Q&A: The Electroliners’ upbeat, off-kilter new album; Hakim searches for his path with new release; Jack Hotel, The Ambulanters, Relax, It’s Science tonight; Justin Carter, Red City Radio, Derrick Adams farewell Saturday

The Electroliners’ upbeat, off-kilter new album | Q&A

intro and Q&A by Mark Hayden

[The following Q&A previews The Electroliners CD Release, Friday, May 13 at The Waiting Room, 6212 Maple St. CJ Mills and Fizzle Like a Flood opens. Tickets are $7]

One Omaha band looked past the mold of the mainstream version of country music and aimed for a more classic, rockabilly sound. And they take it one step further with their off-beat lyrical content.

The Electroliners, a five-piece group and winner of 2015 Omaha Entertainment and Arts Awards’ “Best Americana/folk” act, will release its new album today, The Common Clay of the New West, a title inspired by the film “Blazing Saddles.”

The five-piece band formed in 2011 and started with Stephanie Krysl (vocals), Travis Sing (bass, vocals) and Patrick White (guitar, vocals), and has since added Kate Williams (keyboards/accordion, vocals) and Lee Gambrel (drums). Its latest album comes on the heels of its January 2014 self-titled EP release, which received four out of five stars from the UK magazine, “Country Music People.”

The Electroliners’ Sing, who has shared stages with country music star Dwight Yoakam, as the bass player for Matt Whipkey, spoke over the phone with Hear Nebraska recently. He talked about The Electroliners’ most recent recording endeavours, being anti-bro country and writing non-mainstream country songs with off-beat subject matter.

Hear Nebraska: The Electroliners has a raw, country sound to it and the lyrics contain some themes, like in the song, “Thank God I’m an Atheist,” that don’t pop up in the mainstream version of the genre. Where does the band draw their inspiration from?

Travis Sing: I think we get it from kind of all over. All of us in the band love old-school country and honky-tonk rockabilly from the ’40s through the ’70s. That (“Thank God I’m an Atheist”) was written by our guitar player, Pat. He’s really into ’70s music. Weather its outlaw country or power pop or whatever. Stephanie is a huge fan of the country legend Kenny Wells. And she loves Loretta Lynn, stuff like that. I’m a big Buck Owens fan, and Hank Williams, of course. Again, we love that stuff.

But we all love different kinds of music as well. We’re all around 40ish in the band. So a lot of us grew up on like ’80s new wave and stuff like that. We did kind of put everything in a pot and stirred it up to see what comes out on top. Pat kind of writes the southern rock, stomper songs. Steph writes more traditional country stuff. I do, too. Steph and I kind of veer toward the rockabilly side, as well. Inspiration is everywhere. The song “Brown Lightening” is about a cat. There’s plenty of country songs about dogs, so why not have one about a cat? We don’t take ourselves super-duper seriously. We try to write songs with good hooks in them and play them well. But try to have some fun, as well.

HN: Where in Oklahoma are you from?

TS: It’s a little town in central Oklahoma called Tecumseh. Just like Tecumseh, Nebraska. Both are named after the Shawnee Indian chief.

Hear Nebraska: Did you grow up there listening to a lot of country music?

TS: I didn’t know there was any other kind of music until I was nine or 10. Seriously. My parents had a lot of bluegrass and honky-tonk records.

HN: How does being in Nebraska, a place where country music is fairly popular, shape the band’s sound?

TS: I don’t know that it does all that much. I mean, it’s funny. All of us are pretty much anti-bro country. I feel like that’s the popular thing right now. We were draw from sort of classic country. Like ’40s through the ’70s. We are kind of an odd band to be a country band. We have songs about atheism and whatever else (laughs). On our first record, we have a song about a trucker getting a handjob. You know, we have those typical things like drinking and heartache and that kind of stuff, but we try to do something different with it. We like putting our own twist on something that may seem formulaic. At the shows, we don’t get people who are fans of mainstream country music. We get weirdo friends who like honky-tonk rockabilly and rock ’n’ roll.

HN: What was your production process for the latest album? Was it recorded at a local studio, and what was the most challenging part?

TS: It was at recorded Hidden Tracks with Jeremy Garrett. And Jeremy is a great guy, and he is a friend, as well. We went in November and basically what we did was we tracked all the basic stuff live. The bass, drums, rhythm guitar, and I think he did our piano parts, as well. That’s how we did it. Then we went back and did our vocals. As far as challenges, it went pretty smoothly. Some of these songs we’ve been playing for years. Usually after a third take, we basically had what we needed for the song. So that’s good. If you get bogged down and doing extra takes of things, you sort of lose that energy, and that’s what wanted to keep up.

HN: You’ve got 11 songs on the latest album, The Common Clay of the New West, which is a pretty strong effort. What are you most proud of the latest album?

