Tag Archives: Saddle Creek Records

Louder Together

August 17, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Lauren Martin was a small-town farm girl from McCook, Nebraska. She loved country music and never expected she would one day lead Maha—Nebraska’s pre-eminent annual music festival.

On Aug. 19, Martin oversees one of Maha’s boldest lineups ever. Headlined by the controversial hip-hop group Run The Jewels, Maha 2017 is poised to be one huge spectacle that promises to bring together a diverse group of concert-goers.

That kind of unity through music drives Martin, who got her first taste of it when she was a college student working on the campus program council at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. “All of the sudden, I realized my favorite thing was to bring people together around experiences,” says Martin, who was named Maha’s first executive director in 2015.

While attending UNL, Martin helped bring such performers as singer-songwriter Jason Mraz and comedian Kathy Griffin to the university. After graduating, she wanted to continue exploring a career of booking musical talent.  Martin interned at Omaha-based Saddle Creek Records in 2007. The following summer, she found herself working at Live Nation, a global entertainment company in St. Louis. However, the Great Recession of 2008 cut her career plans short, forcing her to move back home and assess her future in the music industry.

“I came back to Omaha and felt like a dog with my tail between my legs because I failed—or because I couldn’t hack it—whatever it was” Martin says.

In 2009, Maha was born, and Martin took interest. Over the next few years, she wore many hats, including working as a house manager at Omaha Performing Arts and as programming director at Hear Nebraska. In 2012, she was given the reins to Maha’s social media accounts. She was also named to Maha’s board of directors that same year, eventually serving as vice president.

As she continued to work with Maha, Martin’s view of music changed, especially how it can affect people and bring them together. This feeling and sense of community is something she continues to incorporate into Maha.

“Now I realize music is something we all share, and it has a power to connect. It’s everything from a release, to a way to express yourself,” she says. “And while I myself am not a musician, I find that music helps me process things. It helps me connect with other people. It’s a passion in a way that music is an avenue for my fulfillment.”

Martin also worked in communications at the Omaha Community Foundation, where she helped implement Omaha Gives!, a 24-hour charity event aimed at raising money
for nonprofits.

Then, in 2015, something big happened—Maha sold out for the first time, thanks in large part to a phenomenal lineup that included Modest Mouse and Purity Ring.

“It caused everyone involved with Maha to realize that, if we want the event to continue and really be sustainable and see what even further impact we could have on the community, we needed someone full-time. That’s when I became the executive director,” Martin says.

She also emphasized that the popular festival, currently held at Stinson Park in Aksarben Village, is much more than music. The event serves as a medium for other nonprofits to receive attention.

“It’s about raising awareness,” she says, “not forcing anyone to learn about something or expose them to potential trigger topics.”

For example, this year the festival will have information about suicide, the second-leading cause of death for people ages 15 to 34 in the U.S. Martin says the majority of Maha’s demographic falls in this age range.

“Maha is more than a music festival. It’s a platform for engagement,” she says. “We realized not only can we be a platform for other organizations, but we can help spread education.”

Martin adds that while information is available to event-goers, the staff aren’t trying to make attendees uncomfortable. “Because that isn’t the intent of anyone,” she says. “We’re not impacting the experience by throwing mental health in your face,” Martin says. “We’re not scared to talk about this. We want to be an organization that is listening to what is going on in our community.”

In addition to providing mental health information, other nonprofits team up with Maha as part of its community to culture and social activities.

This year Maha has again partnered with Louder Than a Bomb, an annual youth poetry slam with roots in Chicago that focuses on bringing teens together across all divides. The group was recently the subject of an award-winning documentary of the same name.

Another repeat partner is Omaha Girls Rock, a nonprofit that typically draws plenty of attention. The group empowers young women to voice creativity through music education and performance. In general, to “rock.”

“Maha is an event that connects and reflects the community,” Martin says. “In that kind of structure, you get to walk away saying ‘Omaha’s got some really cool stuff going on.’”

As Maha continues to grow, Martin says people are getting even more out of the music festival. To this date, the event has drawn music fans from 46 states, according to its website.

“While the music is seemingly the main event, you come to Maha and get so much more than that,” Martin says. “I thought I was getting involved with Maha for the music, but what kept me involved with Maha was all the people I’ve gotten to meet.”

Visit mahamusicfestival.com for more information.

