun compared to my last attempts to start or join a band. The three of us just mesh really well and I have a lot of fun writing and playing music with these ladies.”

All three members grew up with some kind of music in their household. Koleszar’s father was the music leader of their rural Indiana church and the young Koleszar would mirror her father’s conducting. Then her friends were immersed in ska and punk music in middle school until her former girlfriend introduced her to emo.

“There was an incredibly small emo/punk/folk punk/melodic-hardcore/post-hardcore scene in that part of Indiana,” Koleszar explains. We did whatever we could to feel alive through our music in a place where there really wasn’t much going on at all.”

Schmidt’s experience was similar. Growing up in Central Nebraska, her father was an avid record collector who introduced her to classic rock. As she got older, like most adolescents, she started to form her own identity.

“I listened to the pop hits radio station religiously,” Schmidt says. “Nineties pop music still holds a strong sense of nostalgia for me. During my teenage years, my tastes evolved. The internet was a huge influence, and exposed me to the grunge and emo scene. Of course, the early ’00s Omaha music scene also left an impact on me.”

On the other hand, Heacock, who also grew up on classic rock like The Beatles, Fleetwood Mac, and the Beach Boys, was more drawn to metal, an element she brings to the band.

“When I started forming my own taste in music as a preteen and teenager, I listened to anything vaguely in the rock genre, including pop rock on the radio and nu-metal when that was a thing,” Heacock says. “I feel like I’m the one that brings the vaguely metal sound to some of our songs because I’m still pretty into metal.”

Although The Boner Killerz are relatively new to the Omaha music scene, they seem to have found their niche rather quickly. In fact, they often have to turn down opportunities to play live because of their packed schedule. But it’s their live shows that are so intriguing and leave people wanting more.

“I can feel that people do want to connect in meatspace and have personal interactions,” Koleszar says. “I like that we play small venues and meet new people at our shows, and deepen connections with the people we already know. Personally, I have a special connection to those bands I fell in love with at a show and got to talk to even briefly.” 

“We want to be an inspiration for young women, queer people, and trans folx, and show that they can form bands and rock out.”

Visit thebonerkillerz.bandcamp.com to find hear their music.

This article appears in the January/February 2018 edition of the Encounter.

Triple Threat Plus One

December 28, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

As I sit on the patio of Roast Coffeehouse in Aksarben Village watching people go by while waiting to meet the Clark triplets, it hits me that even though I’ve seen them play in bars over the years, they can’t actually drink in one yet. The talented siblings are only 20 years old, but they’ve been playing together as Clark & Company for years. It’s hard to believe they aren’t 21 yet.

All three are students at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and live in the dorms, so we are meeting close to campus. Sophie arrives first, dressed like a typical college student in jean shorts and a yellow T-shirt. She apologizes for being late (though it’s only by a few minutes), and asks if it’s OK to go grab something to drink. She returns with brother Simon in tow.

As we start talking, Sophie and Simon speak over each other, occassionally interrupting and often finishing each other’s sentences throughout our conversation. I tell them I reached out to Cooper but hadn’t heard back from him. (From this point on, Imaginary Cooper will stand in for the third triplet.)

“That’s pretty Cooper,” Sophie says about her absent brother. “He wouldn’t say much if he was here anyway.”

(Imaginary Cooper looks puzzled for a second, then nods his head in agreement.)

This silence may be a way of standing out from his two siblings, as Sophie and Simon are both enthusiastic speakers.

While Clark & Company—the band—has been around for about five years, the siblings played music together long before that. Since they were around 8, in fact. They started out taking piano lessons in the same room with one instructor and several pianos.

“We were all really bad at it and the teacher did not like us,” Sophie says.

“She hated me,” Simon adds.

(Imaginary Cooper remains silent, perhaps pondering where they would be without those piano lessons.)

While none of them started out as savants when it came to the piano, Sophie says she was the best of the not-so-stellar bunch and continued practicing on an upright piano their parents bought.

Simon moved on to percussion in elementary school and Cooper started out on trumpet, later switching to guitar, then to bass. (Imaginary Cooper does a quick air guitar when this is mentioned.)

Over the years, the brothers joined the jazz and marching bands, and all three siblings were in show choir. However, their experiences with the School of Rock is what really got them into playing together as a group.

They joined while they were in middle school, between eighth grade and freshman year. Simon says it’s where they gained experience playing shows together as a band, and Sophie adds it’s also where she learned to write songs. (Imaginary Cooper opens his mouth as if to add something, but ultimately decides to remain silent.)

Current fans wouldn’t recognize the music they started out playing. Their first group was a hard rock cover band, formed with fellow musician Gage Clark. “No relation,” Sophie says.

“We had a few original songs,” Simon points out.

