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Everyone's Gone to The Movies

 
story by tim mcmahan


 

 

Lazy-i: Dec. 18, 2001

Dec. 21
Neva Dinova,
The Good Life, Race for Titles, The Movies;
The Music Box,
7777 Cass St., 
Omaha
$7
18+.

Kicking back, listening to a CDR of The Movies' just-completed CD -- working title Anonymous American -- the conversation naturally turned to the band's influences. So varied and contrasting were the opinions, let's just say no one finished anyone's sentences.

What got the ball rolling was a comment that the band's new 7-song full-length debut sounds like Exile/Let It Bleed-era Rolling Stones by way of Uncle Tupelo. Though lead singer/songwriter Matt Whipkey has a snarly vocal delivery similar to a young Mick Jaggar, it's his band that sells the roots-flavored, bluesy rock that borders on Honky Tonk Woman alt-country.

"I'm not gonna say I'm a huge Stones fan," Whipkey says, leaning back in a red leather sofa in the offices of Omaha's Kickstand Music, an independent music marketing company located near Dundee where the band has a practice space. "I listened to Main St. twice. My top five influences are Bob Dylan, Nirvana -- the band that made me want to play guitar -- Uncle Tupelo, Springsteen, and probably The Beatles."

"We have a lot of overlapping influences," says pedal steel and lead guitarist Mike Friedman, whose distinctive playing style, along with Whipkey's songwriting, provides the core of the band's uniquely twangy flavor. "But there are things I listen to that they don't." He points to The Louvin Bros., a close-harmony brother act whose gospel, folk and hillbilly stylings placed them among the top artists in country music... in the 1940s and '50s.

"I also love Neil Young and Crazy Horse," Friedman says, bringing the influences a little closer to home. "Then there's The Band and the old Buck Owens stuff before Hee-Haw. I dig Wilco and Uncle Tupelo, and I guess I see them as an influence, though their influences are probably the same as mine."

Bassist Bob Carrig's favorites are a departure from Friedman's and Whipkey's, pointing to the Beach Boys and jazz greats Miles Davis and John Coltrane. "I'm probably the least informed as far as contemporary rock goes," said Carrig, whose roots are in classical music, having played trombone and tuba throughout his years at South High School. "I'm also a big indie music fan -- indie is played with more heart and less unified structure than mainstream music. I haven't heard an indie CD I didn't like."

Finally, there's drummer Doug Kabourek, whose musical taste strays even further from the rest, leaning heavily toward Flaming Lips/Weezer territory, as anyone who's sampled Kabourek's fine solo work as Fizzle Like a Flood and The Laces can attest. Golden Sand and The Grand Stand, Fizzle Like a Flood's last full-length, was one of the more-lauded Omaha releases of 2000, while The Laces' Forever For Now is listed as an All Music Guide critic's pick. Both were recorded in Kabourek's bedroom studio.

 

 

 

Despite the mix of talents and their influences, The Movies is clearly Whipkey's vision and an extension of the work he began a few years ago as a solo folk performer. Whipkey began kicking around the Omaha music scene in '99 after moving back from Lincoln following yet another failed attempt at gaining a university education. Influenced by singer/songwriter Simon Joyner, Whipkey self-released his solo CD EP, The Innocence, in '00 -- a slim collection of Nebraska-era Bruce Springsteen-flavored tunes that highlighted his storytelling style accompanied mostly by a lone guitar. Its commercial success is reflected in the pile of unsold CDs stacked in his basement

Shortly afterward, Whipkey formed The Movies with a revolving door of guitarists and drummers. He met Kabourek at a Fizzle Like a Flood gig with Little Brazil and The Mariannes at the now-defunct Shock in downtown Omaha, and talked him into recording The Movies' three-song demo in Kabourek's bedroom. Kabourek would eventually climb behind the drum set as a last-minute fill-in for The Movies' Battle of the Bands performance at The Ranch Bowl last summer. "The first beat of the first song was so right," Whipkey said. "I knew we found our drummer."

