by Jordan Minnick
As I open the door to Sam Martin and Greg Elsasser’s house in midtown Omaha, I’m blasted by an electric-buzzy noise fitting of a horror film. The two Capgun Coup musicians are at a drum kit in their dining room-turned practice-and-recording space, Elsasser scraping frayed wires along one of the cymbals. He’s experimenting with the makings of a contact microphone — so far, just wires.
“You put it on anything that’s acoustic,” he says. “And then you can plug it in.”
Elsasser (vocals, keys) takes his mic project to the living room where we join new Capgun bassist Sean Pratt on some couches. Pratt’s first Capgun show, and the band's first show in nine months, is tonight (Saturday, May 21) at midnight at Brother’s bar in Omaha.
The band, also including guitarist Jesse McKelvey and drummer William Humburg, will be playing mostly new tunes from their unreleased third LP which remains to be named (they're considering either Contextual Doom or As Good as Gasoline).
Other things also remain up in the air, such as the release date and record label. They’re hopeful to have it out by the end of summer, once they can afford the $500 mastering fee at Focus Mastering. Team Love, which released 2007’s Brought To You By Nebraskafish and 2009’s Maudlin, is done putting out records, Martin (vocals, guitar) says. On top of that, the band’s tour van has been towed and sold.
"When I'm Gone" off of Maudlin. Video and courtesy photo by Tyler Chickinelli.
Though the odds seem to be against them, the new LP is recorded and ready to go. It was recorded entirely at Martin and Elsasser’s house with a free recording program from 1999 that they’ve used since the band’s beginning. Most of the 13 tracks ring in around two minutes, Martin says.
“They’re just like little pop songs, like the length that they would be in the '60s or '50s,” eras the two musicians find inspirational for sounds, but not so much the songs.
“The guitars sound great,” Martin says. “But the songs, the lyrics are horrible.” Lyrically, the main songwriter thinks “the here and now is where we’re at.”
“I think our lyrics are fresh, compared to the music,” Martin says. “We take [sounds] from previous generations, cause you kind of have to. But I think the lyrics are less that and new — more our generation.”
While the lyrics are fresh, Martin says they’re mostly provoked by boredom, like being “bored with the way people act. Bored with how everyone knows what’s wrong with them and they still are doing the same shit."
When I ask what the lyrics are about, Martin redirects the question to the band's long-time manager, Airen Howg, who just stopped by to wish Elsasser a happy 26th birthday.
“They’re kind of just all over the place,” Howg says. “They’re usually kinda angsty and they’re about girls. And friendships. A lot of it has to do with relationships.”
“Friends and backstabbing and whatnot,” Martin adds. “Craziness. Drama. Dramaha.”
They currently have two songs up for download via Soundcloud, “Twist and Shout” and “Claire Doesn’t Care,” a song that’s featured in a 12-minute short film he’s been working on with his younger brother Harrison Martin, starring Sam himself. They hope to premiere it at short film festival at Film Streams in Omaha. He’s also in the beginning stages of writing a film with Nik Fackler (InDreama, Icky Blossoms) about the Garden of Eden and psychedelics, he says, as well as trying to release a split of acoustic material with Pratt.
"Claire Doesn't Care" by Capgun Coup
"Twist and Shout" by Capgun Coup
Outside of Capgun, Elsasser has his recording project No, I’m the Pilot, which he says turns into live shows with friends, like Martin and Pratt.
“I never really take it seriously,” Elsasser says. “It’s always just a work in progress.”
He’ll be releasing No, I’m the Pilot music with the DIY cassette label I’m drinkin this, which Howg now heads. Howg plans to also release a compilation. The label recently picked back up after starting in 2007 as “a big Hotel Frank thing,” Martin tells me.
"Goin Out" by No, I'm the Pilot on I'm drinkin this
"Catch a Cat" by Sam Martin on I'm drinkin this
The Capgun guys moved out of Hotel Frank — the creative musician brothel that had long housed Omaha artists before them — in 2008.
“It was fun,” Martin says, “but at the same time, it’s like, this house is way cooler.”
After years of crazy house shows and parties and Hotel Frank, Martin and Elsasser are happy to to be settled into a humble house where their equipment doesn't get trashed or stolen.
“In that respect, I don’t miss it that much,” he says.
In less than an hour of cutting and sautering wires to a small, round object that’s apparently a microphone, Elsasser has created his contact mic. Rather than adding effects to their music in recording and having to deal with those effects live, they get a vintage sound aesthetic with the mics in both studio and stage settings. It’s less guitar pedals and more soul. What you hear on a record is what you get live. He says each mic costs only $7 to make.
“It’s not a high-fi microphone,” Elsasser says. “It’s like a step below high-fi and low-fi. It just sounds just like … shitty.”