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Sorry About Dresden: Rooting for the Home Team

 
story by tim mcmahan


 

 

Lazy-i: July 9, 2003


Sorry About Dresden
w / Miracle of '86, 1989 Chicago Cubs
Tuesday, July 15
Sokol Underground

13th & Martha
Omaha

"I don't think you can ever really escape Omaha, and I mean that both in a good way and a bad way," says Sorry About Dresden guitarist / vocalist Matt Oberst.

Somehow, the Omaha native has managed to escape the confines of the city itself, relocating to North Carolina seven years ago, along with former SAD bassist Matt Tomich (we'll explain the "former" comment in a minute) to become a teacher as well as part of the then-burgeoning N.C. music scene.

Oberst says his Omaha roots influence his approach to music and the business. "People who leave Omaha still have this home-team ethic going for them, which is stronger than in any other community," he said. "When they find out that a band has connections to Omaha, they just want to help them out."





 

 

It was an Omaha connection that helped draw Tomich and Oberst together. The two first talked about forming Sorry About Dresden at a January 1997 Commander Venus concert (a band in which Oberst's brother, Conor, sang lead) in Chapel Hill. Tomich introduced Oberst to drummer James Hepler and guitarist/vocalist Eric Roehrig, both North Carolina natives. Six months later, the four played their first gig at a local club.

So is Tomich's recent decision to leave the band a shock? Not really, Oberst said. "Matt turned 30 and decided he'd rather do other things than drive around in a van and be in the same bar in a different city every night," he said. "I'm telling people he's pursuing a solo acting career."

Oberst said Tomich felt that the timing was right for his departure. With the tour that brings SAD to Sokol Underground July 15, the band will have finished crossing the country supporting their most recent release, Let It Rest. "That means we'll be taking a little time off to work on new songs," Oberst said. "I don't think we'll be touring in earnest again until next spring."

Stepping in at bass is Finn Cohen, an old friend of the band and former guitarist for The White Octave. "Hopefully he'll want to become a full-fledged member," Oberst said. "With his songwriting skills, he would bring a whole lot to the band."

But can anyone ever really replace Tomich? Oberst says the band lost more than a bass player, they lost a figurehead. "He's one of those people who knows someone in every city," Oberst said. "We'd be in a subway in New York City and someone would walk up to him and say, 'Matt, is that you?' He's the figurehead that everyone knows, and in that sense, it's sad that he's leaving."







"We take those pretty pop songs and, at times, tear them up. We destroy what we build."

 

 


 

 
"To some degree, we'll always be the new band on Saddle Creek because we're not part of that core Holy Trinity."

 

 

With Let It Rest, Tomich goes out on a high note. Released earlier this year as the follow-up to their Saddle Creek Records debut, the CD perfectly melds bone-jarring, over-the-top indie rock with the band's fist-pumping anthem style. The sound is more-varied than earlier releases, constantly straddling that fine line between punk and pop.

"We do 'abrasive' very well, but we can't do the Sonic Youth 'interesting noise' thing for very long. That's not our strength as a band." Oberst said. "You can sit and strum most Sorry About Dresden songs on acoustic guitar. They have that singer/songwriter structure. We take those pretty pop songs and, at times, tear them up. We destroy what we build. I like the freedom of having those sing-along anthems right along with the quiet songs."

SAD also has the distinction of being one of the more uplifting acts on a label that has its share of stark, angry bands. Oberst says he and Roehrig approach songwriting like putting together a collection of short stories rather than the more thematic approach taken by bands such as Cursive.

"My perspective is very skewed," he said. "The first band I was in was with Tim Kasher and Matt Maginn. I grew up with Conor and listening to Norman Bailer which became The Faint. I've watched as all the bands on the label have sort of grown into their voice. They are coming into their own to do what they do very well."

He said being lumped in with such a group of high-quality song writers is a distinct advantage. "Being on Saddle Creek, you can call up a club and they will book you immediately. It's great," he said. "To some degree, we'll always be the new band on Saddle Creek because we're not part of that core Holy Trinity. In that sense, people's opinions of us are stronger one way or another than they would be if we were on a different label. There's a set of preconceptions people have about you due to the label and who you are. You're constantly asked if you've lived up to your potential."

But maybe the biggest advantage to being on Saddle Creek, Oberst said, is working with people you know and trust. "We have a record label we can call up and deal with as friends, not some monolithic organization," he said. "It's nice to be part of that family."



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Copyright 2003 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.