For fans headed to the Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks show at the Waiting Room in Omaha on Sunday, band bassist Joanna Bolme has some simple advice.
“Expect some shredding,” she says. “Maybe an unlikely cover song, maybe a Pavement song and some topical stage banter. Don’t expect the banter to make any sense.”
As part of the group that just released its sixth studio album, Wig Out at Jagbags, in January, Bolme, who recently checked in via e-mail for an interview from her home in Portland, has gotten used to such nonsensical antics on stage. But when it comes to her group’s latest work, the part-time recording engineer maintains that, though band leader and former Pavement front-man Malkmus is responsible for the majority of the songwriting, any material from the Jicks is truly the result of a collaborative effort.
She says, “Steve writes the songs, he brings them in either as riffs he just came up with or fully realized demos with most of the parts worked out. We play them until they turn into a Jicks song. I’m not much of a songwriter myself, but we all usually contribute with the arrangement and editing at some point. Like, ‘This part would have more impact if it only happened once,’ or ‘That riff is my favorite we should stretch it out,’ kind of stuff.”
Aiding in that process on Jagbags was producer Remko Schouten. While Malkmus and the Jicks brought in fellow ‘90s alternative star Beck to oversee the recording of the band’s previous album, 2011’s Mirror Traffic, Schouten was handed the keys this time around in part because of his already great familiarity with the group’s sound.
“We’ve almost always chosen to work with an engineer and produce the records ourselves,” says Bolme. “Mirror Traffic was a conscious decision to have another person’s voice in the mix. Remko has been doing our live sound in Europe since we began, and before that he did sound for Pavement. [He] probably knows more than anyone how we like to sound. [The process] moved fast. It’s got a live vibe.”
Speaking of live, the audience reaction to the Jicks’ new material has been positive so far. New tracks like “Cinnamon and Lesbians” and “Lariat” both straddle the line between wry indie rock and straight-up pop, creating a middle ground of melody that is eminently hummable even though the lyrics being sung don’t necessarily make much sense. And observant listeners might be able to spot the seeming classic rock references inherent to cuts like “Houston Hades” and “Chartjunk.”
Bolme notes that she’s happy fans are digging the new record, and teases that crowds will get a healthy dose of new music once she and the rest of band remember how to play certain numbers.
“Despite having about seven or eight new songs we’re working on, we have only played one of them live so far. I suspect that once Steve can remember the tuning he used for the other ones, they will start to pop up in the sets,” she says.
“I’m glad people like [the record],” she adds. “We had a great time making it. I guess that’s coming through.”
Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks play with opener Tyvek on Sunday, Feb. 16 at 8 p.m. Cover is $17 at The Waiting Room in Omaha. For more information on Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks or to see future tour dates please visit stephenmalkmus.com.