TS: It’s hard not to say the whole thing. Well, I am proud of the whole thing. Just the way it came together. I think the biggest challenge was finding the run order that made sense. You know again, it’s one of those things, if someone put a (vinyl) record out, there’s a sequence to it. Now people download a single song. We butted heads a little bit over how it was going to flow. I do hope people buy the whole album and listen to it from start to finish. My favorite song is “Hot Rod,” which Stephanie wrote.

HN: Why’s that?

TS: It’s a just a fun rockabilly number. It’s a double entendre. If you listen to it. It’s like one of those great old blues songs. It’s not really about a red rooster, if you know what i mean. Or a crawling king snake. It’s a fun song to play. It’s super catchy. We came up with these gang vocals to do. And these harmony vocals on the second half of the chorus. The song is the most fun to listen to. The most fun to play. I’m sure my band mates will all have completely differing opinions.

HN: You’ve gotten some recognition in the U.K. magazine, “Country Music People.” How does it feel to be recognized abroad, and what do you think draws people to your sound?

TS: That was great. I think Stephanie sent them our EP. I’m hoping to get in touch with them again and get them on the full length. It was great being recognized across the pond. We got a great review. They gave us four out of five stars.

The guy kind of panned one of my songs, but we won’t talk about that, right? He wrapped up by saying we’re a fun band who’s entertaining. And I think that’s what i want the most out of us. It’s one of those things. We try to write a good songs. And songs that have some meaning. But also, people come to our shows and have fun. I’ve seen this in Omaha over the last 15 years since I’ve been back. It’s sort of like, shows are less and less fun. People are just there to see and be seen in a way. It kinda irks me a little bit. But yeah, I hate sound like I’m bagging on Omaha. It’s my home.

We’ve had some great support here. It’s just one of those things. Some nights, I’ll be like, “wow, I wish it was like this every night.” This might sound bad, but you’re playing to 10 of your friends, and we’re having a good time, but it’s like, “Oh man, I wish more people were here.” We give back what we get, and vice versa. But like I said, we try to have fun and be entertaining, say goofy stuff on stage and whatever else.  

HN: What does The Electroliners have planned for the rest of the year, and what do you hope to accomplish?

TS: We’re gonna play hot rod festival in Sioux City. I just hope we can keep playing shows around Omaha and the region. I’d like to play some shows in Lincoln. I think now that we have some new material out, the time is right to go play in lincoln. We’ve all matured and settled down. It’s difficult to go tour, tour. We do like getting out of town on occasion and meeting some new folks and playing for some new folks. I hope we’re still gigging and getting behind this record and hope people enjoy it and buy it. Just small goals. Nothing too crazy.

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Hakim searches for his path with new release

New music releases abound this weekend, one among them from an up-and-coming Lincoln rapper.

Hakim drops his new tape Young Drifter Sunday, May 15. Lyrically, he explores the idea of “the drift,” which is to stray from a road down which one currently travels. In conceivable ways, the drift can be harmful or positive, depending on the direction. But it’s not always clear which.

What if this path I thought was the right one turns out to be the wrong one all along,” Hakim says. “Sometimes you have to stray away from the path and find out what the other one is like.”

On “Marble Floor Hallways,” a smooth track with piano-driven sample, Hakim recounts the words of emcees past, identifying the other side of lyrics depicting glamorous lives. Realizing a dream takes perspective and often means diverting from the easy path. Watch the video below:

Hakim plays The Bourbon Friday, May 27 with Dey-Jean, Cameron Golden Lion, Chris. Toph and Indigenous AK. Young Drifter will be available for sale. Tickets are $5 for 21-plus, $7 for minors. RSVP here.

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Concert Round-Up

We take a spin around the weekend, which brings tons of new music and plenty of other great shows. Head to our statewide event calendar here for a fuller listing. If you do not see your show or the one you plan to attend, leave it in the comments or add it yourself via our contribution page here.


Jack Hotel releases sophomore album at Zoo Bar – the Lincoln folk group plays one of its most frequent haunts in celebration of Voices From The Moon, its second LP with Sower Records. Earlier in the week, our podcast team broke down the albums gleaming melodies, classic (if often wonderfully ornate) instrumentation and vivid lyricism. The same feature included an interview with frontman Günter Voelker on the songwriting selves and how they manifest on the new album. Dive in here. Matt Cox, Walk By Sea and blét open the show. Entry is $10, RSVP here.

The Ambulanters release EP at Chez Hay – the young Lincoln post-rock band drops its debut studio recording, Leave The House, alongside a crop of other young musicians at the downtown catering/event space. The Ambulanters came on Hear Nebraska FM in March, the video from which we published Tuesday. Revisit the show and read a brief Q&A here. Better Friend, I Forgot To Love My Father and This Machine Kills Vibes round out the bill. Entry is $7, RSVP here.