This article appears in the July/August 2017 edition of Encounter.


Lauren Martin

The Godfather of Tractor Punk

February 10, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Thank Gary Dean Davis for creating a genre of music original to Nebraska: tractor punk.

The progenitor of tractor punk has been performing and recording music for 20 years on the independent label—SPEED! Nebraska Records—that he established and jointly operates with fellow Omaha punk rocker Mike Tulis.

Although they have released music in various formats (and in various genres of punk rock), SPEED! Nebraska specializes in 7-inch, 45 rpm vinyl records. “The first record I ever listened to was a 45, and it’ll be the last record I ever listen to,” Davis says of his favored medium.

Davis and Tulis are no strangers to the local indie-punk scene. Davis, who grew up in Bennington, was in (what he refers to as) the tractor punk band Frontier Trust in the early-1990s.

Davis says when he was writing his punk rock songs, he tried to write about what he knew growing up in rural Nebraska. He followed the examples of then-elder statesmen of punk: “The Replacements are singing about Minneapolis, Television is singing about living in New York.”

Tulis grew up in a military family and moved around a lot. When Davis was touring with Frontier Trust, he was often surprised to find Tulis living in a different city.

“Mike would come to all of our out-of-town shows, and I’d be like, ‘you live in Chicago now?’” Davis recalls. Thus began a friendship that would lead to their collaborative management of SPEED! Nebraska from the third record onward (after Tulis moved back to Omaha).

Gary Dean Davis

Gary Dean Davis

In 1996, Davis had independently released the first SPEED! Nebraska recording. It was a 7-inch featuring two songs from the Omaha indie rock band Solid Jackson. Acclaimed Omaha singer-songwriter Connor Oberst liked the band so much he wrote a song about them (the track, “Solid Jackson,” is featured on Bright Eyes’ A Collection of Songs Written and Recorded 1995-1997 from Saddle Creek Records).

SPEED! Nebraska started with Solid Jackson because, as Davis says emphatically, “They had recorded this song called ‘Fell’ that was my favorite song, but they weren’t going to do anything with it.”

The label’s first 7-inch from Solid Jackson, however, was more low-fi punk release than Davis’ personal brand of tractor punk. Likewise, Tulis does not classify his own music under the tractor punk genre, but he enjoys Davis’ regional stylings. “It’s a very good fit, because it’s a major industry at this point,” he says with a sarcastic grin, alluding to SPEED! Nebraska’s 20 years in business.

As the Solid Jackson record sold, Davis was able to produce more music. SPEED! Nebraska’s second release came from Davis. His band at the time was called D is for Dragster, and it was true-to-form tractor punk.

Tulis’ band at the time was named Fullblown. Fullblown was responsible for the label’s third 7-inch release.

Once Tulis moved back to Omaha, he quickly became more involved in the record label. They recorded a variety of groups, including Davis and Tulis’ band The Monroes, the post-punk group Ideal Cleaners out of Lincoln, and Domestica (with former members of Lincoln’s Mercy Rule, who are longtime friends of Davis and Tulis).

Along with desire to promote local punk music, Davis also wanted to work with his friends. “The unifying thing all the bands on SPEED! have is I like them and they’re nice people,” he says.

Davis’ current band, the Wagon Blasters, released its most recent record in 2011. The Wagon Blasters often play shows with Tulis’ current band, the Lupines. On Oct. 22, they performed together at the label’s 20th anniversary show at Brother’s Lounge.

“In Nebraska, as a musician, you had to leave town [to be considered successful],” says Tulis of the unfortunate perspective held by many local bands. “We thought, ‘Let’s promote Nebraska!’” When a new band joins the label, Davis says, “Now you’re on the team.”

Visit facebook.com/Speed-Nebraska-Records-215079805178952 for more information.


Keeping Up With Kasher

February 3, 2017 by
Illustration by Derek Joy

Anyone who went to dances or homecoming festivities at Creighton Prep, Marian, Duchesne Academy, Cathedral, or other Omaha high schools from late-1989 through the early ’90s probably bounced their head to the beat of a cover band called The March Hares. At the time, no one realized they were witnessing one of the most original talents ever to come out of Omaha.

Tim Kasher,  “like most ragged teenage guitar players,” had already been bitten by the underground bug when he and four Prep mates, including Matt Maginn and Matt Oberst, older brother of future indie singer-songwriter Conor Oberst, formed the group. They performed covers of bands like The Clash, The Cure, and R.E.M. in public, while playing original music in one another’s basements.

