lazyhome         reviews         hype         new.gif (913 bytes) webboard                interviews

In the Doghouse with Neva Dinova

story by tim mcmahan



Lazy-i: Dec. 12, 2001

Dec. 21
Neva Dinova,
The Good Life, Race for Titles, The Movies;
The Music Box,
7777 Cass St., 

So who's the dog? The band refused to be photographed the day of the interview. "This new thing we're doing without pictures separates the art from the artist," Bellows said. Fact is the band said they couldn't imagine sitting for a photographer. The only one who would stand still is Bellows' dog, Purty, a Dalmatian that darted around the basement practice space during the interview.

Though they've been around since '93, the guys in Neva Dinova can pin-point the origins of their current line-up to one disastrous gig at Grandmother's restaurant on 84th and L St.

It was a little more than two years ago, and the band was in its normal state of flux regarding personnel. In fact, the first time I ever saw the band was years earlier, when they opened for Commander Venus and Norman Bailer at the now-gone Capital Bar and Grill. "That was the night of the 'rotating drummers,'" said guitarist, lead vocalist and primary songwriter Jake Bellows from the band's practice space in the basement of his modest South Omaha home.

"Conor Oberst, Todd and Clark Baechle each took a turn behind the drums during our set," he said. "It was the first time we met Todd." Months later, the Baechle brother's band, Norman Bailer, turned into The Faint. Shortly afterward, Commander Venus disbanded and Oberst began performing as Bright Eyes, and the rest is history. 

But back to that ill-fated night at Grandmother's, one of Omaha's less-auspicious night spots more famous for its onion rings than its role as a music venue. Bellows and Neva's other original member, bassist/vocalist Heath Koontz, along with recently added guitarist Tim Haes and another soon-to-be-replaced drummer played a set so horrible that Bellows said afterward the band put down their instruments for a few months. "Do you really have to mention the Grandmother's gig in the article?" Bellows asked.




Unfortunately it's unavoidable since it was an historic night for the band. In addition to being the first gig for guitarist Mike Kratkey ("I only played on three songs so you can't blame me"), tending bar was future drummer Bo Anderson. "I hadn't touched a drumstick since high school," Anderson said. "I saw that show and said, 'How hard can it be?'"

Two years have since passed and these days there's something of a buzz around Neva Dinova, thanks to their solid new full-length that seems to have caught the eye of every local indie-rock label, but that ultimately landed on the record store shelves without a catalog number.

Recorded by the Mogis brothers last July at Lincoln's Presto studios -- where most of the Saddle Creek posse also records -- the self-titled CD is a grab-bag of alt-rock musical styles that shift from track to track, sewn together by Bellows' whimsy Thom Yorke-esque vocals and the music's overall slouched-shouldered feel. The sound ranges from dreamy, echoey guitar-driven head trips to "Sea of Love"-style ballads to full-out anthemic rockers. Through it all, Neva Dinova provides a dense, almost fuzzy-headed atmosphere that's a cross between early Radiohead and the latter-day slacker-rock stylings of Pavement.

Bellows is unapologetic about the band's influences. "We jump at the chance to talk about the bands we love," he said, leaning over a large blue can of tobacco while rolling his own cigarettes, a Velvet Underground and Nico poster on the wall over his right shoulder. If there's a theme to the band's lifestyle, it's beer and cigarettes, as a table nestled among the second-hand furniture quickly filled with spent PBR cans and ashtrays brimmed with cig butts. "The CD has a lot of variety on it. You go from a song that features a saw and upright bass to a track with three distorted guitars and lots of rock and roll drumming. I like the fact that we don't have a style to stick to and that people can't peg our sound. It's all based on the songs."

"The biggest thing that drew me in as a fan was how the band is song-oriented rather than sound-oriented," Anderson added. "The second time I saw them play, for example, they opened with a Leonard Cohen cover."


"You go from a song that features a saw and upright bass to a track with three distorted guitars and lots of rock and roll drumming."


"We're getting all the advantages of being on Saddle Creek without actually being on Saddle Creek."



Their eclectic song-based recipe immediately caught the ear of Omaha's more discernible indie music fans, and the buzz soon followed. Among their biggest supporters were members of Saddle Creek Records bands The Faint, The Good Life and Cursive. Would Saddle Creek consider releasing the LP? Bellows said though there was some talk, no one from the label made an offer.

"We haven't had any specific offers from anyone, at least not from Saddle Creek," Bellows said. "We talked about it and are of the same mind, but we would just as soon invest our own money in putting it out right now. I know those guys are super supportive and have gotten us some great shows, but at the same time, we don't fit real neatly on their label."

That hasn't stopped Neva Dinova from taking advantage of their Saddle Creek connections, however. "We're talking about going out for a couple weeks with The Good Life," Bellows said. "We've been introduced to a lot of good people in the business. We're getting all the advantages of being on Saddle Creek without actually being on Saddle Creek."

In fact, the Dec. 21 Music Box show that puts Neva Dinova on the same bill as The Good Life, as well as The Movies and Race for Titles, was the brainchild of Good Life drummer Roger Lewis.

"Not getting signed doesn't phase us because we've invested too much in this band already," Bellows said. "I'm talking about sacrificing a lot of opportunities -- a good job, going to school or having a family. Giving up is not an option."

With CD in hand, the band plans to get out of town on a tour, if they can ever actually figure out where they want to go. "We're gonna write down a list of towns where we want to play," Bellows said. "We're looking at six or seven states, including a swing through Cincinnati, Lawrence, Kan., Minneapolis and Chicago."

"We want to go wherever people want to hear us," Anderson said. "There are two people who bought three of our records in the state of California. If they're down with helping us put on a show, we're there.

"Our biggest problem is that we're very process- rather than goal-oriented," said Anderson, who now has a day-job practicing law. "I don't think we see beyond the 'Oh gosh, it would be great to tour or get a record deal.' All that stuff would be fantastic but it's out of our hands. Perhaps it's misguided, but we concentrate on making good songs, and with a little help and a little luck, the rest will take care of itself. Or else we'll be the best band that no one's ever heard of."

Back to  huge.gif (2200 bytes)

Published in The Omaha Weekly Dec. 12, 2001. Copyright 2001 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.