Tag Archives: SXSW

Horse Play

May 1, 2017 by
Photography by Scott Drickey

It’s unusual for a band to provide its live audiences with a complimentary Filipino buffet during a show, but on a Sunday in late February at O’Leaver’s Bar, Omaha natives See Through Dresses enlisted the aid of friends and family to do just that for the band’s “Sunday Social,” just before heading to Austin, Texas, for the South by Southwest Music Festival.

The four-piece ensemble, comprised of (vocalist and guitarist) Matt Carroll, (guitarist, keyboardist, and vocalist) Sara Bertuldo, (drummer) Nate Van Fleet, and (bassist) Alex Kirts, evolved from Carroll and Bertuldo’s previous band Honey and Darling in 2012. Carroll and Bertuldo share principal songwriting duties, but the dynamic between all four members fits the true definition of a band. “Alex and I kind of act like arrangers,” Van Fleet says. “Sara might come to us with a song that’s 70 percent complete, and we’re there to hash it out and turn it into something our band could play.”

Van Fleet, who is also the drummer for Omaha locals Little Brazil, elaborated further on what makes playing with See Through Dresses fruitful for him: “I played with a lot of bands before. In fact, Matt and Sara found me in a bar the night my last band was breaking up, and it was like finding these people who were just as obsessed with doing the same things I wanted to. There are lots of bands out there where somebody’s character flaws or poor priorities keep them from reaching their potential. There’s never been that ‘intervention’ moment with this band.” They pride themselves on their work ethic, Van Fleet says. Since forming, they’ve played more than 200 shows.

Despite this commitment to craft, they are hardly pretentious. “I applied for band sponsorship from Taco Bell,” Bertuldo says, laughing. The revelation devolves into jokes: “What if somebody wrote See Through Dresses/Taco Bell fan-fiction?” Bertuldo asks. “I’m not saying I want to see it,” Van Fleet chimes in, “but I’m also not saying I don’t want to see it!”

In fact, catching Bertuldo’s banter with the audience when she’s on stage is a major reason to see the band live.  At their “Sunday Social,” for example, she sported a new short hairdo, along with some vocal regrets. “That last song was called ‘Haircut,’ but it’s not about my hair. It’s actually about Macaulay Culkin,” she cryptically explains to the audience. Bertuldo is the chief conduit for the band’s energy during shows—shredding and kicking her way through the heaviest songs, and even jumping off equipment and nearby furniture.

This spring, See Through Dresses finally releases their second full-length album, after a self-titled debut in 2013 and 2015’s End of Days EP. The band describes the new release, The Horse of the Other World (written mostly while touring their previous EP), as their “synth” album, a love letter to the ’80s. “There’s always been a little ’80s influence in our music—that new wave, post-punk stuff we all love,” Carroll says, repeatedly citing The Cure, New Order, and Depeche Mode as primary influences. “Our EP was a little more rock-flavored, but this album sounds like a natural progression from our self-titled record.”

“It’s a very indulgent record,” Van Fleet quips. “It satisfies a lot of the urges we had while we were touring the EP. The sound is a little harsher and more dissonant here, too.” The band describes this evolution as something akin to “dream punk,” combining the energy of classic punk rock with a polychromatic sound recalling sunny afternoon daydreams.

Yet lurking deeper on The Horse of the Other World are more thoughtful ruminations on mental health and keeping control of one’s mind. Carroll, who is also a manager at Ted and Wally’s Ice Cream, explains the title comes from a surreal experience with an unknown vagrant last year. “It was this strange and beautiful moment of connecting with someone on their own terms,” Carroll says. He sat with the man in the store and listened to his story, and his allegations that the “Great Mother and Father” would soon visit us riding on “the horse of the other world.” The man grabbed a box of markers from his bag, and wrote down the phrase on a napkin for him in bright red.

The event had a big influence on Carroll during the songwriting process, which was already circling around themes of addiction and hitting bottom. “A lot of these things converged that hit me hard. Both my own experiences and those of friends,” he explains. “The lyrics on our opening track speak to this and mean a lot to me: Sometimes you’re trying to reach out at people, but they can’t open up. I wanted to address that barrier and feeling of helplessness.”

