by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com
When local indie band It’s True’s announced that it was breaking up at a performance last June, I was more than a bit surprised.
After playing South by Southwest the March prior, the band had released its debut full length to much local adoration. They went on to play a number of shows in California that were, by all indication, a big success. Rumors abound that the band had caught the eye of a few big-name star makers. The world was about to take notice of what many of us thought was Omaha’s next big thing.
And then during a show that was more like a drunken Irish wake, It’s True frontman Adam Hawkins announced with a bourbon drawl, “This is our third-to-last show,” and that the band was hanging it up after its performance at the MAHA Music Festival that July.
The reasons for the break-up are hinted throughout the band’s fantastic, soon-to-be-released EP, Another Afterlife. There’s the opener “Don’t You Know You’re Never Alone,” with the line ”Looking at all these people looking back at me it seems they’re seeing more than I would want them to see.” Or the opening phrase to “Stand Still,” which goes “He breaks another vow and sells his guitar / He says ‘I’m never gonna be a star.’” Or maybe the most definitive line of all, from track three: “I don’t want to be the one who let’s you down.”
“I got tired of all day, every day, all anyone would talk about was the band,” Hawkins explained from his home in Grimes, Iowa, a small town just outside of Des Moines. “The strategizing and worrying about decisions about where we should play next, those were the only conversations we had; and it was all that anyone would want to talk about whenever I ran into anyone outside the band. It felt mentally limiting. Everything that I was doing at that point was not feeling right or natural. It wasn’t anything personal, it wasn’t any big dramatic event, I just needed a little space to breath.”
Hawkins said the breakup didn’t catch the band by surprise. “I think that maybe they didn’t think it would actually happen,” he said, “but I don’t think they were surprised at all. Everyone knew I wasn’t happy.”
But if the band knew it was coming, the fans didn’t. “I had a couple people tell me that they were really pissed at me,” Hawkins said. “People thought I was really throwing something away and making a big mistake, not understanding the situation. A number of people cried at the last few shows, they came up to me teary eyed. It was strange to hear how much it meant to people.”
But despite those reactions, Hawkins said nothing was going to sway his decision. “(Their reactions) felt good, like we were really doing something,” he said, “but I knew I needed time to air out.”
If fact, he’d already made his decision by the time of that brief California tour. “We all knew that was our last hurrah,” Hawkins said, adding that he had nothing to come home to after the tour. “I’d been slacking off at my job, and they fired me, rightfully so,” he said. “And so I came back with no job and no money and decided I was going to get out of there.”
Hawkins’ parents own a combination art gallery, frame shop and flower shop located in an old stone church in Des Moines. “I knew mom was looking for some help in the kitchen and asked if she’d be interested in me coming back and staying a month or two,” he said.
The plan was for Hawkins and his girlfriend, Katey Sleeveless, to save some money before going back on the road, but things didn’t work out that way. His kitchen replacement fell through, and his mother “made strong hints that it would be helpful if we hung around, so we signed a six-month lease on an apartment.”
And then Hawkins and Katey found out that they were going to be parents.
“It hit me in a lot of different ways,” he said. “Everything is totally different now. It’s definitely the No. 1 important thing for me — finding ways to provide happiness for my family.”
But while all that was happening, Hawkins never stopped writing songs. “Music was always there,” he said. “I wrote songs no matter what, and had a little collection that I wanted to record and not worry if they were good.” His first call was to It’s True bass player Kyle Harvey. By October Hawkins was recording most of the parts at the home studio of Jeremy Garrett, The Waiting Room’s sound engineer. The rest of It’s True filled in the holes, except for drummer Matt Arbiter, who had moved to New York.
The 8-song EP is an evolution for Hawkins. It’s more straight-forward and tuneful, and in many ways more personal than the band’s debut full length. “It’s all about the last year or so,” Hawkins said of the album. “It’s kind of all about starting over, different things beginning and different things ending.”
But the EP and its release shows at The Waiting Room April 1 and the Bourbon Theater in Lincoln April 2 aren’t so much a new beginning for It’s True as a reunion (even Arbiter is coming back from NYC for the shows). Hawkins has his sights set on only one thing after the final encore.
“First of all, I’m going to have a baby,” he said about his future. “That will take precedent for awhile. After that, I don’t know. Katey and I are both musicians. We’ll find a way to do that, and not in a background sort of way. We’ll find ways to make it an integral part of our lives.”
* * *
Want a sneak peak of Another Afterlife? Check out the interview with Adam Hawkins at Worlds of Wayne (it’s right here), which includes a sampling of the songs off the EP.
* * *
Saturn Moth, a new-ish four piece fronted by Collin Matz, headlines a show tonight at The Waiting Room that also includes the amazing Dim Light, Cymbal Rush and Knife, Fight, Justice. $5, 9 p.m.
Tonight also is the start of the three-day Lincoln Exposed festival. You’re looking at three nights of Lincoln bands playing at The Zoo Bar, The Bourbon Theater and Duffy’s. Tix are $7 a night or $15 for all three nights. The best place to see the line-up and schedules is at Omahype, at these three links:
* * *
Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2011 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.