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Little Brazil : Band of Indie Brothers

 
story by tim mcmahan


 

 

Lazy-i: January 7, 2004



Statistics w/Little Brazil, Mr. 1986, The Coast Of Nebraska
Jan. 9
Sokol Underground
13th & Martha
$5
9 p.m.


The four guys in Omaha indie rock band Little Brazil carry themselves with such an easy-going vibe you'd think they were brothers instead of a group of just-turned 21-year-olds trying to get people to hear their music.

The appeal comes from their seemingly effortless -- and probably deceptive -- innocence. You can imagine these guys only a few years ago cutting it up at a skate park or slacking at the corner Kwik Shop looking for something to do. Standing around before a practice last week in their rehearsal space -- a walkup that looks down on dirty Saddle Creek Road and a cigarette store -- they seem haphazard and casual, both relaxed and anxious to plug in.

Though Little Brazil frontman Landon Hedges has been kicking the band around for a few years with a varied line-up, it wasn't until last March that he hit upon his perfect combination, with Austin Britton on keyboards, guitar and backing vocals; Corey Browman on drums, and Dan Maxwell on bass. They've known each other for years, either from being in different bands or performing together at different venues. Hedges, a bespeckled, lanky Dennis-the-Menace, grew up across a Benson-neighborhood alley from Maxwell, who looks like a teenage version of Lou Reed. Browman, who also plays in Son, Ambulance, played with Hedges and Maxwell in the Omaha emo band Secret Behind Sunday.


 

 

 

The arty, edgy Britton was last to join. Nurturing his own solo project, he first met Hedges at a Simon Joyner show before playing a number of acoustic nights with him at a West Omaha Godfather's pizza place lovingly referred to as "The Joint."

"We were booked at The 49'r for some solo stuff," Britton said. "I asked Landon if he'd play guitar on my stuff, and he asked if I would play in Little Brazil."

The original line-up also included a violin, but it didn't work out as the band shifted from a twangier style to straight-on rock.

"We turned up the distortion pedals," Hedges explained.

"We started playing two-minute rock songs," Maxwell added, saying that dropping the violin "was a volume thing."

The volume was certainly turned up at a recent Ranch Bowl gig, where the band exploded through a short set of their harder material, culminating with little Landon throwing down not one, but two electric guitars on stage in rockstar gusto.

"That set was not representative of what we do," Britton said. "We were opening for Poison Control Center, and they're freaks. I didn't even bring my keyboards."

"We wanted to get on and off," Hedges said, adding that his guitar tossing was entirely spontaneous. "The songs just speed up at the end of the set and it's as if my arms are going out of their sockets. I just want to get the guitar away from me."

Though rocking is their obvious first love, almost everyone balances school or a career with their music aspirations.

Britton, who works at Delice, will earn a degree in general studies with an emphasis in creative writing from UNO this summer. Maxwell, who landed a job at USA Baby thanks to his friendship with Cursive's Tim Kasher (Kasher's mother manages the place), is studying computer science at UNO, while Browman is an accomplished glass blower, having learned the trade attending Hastings College. He has his own studio and business, which, he points out, doesn't include making bongs.

Hedges, who says he first began writing music by making up his own lyrics to Shovelhead songs, works at Cinnabons in the mall with his mother, and is the only one without definite career plans. But he doesn't seem too concerned; he knows all of his comrades want to make a living playing music and think Little Brazil is their best shot.

"We're taking baby steps," Hedges said. "We'll do a recording, get it mixed, send it out, keep playing, get tighter, write more songs, get a label, record, tour, come home, write, record, tour..."

 


"The songs just speed up at the end of the set and it's as if my arms are going out of their sockets. I just want to get the guitar away from me."

 

 


 

 
"We're all old dudes now. We're not in high school where we we're happy to play in someone's kitchen."

 

 

A just-completed untitled 5-song demo EP is one of those baby steps. Hedges will begin sending it to labels in hopes that one of them bites, targeting indies like Merge and K Records.

The EP isn't the only thing untitled. Chief songwriter Hedges hasn't bothered to come up with song titles either, leaving it to me, he said, to make up my own. Track 1, which we'll call "It's All Going Your Way," is a spacey, slackerish, 5-plus-minute floater that features a weary, syncopated rhythm, lonely echoing guitars and Hedges' boyish voice that starts off matter-of-fact and turns into a post-puberty breaking wail.

Track 2, which we'll call "You're All to Blame," is a more straight-forward indie-rocker, while Track 3 is a blue-sky retro pop-bouncer we'll call "Awkwardly" that skips lightly on Britton's opening keyboards. Track 4, my favorite thanks to its pure road-song tunefulness and playful, deceptively simple lyrics, should be called "Southern Florida, while the closer, a pounder with lots of breaks and Tim Kasher-esque vocals, shall hereby be called "We Fail So Well."

Other than being unashamedly indie, the band doesn't have a particular sound. It's certainly not emo. The closest comparison could be to the long-defunct Topeka band Vitreous Humor and, at moments, Hedges' old band The Good Life, especially on the faster numbers that never lose sight of their embraceable indie-pop roots.

What gives Little Brazil a leg up on the plethora of indie competition is Hedges' love for basic melodies, great guitar lines and his strange, childish warble.

"This band is my heart and soul," he said. "I want to make 10 records with this band. We just want to play music. If we could be on a label like Merge, it would be a dream come true."

The rest of the band agreed.

"We're getting to the stage where it's either gonna be serious or not," Britton said. "We're all old dudes now. We're not in high school where we we're happy to play in someone's kitchen. We've reached a crucial intersection."


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Published in The Omaha Reader Jan. 7, 2004. Copyright 2004 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved. Top and bottom photos copyright 2004 by Bill Sitzmann, used with permission.