One of the most common behind the scene discussions I have with other musicians revolves around 1 subject –
We all take different approaches for growing our bands. We trade ideas, we talk about our promotional strategies, our successes, our failures, but the bottom line isn’t about walking away from a gig with a paycheck, it’s about building a community that cultivates a supportive audience of live music fans.
A lot of what is going on locally seems to be flying under the radar for the average casual music fan because in a smaller population, one can imagine how our journalists and venues need to cover a slew of genres to stay relevant, and so we just don’t have the market share of media to reach people outside our social circles as easily.
When we do get a feature piece on a prominent website or radio station interview, there’s rarely time to cover anything beyond the basics. We get biographical questions about our band, we get to plug an upcoming show, and that’s about it. So without further adieu, here are some questions about the scene that I wish we got asked more in interviews, being answered by local metal musicians. Each musician answered the same questions separately, and these are their responses.
This is the first installment of Metal on Metal
THE INTERVIEWEES –
Nathan Christensen – Drummer for Rift (yes i interviewed myself, deal with it)
Ryan Lieb – Guitarist and Vocalist for Sovereignty
Lori Piper – Vocalist for The Clincher
How Long have you been connected to the Nebraska metal scene? –
Nate –I got started in the Kearney, NE area but I’ve been playing in bands on and off since the late 90s. I’ve been playing in Rift for 6 years and staying pretty heavily involved in shows all over the state for the last 3 years.
Nolan – 7, but more in the past 3 years due to moving here.
Ryan – 3 Years
Lori – 10+…I have been attending metal shows for a long time and have also spent about 9 years playing in the metal scene.
Any big news for your band(s) or side projects you want people to know about?
Nate – Rift just put out our 4th record on April 1. It’s the first time we’ve ever felt like we had the budget and the fanbase to put it on a CD instead of digital only and it’s been received really well so far!
As far as side projects go, I’m always picking up fill in gigs for other bands or recording projects, I have a solo project called Laterdiver that is basically ambient darknoise that’s been used in a handful of indie horror movies and I’m also getting started with a small business selling t-shirts.
Nolan – Verrater (a raw black metal side project featuring members of viking black metallers Stonehaven (KCMO) and Drew and I in Garoted) will be playing a show in California mid July.
Garoted (black/death Nebraska pride) is touring with Wichita Kansas powergrinders Knifewound this late July and we are preparing to record our 3rd full length.
Relic (doom rock/old school heavy metal quartet from all over the midwest) is getting ready to record our first release and is starting to book more shows.
Vanlade (an epic speed/heavy metal band based out of KCKS that I have been filling in for tours with) is preparing to record an EP featuring mostly covers with a lot of killer guest spots and are touring to California this Oct to perform at the Frost and Fire II fest, which has Cirith Ungol reforming after years of hiatus headlining.
Ryan –Sovereignty will be playing our very first out of town show in Lincoln on May 14th, and we are recording our first professional single in June! Also, I am the founder and sole proprietor of Oblivion Booking, with which I hope to showcase the best Progressive Metal acts that Omaha has to offer, as well as a number of other talented metal groups of other subgenres, and I am planning a big Progressive Showcase at the end of the year!
Lori – The Clincher released our EP “Prelude” in January. We will be returning to the studio to begin work on our full-length album this Summer/Fall.
What, in your opinion, makes the Nebraska Metal Scene unique?
Nate -I think one big reason is that because we’re playing in a less densely populated part of the country, there’s a constant demand for band members. As a result, a lot of us play in multiple bands and a lot of us play several styles of music and multiple instruments. I think that’s a big part of what makes our local metal what it is. We’re able to draw from a lot of different influences and some of the musicians out here are just unbelievably good. I’ve thought for years now that our local metal scene is a dry powder keg of talent waiting to find that one single spark that will set the whole midwest on fire, we just need to get the general audience, the non musician tuned in and excited about what’s been brewing here.
