(Editor's note: This Q&A previews a MAHA Festival Music Showcase, Wednesday, June 22 featuring and curated by MAHA local stage band Noah's Ark Was a Spaceship. Hear Nebraska is a showcase partner for MAHA. The show starts at 8 p.m., is free and for all ages, and also plays host to New Lungs and Ketchup and Mustard Gas. RSVP here. )
by Michael Todd
If Nebraska’s music scene were the universe of Star Wars, Tim McMahan would probably be Palpatine. He has published the online music magazine Lazy-i since 1998. That’s the same year Google was born, for chrissakes.
No, he’s not evil nor is he a putrid color of green, but for a spry, young intern who has yet to meet him, McMahan — a member of Hear Nebraska’s board of directors — is a shadowy blogger with a reputation that could seemingly make or break any band yet to achieve notoriety outside of the state. So when he says, “[Danny Maxwell] can now count himself among the top Omaha frontmen, all he needs is a pair of leather pants,” well, Maxwell’s new band New Lungs had better start shopping.
His other band, Little Brazil, and his post as bassist within the Landon Hedges-led group wasn’t quite enough work for him. And judging from McMahan’s praise, Maxwell has taken well to the spotlight. His own bassist, Craig Fort, (who's rocking away in the photo to the right) and longtime collaborator Corey Broman on drums support his acclaimed lead spot. But you wouldn’t know he's one of the best if you talked to him, which I had the chance to do over the phone just after calling and being greeted by the classical composer Vivaldi.
Hear Nebraska: Before we start, I just want to ask about your ringback song. It’s classical music, which kind of goes against what I hear your band is all about, punk rock and being loud, you know.
Danny Maxwell: (laughs) Yeah, I get a lot of people making fun of me for that. Before that, I had another ringtone on there, and I just didn’t want to pay for it anymore. So that’s their default ringback. I should probably change it sometime.
HN: OK, that makes sense. So tell me why you started New Lungs.
DM: Well, I guess Corey and I had played in bands before, and I just wanted to get back to that. I hadn’t played guitar for such a long time since I’ve been playing bass in Little Brazil. Then we asked Craig to play, and it worked out. We’ve only played three shows, but we’ve been practicing since October or November.
HN: What kind of reception have you’ve been getting from audiences so far?
DM: Really good. We’ve been really excited and lucky enough to play shows like (the MAHA Showcase). It’s been great so far.
HN: Good. Now, Lazy-i called you one of Omaha’s best lead men. What do you think it is about you that might give you that title?
DM: Oh, I don’t know. I think he was just being nice (laughs). He said I had an earthy howl, which is funny. But I don’t know why. I have no idea. I’ll just say he’s being nice.
HN: All right, but you said you’ve been in bands before with Corey? That must help with New Lungs' growth as a new band.
DM: Yeah, Corey and I played in a band before that, right when I started playing with Little Brazil: This Just In. And we were in some bad high school bands like the one I played with Corey and Landon in, but that was a short-lived thing. But yeah, even when we started doing this, I had a couple songs prepared, but it’s been weird. Corey and I have been messing around and something comes together out of nothing.
When we’ve sat down and actually tried to write, we’ve found difficulties, but the last three songs we’ve done were just someone was playing something and it turned into a song. And we’re going to go at things from a different perspective, too, with whatever we do next.
HN: OK. Tell me about your years in Omaha’s music scene, how it’s changed and where you think it’s going.
DM: Wow, um. It’s changed a lot as far as the venues and the music, the people, everything. Now it’s funny because I always thought of myself as a little guy, the little brother. Now I go out and feel like an older guy.
I feel like the styles and the bands are kind of becoming staples. I think the way venues are set up now, despite the ones that have been taken away from us, there’s a lot of opportunity.
HN: Since you’re a new band, do you have any recordings posted that can give people an idea of what you sound like?
DM: The five songs we’re playing right now are all we have, and there aren’t any recordings. But we’ve recorded practices on four-track, and we do hope to get something more formal recorded this summer.
HN: OK, and what are some of your other goals for the band?
DM: As far as my role, I’m just singing and playing guitar. But I don’t know, not that there’s any boundaries with Little Brazil, but we’re open to everything at this point, so we’re incorporating instruments with triggers, whatever we might want to try. We might write around a sample or something. We might write something on synthesizer and loop it. But yeah, I think it’s open to a lot of unorthodox writing styles, but that’s my take on it.
HN: That’s it for questions then. Is there anything else you want to add?
DM: We’re just going with whatever happens. We weren’t looking to play a bunch of shows when we started in April, but I don’t know, we’re booked all the way into August now. It’s moving fast, and we’re trying to still write. That’s the next thing, write more songs, get recorded this summer and have something ready in the fall, maybe on cassette.
Playing around town is what we’re doing. We’re thinking about doing some Midwestern jaunts, if you will, with some other bands maybe next spring or summer. But just right now, it’s writing and recording. That’s all we have planned.
Michael Todd is a summer intern for Hear Nebraska. He would probably be an Ewok in the Nebraskan Rebel Alliance. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.