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Owen examines his hand

Call His Quiet Side Owen

story by tim mcmahan



Lazy-i: November 19, 2002

w/ The Sound of Rails
Monday, Nov. 25
10p.m., $5
The 49'r

49th & Dodge Sts.

Don't go walking up to the performer known as Owen, who's playing at The 49'r Monday, Nov. 25, and call him Owen. Sure, he'll probably respond, and he may even shake your hand. But his name isn't really Owen.

Owen is Mike Kinsella, the driving force behind classic indie band American Football and, with his brother Tim Kinsella, a handful of other Chicago-based acts such as Cap'n Jazz, Joan of Arc and Owls.

On his latest CD, No Good for No One Now, his second full-length on Polyvinyl Records, Kinsella again puts the band aside and writes, produces and plays everything by himself, recording all the tracks in his home studio.

His songs are lonely, acoustic melodies that paint a picture of a guy who has been burned a few times by the ladies and finds himself between lovers (as always), trying to figure out how to get through another night alone. His quiet, raspy whisper sounds world-weary and insecure when he sings lines like, "What else in this room reminds me / Of the relationship I've ruined? / The tables I've made / Strong enough to hold your magazines / But not your tired legs." Weepy stuff, sure, but Kinsella makes it work through sincerity and pretty arrangements that recall Red House Painters and Kyle Fischer (who he toured with last year).



"I've always loved the melodies of The Sundays and The Smiths," Kinsella said. "And I was in a Red House Painters phase for about six years of my life."

He said his songs are about him or "those couple people very close to me. I don't think I made anything up, but I might have projected a bit."

If there's any doubt, when asked if he's happy and what would make him happier, Kinsella responds forlornly, "There are too many things to list, most of which are super personal things, like 'I would be happier if things work out between Katie and this boy,' which really doesn't mean much to anyone except me, you know?"

Yeah, the songs are definitely about him.

Answering questions from his mother's house prior to leaving on a short tour that will take him through the Midwest to Portland and Seattle, Kinsella said playing solo doesn't allow him to match the sound of his records. "It's just me performing," he said. "I don't exactly recreate what's on the record. Usually I'll do 'versions' of those songs, changing the arrangements a bit to fit the different instrumentation, or lack thereof."

Owen CD cover

"I don't blame people for not liking what I do or expect everyone to respect it."



Owen, looking severe...

"I don't think I made anything up, but I might have projected a bit."


The quiet nature of his music could get lost in a noisy bar, especially a place as confined as The 49'r. Kinsella said he tries his best to manage crowd noise. "If I'm playing somewhere and it feels like there are a lot of people interested, then I'll say something to the obnoxious people, like 'Hey, why don't you go to the back and finish your conversation,'" he said. "But if I'm opening up for some band and it seems like 'most' people don't care if I were playing or not, then I'll just put up with it. I don't blame people for not liking what I do or expect everyone to respect it, but I think people should be respectful of the other people in the audience who might."

It''s not such a problem when he's playing drums with his brother in the more kinetic Joan of Arc. Kinsella joked that he's been brothers with Tim "for my whole life."

"We get along pretty good," he said. "I think we're very similar in all of the major character-defining traits. I see him a couple times a week, probably, but that's going to increase quite a bit because we're going to go on a tour together this spring with Joan of Arc."

The two acts, Owen and Joan of Arc, are quite a contrast, and Kinsella says he's not married to either style. "I guess (Owen) is just what's coming out these days," he said. "Who knows what I'll want to be doing in the future. I definitely have some urges to rock out sometimes."

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Published in The Omaha Weekly Nov. 20, 2002. Copyright 2002 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.