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With a voice in the Lillith Tradition, Omaha's Echo Farm just want people to listen. echofarm.jpg (35960 bytes)

Echo Farm: The Sound of Crowds Growing

by Tim McMahan

"Rebecca's the type who always sees the glass half full, whereas Ariann's glass better be full, dammit."
Echo Farm had their hands full from the git go.

It was a post-Husker-game Saturday night at the 18th Amendment, a West Omaha tavern that caters as much to the wild and crazy sports fanatic as the music lover. Interspersed between the twenty-somethings who inhabit Omaha's tumor-like apartment complexes between "L" and Harrison streets were little pockets of middle-aged Husker fans, still decked out in the ol' red and creme. They'd never heard of Echo Farm and could care less because as the band took the stage, the Washington/Arizona game was live on the 18th's bank of TVs that hang like giant neon eyeballs above the bar.

Halfway through their set, co-lead vocalist Ariann Anderson addressed the handful of people slouched on the deck behind the main seating. Most were glued to the game and their Bud Lights, while four guys furiously slugged it out on the fooseball table, their ball caps sliding off their buzz-cut heads. "I just want to send out a special 'hello' to all of you up their on the deck," she says. No one even looked over. Washington led 21 to 20; it was a tight game. "I'm glad you guys are here for the music."

With that, the band lit into the funky, darkly sarcastic "Day in Blood" from their new self-released CD "Undone." The crowd in front of the stage bobbed their heads to the beat and watched as Anderson and cohort Rebecca Rotert did a slinky bump-and-grind and purred a harmony face-to-face.

It'd be nice to be able to tell you that by the end of the set, while the band tore into a heavy chunk of rock called "This Hungry Girl," that no one was watching the game. But this is Go Big Red country, and that would be a lie.

"Some of us (in the band) cater to the people who are listening," Rotert says the day after the show from the band's dark and incense-hazed practice space. "Meanwhile, Ariann focuses on the five people who aren't listening. We're not to the point yet where we can expect the audience to listen to us."

"We do cater to two different groups," Anderson replied, frankly. "I will go out of my way to get a person's attention who is disinterested."

"Let me sum them up for you," says drummer Quinn Sikora. "Rebecca's the type who always sees the glass half full, whereas Ariann's glass better be full, dammit."


The two vocalists are the heart of Echo Farm. If you see them on stage side by side, you'd guess they were sisters. They've known each other for so long, they might as well be. The two first sang together in choir and musicals while in uniform at Marian High School. After graduation, Anderson and guitarist Allison Ravnholdt performed in Lavender Couch, one of the area's top female-led bands in the mid-'90s. Rotert moved back to Omaha shortly after that band broke up and started singing with Anderson again. After hearing a demo by the two, bassist Brad Dienstbier, formerly of Rosegarden Funeral, joined with recruit Sikora (who had played with Dienstbier in The Beef Curtains) to form Echo Farm in March 1997.

They count among their influences Fleetwood Mac, Ani Difranco, Marvin Gaye, Joni Mitchell and Trip Shakespeare. But most of the songs on their new CD more closely resemble the works of the super-popular Lillith Fair bands, such as Sarah McLachlin and the Indigo Girls. The tracks are quiet, acoustic love songs with a ticklish rhythm guitar, the occasional keyboard and a solid bottom provided by Sikora and Dienstbier. There are exceptions, such as "Back in Line," "This Hungry Girl" and album-closer "Water of my Luck," which sport a rougher, heavier sound that harkens back to Throwing Muses or Madder Rose.

"We really try to mix it up," Anderson says. "There's a lot of bands out there that put out CD after CD of songs that sound alike. You listen to Third Eye Blind or Sublime, and everything sounds the same. That familiarity sells records, but doesn't necessarily make good records."

"Emotions drive us," Rotert says. "Whether it's quiet or loud, we follow the personality of the song."

"We have a hard time getting a huge number of people to our shows," Anderson adds, "because when you don't have a distinct sound, people don't really know you. I'd rather have five people in the room that know us than 500 who could care less."

The band hopes to attract a larger crowd than that when they host a CD-release party Oct. 9 at Sokol Auditorium, with special guest Matt Wilson formerly of Trip Shakespeare. It's part of plan to push the CD as hard as possible locally and develop a larger following. With the current popularity of female-fronted bands, Echo Farm certainly has the ingredients and talent to move up to the next level of success. Anderson and Rotert say they're willing to do what it takes, whether its touring or signing a deal with a label, though no one in the band seems to expect fame and fortune.

"We all want to be able to make a living doing this," says Anderson.

"Actually, I want a rocket car," quips Sikora.

"And a solid gold house,' says Dienstbier.

But when Anderson adds, "Every one of us has the rock star dream," the rest of the band quickly says, "I don't."

"It's a fine line between doing this for a living and being rock stars," Rotert says.

"I just want to have a long-standing body of work," Anderson says. "Bands like Husker Du or Everything But the Girl have always been able to do this and have people say 'I love what you do,' and can still go into a Target store and buy toilet paper without a bodyguard. I don't ever want to regret any part of this."

"I think we have a lot going for us because we have this family thing going," says Rotert. "No matter what goes on, I feel we're going to take care of each other. I just took out a huge loan to finish this project. I can't imagine anyone in this band would hang us out to dry. We watch out for each other. I feel safe in this crowd."

(return to the profiles home)

Originally printed in The Reader October 8, 1998.

Copyright 1998 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

When Anderson adds, "Every one of us has the rock star dream," the rest of the band quickly says, "I don't."










Yeah, but is it any good?

Find out for yourself.

Listen to to the track "Back in Line" online at BZP Jukebox.