“It was a good little business,” recalls Kasher fondly, from his home in Los Angeles. “We found what got us most excited and, instead of baseball, it was music.”

tim-kasherMore than 25 years later, music still gets the indie rocker excited and “out of bed every morning.”  He’s writing and recording original songs for his current bands, Cursive and The Good Life. He’s also using his degree in English from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to write screenplays and, as always, testing the limits of his vocal cords.

“It’s definitely getting tougher to push the voice,” admits Kasher, 42, whose nasal and sometimes pitchy cries of anguish make his voice unmistakable. “I long to be 20 again, when I could scream as much as I wanted to. I can’t mistreat it now.”

Kasher will have to pace himself this spring when he goes on tour promoting a new solo album, his third. Titled No Resolution, the album comes out in March and, according to Kasher, features the lush sounds of strings, which he helped arrange.

True to form, Kasher wrote and directed a low-budget, feature-length film of the same name that uses all the songs from the album. “The film No Resolution is about a couple in their 30s who get engaged because she’s pregnant,” Kasher explains. “It’s set over New Year’s Eve, an appropriate backdrop to expose that the guy isn’t quite ready.”

Omahans saw an early edit of the film during the Omaha Film Festival last March. The final cut comes out this summer. Unlike many of his lyrics, the movie contains no autobiographical details. A happy and devoted Kasher married an editor at L.A. Weekly about one year ago. The couple live in the Silver Lake neighborhood, where they mingle with a sizeable group of Omaha transplants.
The musician’s private contentment hasn’t tempered his desire for professional independence. With the new year comes an announcement sure to send tremors through Omaha’s indie sphere: Kasher now has his own record label called 15 Passenger, a nod to an old touring van.

“The new album is on it. We also have all our master reels for Cursive, so we’re going to be releasing our back catalog, along with new stuff” he says. “We’re not planning on getting into the game of taking big gambles on new artists. Just self-releasing.”

What about Omaha-based Saddle Creek Records, the label formed and grown, in part, from Kasher’s talent? “Saddle Creek is alive and well. We’re just transitioning over.”

With a new album, new film, and a new record label, the beat goes on for Tim Kasher.

Visit timkasher.com for more information.

The Faint

October 9, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Perhaps we’re spoiled in Omaha. While mainstream America suckles on pop-tart music offerings, we’ve grown fat on a steady diet of indie rock.

thefaintFor goodness sake, independent record label Saddle Creek Records is in our backyard. Indie rock star Conor Oberst considers Nebraska home. And hometown music legends The Faint continue to release new music for fans to devour.

In fact, the Omaha-based and internationally touring band, The Faint, just released a career retrospective, CAPSULE: 1999-2016, featuring 17 years of hits along with two brand-new tracks. The band currently consists of Clark Baechle, Dapose, Graham Ulicny (in place of long-time keyboard player Jacob Thiele), and Todd Fink.

“The new release is a collection of songs from the time when we started making music until now,” says Fink, the band’s lead singer, in a recent phone interview while on tour.

The new album, CAPSULE: 1999-2016, is filled with heavy, punky, electronic, pulsating, dark dance music of the past. The two new songs are titled “Skylab1979” and “ESP.” After a September digital release, the vinyl double LP was scheduled to debut on Oct. 28.

The Faint’s newest album signals a return to a familiar label, Saddle Creek. (That’s right, after briefly breaking away to start their own label, The Faint has returned to Saddle Creek.) In August, Saddle Creek shared a video for the band’s second new track, “Skylab1979,” which compiles old footage from outer space missions into a static-laden supercut.

We’re always looking for what’s going to happen next. We never quite get the momentum of other trends. That might hurt us, but we make music that we like and hope that fans like.”

-Todd Fink

While on tour, lead singer Fink shared his thoughts about the recording process, the band’s live shows, and his 17-year career with The Faint.

Although the band was conceived in 1994, and performed under the name “Norman Bailor” with a young Oberst, it grew into something much more. Songs faded. Faces changed (other former members included Matt Bowen and Joel Petersen). But the band’s insatiable desire for perfecting their sounds never wavered.

