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Little Brazil:
Tight Noose, Looser Wheels

story by tim mcmahan



Lazy-i: March 21, 2007

Little Brazil
w/Cap Gun Coup, The Photo Atlas, Dance Me Pregnant
Friday, March 23
9 p.m.
Sokol Underground
13th & Martha

Dispatch from the road circa the afternooon of March 18:

After playing the weekend at the South By Southwest music festival, including a showcase for their label, Mt. Fuji Records, at Big Red Sun nursery in Austin, Little Brazil was docked somewhere outside of Plano making their way across the Lone Star State in a rented van. Frontman Landon Hedges spoke with a cell phone crammed between his neck and shoulder, counting out change for a soda purchased at a roadside convenient store while the rest of the band scoured a map trying to figure out the Texas Highway system.

"There have been high highs and low lows," Hedges said of their tour, which winds down this weekend in Denver, following their CD release party March 23 at Sokol Underground. Among the "high highs," playing in front of 100 people at The Cake Shop in New York City, a sold-out show opening for K Records star Mirah at San Francisco's Bottom of the Hill, and playing alongside fellow Nebraskans Ladyfinger at Chicago's Beat Kitchen.

As for the low lows: "I wouldn't mind not going back to Phoenix again," Hedges said dryly. "We played to an empty room. The promoter of the show was really nice and we still got paid our guarantee, but it was a long drive for no one to be there."

Then there was the van mishap earlier in the tour, 30 miles north of Austin. "I was sleeping and I heard a weird noise. I thought it was the sound the road makes on tire tread. I didn't think anything of it," Hedges said. But moments later, it was followed by a "super-loud" noise. The band watched with wide eyes as one of their van's wheels flew by on their left. Bassist Dan Maxwell pulled the van over to the side of the road while a semi roared by, plowing through the wheel and axel without slowing down.



Jump back six weeks to a cold night in late January.

The boys of Little Brazil sat around a table at a nearly empty Ted and Wally's in the Old Market where Hedges works as a manager, and contemplated the tour described above just days before hitting the road. Only days later, their new album, Tighten the Noose, was due to be released on Mt. Fuji, and with it came hopes of moving ahead just one more step toward an undefined goal that involves success on their own terms.

Recorded over 10 days split between March and May 2006 by local studio pro AJ Mogis (of Presto! Studios, now ARC Studios), Tighten the Noose takes the band's homespun indie rock and makes it glow with an intensity that far exceeds their 2004 full-length debut, You and Me. That record was a nice, if harmless, collection of jangly college rock with minimal production values. The new one distinguishes itself with shimmering guitars that interlace with Hedges' usual, down-to-earth sing-along conversations with anonymous off-screen lovers who somehow always manage to disappoint him (or he, them). His childlike, little-brother croon cuts through the shoe-gaze fuzz to find common ground with all the other confessional punks that came before him, from Sebadoh/Dinosaur Jr. to The Weakerthans and Sunday's Best.

While the band acknowledges that Mogis is one reason why the new album sounds more cohesive than the band's debut, another is the addition of drummer Oliver Morgan and guitarist Greg Edds -- still "the new guys" even though they joined the band nearly three years ago.

Morgan came aboard the summer of 2004, shortly after former drummer, Cory Broman, disembarked to concentrate on his glass-blowing business (though Broman later ended up playing a European tour with Statistics).

At Morgan's first rehearsal, then-guitarist Austin Britton shocked the band by announcing he, too, was quitting to pursue grad school. Enter Edds, who was doing an internship at Saddle Creek Records. "I still remember the phone call," Edds said. "(Cursive's) Matt Maginn handed me the phone and said 'It's Landon.' I figured he probably wanted to borrow my guitar. Instead he says, 'What are you doing… this year.'"

Edds, who was finishing up his degree in Public Relations and Advertising at UNO, had intended to pursue a career in band booking and promotion. But after consulting with his mom, he took the Little Brazil gig instead.

Despite the line-up changes, the core of Little Brazil has remained intact. Hedges started the band in 2002 as a solo project from his chores as a member of Saddle Creek bands The Good Life and Desaparecidos. Maxwell, an old pal of Hedges from such bands as Secret Behind Sunday, joined in '03.












"There was always a side of me that said 'Fuck that.' I didn't want to use that connection because of my resentment toward the whole situation. But my friends said, 'You're an idiot. Take advantage of it.'"












"We're getting a little bit back, but we're working our asses off for it."

But Little Brazil quickly became more than a side project for Hedges after he was unceremoniously thrown out of both The Good Life and Desaparecidos later in '02 for reasons that remain undisclosed to this day. That didn't stop him from using his past connections to get club owners to take his new band seriously. Now years later, those connections are starting to weigh like a dead albatross around the band's neck.

"We used that history on the first couple of tours to get our foot into some doors," Hedges said. "There was always a side of me that said 'Fuck that.' I didn't want to use that connection because of my resentment toward the whole situation. But my friends said, 'You're an idiot. Take advantage of it.'"

Morgan, who booked the majority of tours up until this year, said the Good Life/Desa connection did, in fact, help bookings. "There are guys who responded to me by saying, 'We'd be honored to have ex members of Desa play here.'"

"It's never been something that's a negative from a business standpoint," Hedges added. "We've worked hard to make a name for ourselves. These days they want us for us."

Maxwell is skeptical that Hedges' history has had an impact on drawing people to Little Brazil shows. "They don't say, 'Holy shit, it's the guy from Desa.'"

Still, Maxwell said fans are aware of the band's history and its connection to the Omaha music scene. "They ask us what Conor is doing right now," Maxwell said. "I usually respond with, 'I don't know. We're here with you tonight.'"

"There are fans out there that love that style of music and ask us what it's like to be part of it," Edds explained. "I don't mind when they're being sincere. On the other hand, there are the ones who hand us gifts to bring back to Conor and Tim (Kasher).'"

"It's annoying at this point in our careers," Hedges said.

"But it's getting to be less and less of a problem," Morgan added. "We're starting to make our own mark."

It's a mark that's been created by numerous national tours, which helped sell more than 3,000 copies of their Mt. Fuji debut, sign with a publicist -- Skyscraper Media -- as well as a booking agent, Skinny Touring out of Seattle. And even though they've sold nearly 200 copies of Tighten the Noose so far on this tour, there are still plenty of Phoenixes lying in wait to remind the band they have more work to do before they can quit their day jobs.

"We're getting a little bit back, but we're working our asses off for it," Hedges said.

"It's been a hard thing to break into," Morgan added, "but I'm probably the most confident person in the band, while Landon's the most pessimistic."

"I'm not pessimistic," Hedges shot back.

"But you're not overly optimistic, either," Maxwell said.

"The things we have we earned," Hedges replied. "I'm not pessimistic, I think we're right on track."

"I don't think we'll ever be satisfied," Edds said. "We're working for everything we get, and all of it is just one more step along the way."

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Published in The Omaha Reader March 21, 2007. Copyright © 2007 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.