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The Berg Sans Nipple | Under the Radar

From records to film scores, a Franco-American sonic tale's newest chapter opens today on Team Love.

by Jordan Minnick

This is a story of a St. Paul, Neb., native who played in some bands and studied film at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in the ’90s. Sure.
 
But it’s also a story of an American and a Frenchman who met in Paris and decided to try and play music together. Right away, they came up with great material, so the American extended his and his wife’s yearlong stay in Paris another, oh, six years. They recorded two albums and toured extensively, playing high-profile international festivals like the Primavera Sound Festival.
 
This is the story of Shane Aspegren and his band The Berg Sans Nipple.
 
At home in Omaha with his wife and daughters (ages 7 and 4), Aspegren has settled down 4,500 miles away from his BSN bandmate Lori Sean Berg in Paris. Separated, this is how the percussion/electronics twosome developed much of their latest LP, Build With Erosion, out on Team Love today, March 15. 
 
The trans-Atlantic band situation caused frustrations — material would sit for months sometimes before the two would meet in Paris for week-long recording sessions, Aspegren says.
 
“The pay-off was actually getting together, having not created anything together for so long,” he says. “It’s almost kind of magical, getting together and then all of a sudden remembering the way that you can have an interaction with somebody like that.”
 
A long time in the making, Build With Erosion is the band’s third LP and latest record since 2007’s Along the Quai.
 
Beginning as an instrumental band (Aspegren on percussion, Berg on electronics), BSN has evolved to include vocals beyond the ambient/instrumental type with Build With Erosion. Much of the album’s lyrics are written and sung by Aspegren. Berg’s vocals are evident in loops and background.
 
The album is created out of rhythm foundations, namely tribal, he says — aspects upon which BSN sound has always been constructed. For the most part, their writing process remained the same.
 
Listen to three tracks from the new album:
 
 
“Everything is usually born out of ideas that we have together,” he says, “but then, with this record, for example, we took a lot of those ideas from samples that we would make together.” From there, Berg and Aspegren worked on the album on their own, until the recording sessions, which is when the ‘magic’ would happen.         
 
Years before he encontered Berg, 19-year-old Aspegren met Mike Mogis. The two played in Lullaby For The Working Class and the lesser-known We’d Rather Be Flying, with Mike’s brother A.J. Mogis. Since these mid-’90s, pre-Saddle Creek Records-Lumberjack days, Aspegren has joined Mike Mogis and company for Bright Eyes studio work, including the band’s latest, The People’s Key. He’s even played with Bright Eyes on tours in between BSN projects, including a 2005 tour with The Faint in support of I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning/Digital Ash In A Digital Urn. (He also hopped on tour with LCD Soundsystem this past year as a production tech.)
 
“It’s always ‘in between’ with this band,” Aspegren says of BSN. “With this project it’s like we’re both always doing different things, especially now that we don’t live in the same countries anymore. I think both of us consider this a major part of our lives, like our main project in a way, even though it’s sometimes a stagnant project. It’s like we finished this record and now we’re waiting for it to come out before we can really play music together again. In a way, it’s an excuse for us to get back together and play some more music.”
 
Aspegren and Berg’s combined musical work consists more of just their band. The duo’s first musical endeavor was scoring  Aspegren’s 22-minute short film Marie-Madeleine, released in 2002. The film stars a fellow Nebraskan Joe Krings, Aspegren says, who also did the editing and now lives in New York. Check out the trailer here at Krings' site.
 
“It was based on a woman who had died who was living in the building that we were living in,” Aspegren says.
 
He says crowds will also see BSN this year. They’re planning a few shows in France and other European countries in late spring/early summer, and hope to tour more in the fall.
 
Aspegren’s story remains an open book. Almost a decade since first meeting Berg, they now have their respective lives and projects, but look forward to more music production through different outlets. (Check out the ongoing art project the band has here.)
 
“Don’t get me wrong, I love touring and I love playing live,” he says. Film, however “seems like a way to still be making music and be creative. It just seems the older you get the harder it is if you haven’t broken past a certain level to actually make a living, once you have children and things like that.”
 
Perhaps the duo’s latest musical project is a sign of things to come. The guys get creative scoring an upcoming French documentary, Cet Homme-là (Est Un Mille-Feuille), produced by French television channel, Arte. In a recent blog entry on ModernDrummer.com, Aspegren describes their work on the film: “It’s our pretty skewed take on what you might imagine if there was a spaghetti Western set in Normandy, France.” The film will be frequenting festivals this summer, he says.
     
“We’re more interested in moving this project together and doing more music for film,” he says of the BSN partnership.
 
 
Jordan Minnick is Hear Nebraska's editorial intern. She actually saw LCD Soundsystem while Aspegren was on tour with the band at the Sasquatch music festival in Washington. They also have had class with the same film professor at UNL. She'll be interning this summer at The A.V. Club Austin. Contact her at jordanminnick@hearnebraska.org.