The Faint was electro-dance-punk before there was such a genre. “We were trying to push something futuristic, trying to find something that felt beyond guitars and traditional (rock) sounds,” Fink says.

In 1997, the band was renamed as The Faint. Two years and a lot of experimenting with synthesizers later, The Faint nailed its signature sound—throbbing and moody. CAPSULE: 1999-2016 takes fans on the band’s musical journey.

“That whole time we were figuring out what we were doing,” Fink says. “We waited. We were waiting to find out who we were as musicians, what our vision for music was going to be.”

Being visionary helped The Faint quickly find their audience. With Blank-Wave Arcade in 1999, the band began to enjoy breakout success, and people took notice.

Throughout the new release of CAPSULE: 1999-2016, The Faint continues to keep their die-hard fans in mind. “We’re always looking for what’s going to happen next,” Fink says. “We never quite get the momentum of other trends. That might hurt us, but we make music that we like and hope that
fans like.”

Visit thefaint.com for more information. Omaha


Yes She Is

June 16, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

No bone-honest Omaha scenester between the ages of 15 and 35 doesn’t want to be Kianna Alarid when they grow up. Alarid’s first band, Tilly and the Wall, indie-rocked the 00s with effusively youthful songs on Saddle Creek Records, opening for Bright Eyes and appearing on soundtracks. Firmly established by 2004, Alarid’s gone from a wide-eyed, 23-year-old-innocent to a seasoned music industry professional and mother. Alarid is now based in Kansas City, where she spoke eloquently between diaper changes about the new band (Yes You Are), lessons learned, and maturity.

“I see the events in my life as steps on an ascending road. I didn’t always see it that way. I didn’t even realize there was a road. I think that’s what it means to be lost in the wilderness,” Alarid says. “But now that I am aware of this, I can view good events and bad events as steps going upward toward a destination. The present moment in my life is always reaching for that next level and always being aware of the obstacles and pitfalls so I don’t slip off this narrow way.”

Yes You Are came into being two years ago when Alarid and writing partner Jared White felt inspired and set to work in a more methodical, practical manner than in years past.

Kianna-Alarid-1“We just set our focus on the next step: determine what it is we need to do to make that happen or get that ball rolling,” says Alarid. “For me, it’s like night and day. With Tilly I didn’t realize what I was doing. Inspiration came sporadically and felt organic yet fleeting. With Yes You Are, I have learned to invoke inspiration at will.”

Alarid admits that while managed productivity seems obvious in many professions, to an artist, it feels like “a strange secret no one could’ve taught me.”

“There are no handbooks when you start. No one clocks you in or out, and no one but you can hold you accountable. It feels like a natural kind of artistic maturity.”

Alarid says the charm of Tilly’s music was in its eclectic collaboration of five songwriters and the innocence of their sound. In the best sense, she says, they were amateurs.

“We didn’t even know what we were doing,” Alarid says of Tilly glowingly. “Like we were kids dancing and singing in a basement and it sounded so pure and free. It just came out that way with no predetermined concept. Tilly songs were my songs of innocence. Yes You Are songs are my songs of experience. That’s how it feels to me.”

Every Yes You Are song is a two person collaboration between Alarid and White. What will define their sound will come from their “very different” current interests.

“There’s always this contrasting dual source,” Alarid says. “The magic happens when I try to write him a classic 60s pop melody and he tries to write a Swedish electronic song for me. Interesting things happen when we pass through each other’s filter.”

Being a mother has made Alarid realize she is duty-bound to actualize dreams she never knew she had.

“I need to teach my daughter by example that life is meant to be a quest. We’re meant to grow towards something,” Alarid says. “We’re meant to believe in things before we can see them. I intend for my life to be the proof for her that she can be great at whatever she feels called to do. If I’m going to be great, I have to know what I want, be resolved to achieve that, and work hard until I do, never giving up.” Encounter

Visit weareyesyouare.com for more information.


April 22, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Tim McMahan’s position: Indie rock’s not dead. It’s just clotting and receding back into the deep cuts from which it first bled in the early, alternative 1990s.

The Lazy-i rock critic and music columnist for The Reader would know. He’s been writing about the genre since before it had a name…or two…or three.

“Indie is now back underground,” McMahan, 50, declares in his Bensonish home office, which is lined with CDs, vinyl, and local show posters of yore. “What people don’t realize, though, is it’s always had a small audience—it’s never been a popular thing.”