Relax, It’s An Album Release Show – Omaha instrumental post-rock trio Relax, It’s Science releases it’s own debut EP, Relax, It’s Five Songs, at Reverb Lounge, 6121 Military Ave. Recorded with Bryce Hotz (Noah’s Ark Was A Spaceship, Lodgings) at his Archetype Studios, it packs a phalanx of distortion and rumble into just less than 30 minutes, yielding a broad and crushing sound. Montee Men and The Sunks open the $5 show. RSVP here.


Porchfest FUNdraiser at Common Root – the Near South Lincoln porch-based festival is in preparation, seeking to raise funds for its August 7 event. Common Root Mutual Aid center hosts a party tomorrow night, where buttons and magnets will be available for purchase or to win through a disk drop game. There will also be a photo booth. RSVP here. To donate, volunteer or submit your band for consideration for Porchfest LNK, visit here.

Red City Radio, Domestica, Russian Girlfriends at Milk Run – Oklahoma City-based punk rock band Red City Radio comes to Omaha while on its mostly-western US tour. The band’s self-titled LP dropped last year on Staple Records. Of note, drummer Dallas Tidwell is a Nebraska native. Red City Radio brings Albuquerque band Russian Girlfriends in-tow, and will be joined by Lincoln rock trio Domestica. Entry is $10, RSVP here.

Justin Carter’s farewell show, album release – Omaha musician and Yorick Studios operator Justin Carter releases his new album, The Rare Door Into, tomorrow night at Slowdown. Carter released the title track earlier this week, which you can hear below. Immediately following the show, Carter will pack up and make a new home in Chicago to pursue its jazz scene. He emailed us earlier in the week with a farewell statement of sorts:

“I’ve been in bands [in Omaha] since I was sixteen. This is my hometown, and it will always feel that way to me. I played my first gig at the Mosaic community center next to the Donut Stop on 13th St. We played terribly and the sound was atrocious. But everybody involved was so supportive and positive that it kept me feeling good about pushing further.

Omaha is an amazing place and contains a very supportive and loving music community. The people here all know each other and attend each others’ performances. They place significance on their art. They enjoy listening. And they all want to play in each others’ bands. I can count the number of times somebody’s turned me down to jam on one hand. People just want to play.”

The Cosmic Smiths and Sas & the Final Arrangement round out Saturday’s billing. Tickets are $5 today, $7 tomorrow. RSVP here.

Loom Weaves Bemis: Closing Party for Derrick Adams’ Crossroads ExhibitBrooklyn artist Derrick Adams’ Crossroads Radio exhibit closes up, and House of Loom is throwing a party. In the Bemis Center warehouse space, 724 S 12th St, DJs Adams, Kethro, Brent Crampton and Dereck Higgins will spin sets and Omaha Street Percussion’s Dak will perform. Also appearing are drag artist Karma Lilola, break dancer Jon Vlach (& crew) live visual artist Fracta and body painter Daniel Sedra D’mente. This party is 18-plus, and there is no cover. RSVP here.


Whiskey Autumn, Risky Clique, Producers of the Word at Duffy’s Tavern – we’ll let Boulder, Colorado music news outlet Boulder Beat take this one:

“Colorado indie pop rock band Whiskey Autumn are currently on part one of their Midwest summer tour, and this weekend, they’re headed straight for Duffy’s Tavern. The trio is thrilled to be spending some time in Nebraska, and have a sweet set planned with original tunes, and a few covers, including Frank Ocean’s “Thinkin Bout You”, the contemporary R&B classic that the band dropped a live performance video for recently.

In what started as a bedroom folk project, Whiskey Autumn has evolved into a soulful pop outfit with four-on-the-floor hip-hop beats and electronic undertones. After taking their hometown of Boulder, CO by storm, the band received state-wide acclaim for their original tune “Dog Days”. The track was picked up by Colorado Public Radio’s OpenAir soon after its release, which quickly propelled the band into Denver’s market and beyond. The trio is spending their summer touring the Midwest and Southwest, and are recording their third EP at The Crucible Recording Studio in Eldorado Springs, CO.

Whiskey Autumn will be sharing the stage with two of Lincoln’s own: Producers of the Word and Risky Clique. Producers of the Word are a baroque pop/psychedelic rock outfit. They’re making their return to Duffy’s after playing there with The Fairweather just a few months ago. Opener Risky Clique are an indie blues rock five-piece who played a rockin’ set at Sokol Underground’s Springfest last month. Overall, these three bands are setting the stage for one killer Sunday lineup. Join the event on Facebook, and get more information here. Keep up with Whiskey Autumn and their Midwest summer tour on their website. RSVP here.

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Keep those news tips, story ideas and song submissions coming to news@hearnebraska.org. Connect via Twitter and Instagram via @hearnebraska. Happy showgoing.

Andrew Stellmon is Hear Nebraska's managing editor. Reach him with news tips and story ideas at news@hearnebraska.org.