by Gabriella Martinez-Garro
In the initial distorted strums of Ryan McKeever's guitar, intimate uncertainties arrive.
It happens twice on a pair of new songs that comprise the From the Attic / California Squatters 7-inch, which was released as part of McKeever’s new solo project, Staffers. The 7-inch lathe-cut record is currently available in limited quantities, with 30 available via Bandcamp and additional copies sold at Almost Music in Benson.
McKeever, previously in the Omaha acts New Ocean and In Love, and currently in Telepathy Problems, has been working on the tracks for the past few months and said the 7-inch will act as a precursor to a longer Staffers record he hopes to release later this summer or in the fall.
On “California Squatters,” McKeever stretches his unsteady voice low over surfer guitar riffs and post-punk sounds. McKeever called these his most pop-like songs to date, but their grit works against sounding too polished.
“I'm not perfect, why would my recordings be?” McKeever says. “Sure I want the music to be cohesive, but not everything needs to be crystal clear.”
And the elements of autobiography and subject within the two songs are as blurred as their sounds. Particularly “From the Attic,” contains seemingly personal and often dark lyrics: “I will not be reminiscent of when I felt like I wasn’t worth shit.”
Creating songs for Staffers has been an introspective experience, McKeever says. The result is a collection of first and second-hand stories that relay sentimentality.
“In terms of lyrics, I'm just writing what I see,” McKeever says. “I don't want to fabricate too much because I'd rather not sound contrived.”
In addition to creating the dual songs, McKeever also designed the record’s cover using letterpress and woodcut prints. Like the band’s name, a nod to political staffers on Capitol Hill and molded by a social conversation about House of Cards, McKeever’s design for the record was politically influenced. The back of the cover features an abstract image of a cross-armed woman holding two large guns. The character in question is Omaha mayor Jean Stothert.
Though the track didn’t make the cut, McKeever says the cover was influenced by a song he recorded a song about a rich, suburban mayor who “loves her guns and hates her taxes.”
And although Staffers contains personal and political elements, McKeever says it’s more of a side project than anything while he continues to focus mainly his other band, the Omaha-based Telepathy Problems.
“Staffers is my excuse to embrace aspects of music I enjoy that don't necessarily fit with the group,” McKeever says. “But I do know that I am not trying to feel like I'm changing music or anything now. I just want to record and write more songs and have a good time with it.”
Gabriella Martinez-Garro is a Hear Nebraska editorial intern. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.