“We started out writing rock songs that were like, kind of terrible,” Sophie says.

“No, they were fine,” Simon quickly interrupts, though both admit to laughing whenever they go back and listen to those songs. “I cringe,” Sophie says.

Simon says they started playing shows around town and getting involved in the music scene. This is when Sophie decided she wanted to write songs in a more acoustic, singer/songwriter style. Eventually, they started Clark & Company — which has been described as indie, jazz, blues, and R&B/soul music — in their sophomore year of high school.

That brings us to the fourth, non-related member of the band. Longtime collaborator and sometimes mediator Cameron Thelander is a tenor saxophonist and occasional guitarist. He says he has known the Clarks for nearly 15 years, though he didn’t get to know them well until he joined the group.

Despite their youth, Thelander mentions that the band started out playing in bars around town.

“It was kind of fun,” he says with a laugh. “It was cool.”

Playing in a band with three siblings can be a unique experience, especially when they’re triplets. Thelander says he thinks his role as the fourth member of the group is to keep
them grounded.

“Since they are triplets, they can go off on tangents where they’re disagreeing with each other or arguing, so I think it really helps having me there,” he says. “It gives them an outside opinion that is less biased, I guess.”

He adds that they can all be stubborn. “Well, maybe not Cooper. Cooper just kind of hangs out and does what he wants. He doesn’t really talk much.” (I am interviewing Thelander over the phone so Imaginary Cooper cannot deny or corroborate this information.)

Despite the stubbornness, Thelander says, “All of the Clarks are literally the most kind, genuine people I’ve known. They’re like my second family.”

Which makes sense since the group is essentially a family affair, with their mother, Melanie Clark, acting as their manager or “momager,” as Thelander affectionately refers to her.

“She’s really good about it,” he says. “She’s super understanding and usually tries to communicate with us before she books something.”

Simon and Sophie agree their parents have done a lot to help them in their musical ventures. Melanie has been their manager from the start, and their father, Fred, gave up his art space so they could have an in-home studio.

While Thelander has been a consistent figure in the group, their lineup does change, often adding more horns and stringed instruments to the mix.

The band has been nominated for several Omaha Entertainment and Arts awards over the years—including this year—with their music often being placed in different categories. Clearly, putting a label on what they do can be difficult. For Sophie, the feel behind the music is essentially singer/songwriter. “iTunes calls it indie R&B,” Simon says, “which is close.”

Simon says: “The cool thing about Clark & Company is, us being the Clarks, the company can be any other musician we bring in.” This could account for that hard-to-categorize quality.

While both Simon and Sophie say they are interested in performing outside the group, that doesn’t mean they would stop playing together. (Imaginary Cooper is unsurprisingly quiet on this subject.)

Sophie says, “I think that Cooper, Simon, and I will always play together, because it’s convenient that it’s in the family and we know how to work with each other,” she says. “Any project we do, we’ll all pitch in.”

Visit clarkcoband.com to hear their music and find their shows. 

This article appears in the January/February 2018 edition of the Encounter.

SImon, Cooper, and Sophie Clark, and Cameron Thelander

Blood Cow

December 18, 2017 by

Ozzy Osbourne bites heads off bats.The Red Hot Chili Peppers perform in the buff. Bloodcow gets kicked out of small, sleepy towns.

Although they’re a local act, this five-member band isn’t afraid to rock out and party like the pros. So much so, they were once escorted by police out of Oshkosh, Wisconsin—and forbidden to ever return.

“We went to a motel after a show, partied all night like usual, but this time things got real weird real quick,” says vocalist Matt Owen. “By 6 a.m., we had police at our door.”

But is a rock band even a rock band if they haven’t been kicked out of at least one town? Hijinks and antics aside, this group has worked for their right to a good time.

Over the course of Bloodcow’s 17-year history, the band has won three Omaha Arts and Entertainment Awards and released four full-length albums.

“One thing that has always rang true with us is that we were never looking to make a career out of music,” Owen says. “We were more into the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle than making money.”

Flash back to 2000, a time when metal rock began to teeter away from focusing on fun and music toward somber theatrics. Bloodcow formed as the antithesis of acts like Slipknot and Korn, a figurative middle finger intended to take the genre back to the partying ways of yesteryear. The original members had one goal: to make people uncomfortable. Performing live donning just underwear and writing music that opposed the Bush administration followed.

While Owen and guitarist Josh Lamb are the only original members left, all current musicians have a shared history of attending Abraham Lincoln High School in Council Bluffs. Their current lineup comprises Owen, Lamb, guitarist J.J. Bonar, bassist Josh McDowell, and drummer David Collins.

