Tag Archives: Simon Joyner

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.

The Essential Simon Joyner

July 3, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

This article appears in The Encounter July/August 2015. 

Simon Joyner is an American songwriting treasure. Writing, recording, and releasing music out of Omaha since 1992, Joyner has steadily built a resume as a timeless talent. Cut from the cloth of Dylan, Cohen, and Van Zandt, Joyner has inspired countless artists of this generation with his masterful spin on literate songcraft. Conor Oberst and Gillian Welch are just a few to sing Joyner’s praises in recent years. The newly-released LP Grass, Branch & Bone on Woodsist Records is easily one of Joyner’s strongest in a catalog as expansive as is it impressive. Having no anthology or “hits” collection of his own, the following selections stand as some of Joyner’s strongest works.  Those unfamiliar with Joyner or looking to make a killer playlist of amazing songs cannot go wrong with these nine classics:

Double Joe- Joyner’s 1993 sophomore album, Room Temperature is required listening for anyone interested in the history of Omaha songwriting. This raw album of solo performances is pure literary energy. “Double Joe” offers a timeless sense of wisdom that will grace Joyner’s entire career, “Why don’t you go see a show? It’s a surefire cure, pretend the drumbeat is your heart.”

Joy Division- 1994’ s  The Cowardly Traveller Pays His Toll placed Joyner on the international songwriting map and it was famously played in its entirety by legendary DJ John Peel. The closing track has become a classic in its depiction of passing youth and the ensuing confusion.

I Wrote a Song about the Ocean- The music throughout Simon’s fourth LP, 1996’s Songs for the New Year, establish the somewhat out-of-tune tunefulness he still employs to great effect. This song has all the hooks, insights, and imagery that endear Joyner to singer-songwriter fans the world over.

Bring Down Goliath- This driving number that opens 1998’s Yesterday Tomorrow and In Between proves that Joyner’s folk songs have a pounding rock and roll heart. Over the years “Goliath” has  become an in-concert staple.

One for the Catholic Girls- Not just confined to LPs, some of Joyner’s best works have sprung up on numerous compilations, EPs, and 7s. This composition from 1998 is a lo-fi masterpiece giving us the timeless self-aware observation, “If I was drunk, I didn’t let on.”

My Life is Sweet- Throughout the Joyner discography a balance is struck between the lowest of lo-fi recordings and masterfully executed studio productions. This standout track from 2001’s Hotel Lives features the percussion talents of Wilco’s Glenn Kotche. The playing, singing, and writing on this gem perfectly embody the depths of its characters drunken escapism.

The Only Living Boy in Omaha- On 2006’s excellent Skeleton Blues Joyner presents this classic, both a play on his namesake and his hometown.  Stretching over an epic seven minutes is nothing new for a Joyner song. This one reaches orchestral catatonic heights on an outro that is pure shattered beauty, a beyond signature work.

Under my Skin Again- In a perfect world Simon Joyner songs have occupied the radio dial since 1992. Unfortunately, most of his works run a touch too long for modern programming. This jewel off the recently released Grass, Branch & Bone may be the closest Joyner has come to a possible crossover. With its beautiful melody on love and drifting, we are given the sage advice, “Make like a tree boy, lay down some roots.”

Nostalgia Blues- For a man with several masterworks, the sheer quality of this closing track off Grass, Branch & Bone is staggering. Anyone anywhere near their middle age years can easily relate to this timeless tale of time passing and, “All those sweet dreams we bartered and sold so long ago.”

SimonJoyner

If Hearing Is Believing

February 6, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Do you hear what Angie and Andrew Norman hear?

If so, that’s the symphony of the Cornhusker state’s stacked arsenal of music makers. And if you don’t hear it now, you will, because they’re working to ensure that everyone recognizes these sweet (or punk, or country, or polka) sounds.

The Normans co-founded Hear Nebraska in 2010 as a “nonprofit cultural organization that cultivates the state’s vibrant, fertile music and arts community.”

Both were longtime students of regional culture; Andrew even worked at local newsweelies. When he needed a master’s project at Michigan State, Angie pitched the idea of a publication covering Omaha and Lincoln’s music scenes as one. The concept stuck and blossomed into an even larger 
project: a nonprofit.

“We realized Omaha and Lincoln’s music scenes were both super strong and great bands in both cities weren’t getting as much attention as they warranted nationally,” says Andrew. “We wanted to include Omaha, Lincoln, and Nebraska in general. It was just all these scattered voices, so we tried to gather them and speak through one confident, strong voice.”

And that voice is being heard, in Nebraska and beyond. A full 40 percent of HN’s website traffic comes from outside of Nebraska and seven percent of traffic is international. “Our mission is to make Nebraska an internationally known cultural destination,” says Andrew, “so I think that statistic really indicates that we’re doing something to reach that goal.”

Angie adds that “HN has received shout-outs from Garrison Keillor and has been featured on Al-Jazeera English.”

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“We want to tie the broader creative to HN, because we want to promote people making cool stuff in Nebraska,” Andrew says. “To support the musicians, the venues, the businesses involved—it all fits and works together. Around here all of these entities support each other.”

Andrew says that’s what makes Nebraska such an attractive location.

“There’s a sense that people want to collaborate. It’s such a good environment to be in when you’re trying to create art,” he says.

HN is known for executing unique, imaginative events that merge music and community. Angie’s favorites were the “An Evening” series of fundraisers, featuring meals from famed vegan chef and Omaha transplant Isa Chandra Moskowitz and music from such local heavies as Simon Joyner and The Mynabirds.

“It combines food, music, and community in an intimate setting,” says Angie. “The environment is amazing, and they are just such special shows.”

Andrew’s favorite was the NET-televised “HN Live at the 1200 Club” with Digital Leather, Big Harp, and Kill County.

“It was amazing,” Andrew says. “The state of the art [Holland Performing Arts Center] room, three amazing bands on stage, teaming with Omaha Performing Arts and NET, two absolute top-tier organizations in the state who represent what we strive to become…it was extremely flattering, encouraging, 
and motivating.”

Andrew described watching the sound check and imagined a kid from rural Nebraska watching the program and thinking, “This is possible. You can go for it and make your own sound.”

The Normans want HN to “grow smart.” They’re working to “focus on the foundation to make sure that we continue to grow and last,” says Andrew.

Five years from now the Normans hope HN will host regular showcases across the state featuring Nebraska music. Other goals include a physical space, more paid contributors, residencies, being one of the premier music websites in the country, and, as Andrew puts it, for everyone in the state to have a favorite Nebraska band “in the same way they love Husker football.”

In December HN released its second compilation on vinyl accompanied by a digital download. Such notables as Tim Kasher, McCarthy Trenching, Simon Joyner, Universe Contest, and Conchance are a few of the artists highlighting the eclectic collection.

They’re relaunching the HN site in 2014 and are at work on HN Radio, a web app/music player to feature Nebraska music, interviews, reviews, and other content. The effort is funded in part by the Nebraska Arts Council and Omaha Venture Group.

As Omaha invests in the young nonprofit, the Normans continue to invest in Omaha.

“We want to be an example of people who enjoy living here and cultivate a beautiful life here,” says Angie. “We hope that more people will look here and see opportunities.”

“We moved back and bought a house here,” says Andrew of the Benson home the couple shares with their adorable pup, Polly. “A large goal of Hear Nebraska is to stop the brain drain. I think Omaha, and Nebraska, in general, is just a really great place to start something.”

And on the topic of “starting something,” the couple is now awaiting their most ambitious of projects: a baby Norman due in 
early 2014.