Nolan – I like how most of the ‘metal’ shows we have are more mixed genre, as it reflects a lot about our scene to me. REALLY diverse. What is cool about it is that most of same people are creative forces in all of these insanely different projects. People are not afraid to find their outlet however they can here and people work together to make some cool projects out of it. You’ll see some of the same guys playing grind also behind a table bumping some crazy ass dance shit! It’s insane!
Ryan – While I haven’t spent a lot of time soaking in other scenes, I’ve heard more than once from touring musicians that the players in other scenes seem to be in competition with each other. Here, we’ve built a strong community between most of the bands. Many people play in 2-3 bands, and we’re all great friends with each other. And there’s nothing like playing a show when you’re excited to see the other bands you’re playing with, and not just preoccupied with trying to steal the show.
Lori – I think that the Nebraska Metal Scene is unique due to the overwhelmingly large number of really gifted musicians here. Not to mention, there are many bands in Nebraska who have an original sound that really stands out or their music has the ability to bridge many genres together.
What do you want people to take away from your music specifically?
Nate – When I play, I want people to feel the raw energy that I can only really communicate with drumming. It’s accessible, it’s basic and needs no interpretation, so anybody can tap into that energy. My goal is to put everyone in the room on the same wavelength even if just for a little while. That probably sounds a bit “out there” and maybe a little shamanistic, but when I look at the world today, it seems that music for a lot of people has lost its place of importance, and I think our quality of life suffers because of it. In other civilizations, music has been a way to practice religion, ceremony, war. Now we use it to sell corn chips and data plans for cheap plastic phones.
Heavy metal music was a form of expression that empowered me as an individual and gave me a voice, a sense of peace and belonging that I couldn’t find anywhere else. So when I am on a stage, that’s me trying to pay it forward. I try to reflect on the idea that every single person in the audience has their own experience, their own stress/fear/anxiety/depression/pain and I want to show those people, especially the ones who are struggling, that I am on fire too, I know how it feels, and while I can’t make it go away, we are getting through today because we are all connected right now and that makes us stronger. It’s about empowering other people. I want you to feel like you can take on anything.
Nolan – Depends on the band I’m working with, because each band brings its own energy and motive. With some, I’m hoping to leave a bad taste in your mouth from either despair or from napalm and electric shock. But also, with others, I hope that you are inspired and EXCITED! Regardless of the band, I hope you leave with a broken neck!!!
Ryan – I want people to leave a Sovereignty show feeling like they’ve just heard something they’ve never heard before. Sovereignty strives to earn the classification of “Progressive Metal.” Many of the bands we consider to be our primary influences have set an extremely high standard for musicianship and innovative songwriting. We all have a long way to go but those are the standards that we hold ourselves up against. We want to write something that pays tribute to those influences as well as expands upon them. We want the music to be grounded in traditional metal just enough to be accessible but we also want listeners to feel like they’re hearing a combination of notes and rhythms to which they’re not typically accustomed.
Lori – My hope is that the audience will connect with our music on a deeper level..I want them to absorb and really listen to the lyrics and feel what they mean..I want the music to take people on a journey and move people down to their core.
How do you think we can improve the local metal scene OR what do YOU do to support the scene?
Nate – Whether it’s just attending shows when I’m not playing, helping other musicians network with each other, designing flyers, dragging friends to shows, I’m always trying to be involved in some fashion.
I am also working on writing up some mechanical release forms so we can put out some local compilation CDs through the Nebraska Stoner Doom page I help admin. My goal is to have venues stop playing the bartender’s mp3 player between sets and start using that space for more local promotion. Just, anything that elevates the people around me basically.
Nolan – Be aware of the bands, and to the ones you like go to every fucking show you can and party with people! Don’t be afraid to go to some persons basement to thrash!
