Not-so Calm Kid, Omaha rapper Conchance wants to be the sugar in your tea.
photo by Tyler Chickinelli
by Jordan Minnick
It was well after business hours at Make Believe Studio when I met up with Omaha rapper Conchance. Co-owner and head of production Rick Carson was already pushing a 12-hour workday as I settled down on the couch in the dimly-lit, incense-infused control room.
Offsetting the serene atmosphere at this artist-friendly studio is a certain memo jotted at the top of Carson’s to-do list. He pulls out his planner and points out to task No. 1: “finish the Conchance record.”
The project keeps the 20-somethings weighed down at the studio for late nights like these. But however work-fatigued these nights may be, they help give Conchance (Brent Walstrom Gomez; ‘Conny’) a particular piece of mind.
“I’m not trying to fucking sit around and watch days go by,” he says.
Walstrom Gomez (who won an OEAA award this year for best rapper) will tell you that he’s already spent too much time “sleeping” on this project — months spent bumming around on friends’ couches and tour vans, from here to the West Coast. Not to mention the countless days residing at Hotel Frank with members of Capgun Coup; faded and left dormant by the previous night’s party and pot smoke. Whatever the pretense, living in the music-mecca-microcommunity with Capgun’s Sam Martin and Greg Elsasser unmistakeably shaped Walstrom Gomez as an artist, as it had on others before him.
As Omaha’s once-premiere home and hang out spot to scene musicians, Hotel Frank’s 7,000-plus square feet (divided among three wings) helped cultivate artists from Son Ambulance to Cursive and The Good Life, along with individuals like Todd Fink and Conor Oberst. The house saw its final days of grandeur with Martin and Elsasser (also of No I’m The Pilot).
So it’s fitting that Walstrom Gomez’s first LP, Calm Kids, features work from his former Frank roommates. The Capgun pair helped with production and handed over beats for the album, which is due to drop in early May on Slumber Party Records.
The album was almost named “Mr. Waites,” in memoriam of legendary Omaha jazz musician Luigi Waites, who past away last spring, Walstrom Gomez says. His uncle played with Waites for 25 years as a part of The Luigi Inc, a jazz band that remains one of his biggest musical influences.
“I think all music ties into what rap music’s about — sampling,” he says. “Al Green, Otis Redding, all that kind of comes into hip-hop.”
Kyle Peterson got the ball rolling on the LP by recording many of its tracks at The Faint’s Enamel Studio. Walstrom Gomez went on to work with Carson in July 2010 at Make Believe, where they’ve since recorded more songs and remixed the entire album, as Carson says, to “put the finer details on it.”
Calm Kids features guest vocals from friends including Black Johnny Quest, a rapper who Walstrom Gomez says is “talking shit” on the track “Oh Yeah,” and soulstress Cristina B., whose chorus vocals turn “Olivia” into a sexy little number.
Walstrom Gomez describes the album as grimy. Agreed. The sound is slightly mucked-up lo-fi.
(stream pre-album versions of some of these songs and more at Conchance’s MySpace page)
The album will include 10 to 13 tracks. Make Believe’s head of design, Brandon Herbel (also a co-owner), is handling album art. The cover features a lovely black-and-white portrait of Walstrom Gomez’s late great-grandmother, who was from Guadalajara, Mexico.
“Family is all up in it,” Walstrom Gomez says of the album — one way or another. He calls out his father, who left his family when he was 2, with a “Motherfucker, why’d you fuck my mother?” on a track. Blessings and praise also come through, namely to his mother and sister.
Call this cat crazy, but Walstrom Gomez plans to release multiple EPs after this album, and another album within the year. Carson says the Conchance crew is producing plenty of material.
Between the long nights in the studio, the girlfriends pissed-off from neglect and the general stress of putting out an album, performing for jam-packed crowds, as he did this past New Year’s Eve at the Sandbox (see video below), provide encouragement. But for this working partnership, it’s not about quantity — they just hope to share their music.
Carson fiddles with a cigarette in his spot behind the control boards. Walstom Gomez sits, stands, paces — incense still rolls.
“We believe in him,” says Carson of the Make Believe team. “He makes it, we all make it. And hopefully he doesn’t go get big and is like, ‘Well fuck those cats.’”
Walstrom Gomez doesn’t see that happening.
“I don’t think I’m gonna put out a record and be on the cover of XXL next to fucking Eminem, cheesing out,” Walstrom Gomez exaggerates, keeping the tone light.
Of all the artists Carson has worked with over the past two years, he sees something special in this one.
“No, I don’t think it’s gonna be like that, man,” Carson says. “I seriously think that you could be the next wave of what actually comes out of Omaha.”
But being the next big thing out of Omaha is far from the rapper’s thoughts. He just wants people to give the record a chance, and at least to think, “‘maybe this isn’t my complete cup of tea, but the sugar in it’s pretty fresh.’”
"Feeling Blue" by Conchance.
Conchance opens for Peanut Butter Wolf (Stones Throw Records founder) as a part of Red Bull Music Academy Radio’s ‘On The Floor’ series, hosted by Omaha promoter, DJ and HN contributor Brent Crampton, Sunday, March 6, 10 p.m. (doors at 9 p.m.) at the New BLK Gallery (in the old Krug Brewing Co. building), 1213 Jones St., Omaha. Additional opening performers include Omaha hip-hop acts Kethro and Dojorok. On display in the gallery will be new photos from Bill Sitzmann. RSVP on Facebook. Catch him while you can, sounds like Conchance won’t be doing any local shows until after the new album drops.
Jordan Minnick is Hear Nebraska's editorial intern. Working on this story led her to listen to Buck Bowen’s MySpace songs on repeat. She'll be interning this summer at The A.V. Club Austin. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.