January 20, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Two dozen spectators are crammed into a dark, compact venue. Millennials are there in black, tight-fitting clothes, and so are a few hardcore kids, while a group of middle-aged fans sport denim and leather. Black streamers, fake cobwebs, and stringed lights hang from the unfinished ceiling. A Clinton-Trump collage is posted on the wall next to an anti-DAPL petition printed on cardboard. Complimentary bottles of water, a two-liter of 7Up, and a plate of homemade oatmeal cookies sit near the stage. A few audience members munch contentedly as they wait for No Thanks—“Omaha’s spookiest political punk act”—to start playing.

In a flash, Castro Turf, Kick Banán, Ruby Roux, and The Lost Boy appear on the tiny, intimate stage. The lead singer, shirtless and covered in fake blood, stands inches from the audience and begins to scream. The show is filled with heavy bass jams, fast-paced drum solos, and intermittent breaks featuring insolent jokes. Midway through, the singer brings out a pumpkin wearing a Trump mask and unceremoniously smashes it to the floor. A few of the younger spectators mosh on its guts.

nothanks2No Thanks is the brainchild of Brendan Leahy (aka “Castro Turf”), Mike Huber (“Kick Banán”), and Camille Stout (“Ruby Roux”). After moving from Georgia, Leahy found himself drawn to the Omaha punk scene, where he met guitarist Huber and bassist Stout. The two locals had already talked about forming a punk band, so Leahy “tricked” them into starting one with him. Their drummer, Gabe Cohen (“The Lost Boy”), originally a fan of the band, joined a few years later. Leahy stresses that the band means different things to different people, but for him it is a statement of rejection: “Power dynamics, oppression, the idea that you have to do anything in any sort off linear way—that’s what I’m rejecting.”

No Thanks follows in the anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist, DIY traditions of post-hardcore punk bands like Fugazi. The band is not on a label and their first release—recorded with the help of local musicians—consisted of burned CDs with handmade cases. They even make their own T-shirts using local artists and printers. “We’re trying to inspire people to empower themselves or build things from the ground up,” Leahy says. “When you’re not looking for commercial success then your success is just in having a good time or in seeing the community grow.”

You can listen to No Thanks on bandcamp.com, and you can find their tapes at Almost Music, Hip Stop, or Recycled Sounds. This past fall, the band started writing their first full-length album; they also began planning a Midwest tour to correspond with the album’s release.

Commenting on the new album in the works, Leahy promises that the recent election “is going to make everything we say twice as true. We’re going to be a lot angrier because there’s a lot to be angry about.”

Visit no-thanks.bandcamp.com for more information.