Ryan – To me, improving the scene means more people attending shows to see LOCAL acts as well as more revenue being generated for the bands. I started Oblivion booking with the intention of showcasing local talent and building a larger audience for Nebraska bands. There are a lot of National acts playing in smaller venues with local in Omaha lately, and it’s a really cool thing to be able to share a bill with a larger than life band as well as get that up close and personal with them, but I’m trying to balance out those shows by focusing primarily on booking local acts and unsigned touring acts. I want local musicians to be confident that they can bring a large crowd out to their shows without having a national act on the bill. I’m also focusing on smaller shows, 3-4 band showcases. Larger bills generally bring more people in the doors, but many can’t stay engaged by that many bands throughout the night, and that also results in more time changing sets, as well as the bands typically having shorter set lengths. 3-4 bands allows people to come prepared to enjoy the entire set, gives the bands time to showcase everything they’ve got, and usually allows for more money to be collected by each band.
The most money Sovereignty has ever made as a band was at a small 3 band showcase at Dr. Jack’s Drinkery with a 5 dollar cover. And despite the notion that it’s about the music, not the money, bands need revenue to make progress. Recording can be very expensive, and purchasing merchandise can be intimidating at first as well. Furthermore, bands who are trying to secure record deals need to be able to show high profit. Labels care more about the amount of money you can make than about which acts you’ve shared a bill with. Sounds like it should be the other way around but that’s the hard truth!
Shows that showcase fewer bands also put more pressure on the bands to promote, which I think is healthy. Many of my friends are great at promoting, but I also see a good number of under promoted shows in town. I try to find time whenever I can to hang up posters for my shows and I also encourage bands I book to utilize multiple promotion tactics. I try to utilize social media as much as possible, because it’s free, however it’s also important to remember that handing out hand bills, being visible in the scene by attending other shows, and even just calling your close buddies and inviting them to a show are still effective ways to spread your name. Another tactic I’ve tried with Sovereignty is to use a Snapchat account to engage certain fans. This so far has not caught on with a large number of people but has been an enjoyable way for close friends and family to see clips of our shows and keep up with what we’re doing and it’s something that I’d like to see other bands attempt sometime.
I really love the One Scene. One Love group/meetings because it’s concept is to bring musicians together from all walks of life and all genres. The only improvement to the scene that I would love to see is jam packed rooms all the time! I support the scene by attending shows and participating in shows!
There are a lot of metal fans who go to big concerts but are largely unaware of their local scene. What would you say to those people?
Nate – While I have nothing negative to say about going to big concerts, you really don’t get to be a part of the experience, you don’t have the impact the way you do when you come and support a local show. You matter more than anybody else as a patron at a local show, and it’s a fantastic feeling knowing you can really truly support the artists you like in a meaningful way. You will NEVER experience that at an arena show.
A fan interacting with us, coming to shows, buying the merch we make, that tells us what we’re doing has value and that it’s important to people, and that makes all the hard work worth it. It makes our shows better. It makes our records better. It makes our ability to grind through the hardest parts of all this to get back to your city for another show so much better. You aren’t the most important part of the $125 arena show like you are at the $5 local show. You just aren’t going to make Dave Grohl’s entire week by posting on his social media account that you like his new record like you could with an artist in your town.
Nolan – You don’t have to like or support every band but you should at least know what your area has to offer.
Ryan – Local bands are just as good. Seriously. I’m blown away by my friends’ bands on a weekly basis. And attending their shows is usually cheaper than going to see a major label band. I think there’s sort of a widespread feeling that music has to be “larger than life” and that attending local shows can’t possibly be as exciting as going to see an act you’ve listened to an idolized for years from a city you’ve never been to. I used to feel this way myself. But over the last few years I’ve become more and more involved with Omaha’s scene and I’m telling you, sincerely, I was wrong. I’ve acquired a pretty wide collection of local bands’ recordings and it’s some of my favorite stuff to listen to now. Not only that but attending concerts almost every week has been significantly more rewarding than any other regular social activity I’ve participated in. And I feel such a strong personal connection with the music. I listen to them and I think, these are my friends, I can have a beer with these guys, I can share the stage with them, and yet they still inspire me to be better than I am. Sure, I still listen to a ton of major label bands. But I don’t see it as “Real Music” and “Local Music” anymore. It truly is one and the same. It’s all music. And if you’re not listening to local music, you are missing out.
