words by Steven Ashford | photos by Shannon Claire
When he’s not clicking and creating at his Doe Eyed Design studio — which, by the way, crafted the Hear Nebraska logo and other aesthetics — Eric Nyffeler can be seen playing in his sound-sculpting, guzzle-worthy instrumental band Masses. When he’s not partaking in either endeavor, I don’t know what the hell he does. I don’t keep tabs on the man.
Once in a great while, though, you'll also catch wind of Nyffeler working on his side, side musical project, Bus Gas, an improvisational drone concoction, which like Masses and Doe Eyed, is also out of Lincoln. Bus Gas's first record, Six Movements in Four Hours, is available for free on their Bandcamp page.
Aside from the few-and-far-between art gallery shows, Bus Gas typically remains a dormant beast. Well, the time has come that Nyffeler and his Bus Gas crew will return to the stage Friday alongside UUVVWWZ and Dirty Talker at the Slowdown as part of the Maha Showcase. Nyffeler will then change gears to play Saturday in Lincoln with Masses at Duffy’s.
Hear Nebraska: You are playing two shows this weekend as part of the Maha Showcase, one with Bus Gas in Omaha and one with Masses in Lincoln. As both bands originate in Lincoln, do you see a difference in the audience reaction between the two cities?
Eric Nyffeler: Lincoln people dance better and more often. Without a doubt, Lincoln is a dance city.
HN: Do you think that can be derived from people being more familiar with your material in Lincoln?
EN: No. And I’m not even talking about us specifically, but from going to shows in Omaha, I see people just standing with their hands in their pockets. In Lincoln, people are dancing and shakin’ their booties and such. I mean, with my band, nobody really does anything anyways, people just sit there looking up Twitter on their iPhones.
HN: Since the showcase was crafted by bands playing Maha this year, do you think there was a reason why they chose two of your bands to play two different shows?
EN: Well, I’m guessing they didn’t know — well, Bus Gas isn’t a very well-known project. We’ve been around for five years, and we only play about once a year. I know that Jim (Schroeder) from UUVVWWZ is a big fan of Bus Gas, and I think it was maybe his way of getting us to play a show. Jim and I have also had a history of booking each other’s “weirder” projects. For instance, I booked his DJ project, Neil Young, to play at several art shows I’ve curated.
As far as the Masses show, I haven’t known Eli Mardock very long, so I was surprised that he asked us to play that show. Looking at the lineup, the whole night is pretty diverse in regards to the bands playing. So, I don’t know, maybe he wanted to push that diversity even further. But it was definitely a pleasant surprise.
HN: You haven’t played a Bus Gas show in over a year and you guys had your first practice in a long while Monday night. How did that go?
EN: It actually ended up being very unusual, because Bus Gas started out being an improvisational group. Every time we played a show or recorded, it was strictly us setting up and playing and going off of each other. For whatever reason, we made the decision last night that we would relearn stuff from our previous record, which were improvisations at the time. Therefore, the show on Friday will feature no improvisation, and will feature songs off our old album that were once improvisations.
We made the joke that we accidentally turned into a real band!
HN: Playing shows out of your comfort zone doesn’t seem very unusual. For instance, last week’s Launch Lincoln event didn't seem to cater to your “typical” Masses attendees.
EN: Launch Lincoln was way less about people there to see music and more so people congregating for a party. The main reason we agreed to play it was that it would be fun to fuck with people in that environment with that mindset. We have somewhat of an antagonistic approach with the band. We like to play uncomfortably loud and not fall into stereotypes of a band.
I can’t speak for the band, but I was hugely excited to play in front of 300-plus people that would probably hate us. It was great to look out into the crowd to see people look out into the crowd to see disgusted faces and people covering their ears.
HN: So going into that show you didn’t take a special approach to try and cater to an unfamiliar audience?
EN: We might have actually done the opposite to try and come across even more abrasive. I know the set list we picked channeled the faster, heavier, more aggressive songs that we have. We do have more melodic songs that could have gone off better, but this way was much more fun.
HN: In between the Maha Showcases, with both Bus Gas and Masses, do you have any curveballs or unexpected approaches you’ll take into either performance?
EN: The Bus Gas show is a curveball in itself, given the fact that we are actually playing a show. It’s great to play at a place like Slowdown alongside great bands like UUVVWWZ and Dirty Talker. Typically in the past, we would only play art openings or galleries. Or maybe go to an open mic night and play between a couple of blues guitar players to, once again, be antagonistic weirdos.
With Masses, this is our last show of the summer. After that, we’re going into a cave and not coming out until we’re done writing the next record. I don’t think we’ll have anything overly special planned musically, but I’m expecting it to be pretty intense knowing that this will probably be the last time we’ll be on stage until Lincoln Calling.
Steven Ashford is a Hear Nebraska contributor. His editor chuckled at Steven's line about Bus Gas "eschewing in its incandescent discharge until the time is right," and might have unfairly struck it from the article. Vote below in the comments. Reach Steven at firstname.lastname@example.org.