“What drew me to the band was their raw energy during live shows,” Collins says. “I was jealous of that intensity and attitude. When they asked if I wanted to be a part of it, I couldn’t say no.”

With the shuffle of members, the band’s sound has developed into “a jambalaya of pop, rock, and [psychedelic] music,” according to Lamb. The production value of each album has increased in quality, and their latest LP—Crystals & Lasers, released in 2015—acts as a thematic cocktail of social satire and sci-fi mixed with a healthy dose of humor.

Due to their unique sound and even more unique subject matter, Bloodcow has found both local and regional success touring. Performing at venues such as The Waiting Room and Slowdown has built their credibility in the metro, while tours across America have resulted in firework fights in Alabama, countless moonshine shots consumed, and many nights sleeping in their van or strangers’ homes.

“Anytime we’re together, it’s a blast,” Bonar says. “So is performing live and seeing the reactions from first-time listeners.”

While the band is enjoying a hiatus from active gigging, they still play occasional shows around town, and they continue getting together for regular jam sessions—if for no other reason than to party like the rock stars they are.

“Success for us is all about being able to play kick-ass music while remaining the closest of friends,” McDowell says.

Visit bloodcow.com for more information.

This article was printed in the November/December 2017 issue of Omaha Magazine.

In the Mood

November 24, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Si

When Omaha transplant and burgeoning singer/rapper Ria Gold first heard Aaliyah’s posthumous album, 2002’s I Care 4 U, she was hooked. The Toledo, Ohio, native was so entranced by it, she played it start-to-finish countless times. The late R&B/pop sensation was the first artist Gold felt truly connected to; however, her musical tastes go way deeper. Gold is moved more by rhythm than anything else.

“Everyone around me listened to alternative music,” Gold explains. “That led me to listening to rock, R&B, anything alternative, and everything in between. I also have a very eclectic soul, so a tune that catches my soul is a good tune to me.”

From Destiny’s Child and Avril Lavigne to Alicia Keys and Paramore, Gold has drawn from a variety of diverse influences for as long as she can remember. Around age 13, Gold realized she wanted to pursue music, but she started off slowly.

“I started taking songwriting more serious at the age of 9,” she says. “But I wasn’t thinking about any certain path at that age.”

In 2010, Gold finally performed live for the first time at Sokol Auditorium, an event she’ll never forget. At the time, she was only 15 years old.

“Oh my gosh,” she says with a sense of awe. “Luckily, I performed a song I had written with a friend. He helped me feel comfortable on stage for the first time. I was just as excited as I was nervous, but I looked cute and I didn’t mess up, so that was good.”

Fast-forward to 2017 and Gold, now 23, has graced multiple stages. In 2016, she won her first battle rap tournament at Soho Lounge and is currently preparing to enter her second one at Club Vibe.

She just wrapped up an inaugural performance at Femme Fest, and is working on her aptly titled EP trilogy — Moodring Pt. 1, Moodring Pt. 2 and Moodring Pt. 3. The project, which she plans to release in 2018, is a glimpse into her sometimes tumultuous love life.

“I’m really excited to share it because it displays all the emotions I’ve gone through dealing with my last breakup and going into my current relationship,” she explains. “It’ll take you through some ups and downs for sure, and that’s why I chose the title Moodring.”

Fans of Gold have described her vocal style as a mix between singing and rapping, or what she describes as “something like a melodic poet.”

“That’s why I feel so naturally connected to both,” she says.

When she’s not working on music, Gold stays busy working at her friend Imagine Uhlenbrock’s shop in North Omaha, Hand of Gold Beauty Room, where she primarily works as a freelance makeup artist.

“I was there to assist in doing the simpler, less intricate designs such as solid color manicures and pedicures, and chrome,” she says. “Now, I go in every once in a while to help keep the maintenance of the store up. I may take a client or two, depending on how creative I’m feeling that day.”

Considering it’s not full-time work, it’s a job that seems to fit in with her musical endeavors and constantly fluctuating schedule. It also helps keep her connected to the seemingly endless creative minds in the Omaha scene.

“I think Omaha has a great music community,” she says. “There is a crazy amount of talent here in all genres, and the collaborations that are formed from the artists in our city never cease to amaze me. We’ve got some hidden gems and some culture behind us.”

As Gold continues cultivating her own talent, she’s settled on a few pre-show rituals. Before getting ready for a performance, Gold does a little “pre-gaming,” which usually involves some liquor and lots of practice. She normally begins every show with the line, “Hey everyone, I’m a little faded.”

“I usually have a few shots before I go on stage,” she admits. “For the most part, I will get my set together a few hours before a show. I like to choose the music I’m performing based off of my most current mood. I still rehearse my own music when getting ready for a show. I never want to forget lines or blank in front of a crowd, so rehearsal is key.”

