Tag Archives: Phenomblue

The Evolution 
of Pop Music

April 15, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Admittedly, 34-year-old Omaha native Jonathan Tvrdik doesn’t sleep much. Between co-owning Benson’s Krug Park, working as a consultant for his wife Sarah Lorsung Tvrdik’s business Hello Holiday, being a father to 2-year-old son Hugo, directing music videos and commercials, making music, and holding down a day job as both the executive creative director at Phenomblue and head of product design at Rova, there’s not a lot of room for much else. It’s a path he can trace back to childhood.

“When I was a little kid, I played by myself and was always building things,” Tvrdik recalls. “I’m an adult version of that kid who is constantly making new project—like a band, bar, new app, or music video. I’ve always been a goal-oriented person with lots of irons in the fire.”

Ironically, that’s where the inspiration behind the name of Tvrdik’s upcoming solo album came from. Titled Irons, it’s a project over two years in the making and one that took careful crafting with the help of longtime friend and drummer for The Faint Clark Baechle. Busting at the seams with heavy themes of introspection and emotional growth, Irons illustrates a tumultuous period in Tvrdik’s life.

“For better or for worse, that’s where I’ve always been—busy,” he says. “I don’t even know what that has created in me—like who am I as a person? I’ve always been a workhorse, but who am I really? Each song dissects a different thing I am doing or interested in, or a certain vice I have as a result of all the stuff I am working with. It’s a very self-analytical sort of record.”

Beginning with “Something Better” and culminating with “Star Stick,” the 11-track album is like Joy Division meets The Faint, or as Tvrdik describes it, “Frank Sinatra on top of electronica-goth.” It was a true labor of love and Tvrdik really trusted Baechle’s expertise. Some tracks he thought were polished and ready to go; Baechle would hear them and mistakingly refer to them as “demos.” It took the experience of his fine-tuned ear to sew up any loose ends.

“We’ve made a lot music together over the years from a musician and engineer standpoint,” Tvrdik explains. “For this one, we started working through the process of what it was going to look like. I always knew when I was done mixing and recording it on my own, I would take it to him to refine. My producorial technique is very raw. For songs I thought were done and perfect, Clark would be like, ‘I got your demos’ [laughs]. I’m very right brained and he’s very left. I wanted his brain to go through it with a fine-toothed comb and nit pick the hell out of it, which he did. I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out.”

Although Tvrdik’s music background goes back to The Cog Factory days, where Omaha staples like Bright Eyes’ Conor Oberst, Cursive’s Tim Kasher, and The Faint’s Todd Fink (Baechle’s older brother) got their start in the early ’90s, naturally he’s experienced plenty of evolutionary changes in terms of his musical output. At one point, he was in a hardcore band, and later a noise-based outfit. While he felt he was still emotionally expressive in all of them, it’s with the forthcoming Irons he felt he was truly able to effectively communicate to the listener exactly what he was experiencing.

This article was printed in the March/April 2017 edition of Encounter.

Phenomblue

September 20, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Before the introduction of the Dilbertesque cubicle, American commerce was most commonly conducted in wide-open bullpen settings. The typical professional office layout featured what seemed an acre of neatly arrayed desks surrounded on the periphery by private offices for management-level “suits.”

The floor plan of a new space at Aksarben Village may evoke echoes of that rotary dial, clickety-clack-typewriter business era, but Phenomblue isn’t your granddaddy’s Mad Men agency.

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What was once considered the most impersonal of setups is turned upside down at the Omaha-based brand experience agency whose marketing and technology services have attracted such clients as Gogo, Newegg, and Bellevue University.

The old-timey bullpen philosophy has come full circle, says Phenomblue co-founder Joe Olsen, in that it is now taking on new life as an incubator for collaboration.

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“When you start a small business and have only a few employees,” Olsen explains, “everybody just naturally seems to know everything about what is going on. As you get bigger, people begin to become acutely aware that they no longer know everything, and the danger is that a silo mentality can set in. That ‘pockets of activity’ thinking is the very opposite of what made you good in the first place. This design is all about condensing the amount of personal workspace and emphasizing the amount of collaborative workspace. It’s impossible to sit out there in that big room and not overhear and be drawn into most of what’s going on around you.”

Phenomblue co-founder Joe Olsen.

Phenomblue co-founder Joe Olsen.

Innovative thinking begins at the door for the company that also has a satellite office in Los Angeles. The obtuse angles of a raw plywood wall form an anchor for what architect Jeff Dolezal calls the space’s spine-like “armature.” “It’s a vehicle to visually carry you through the space,” clarifies Dolezal, co-founder of TACKarchitects, which designed the space for Phenomblue. The armature meanders through the office—don’t look for many 90-degree angles here—rising gently to a group of huddle rooms before reaching its curvy, sloping terminus, one that to this writer conjures images of a skateboard half pipe.

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Whiteboards sprinkled throughout are some of the few floor-to-ceiling walls to be found in this open, airy office that incorporates huge garage doors for access to both the main conference room and an outdoor area that is steps away from Aksarben Village’s many live-work-play amenities. Skateboards, guitars, and other oddities hang throughout the funky Phenomblue offices. There’s even an edgy bicycle sculpture in a sprawling area dubbed the Community Space, a drop-in site for many of the firm’s clients, associates, and friends.

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Nix that. Not a bicycle sculpture after all. Just a cleverly placed, if utilitarian, bike rack that’s just one of the creative design elements that make this experiential marketing space an experience unto itself.

“Every day, I feel as though I’m walking into a work of art,” says Olsen. “It’s like a living organism that has its own personality. It reinforces with our clients why they come to us in the first place. It’s all about the experience.”