For nearly three decades, McMahan has been independently covering the niche indie rock scene in Omaha and beyond, making him the de facto authority on the subject within the ranks of the local subculture and giving him one of the more recognizable bylines in Nebraska journalism.

Of course, chronicling his hometown’s 15 minutes of Mecca during the Saddle Creek Records boom in the early naughts didn’t hurt his readership. Neither does his crisp, confessional prose, which habitually skirts fluff and hyperbole.

“What you see is what you get—it’s pretty straight-forward,” McMahan says, lamenting the Pitchfork poetry that inundates some music journals. “It’s a style of writing that’s pretty common, but back when I started writing, people weren’t doing it that way.”

When McMahan started writing about music, he says, it was mostly about scoring free CDs. He had been the editor of UNO’s Gateway student newspaper in 1988 and had done some work with The Metropolitan, a precursor to The Reader, but his big Columbia House haul came four years later when he was hired as an Omaha rock correspondent by The Note out of Kansas.

“I’d go to Lawrence and get a big box of CDs once a month to review, it was kind of cool,” he says. “It sounds silly now, but that’s why a lot of people got involved in that.”

As McMahan’s chops evolved and the Internet started making its presence felt, the writer says he began archiving his articles online to appease his hiring publications and add to the discourse on indie rock-related message boards.

Lazy-i was born. And with it, McMahan’s compulsion to weblog about the budding sound that was about to put Omaha somewhere on some map in some forgotten atlas. The Saddle Creek Records explosion—featuring Bright Eyes, The Faint, and Cursive—brought a new crop of readers from around the world to the writer’s domain.

“I watched the readership of the website balloon during that period and now it’s really receded,” he says. “I don’t have that many readers, but I don’t care because I know that there’s a certain audience that likes this music.”


Now amidst what McMahan dubs the “Post-Saddle Creek Era” of Omaha indie rock, Lazy-i—a play on the perceived laziness of Internet-era music consumption—still offers the same thought-provoking critiques, interviews, and predictions as when it mattered to more people. The site’s design hasn’t lost its GeoCities-esque charm and McMahan still prides himself a balanced reporter, even among the musicians he’s vetted the most.

“The fact is: I know these people, I’m acquaintances with them, but I don’t party with them, I don’t hang out with them, I don’t go to their houses, I don’t go to their barbecues,” he says. “I’ll see them at clubs—they know who I am, most of them. I respect them, but they know I’m going to write what I feel about stuff. And that’s fine, and they get it.”

McMahan says he still enjoys going to shows and he still likes new music, which he understands would make him stick out as a 30-something, let alone someone who’s recently breached the half-century mark. The perception, he notes, is that indie rock is a young person’s game. But in the typically mature themes of the genre, McMahan says he’s found a fountain of sonic youth for his ears, which keeps bringing him back to concert halls and bars.

“I never feel odd being the old guy at the show—I’ve never really cared,” he says before humorously adding: “I don’t go to house shows typically, because I think it just scares kids and everyone’s uncomfortable.”

Tim McMahan’s position: indie rock’s not dead. And neither is rock journalism for that matter, which has recently been hijacked by the untrained ears of comment-section trolls and social media fanboys and fangirls alike. No, McMahan still has an important job to do.

“I think criticism has never been more important than it is now, because there’s so much music out there that it’s impossible to filter through it all,” McMahan says. “Now the new problem has nothing to do with access, it has to do with time—we just simply, physically don’t have the time to listen to everything, so we have to have someone curate for us.”

It’s Just Rock and Roll

June 20, 2015 by

This article was printed in the May/June 2015 issue of The Encounter.

On March 3, 2015, Omaha rock band Twinsmith performed a blistering set to an attentive audience of five in Columbus, Ohio. A week prior, the band tore through their crowd-pleasing numbers to 1,500 music fanatics while supporting indie legends Cursive in California.

“Rock and roll, “Brian Johnson once famously sang, “Is just rock and roll.”

Cruel, humorous, ironic, triumphant, exciting, grueling: rock and roll is this and more much for those who ride its roller coaster.

For the hometown Saddle Creek Records recent signees, Twinsmith, rock and roll is a fickle livelihood. Trekking across America in support of their Saddle Creek debut LP, Alligator Years, Jordan Smith, Matt Regner, Bill Sharp, and Oliver Morgan are involved in everything from a week supporting Cursive, to headlining shows, to the madness of SXSW.

