"We had reached the point where we weren't having much fun," Whipkey said of his previous band. "And if you're not the Rolling Stones, what's the point of not having fun playing music?"
That didn't stop Whipkey from continuing to write new material, however. He began playing the new songs with Zimmerman, who also plays in Citizens Band, The Ground Tyrants and Sarah Benck and The Robbers -- the legendary Omaha band Benck has fronted for years.
"He learned a handful of songs and it was fun until we realized it was stupid to not have a bass player," Whipkey said. His first thought was to ask Anonymous American's Bobby Carrig to join them. But…
"Sarah told me she had a bass and would like to play for us," Zimmerman said. "I told Matt to ask her."
Maybe Whipkey hadn't thought of the idea himself because at the time Benck didn't know how to play bass. But she was willing to learn to fill out the trio. "It was a completely new instrument for me," she said. "Some of the theory passes over from guitar, but when you're singing and playing guitar, you can stop and let it ring. When playing bass, you have to be there the whole time. When it's not there -- or when you mess up -- people notice."
And that's when it can get kind of awkward.
"It took a little time for me to not have my feelings hurt by band leader Matt if I did something wrong or played the wrong note," Benck said. "It wasn't my band mate pointing it out, it was my boyfriend."
"Over the course of a relationship, you develop a more frank communication," said Whipkey, who's been with Benck for a couple years. "There's not a lot of tip-toeing around."
"He never yelled at me, but it was hard for me not to put up my defenses," Benck said. "I felt so unsure about the instrument that anything pointed out automatically made me more defensive." That tension would ease as Benck quickly learned to master the bass, but other issues involved in soul mates becoming band mates also took time to work out.
"I'm kind of OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) about things, and this is certainly one of them," Whipkey said of the band. "If anything, I jabber on and on about band stuff and it probably annoys the hell out of her. I've never been in a situation where I was around a band member this much."
"We both respect each other, that's part of why we're together in the first place," Benck said. "We understand what music means to us. I know when I hear him playing a song 50 times and it gets on my nerves to say nothing, because I know that it means so much to him. I guess it's just a respect thing."