Lori – I would remind them that all of the bands/musicians playing the big concerts were once unknown..it took the power of the fans and the hard work of the local band/others working with the band to break through and become more successful..so make sure to constantly check out new bands and shows!
What advice would you give musicians trying to get started in the local metal scene?
Nate – Go to shows, introduce yourself and ASK people for help. We want each other to succeed in this scene, you don’t need to be established to come talk to people and ask for advice, contacts, gigs, or whatever. Never stop trying, and never stop trying to outdo yourself and don’t get discouraged.
Also, I know a whole hell of a lot of you reading this are a lot better than you give yourself credit for. Give yourself permission to be great, and your audience and the other bands will respond and gravitate towards that power and we’ll be right there cheering you on when you blow us out of the water at a gig. Don’t hold yourself back, you will regret it when you are finally too old for this shit.
Nolan – PLAY BLAST BEATS AND PLAY FAST! Make friends and hang out!
Ryan – Ask and you shall receive. Don’t be afraid to ask people to like you on Facebook. Don’t be afraid to be annoying. If someone is annoyed by you, it means they’ve heard of you. Don’t be afraid to ask for money either, if generating revenue is a goal for your band. There’s a difference between being greedy and getting a reasonable return for your effort. You should be willing to play for free at first, and handing out free CDs or stickers can help get you fans, but you would probably be surprised how often people are willing to pay for things that many bands hand out for free.
Don’t be afraid to ask bands to play with you, or to ask a promoter to put you on a show. You might perceive yourself as “small time” but others may not have the same perception of you. You won’t know if you’re on somebody’s radar until you ask. The worst thing they can do is say no. Utilize your connections. If you don’t feel like you have any, go make some. A few promoters can be difficult to get through to until you’ve “paid your dues” but most of the people who make things happen in the local scene are regular people just like you and me who are going out and playing small venues and trying to have a good time. If you’re making friends in the scene, chances are you know someone who can hook you up with a show.
If not, make your own show happen. Don’t be afraid to email a venue and ask if you can play there. You might have to go and find the other bands to play the bill with you. You might get stuck with a week night before they’ll let you play a Saturday. But that’s all good experience for you. And when you set up the show you get to call the shots. There’s no rule in the scene saying you can’t make things happen for yourself. Ask and you shall receive!
Lori – Do it. Play hard, work hard, and just do it! Get out there and share your experiences! Share your art! Share your life’s blood..you never know who’ll inspire!
What shows do you have coming up?
Nate –Rift is playing our Lincoln CD release show at the Spigot on Saturday May 14th. We’ve dubbed the show as “A Classy Night of Metal” and we hope to see some people in formal wear for the event. Then it’s on to Metal Monday at the Down Under in Omaha on the 23rd. We’ve got a ton of shows all over Nebraska through the summer and we’re still hoping to spend some time on the road out of state before the year is out.
Nolan – May 8th with Vanlade, Ezra, Spellcaster, and Garoted at the Spigot here in Lincoln. Heavy metal vs. Death metal, double set madness!
Ryan – May 14th – A Classy Night of Metal at The Spigot (Lincoln) with Rift, Deadechoes, and A Different Breed.
May 29th – Dark Metal Blasphemy on a Sabbath at The Lookout Lounge (Omaha) with Processions, Endarya, and Hours of Decay
Thanks for reading and check out some of these shows! Want to see more Metal on Metal? Want to bury it beneath the waves where it can never again see the light of day? Want to be part of the next one? Write me and tell me what you think!