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The Saddle Creek stable spawns a supergroup. 

tim mcmahan




Want more Desa facts? Go to the January 2002 Lazy-i Desa interview and the August 2002 interview.



A new Omaha "supergroup" consisting of Saddle Creek Records' biggest stars is using an April 21 benefit concert to unveil its sound to the world.

Guitarist Denver Dalley spent a few patient moments in the upstairs loft of the 13th St. Coffee Shop explaining how to pronounce the band's name, Desaparecidos. The final phonetic pronunciation we agreed on: Day-suh-par-uh-see-tos. Try saying it a few times and the name begins to roll off your tongue.

Dalley said drummer Matt Baum came up with the name, which he said means "the disappeared ones."

"It refers to the practice by some South American governments of kidnapping vocal dissidents and tossing them out of airplanes into the ocean," Dalley said. "Everyone likes the name, but at the same time, there are some doubts. It's kind of tricky."




Along with Dalley and Baum, Desaparecidos includes Ian McElroy on keyboards, Landon Hedges on bass and guitar and Conor Oberst on guitar and vocals. The combined talent represents a sort of Omaha indie-rock supergroup: McElroy and Baum have both played with Oberst as Bright Eyes, while Hedges plays in The Good Life and Baum also used to drum for Red Menace. Bright Eyes and The Good Life both record for Omaha indie-label Saddle Creek Records.

Dalley also has a Saddle Creek Records connection. He's played in Moloko Plus with Joe Knapp, the singer/songwriter behind Saddle Creek recording artist Son, Ambulance. "Joe and I both went to school at Lewis and Clark," Dalley said. "I knew Conor from the acting guild at Emmy Gifford Children's Theater when I was in fifth grade."

Desaparecidos was formed by McElroy and Oberst late last year as a rock band to counter Bright Eyes' more eclectic, confessional, indie-folk sound. "Conor wanted a breath of fresh air, a break from Bright Eyes, though he's planning on recording a full-length soon," Dalley said. "Matt is such a perfect drummer for this style of music. When I got back from spending spring break in Nashville, Landon was in the band. He's a great songwriter, and so is Conor."

The band has been practicing since before Christmas, though few people have been privy to their music. "This is definitely a rock band," Dalley said, "though there's a pop element to it the way there's pop in The Pixies. It's more dynamic and the lyrics are based on the state of affairs in America. They're not political, but more focused on social commentary."

Dalley said the biggest focus, however, was making songs that are upbeat. Don't look for Cursive-style angular guitar bop or Bright Eyes-style acoustic showpieces. Instead, expect power chords, over-the-top drumming and lots of energy. "I was coming up with more dissonant, minor things, and the band said 'Get rid of the minors,'" Dalley said. "We're trying to find something in between."










"Conor wanted a breath of fresh air, a break from Bright Eyes."

"I was coming up with more dissonant, minor things, and the band said, 'Get rid of the minors.' We're trying to find something in between."


Desaparecidos' sound will ultimately be revealed April 21 at a benefit concert.

The benefit concert also will feature performances by Bright Eyes, Cursive and Sorry About Dresden, a Chapel Hill, N.C., band led by singer/guitarist Matt Oberst that is laying down tracks for a new full-length CD at Lincoln's Presto Studios (formerly known as Dead Space) to be released on Saddle Creek Records.

The concert marks only the beginning for Desaparecidos. Unlike Bright Eyes, which features a rotating ensemble based around Oberst and his music, Desaparecidos' line-up is permanent. "This is definitely a set band," Dalley said. "Only time will tell what becomes of it. Hopefully we'll record a full-length at the end of summer and tour. There's a lot of downtime because of Conor and Landon's bands, which are always touring."

In fact, Oberst leaves for Europe at the end of April for a European tour opening for Matador recording artist Arab Strap. That tour follows Bright Eyes opening a slew of dates last month for Steve Malkmus, formerly of the indie-rock kings Pavement. Oberst is arguably the most well-known music personality still living in Omaha. Dalley says he sees how that helps Desaparecidos. But will the band merely be known as "Oberst's rock project"?

"Iím sure that's gonna happen," Dalley said. "Hopefully once we start playing the attention will shift to the rest of the band as well as on Conor. I'm really lucky to be working with all these guys. They're all incredible players. But with Conor in the band, we'll probably get some attention that we wouldn't have otherwise, which is great. It's getting a lot of hype, but ultimately, we're all gonna have fun, that's the main thing."

Dalley said he'll spend the downtime between tours working on his own solo material -- some of which includes music that wasn't quite right for Desaparecidos. "With the band, I throw out ideas and if it doesn't work, it comes back to me," he said, adding that he's got an album's worth of songs that "bleed together. It's real ambient, atmospheric, melodic stuff."

Dalley also is part of a rap project called Team Rigge -- named after a building on Creighton's campus -- with McElroy and Dan Maxwell of Secret Behind Sunday.

"I lived with Clark Baechle of The Faint last semester and we made some beats using a program on my computer," Dalley said. "After that, I laid down a guitar track, and added some odd-ball noises, which we rap over."

Guest rappers have included other Saddle Creek artists, including Knapp. "It's more like a project than a band," Dalley said. "We definitely want to make it into something."

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Published in Omaha Weekly April 11, 2001. Copyright © 2001 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.