Everyone's Gone to The
story by tim mcmahan
Lazy-i: Dec. 18, 2001
The Good Life, Race for Titles, The Movies;
The Music Box,
7777 Cass St.,
back, listening to a CDR of The Movies' just-completed CD -- working title
Anonymous American -- the conversation naturally turned to the
band's influences. So varied and contrasting were the opinions, let's just
say no one finished anyone's sentences.
What got the ball rolling was a comment that the band's new 7-song
full-length debut sounds like Exile/Let It Bleed-era Rolling Stones
by way of Uncle Tupelo. Though lead singer/songwriter Matt Whipkey has a
snarly vocal delivery similar to a young Mick Jaggar, it's his band that
sells the roots-flavored, bluesy rock that borders on Honky Tonk Woman
"I'm not gonna say I'm a huge Stones fan," Whipkey says,
leaning back in a red leather sofa in the offices of Omaha's Kickstand
Music, an independent music marketing company located near Dundee where
the band has a practice space. "I listened to Main St. twice.
My top five influences are Bob Dylan, Nirvana -- the band that made me
want to play guitar -- Uncle Tupelo, Springsteen, and probably The
"We have a lot of overlapping influences," says pedal steel
and lead guitarist Mike Friedman, whose distinctive playing style, along
with Whipkey's songwriting, provides the core of the band's uniquely
twangy flavor. "But there are things I listen to that they
don't." He points to The Louvin Bros., a close-harmony brother act
whose gospel, folk and hillbilly stylings placed them among the top
artists in country music... in the 1940s and '50s.
"I also love Neil Young and Crazy Horse," Friedman says,
bringing the influences a little closer to home. "Then there's The
Band and the old Buck Owens stuff before Hee-Haw. I dig Wilco and Uncle
Tupelo, and I guess I see them as an influence, though their influences
are probably the same as mine."
Bassist Bob Carrig's favorites are a departure from Friedman's and
Whipkey's, pointing to the Beach Boys and jazz greats Miles Davis and John
Coltrane. "I'm probably the least informed as far as contemporary
rock goes," said Carrig, whose roots are in classical music, having
played trombone and tuba throughout his years at South High School.
"I'm also a big indie music fan -- indie is played with more heart
and less unified structure than mainstream music. I haven't heard an indie
CD I didn't like."
Finally, there's drummer Doug Kabourek, whose musical taste strays even
further from the rest, leaning heavily toward Flaming Lips/Weezer
territory, as anyone who's sampled Kabourek's fine solo work as Fizzle
Like a Flood and The Laces can attest. Golden Sand and The Grand Stand,
Fizzle Like a Flood's last full-length, was one of the more-lauded Omaha
releases of 2000, while The Laces' Forever For Now is listed as an All
Music Guide critic's pick. Both were recorded in Kabourek's bedroom
Despite the mix of talents and their
influences, The Movies is clearly Whipkey's vision and an extension of the
work he began a few years ago as a solo folk performer. Whipkey began
kicking around the Omaha music scene in '99 after moving back from Lincoln
following yet another failed attempt at gaining a university education.
Influenced by singer/songwriter Simon Joyner, Whipkey self-released his
solo CD EP, The Innocence, in '00 -- a slim collection of Nebraska-era
Bruce Springsteen-flavored tunes that highlighted his storytelling style
accompanied mostly by a lone guitar. Its commercial success is reflected
in the pile of unsold CDs stacked in his basement
Shortly afterward, Whipkey formed The Movies with a revolving door of
guitarists and drummers. He met Kabourek at a Fizzle Like a Flood gig with
Little Brazil and The Mariannes at the now-defunct Shock in downtown
Omaha, and talked him into recording The Movies' three-song demo in
Kabourek's bedroom. Kabourek would eventually climb behind the drum set as
a last-minute fill-in for The Movies' Battle of the Bands performance at
The Ranch Bowl last summer. "The first beat of the first song was so
right," Whipkey said. "I knew we found our drummer."