From solo tracks like “Really Wanna” to her collaborative work on “Good Good” with fellow musician Justin Carlisle, Gold oozes an air of confidence and a touch of sensuality. It’s allowed her to stand out among the vast sea of aspiring artists, especially online, where it’s easy to get lost in the sheer number of musicians.

“The internet is the constant positive for up and coming artists,” she says. “It gives us a way to broadcast our talents with no boundaries or regulations. It’s raw and easily accessible for the world to see. Anyone can break through or ‘shine’ in a crowd of artists, as long as they are being unique, authentic, and true to their craft.”

Listen to Ria Gold’s music on Soundcloud: soundcloud.com/1goldieworld

This article was printed in the November/December 2017 edition of Encounter.

With A Beard and a Smile

October 23, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Walking into Lookout Lounge is a different experience than entering other music venues around Omaha. Admittedly, it feels a little strange driving into a business plaza just south of 72nd and Dodge streets for a punk show. But what distinguishes Lookout (formerly The Hideout) is more than just location. It is the bearded man sitting at the entryway, checking IDs and working on his laptop, that sets this venue apart.

Raised in Copperas Cove, Texas, Kyle Fertwagner knew from a young age that his destiny lay in music. At 6 years old, he was mesmerized by blues concerts in nearby Austin. “Those experiences are ingrained in my memory. There were thousands of people out there enjoying music, sharing that common bond of whatever that music meant to them.”

By the time he moved to Omaha at age 15, he and his younger brother, Keith, were playing together in punk bands. They got their start at The Cog Factory. Like many area music fans, Kyle is eager to share fond memories of that nonprofit venue, which closed in 2002. “That was our stomping grounds,” he says. “That’s where I basically grew up as a musician, as a punk rocker, as a person.” Before their first show at The Cog Factory, Fertwagner recalls that the owners greeted the band and “it just immediately felt like home.”

Recreating that welcoming DIY vibe is what drove him to quit his job as general manager of a local restaurant and take over The Hideout in 2015. Keith had already learned how to work sound systems, and Kyle had learned how to run a business from years in the restaurant industry.

With “a little TLC” and a lot of elbow grease, the brothers made the place their own. Kyle proudly showcases a sign from the original Cog Factory over the pool table. Next to it is the hand-painted mural featuring the venue’s name and the radio tower logo that has become an Omaha icon. Endless layers of screen-printed posters paper Lookout’s walls, and concert-goers have enthusiastically decorated the bathrooms with a vibrant collection of friendly graffiti.

Kyle describes himself as “owner/operator,” but upon attending a show at his venue it is immediately apparent that he does much more than the typical owner. Besides personally welcoming patrons into shows and tending bar, he works the lights and often shadows his brother on sound. But before any of that can happen, “it starts with the band.”

When asked about his work with local promoters and artists, Kyle can’t quite hold back a grin. Lookout is known around Omaha as a starting point for bands that have never played in public before. Its owner is the main reason for this reputation. His voice softens when asked about his role in helping young local artists get their music off the ground: “I think it’s important when you’re first starting out to have a venue you can call home.” This determination to give back to the music community makes Lookout special.

Kyle’s unique philosophy on booking shows is “to not try to take everything on ourselves.” This means more cooperation between venue staff, bands, and promoters. “It’s a team effort.” The additional networking and communication is more work, but well worth it.

From his days in small punk bands growing up, he knows the obstacles and struggles of getting a band onstage. This knowledge helps him guide others through the process.“We try to use our experience to help younger bands grow,” Kyle says. “That’s good for everybody.” He is always happy to reach out to local promoters and say “we’d love to work with you.”

When Kyle works to foster those relationships to put a show together, that’s when the energy of the DIY venue is created. “It’s ‘Alright, cool, we did it, we sold the place out!’ Instead of ‘I sold the place out.’ It’s more of an ‘us’ thing.” Shows that are assembled with teamwork are more rewarding for the band, everyone behind the scenes, and the audience. Those packed concerts are a staple of Lookout’s imprint on the musical community.

After taking care of the band, Kyle’s next focus is his role as head of security. At any show, he can be seen roaming around the audience, keeping out a watchful eye for any sign of trouble. He accepts personal responsibility in creating a positive energy at Lookout, and takes the security of the audience very seriously: “People shouldn’t feel unwelcome here for any reason.”

In order to ensure that everyone feels welcome, anyone exhibiting abusive behavior of any kind will be personally warned and, if need be, escorted out by Kyle himself. He is quick to explain, “Anything that happens here I take to be a personal reflection on me.”

Visit lookoutomaha.com for more information.

This article was printed in the September/October 2017 edition of Encounter Magazine.

Kyle Fertwagner