Carroll adds he doesn’t like to “dance around the subject and speak in hushed tones when we talk about mental health.” Together the band shared anecdotes about loved ones and friends losing their grip on reality, either through drugs, depression, or diseases like Alzheimer’s. Bertuldo’s contributions to the album face these issues, as well, using touch points like loneliness and bad relationships to explore them. “I think this is a big deal about what’s inspiring us: The great fear of your mind or your body turning on you,” Carroll says. “We’re not OK with people walking the streets dying of cancer. But when we encounter someone in public with serious mental health needs, it’s our impulse to flee. That’s upsetting.”

As for the namesake’s creator, Carroll laments: “I wish I could track him down again.”

Visit seethroughdresses.bandcamp.com for more information about The Horse of the Other World and the band’s previous releases.

This article is in the May/June 2017 edition of Omaha Magazine.

BOTH

June 8, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Self-deprecating rappers impress at SXSW.

Omaha artists tend to violate stereotypes by being sincere, humble, and approachable. We don’t coast and we don’t mistake braggadocio for talent. But if local artists should be bragged about, try BOTH. BOTH are Make Believe Studios hip-hop recording artists Scky Rei aka Skylar Marcell Reed, and INFNTLP aka Nate Asad.

In the last two years, the rappers and OEAA Album and Artist of the Year winners have been shaking the clubs, MAHA, and SXSW. The duo from “North of Downtown,” is fond of lyrics like “Here I go…lost my soul a long, long, time ago…music is the only thing, left up in my soul,” featured on their song
Drug Abuse.

Gigs at the Nebraska Exposed showcase and a Front Gate Tickets private party worked out well.

“The experience was surreal. SXSW was a great time, playing in front of a new audience,” says MC/rapper/singer/songwriter/videographer Scky Rei. Scky Rei raps about life in the Big O and “provides a sonic connection to everyone in the same world at the same moment.”

“We’re just expressing social experiences through weird ways of explaining everyday life,” says Scky Rei. “We didn’t play in front of thousands like I thought, but watching people coming from the street to fill the upstairs of Cheers Shot Bar made me feel like we’re doing something right. Just being surrounded by creativity and people that love the same thing you do gave me a breath of fresh air.”

“Everyone was someone, somewhere, and that was cool to be a part of,“ says DJ/backup singer/producer/pianist/Dragon Ball Z enthusiast INFNTLP, who paints SXSW as “the Internet on wheels.”

left: Scky Rei (“Sky Ray”), right: INFNTLP (“Infinite Loop”)

left: Scky Rei (“Sky Ray”), right: INFNTLP (“Infinite Loop”)

Working on new music full time is BOTH’S goal for this year if manager John Schmidt hits his mark. Schmidt was a fan who met Scky Rei in a coffee shop last spring and offered to help out.

“We’ve accomplished a lot in the past year,” says Schmidt, who also represents psych rockers JAGAJA. “SXSW was a great experience. Staying relevant is a grind even for superstars, so we will continue to put in the work. As long as these guys are in front of a crowd, they will succeed.”

Don’t just take BOTH’s word for it.

Michelle Troxclair, director of Nebraska Writer’s Collective, says she finds BOTH “a transformational group of musicians.”

“BOTH has been able to reflect all that is part of the cultural art form that is African American oral tradition,” says Troxclair, whose Verbal Gumbo can be said to do the same.

“The great thing about BOTH is that they are the anti-rap group. Nothing is stereotypical about them at all,” says Dominique Morgan, fellow OEA Award winning R&B singer and activist. “Scky Rei shoots all the videos, makes their posters. INFNTLP will go from deep club beats to playing classical piano in a set. It was only right they won Album and Artist of the Year.”

For now, BOTH will be pushing the EP  “BOTHSUCKS,” releasing videos, writing and increasing the love.

“Most of our fans came out to past shows bringing new people into our world. It’s awesome,” says INFNTLP.

“I don’t see fans, only extended family,” says Scky Rei. “Money is nice, but at the end, we do this for the love.”

Visit bothsucks.com to learn more.

Both1

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.”

Twinsmith