(Editor's note: This interview previews Skypiper's CD release at the Waiting Room Lounge, Friday, Sept. 9 at 9 p.m. The show costs $7 and features Anniversaire and Minneapolis-based indie rock band Tarlton. More info here.)
by Bryce Wergin
It's a slow afternoon at Beansmith Coffe Roasters in La Vista when I talk to Graham Burkam. The 24-year-old Omaha resident spends his days selling coffee beans, and as the afternoon stretches towards evening, Burkam's shift is finally coming to an end. Because there are no customers coming in with coffee bean orders, he can focus on talking with me about his true passion: playing guitar and singing in Omaha indie-folk-rock group Skypiper.
Skypiper has been gaining popularity in Nebraska over the past few years as their first album, Lay Low and Pretty, and followup E.P. Down in our Song, have toured the earbuds of many local music lovers. After almost a year in the studio, Skypiper prepares to drop their second full-length album, a self-titled effort Friday, Sept. 9 at the Waiting Room in Omaha.
It took the band nine months — over nights and weekends — to finish the album, but Burkum says the time spent was well spent.
"This record is pretty different from our first one," he says. "Our first record was really, as Michael [Childers, Skypiper guitarist/vocalist] put it the other day, kind of 'high school.' This one feels more mature — I don't want to say more serious, but definitely more advanced. We tried to keep the smoothness of our sound, but some tracks do get a little heavier."
Burkum says long hours in the studio can lead to some tension between members, but strong personal relationships keep the band grounded. Skypiper's bassist Gabriel Burkum is Graham's twin brother, and the band's producer, Jason Burkum, is their uncle. Childers is a childhood friend of the Burkums and has been playing music with them since they started.
"If you're a fly on the wall, it might look like things are getting heated and we're yelling at each other from time to time, but you know how it is when you're family," Graham says. "Nothing gets too serious or heated. We've really learned how to just have fun with it and not take it too seriously."
Skypiper collaborated with artists from all over the country, and even one from Romania, to come up with an alternative way to package their new CD. The album will come with an art book containing pieces created specifically for each track on the album. Burkum says CD cases are seen as a piece of plastic, rather than a special part of a respected album.
Artists who contributed work for the album include: Dave Nelson, Graham Burkum, Gabriel Burkum, Ryan Showers and Leah Jean from Omaha; Matt Keller and Penni Sue from Council Bluffs; [HN contributor] Eric Gonzales from Seattle; Margot Simms from indianapolis; Mike Cina from Minneapolis and Oana Befort from Bucharest, Romania.
"My brother Gabe came up with the idea when he was using a CD case to scrape his windshield," he says."So we're selling the CD with the book and it's just something fun to look at and something that will last. We thought it was a good idea and it was great to get our friends involved in the project as well."
Burkum says the "cinematic" Anniversaire is one of his favorite local bands.
"Whenever I listen to it, it sounds like it would make a perfect movie soundtrack," he says.
Check out "Heart Strings" and "Clever Old Devil," which are the first two tracks on the new album:
Watch an Ingrained video of the band here.
Bryce Wergin is an intern for Hear Nebraska. The back seat of his car is basically a plastic CD case graveyard. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.