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Coyote Bones: Peeking through Coattails

story by tim mcmahan



Lazy-i: May 16, 2007

A few weeks ago on my website (, I went gaga over the new CD by Coyote Bones, Gentleman on the Rocks, calling it hands down the best locally produced non-Saddle Creek CD that I've heard so far this year -- based purely on the song writing. The reason for the caveat tacked on the end will become obvious as I recap a discussion I had the following day with a reader:

Lazy-i Reader: "Hey Tim, I read on Lazy-i what you said about the new Coyote Bones disc. Why do you have to laud everything that involves Saddle Creek?"

Me: "What are you talking about? Coyote Bones isn't on Creek. You know that."

LR: "Yeah, I know that, but let's face it. These guys went out of there way to get every Creek-connected musician involved in their project. They obviously want to be associated with the label."

Me: "Regardless of who's playing on the disc, the songs are solid. It's not like Andy Lemaster will be touring with them."

LR: (Sarcastically) "Yeah, whatever you say..."




I can sort of understand where that skeptic was coming from. Gentleman on the Rocks really does have a laundry list of Saddle Creek royalty contributing to its production, including Maria Taylor, Neely Jenkins, Nick White, Kianna Alarid, Andy Lemaster, Orenda Fink, Matt Baum, Ryan Fox, Dan McCarthy, Derek Pressnal and Jacob Thiele, with recording credits that include Joel Petersen's basement.

Anytime you put together that much local (and national) star power you're bound to get accused of exploiting your connections. But Coyote Bones frontman David Matysiak said that the plusses of having such a huge list of talented, well-known guest stars easily outweighs any accusations by clueless critics.

"I suppose if I was a music critic and I wanted to take the negative route I would say, 'This guy is riding coattails,'" Matysiak said. "All I can say is that I've been there all the time, sharing stages with these folks or just hanging out with them. I knew the record was going to be fun to make and a new start for me, and if this person could bring it to life, why not make that happen? I don't think it matters who's on the record. It took two and a half years to put it together, and I'm proud of the songs."

Matysiak's connection to all those folks goes way back to his old band, Jet by Day, a gritty, grungy guitar rock outfit that also included Coyote Bones instrumentalist Mason Brown (who now also plays in Tilly and the Wall). When I mentioned that I had just listened to Jet By Day's 2001 split single with The Blindfold Parade, Matysiak verbally cringed.

"We didn't think too much of that 7-inch," he said. "The fact that you have it indicates that it got distributed better than we thought."

Matysiak said Jet by Day grew beyond the two singles released by Two Sheds Music (including a split with The Maginot Line). The band also released CDs on respected indie labels Kinder Core and Future Farmers, nabbed a feature in Magnet and toured up until the day they fell apart -- just as they were starting to get noticed.

While living in Athens, Matysiak became best friends with Tilly and the Wall's Derek Pressnal and Nick White, and also met members of The Faint, Cursive and Bright Eyes while setting up shows for them and his band in Athens and Atlanta. Eventually he took up Pressnal's offer and moved from Atlanta to Omaha, staying at his house for over a year.

Once here, getting people to sit in on sessions was second nature. "If we needed to add a trumpet or piano, it just so happened that Orenda (Fink) and Dan (McCarthy) were around to help out." Old Athens pal Andy Lemaster's contributions -- all recorded at his Chase Park Transductions studio -- are some of the most powerful, including a stirring synth hook in stand-out track "Grand Eclipse."

"Mason started to write those synth parts and I was trying to sing in a Depeche Mode kind of way. I love that classic '80s sound," Matysiak said. "It's an example of something we couldn't do with Jet by Day."

The CD, slated for release May 29 on the Matysiak's co-op label, CoCo Art, already is chocking up impressive presales from around the globe, likely based on those Saddle Creek connections.

"People say if you put those names on your record, anyone will buy it," Matysiak said. "Once the record is out awhile, it'll lose that stigma. It's just a press angle. The same thing happened with Tilly, where it was first known as Conor's new band or as a tap-dancing gimmick. Eventually that went away. So will this."

Only time and touring will tell. The band currently is on the road performing their songs minus the all-star contributors that fleshed out the disc, just like they did April 12 at The Waiting Room. Stripped down, the music was more straight-forward, cutting through the fat to reveal the songwriting meat and bone that propels the band. They could (and probably will be) the next big thing to come out of Omaha, with or without those Creek coattails hanging in their eyes.

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Published in The Omaha Reader May 16, 2007. Copyright 2007 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.







"I suppose if I was a music critic and I wanted to take the negative route I would say, 'This guy is riding coattails.' All I can say is that I've been there all the time, sharing stages with these folks or just hanging out with them."