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