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Landing on the Moon

Landing on the Moon: Odd Bedfellows

story by tim mcmahan


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Lazy-i: Oct. 7, 2009

Landing on the Moon
w/ Noah's Ark Was A Spaceship, Ideal Cleaners and Fortnight
Saturday, Oct. 10, 9 p.m.
The Waiting Room
6212 Maple St.

Omaha indie rock band Landing on the Moon took some chances with its new full-length debut We Make History Now.

The album, which collects songs that go back to when they formed in June 2005, is being released on Young Love Records, a new label with no distribution whose three-band roster resides in New York. More on that later.
Maybe their biggest gamble was using Grubb Inc. Recording and Production Studios to make the album. That's "Grubb" as in Curtis Grubb, long-time frontman to Omaha pop-rock outfit Grasshopper Takeover (GTO), one of the most well-known -- some would say notorious -- local acts of the '90s. GTO's success was aligned more with alt-radio bands like their pals 311 than the indie-music scene that Omaha has become known for and that Landing on the Moon is a part of.
Drummer/vocalist Oliver Morgan said Grubb approached them after hearing them perform.. "He said 'You're a really honest band doing something I haven't seen much of around here,'" Morgan said. "We'd been trying to do the recording ourselves, but didn't think we were doing our songs justice."
Morgan said Grubb's enthusiasm and the fact that he had a piano in his studio -- a must for pianist/vocalist Megan Morgan -- were chief selling points. On the surface, Grubb and Landing on the Moon look like strange bedfellows. "We're a pop band, but we like hardcore music," said guitarist/vocalist John Klemmensen, who rounds out the band with bassist Eric Harris and new guitarist Matt Carroll. "(Grubb) really tried to turn up the pop with us. He'd never recorded anything like our band before."



"His style and taste have always been tied to mainstream, radio-friendly music," Oliver said. "Some of his suggestions we took and some we didn't, but we respected every one of them."
Oliver said Grubb's input helped make the three-part harmonies on album centerpiece "She Wants" soar. On the other hand, Grubb wasn't happy about the lengthy instrumental interlude on the album's second track, "Hit the Road."
"He said 'I just don't understand this,'" Klemmensen said. "He was trying to turn (the song) into a radio cut." In the end, the instrumental stayed.
If there was any friction, it was outweighed by Grubb's "positivity," which Oliver said at times was taken to "hippie levels," and was a contrast to producers he'd worked with in the past with his other band, Little Brazil. "If Curt thought something was great he'd say something like, 'I got goose bumps, dude.' Other producers I've worked with would merely say something like, 'We got it.' On the other hand, if we were struggling trying to get a vocal track and were ready to give up, he'd push us and say something like, 'Gotta be great out of the gate.'"
The product of the unlikely marriage is an album with indie-rock appeal, but also a clean, almost streamlined sound that might raise an eyebrow with FM radio programmers who long ago gave up on (or for that matter, never even considered) indie music.
Landing on the Moon has never been your run-of-the-mill indie band, thanks to music that is driven more by the songs than any specific style. Album standouts like back-beat groover "Where Have We Gone?" forlorn crooner "She Wants" (with a piano line reminiscent of Talking Heads' "Heaven") and edgy album opener "Time Is Gone" have more in common with traditional rock balladry than the usual Saddle Creek/Merge indie jangle.
It was that unorthodox style that got the attention of New York label Young Love Records. Oliver said his brother, Kevin Morgan, discovered the label while searching for New York-based bands on Myspace. "Kevin said, 'You have to check out this girl Quitzow -- she's a cross between Karen O (of Yeah Yeah Yeahs) and The Rentals,'" Oliver said.
Quitzow is Erica Quitzow, who along with her boyfriend, Gary Levitt of the band Setting Sun, run Young Love, and are the label's only artists along with Brooklyn band Skidmore Fountain. "They took a shine to our EP and then played a gig with us at O'Leaver's," Oliver said.
A deal was cut after a 45-minute phone call. Oliver said despite being a new label with no distribution, Young Love gives Landing on the Moon leverage for showcases like CMJ and South by Southwest.
"You get looked at more seriously from in-house promoters," he said of being on the label. "There's no doubt that with this roster and future artists, we can nail down physical distribution, which is less and less important these days. For us it's a big stepping stone and a way to get attention in the New York area" -- where the band hopes to tour perhaps as soon as next summer.
Until then, Landing on the Moon plans on doing some regional touring until they head back into the studio for their next album. Will they work with Grubb again? "For sure," Oliver said, "but we haven't made any decisions on what we'll do for the next one."

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Published in The Omaha Reader Oct. 8, 2009 Copyright © 2009 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.
















"If Curt thought something was great he'd say something like, 'I got goose bumps, dude.' Other producers I've worked with would merely say something like, 'We got it.'"