“When you are in a band, the year goes by so fast,” says lead singer and lyricist Smith. “There is only so much you can do between writing, recording, and touring.”

For Smith and his bandmates, that year began in earnest upon entering the studio in September of last year. With 10 tracks in hand—all composed in the year after their debut release—Twinsmith was ready for whatever direction the music and their producer, Luke Pettipoole (The Envy Corps), wanted to take.

“Luke definitely took on a band member role with us. He really developed the songs and gave his ideas out,” says Smith. “The goal was to have everyone into the songs. If somebody had an idea, we would try it first and then decide together if we wanted to keep it. It was great to write these songs as a band.”

The results are 10 songs ably balancing pop rock blast (“Seventeen”) and introspective balladry (“Carry On”). With its varied styles and expert production, Alligator Years is a satisfying listen solidly rooted in the modern indie domain.

While many indie bands often tackle an overall theme or concept to their albums, Twinsmith took great joy in presenting a set of music that’s only concern was being good music.

“We wanted to make a really dynamic album. The goal in mind was if we liked the songs, we were going to put them on the record,” Smith says. “We tried to make it different, a couple synth songs, a couple retro pop songs. It is feel-good music and songs that we love to play live.”

Immediately following the groups album release show, (May 15 at Slowdown), Smith and company plan on taking a much-deserved few weeks off before hitting the road full-on later this summer. Regardless what the future holds for their major independent label debut, Twinsmith has found great trust in each other and their music.

“We have been progressing in our music together, we know the direction but we don’t have to talk about it or explain it,” says Smith. “We trust each other in knowing we aren’t going to try to write bad music.”


Dream Weaver

June 17, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

This article originally published in May/June 2015 edition of Omaha Magazine.

As Orenda Fink awoke one morning from uneasy dreams, she found herself transformed into a 15-year-older version of herself.

The Kafkaesque revelation, which was triggered by the death of her beloved dog, Wilson, sent the dream-pop singer-songwriter, then 36, tumbling into existential despair.

“I didn’t really have anywhere close to an idea of a concrete framework for thinking about death—I just never really thought about it,” says Fink, now 39, who is also half of the on-again, off-again Saddle Creek Records duo Azure Ray. “You think about it all the time, but you never really think about it.”

Unbeknownst to the grieving dog mom at the time, she says, Fink’s white chihuahua-terrier mix had come to unconsciously symbolize, in a sort of Jungian slip, everything she had experienced throughout most of her 20s and 30s.

So when the arthritic, cancer-ridden Wilson—whom she named after the genius behind The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds—was eventually euthanized, Fink says, it was as if her entire adulthood had been put down, leaving Fink in a deep depression that even anti-depressants couldn’t tame.

“I feel like I died—that something in me died with him,” she says. “He was like a time capsule for all these experiences.”

Despondent, desperately clinging to any clues that could define who she was, how she fit into the cosmos, Fink did what any musician of her caliber would do: She wrote a record. But before her third solo offering, Blue Dream, could manifest, Fink would have to endure a yearlong journey into the darkest parts of her being and extract, through dream therapy, answers that she says had always been with her.

“I am walking down the street, wrangling three dogs with no leashes,” Fink writes in her dream journal just after she began therapy in 2013. “The first dog is Wilson as a puppy, the second dog is Wilson old and infirmed. The third dog, the most haunting, is Wilson as a white blur of a dog with no discernible edges or lines.”

Fink says her first vivid dream about her dog started a night or two prior to her first therapy session. Each dream thereafter included Wilson in some form or another, she says, symbolically conveying messages that she’d then decode with professional help.

“The therapy started with dreams and it ended with dreams. All we talked about were dreams throughout the course of the year,” Fink says about opting to heal her depression solely through Jungian dream therapy.

The self-described Type-A Virgo, already prone to anxiety and impatience, says she furiously wrote in her prescribed dream journal with the sense that she was communicating with her collective unconscious, or the pool of cumulative knowledge that psychiatrist Carl Jung believed (or “knew,” as Fink points out he’d say) was inherent in all of humankind.

“It was just a phenomenal process,” she says. “Because when I got it, when I understood what the message was, it was immediate sobbing, weeping—transcendent sobbing.”