Thereafter, however, Kabourek continued to deny that he was a permanent member of The Movies. Even during last week's interview, there was some question as to his status. "I'm in the band, but in my mind, I'm a session drummer," Kabourek said. "I just do what Matt says and if it ever gets to be a pain in the ass, I'll quit. It's not really getting in the way of my other project, though. Fizzle is something I do at home."

Though Kabourek and Carrig were already in the band, the final Movies line-up didn't materialize until later this summer. Whipkey's second guitar player quit shortly after the Ranch Bowl gig. "I was sick of guitar players," Whipkey said. "I figured I could get two amps and it would sound like two guitars. Then Mike came into Dietz Music (where Whipkey works) and began playing some hot guitar."

Friedman had been in Omaha for six months after moving from Sacramento to follow his girlfriend. "After eight years in Los Angeles, I wanted to go somewhere else," he said. "Matt knew about Wilco and we talked about gear and what guitar tones we liked and disliked. We played together and had a gig two days later at the Howard St. I got to drink so much free beer that night -- when you play in L.A., you only get one."

Friedman's pedal steel, along with his confident leads, added a whole new dimension and immediately pushed The Movies into the next tier of Omaha bands that, like the Saddle Creek bunch and Whipkey's idol, Simon Joyner, strive to create their own distinctive sound and style rather than emulate what's on the radio. After only a few months and almost constant gigging, the band was ready to enter the studio.

 


"I was sick of guitar players. I figured I could get two amps and it would sound like two guitars."



"People might think I'm arrogant because I talk about my band a lot . Why shouldn't I? I love it."


 

Recorded in three days last October at Lincoln's Presto Studios, Anonymous American captures the band's rollicking stage intensity and back-roads good-times energy. Think twangy Stones meets Creedence with a dash of Neil Young and The Silos thrown in for good measure.

Songs like "Seventeen" take Whipkey's country-folk ballad style from his solo days and push it to another level, thanks to a wall of guitars and solos that would make Neil Young grin. On "Fourth of July" Whipkey's croon turns tractor punk howl a la Frontier Trust. "Run and Hide" is a Creedence-style stomper while CD closer "Melanie" is part Dylan part Springsteen and all Whipkey.

Lyrically, Whipkey is still plowing up stories about tired, blue-collar America. "Anonymous," with its chiming pedal steel, is a low-key barroom hollar about coping with the desolation of living the 9-to-5 with little hope of escape: "Johnny works full time for the government / He kept his mind off dreaming / Did his best just to pay the rent / And keep on drinking."

To some, there is an arrogance about Whipkey that dominates everything he does. Maybe it's the way he carries himself -- six-feet-something with a thick head of hair in a modified (George Harrison) Beatles cut, Whipkey dominates a room. To his detractors, he can be a blowhard, a loud-mouth know-it-all that stands in front of the line placing his band on a pedestal as among the best rock bands in the city.

To others, however, Whipkey is a well-meaning if not opinionated lad, brimming with youthful confidence about his songs and his band.

"People might think I'm arrogant because I talk about my band a lot," Whipkey says without a hint of defensiveness. "Why shouldn't I? I love it. If people talked about how much they loved their wife, would you call them arrogant?

"It would be silly to think that my band is the best band out there. I will never be on the same level as a lot of bands, but you can only look up to your idols for so long."

Whipkey is the first to admit that The Movies' path is anything but well-defined. The band only has CDRs to show for their hard work. "We had some financial backing to get it recorded," Whipkey said. "Now we're looking for ways to get it pressed. After that, I want to get out and play. The touring will happen this summer, but right now, my main concern is getting the CD done. The funny thing about this band is that a lot of people believe in it and that makes me feel good."


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Published in The Omaha Weekly Dec. 19, 2001. Copyright 2001 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.