Thereafter, however, Kabourek continued to deny that he was a permanent
member of The Movies. Even during last week's interview, there was some
question as to his status. "I'm in the band, but in my mind, I'm a
session drummer," Kabourek said. "I just do what Matt says and
if it ever gets to be a pain in the ass, I'll quit. It's not really
getting in the way of my other project, though. Fizzle is something I do
Though Kabourek and Carrig were already in the band, the final Movies
line-up didn't materialize until later this summer. Whipkey's second
guitar player quit shortly after the Ranch Bowl gig. "I was sick of
guitar players," Whipkey said. "I figured I could get two amps
and it would sound like two guitars. Then Mike came into Dietz Music
(where Whipkey works) and began playing some hot guitar."
Friedman had been in Omaha for six months after moving from Sacramento
to follow his girlfriend. "After eight years in Los Angeles, I wanted
to go somewhere else," he said. "Matt knew about Wilco and we
talked about gear and what guitar tones we liked and disliked. We played
together and had a gig two days later at the Howard St. I got to drink so
much free beer that night -- when you play in L.A., you only get
Friedman's pedal steel, along with his confident leads, added a whole
new dimension and immediately pushed The Movies into the next tier of
Omaha bands that, like the Saddle Creek bunch and Whipkey's idol, Simon
Joyner, strive to create their own distinctive sound and style rather than
emulate what's on the radio. After only a few months and almost constant
gigging, the band was ready to enter the studio.
"I was sick of guitar
players. I figured I could get two amps and it would sound like two
"People might think I'm
arrogant because I talk about my band a lot . Why shouldn't I? I
Recorded in three days last October at
Lincoln's Presto Studios, Anonymous American captures the band's
rollicking stage intensity and back-roads good-times energy. Think twangy
Stones meets Creedence with a dash of Neil Young and The Silos thrown in
for good measure.
Songs like "Seventeen" take Whipkey's country-folk ballad
style from his solo days and push it to another level, thanks to a wall of
guitars and solos that would make Neil Young grin. On "Fourth of
July" Whipkey's croon turns tractor punk howl a la Frontier Trust.
"Run and Hide" is a Creedence-style stomper while CD closer
"Melanie" is part Dylan part Springsteen and all Whipkey.
Lyrically, Whipkey is still plowing up stories about tired, blue-collar
America. "Anonymous," with its chiming pedal steel, is a low-key
barroom hollar about coping with the desolation of living the 9-to-5 with
little hope of escape: "Johnny works full time for the government
/ He kept his mind off dreaming / Did his best just to pay the rent / And
keep on drinking."
To some, there is an arrogance about Whipkey that dominates everything
he does. Maybe it's the way he carries himself -- six-feet-something with
a thick head of hair in a modified (George Harrison) Beatles cut, Whipkey
dominates a room. To his detractors, he can be a blowhard, a loud-mouth
know-it-all that stands in front of the line placing his band on a
pedestal as among the best rock bands in the city.
To others, however, Whipkey is a well-meaning if not opinionated lad,
brimming with youthful confidence about his songs and his band.
"People might think I'm arrogant because I talk about my band a
lot," Whipkey says without a hint of defensiveness. "Why
shouldn't I? I love it. If people talked about how much they loved their
wife, would you call them arrogant?
"It would be silly to think that my band is the best band out
there. I will never be on the same level as a lot of bands, but you can
only look up to your idols for so long."
Whipkey is the first to admit that The Movies' path is anything but
well-defined. The band only has CDRs to show for their hard work. "We
had some financial backing to get it recorded," Whipkey said.
"Now we're looking for ways to get it pressed. After that, I want to
get out and play. The touring will happen this summer, but right now, my
main concern is getting the CD done. The funny thing about this band is
that a lot of people believe in it and that makes me feel good."
Published in The Omaha Weekly Dec. 19, 2001. Copyright © 2001 Tim
McMahan. All rights reserved.