(Editor's note: This Q&A previews a FREE Hear Nebraska/MAHA Music Festival Showcase at Duffy's on Thursday, June 30 at 9 p.m. MAHA performer The Machete Archive chose the bands Irkutsk, Her Flyaway Manner and Powerful Science to fill the bill, if you will. RSVP here.)
by Michael Todd
The Machete Archive scares me, in a good way. Sure, I hear bassist Saber Blazek's a teddy bear, and the three together, with guitarist Ryan Thomas and percussionist Ian Francis, have been nothing but nice in interviews I've done. But Saber's hair alone is a personification of terror, and dull, weathered greens and yellows imbue their press photos.
Also, they write 25-minute instrumental progressive rock songs.
Add to the aesthetic a methodical song-naming system that uses those classically ominous Roman numerals, and it's a wonder I don't shriek in horror upon hearing their set. I'm sort of a softie. But to see The Machete Archive in action is something to behold. Which is why the MAHA Festival folks have chosen Lincoln's own to play and to curate a free showcase that will be held at Duffy's on Thursday night at 9 p.m.
When I spoke with Ian, it was a little too early to go into future plans past MAHA, but he talked about the other bands on the bill at Duffy's, Saber's bicycling joys and the newest three-part song that the band will in part unveil at the showcase.
Hear Nebraska: First off, why did you pick the three bands you have supporting you at tomorrow's show?
Ian Francis: Well, we wanted to pick bands that we know are all bands that might have an opportunity to play MAHA next year. So we wanted to pick people serious about playing. And we're friends with pretty much everyone in the bands, they're all talented musicians, so we wanted to show the MAHA people what Lincoln could do.
HN: What does it mean to you to be playing MAHA this year?
IF: For us, it's a great opportunity to get in front of more people in Omaha. We've had a hard time getting shows in Omaha. We're hoping to get some CDs in people's hands and hopefully get a better fanbase in Omaha and more shows there in the future.
HN: I've been asking everyone this, and I probably will keep asking it, but where are you three from originally?
IF: [Bassist] Saber [Blazek] pretty much grew up in Lincoln but was born in Nashville. RT [guitarist Ryan Thomas] is from Blair. I'm from Norfolk, and we all met in the last decade or so.
HN: How do you think a change of venue will influence the festival this year?
IF: Honestly, I have no idea. They haven't announced a backup idea, so I don't know where it'll end up. I was pretty excited getting to play next to the river. So hopefully they put it in some equally scenic location or some place that will draw people in and of itself.
HN: I liked the influences you have listed on Facebook. Would you care to elaborate on the freedom afforded every individual by the simple luxury of a bicycle?
IF: That's more Saber's thing. But I think a bike is one of the bigger parts of that kid's life. I don't know if he does it as much these days, but he used to be always riding 30 miles a day, so he just threw that in there when he put the page together.
HN: I think of all the Lincoln bands, you have the best persona as a whole, just from the press photos you have, the music you play and your personalities. How do you use that persona do your benefit?
IF: We just really enjoy the music that we play, and it comes across when we play it. We write music that we all enjoy playing, and everyone gets to play their own parts. The way the writing process goes is Saber comes in with an idea, and we put in our parts over the top of it or mesh together. The songs as a whole turn into everyone's individual personality, and it all fits together in a weird collage.
HN: What have you been writing lately?
IF: Right now we're playing catch-up with old ideas. Saber turned out a lot of ideas about a year ago. I've been touring with other projects, so we're just catching up. We just finished this big three-part song that become three individual songs that are about eight minutes each. It's about 25 minutes long all together, though.
HN: So do you have a set list mapped out for tomorrow night?
IF: Yeah, we do. We usually do that the practice before the show.
HN: Will you be playing the new one then?
IF: We're playing two pieces of the new, bigger one. Our songs are numbered [with Roman numerals], so this one's "XIX," "XX," and "XXI." So we'll be playing the first two parts.
HN: OK, and for a final question, where do you see The Machete Archive going after MAHA and further into the future?
IF: Not really sure, I guess. No idea really.
Michael Todd is a summer intern for Hear Nebraska. He hopes to one day be man enough to face The Machete Archive without fear. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.