During her spiritual awakening, Fink says she started writing music again, which had become an almost lost art form to her in the wake of Wilson’s death.

“All of a sudden, I had this little pile of songs that I realized were about what I had just gone through, and it was essentially the whole story,” she says.

Fink named her aural tale Blue Dream, which she released on Saddle Creek Records in 2014. The polished yet surreal eulogy to Wilson—and to her former self—plays like the soundtrack to a lost episode of David Lynch’s early-‘90s serial drama Twin Peaks.

The woeful tunes were produced by Ben Brodin (Mal Madrigal, McCarthy Trenching, Our Fox, The Mynabirds) and Fink’s husband, Todd Fink (The Faint), who says he witnessed his wife overcome much of her distress through the album-creating process and her discovery of a universal, timeless consciousness. The Faint front man says he was initially skeptical of what he calls Fink’s “prophetic dreams,” but that those days are now long gone.

“I think it makes perfect sense to look for answers in your dreams when you have a relationship with your subconscious like she does,” says Todd. “I’m just glad she found what she needed.”

With an oversaturated music-producing market, including technological advances that have facilitated the production and distribution of songs, Fink’s next battle might take place well below the apex of self-actualization on the hierarchy-of-needs pyramid. But food, shelter, and…well, a good life…won’t be hard to find as a working musician, Fink says, just so long as she can stay true to the artistry of her work and keep it “as pure as possible.”

“I guess I’m just, as hokey as it sounds,” Fink says, “a believer in the universe taking care of you, however that’s supposed to be. If I’m meant to create music and I have things to contribute, then the universe will somehow keep that going.”


Let’s Get Icky

February 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Derek Pressnall’s enthusiasm is warm and contagious. Get him talking about creating music or playing live, and he’ll get a light in his eyes and say, “I love it.” He’s the veteran, been in a few bands before, and brings a certain sense of knowing how things go. On tour, bandmates would call him Daddy Derek because he’d lay down the law about making too many stops: “Nope. We’re either getting Burger King, or we’re not eating.”

Nik Fackler wears a ridiculously huge pair of gloves, monstrous and furry. He’s fun and young, but he’s directed a feature-length film, Lovely, Still, which stars Martin Landau and Ellen Burstyn—and Elizabeth Banks and Adam Scott. Film will always be part of his life, he says (he’s been directing the band’s music videos), but it’s good to do music now, while he’s young.

And then there’s Sarah. Sarah Bohling has babydoll eyes; her lids might close if she tilted her head back. And she has big pouty lips. When you hear her sing in her smooth, sultry voice, it suddenly makes sense: She was born to be a rock star.

Icky Blossoms is big on being greater than the sum of its parts (The line is used on their website, ickyblossoms.com). The three individuals started exploring musically together last winter. Something clicked, and soon their collaboration became Icky Blossoms—an indie-rock band with a sexy beat, heavy on the synthesizers.20130116_bs_1328-Edit copy

Saddle Creek Records picked them up, and their self-titled debut album came out in July. Then they went on tour, playing 36 shows before the year’s end. They played in Dallas, San Francisco, Philly, Chicago, even Canada.

Shoe and accessory design company Cole Haan invited them to play at a New York Fashion Week after-party. Each band member received a sweet pair of boots—and each raised a foot in salute as they talked about it. “It was really exciting to get out there and play our music for people who have never heard of us,” says Pressnall.

Even more exciting was returning to a city, like Denver, a few months later and discovering they had a community developing, a pocket of fans who knew the words to their songs.

“People even came in their Perfect Vision masks,” Bohling said, referring to their song’s music video. In it, a guy and a girl destroy a house, finally setting fire to it, and put on their dust masks emblazoned with Icky Blossoms’ logo before fleeing the smoke.

They did grow weary of the loop of tour, and the food: teebs, tubs, or subs. “Teebs. Taco Bell. Tubs, like tubbies. Like Cheez-Its. Gross gas station food. Subs. Subway,” explains Bohling. Being on tour, slammed together like a family on a road trip, they learned to communicate in new ways, learned to fight like siblings and get over it quickly.

And, of course, they grew as musicians and as performers. They got ideas for how to improve their current show and ideas for creating new stuff, the emphasis always on their live performance.

They’re playing in Austin, Texas, at the annual music and film festival South by Southwest this month. Find out when to catch them here in Omaha on their website, Facebook, or Twitter.