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Shinyville: Cult of Personality

story by tim mcmahan



Lazy-i: Aug. 23, 2006

w/ Gays in the Military, Plack Blague
Tuesday, Aug. 29, 9:30 p.m.
1322 So. Saddle Creek Rd.

I'm a tad disappointed in Shinyville.

The Omaha/Lincoln rock band's weird, science-fiction essence has all the elements of a pseudo-cult centered on a futuristic ideology, zany costumes and a quirky, indie-progressive sound.

So it's a bit disappointing to discover that there's no sinister plan behind their methods, even though they've gone out of their way to sell their "cult" on the Internet.

Check out the title bar at "Looking for a new religion? Try Shinyville-in-a-box!" it says. Their myspace page greets you with "Welcome to Shinyville. Join the Cult," while their "about" statement proclaims: "Shinyville is a cult. Shinyville is a secret society. Shinyville is at once apolitical and revolutionary. Shinyville is a formula for the promotion of epilepsy, schizophrenia, and tripolar disorder. Shinyville isn't an injection of counter-culture into your jugular." That same statement is translated into Coptic symbols in the liner notes of the band's new CD.




Try Googling "Shinyville" and you'll find, where a fictitious Gloria Hoffenberg states: "They are Lucifer's work incarnate. God hates Shinyville. I know because I speak to Him daily." The page goes on to list upcoming Shinyville gig dates. Of course the band denies any connection to the site, just like they deny that there's an over-arching cult concept behind the project.

"The lyrics are character sketches," said frontman Scott Scholz, a.k.a. Mr. PanTastic. "There are a few songs about cults, but it's not really a specific concept."

"When people come to our shows and see our videos, they think it's a narrative and fill in the pieces," said drummer Brian Alt, a.k.a. Dr. Tao Honeybunsen. "But people take a story out of it that isn't 100 percent intentional."

"If it is a cult, it is what it is," Scholz added. "It would be a pretty easy cult to join, but I wouldn't call it a cult."

Asked via e-mail what exactly is the cult of Shinyville, guitarist Jaime O'Bradovich, a.k.a. Pope-bot 2012, replied, "Just three guys and a video iPod."

But deny it all they want, Shinyville is more than just another local rock band with a jonze for oddly progressive, experimental funk metal. Formed in 2002 via another local cult called SLAMOmaha -- a Nebraska-based arts and music website with over-active discussion boards -- the trio merges art, ideology and sound in multi-media live performances that border on cabaret. Stage antics include colorful plastic costumes, video projection and a motivational speaker named Butch Fever who pitches Shinyville as a self-improvement product. Weird? You bet.

"We all have interests outside of music that we like to incorporate to make the experience as full as possible," Scholz said. "There are aspects that are slightly eclectic. The costumes seem to diffuse the situation. If we're funny to look at, it doesn't have an art-school pretension. It's fun and creative vs. weird and scary."

"Some people really like it," Alt said. "Others are confused by it."




"If we're funny to look at, it doesn't have an art-school pretension. It's fun and creative vs. weird and scary."










"I want my tone to be horrible; so horrible in fact that it doesn't sound like a guitar."



The weirdness is encapsulated in the band's debut, No Sleep till Babylon, just released on local avant-garde/experimental label Public Eyesore. The 14-track CD combines Alt's intricate drum programming (influenced by Aphex Twin) with synths and vocals by Scholz and O'Bradovich's other-worldly guitar sounds.

"I'd rather explore the possibilities of music composition using the guitar and effects as a tool to do so, rather than just play some power chords and worry about how good my tone is," said O'Bradovich, who wrote "a good chunk" of the band's music. "I want my tone to be horrible; so horrible in fact that it doesn't sound like a guitar."

O'Bradovich said he recently had a guitar made with a synth tone generator built into it "so now I can make even more interesting sounds in addition to the general effects pedals."

The result is a distinctly modern version of rock not built around chords but around intermixing melodies and hyperactive rhythms. Listeners are mewed into thinking they're hearing traditional no-wave rock, until the band turns its melodies slightly inward, creating purposely odd and slightly disjointed, anxiety-driven counter-melodies that are at once both conventional and quirky. Think of it as a combination of latter-day XTC, Fripp-era King Crimson, Mike Patton and Beck.

Through it all, Scholz croons lines about such topics as the Heaven's Gate cult, Court TV and local rock musician/personality Darren Keen of The Show Is the Rainbow. The thread that holds it together is an overriding sense of alienation in a world of technology and consumerism. "Even our name reflects a sense of technology and modernity in the face of a town's values and ideologies," said Scholz, who writes all the lyrics. "In that sense, there's a loose concept around what we do."

The band will take their show on the road for a couple two-week tours with fellow Public Eyesore bands this fall. They have no aspirations of becoming an arena band, only converting a few more "followers."

"I can't see Shinyville becoming huge, but we'll keep going. Music is something we have to do, it's part of who we are," said O'Bradovich. "Having some CDs out with music we can be proud of is a huge, rewarding step for us. Now we'll see if the masses wish to consume it."

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Published in The Omaha Reader Aug. 23, 2006. Copyright © 2006 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.