new songs eventually became En garde. Recorded in his ProTools-powered
home studio, Pedersen plays almost every note on the CD, with some
drumming assistance by Mike Sweeney (ex-Bright Eyes touring band),
and keyboards by Ian McElroy of Desaparecidos.
En garde is a
perfect hybrid of hummable pop-rock and angular post-punk. It seamlessly
melds the more approachable moments from Cursive with the White
Octave's unforgiving precision without ever losing sight of the
melody. Kasher's influence on Pedersen's songwriting is unmistakable.
At times, even the vocals sound hauntingly like Kasher (or even
Conor Oberst). The biggest difference, however, is Pedersen's unfailing
dedication to the pop esthetic. Unlike Cursive albums that force
listeners to endure some painfully dissonant, distorted patches
amidst the angular punk, En Garde mines the tastiest part
of every riff and pounds it home again and again.
the Cursive overtones. "I learned to write from Tim Kasher,"
he said. "He's my model for song writing -- he's amazing.
"This record is
really a reaction to my time in North Carolina and being in the
White Octave," he explained. "The White Octave was an
angular, atonal band with little concern for the songs themselves.
It was all about delivery and rhythm. I wanted to get back to basic
songwriting. This project is the most selfish act I've ever committed
in my life. It's the closest I've come to painting. The White Octave
was painfully collaborative to the point of becoming destructive.
This was part of healing from that -- making songs that were shamelessly
Pedersen said he never
intended to play the music live, but after finishing the record
knew that he had to form a band. Criteria consists of drummer Mike
Sweeney, bassist AJ Mogis (We'd Rather Be Flying, Lullaby for the
Working Class), and guitarist Aaron Druery (Lincoln's Ghost Runners).
"I wanted to work
with people who really liked the songs and were willing to do my
dirty work," Pedersen said, adding that the lineup is no mere
backing band, but a permanent ensemble. "I want to write songs
with this band."
With all the Saddle Creek
connections, it may seem surprising that En garde wasn't released
on Saddle Creek Records. Pedersen said the thought hadn't crossed
his mind. "I don't think Saddle Creek had an interest,"
he said. "They're my friends, but I never had any expectations
that they'd assist me. I approached them with The White Octave and
they declined many times."
Kentucky, label Initial Records, stepped up to the plate. The label
had released The White Octave's last CD, Menergy. "They
were passionate about my music," Pedersen said, adding that
they had agreed to work with him immediately after The White Octave
had broken up, even providing the seed money for his home studio
along with next-door neighbor Conor Oberst.
Creek connections remain fully intact. He said if and when Criteria
heads out on the road, it will likely be as a supporting band for
Throughout all his years
in North Carolina, Pedersen watched from the sidelines while Omaha's
music scene blossomed along with the careers of his best friends.
"No one could have predicted how big it would get," he
"I don't feel left
out. Sometimes I do, but I made decisions to leave and separate
myself from it. That said, I'm content and lucky to be making the
music that turned into this CD. I had no idea that I would be able
to do this again."
Published in The Omaha Weekly-Reader June 11, 2003. Copyright ©
2003 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved. Photo by firstname.lastname@example.org