The mutant -- a veteran of some of the area's most fabled local punk bands including Full Blown, Street Urchins, The Carsinogents and The Terminals -- joined the brothers after seeing them perform at a Dion park festival. The trio recorded their first single -- a 4-song 45 that featured three originals and a Redd Kross cover -- in the summer of '07 for local imprint Grotto Records.
It didn't take long for the record to catch fire on Internet music blogs, which Jeremiah says are the natural descendents of old-fashioned 'zines. Among those blogs was brooklynvegan.com, a New York-based website that wrote a lengthy review of Box Elders' first New York show at Market Hotel in January 2009. While their review caused a buzz, it was the show itself that the band is proud of. "That was a great show," Goldberg said from the kitchen table of his midtown home where Clayton also lives.
"There were more people at that show than in the town where Jeremiah and I grew up," Clayton added.
That town is Pisgah, Iowa, not exactly an indie-rock hot-bed. While the brothers heard their share of music around the house growing up, it was a "skater kid" from Sioux City that first exposed Jeremiah to punk. Trips to Sioux City punk shows soon followed, along with trips to Omaha where he visited The Antiquarium, Drastic Plastic and Council Bluffs' Kanesville Kollectibles.
"When we're on the road and people tell us how hip Omaha's music scene is I tell them it's because we have some really hip, cool record stores where you can get your hands on obscure music," Jeremiah said.
Clayton, who is 19 years old and 14 years younger than Jeremiah, points to his big brother as his biggest musical influence. "The first thing he gave me was a Little Richard tape," he said. "He always showed me what he was listening to."
Jeremiah said being in a band with a brother a generation younger than him has been "really weird. In a lot of ways I'm a brother; and in a lot of ways I'm parental."
"Since he was so much older when I was young, we missed out on the brotherly fighting," Clayton said. "We're catching up on that now. When we fight, we get into it full on, but the next day it's over. We're able to let it out and vent, and in that sense it's nice."
"I just tune it out," Goldberg said. "I've been in bands with husbands and wives before; this is nothing compared to that."
One can only imagine the bickering that took place during the making of Alice and Friends, the band's new full-length slated for release on Memphis label Goner Records Aug. 11. The album was recorded in Jeremiah's basement using an analog 8-track reel-to-reel recorder and, apparently, a time machine. The record has a vintage low-fi sound that heralds back to the days of transistor radios. The band calls that scratchy, echoing style Cave Pop.
"A lot of the records I like have that sound," Jeremiah said. "Those recordings are simple, with lots of reverb and delay, and they did it all in mono. Mono sounds like rock."
But it's the record's sock-hop fodder like album opener "Jackie Wood" and the title track -- both clocking in at just over two minutes -- whose sing-along melodies leave an indelible mark on your brain.
"We write songs the old-fashioned way," Clayton said. "We're conscious of a good melody. People forget that it's the most important part of the song, something that will be catchy and stick in your head."
The other thing that stays with you is Box Elders' crazy live show, with Goldberg's drooling green foam capsule. The effect is theatrical, but a far cry from the flaming carnival of his former bands.
"It's just something extra," Goldberg said of the mad dog routine. "We want to give the people a little bit more of a show. The reaction would be the same if we did a totally straight set sans all antics or gimmicks."
For Goldberg, the success of the Box Elders, which includes a tour that runs throughout the rest of the year ending in Europe, is a long time coming.
"It's something I've hoped for myself from day one," he said. "I started to panic because I never applied myself to anything other than music, and thought I might be working a dead-end job for the rest of my years. It's nice to get a little recognition outside of your town."
Published in The Omaha Reader Aug. 6, 2009.
Copyright © 2009 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.