Skypiper and LIFE is COOL at Turner Park this Wednesday | Q&A

Fresh off the Hear Lincoln series that ended this past Friday, Omaha has its opportunity to host some of Nebraska’s best local acts in an outdoor, summer music series at Midtown Crossing’s Turner Park.

Hear Nebraska has teamed up with Hutch for the next four Wednesdays in Omaha. Each week, you can catch free shows from two homegrown groups from 6-8 p.m., just as the sun sets.

Each of the four weeks will focus on a genre (indie rock, hip-hop and Americana), and kicks off this Wednesday with some Nebraska pop sounds. The opening night of Live at Turner Park will be showcasing Lincoln’s upbeat LIFE is COOL and Omaha’s jangly Skypiper.

LIFE is COOL’s Jim Reilly and drummer Alex M. Houchin, as well as guitarist Kyle Christensen from Skypiper took a brief moment and answered a couple questions from us. Read on for what Christensen has to say about what’s next for Skypiper and Reilly on just how much LIFE is COOL loves the boys in blue.

RSVP to Wednesday’s concert here.


Hear Nebraska: You have recently made your entire catalog free for download on Bandcamp; why?

Kyle Christensen: Because more than anything, we want people to listen to our music. We thought making it free gives people no excuses not to listen. And for those who have seen us play, but don’t have our albums, we want them to be able to familiarize themselves with our songs, so we can have even more fun playing them live.

HN: Looking back at your previous releases, how differently do you see them now? Which songs continue to change as you still perform them … if they have changed at all?

KC: I would definitely say we are still proud of our discography, but as time goes by, there’s a waxing and waning that happens in regards to our connections with some old songs. Part of it has to do with how our band has changed sonically over the years. We’ve retooled a few of our older songs over the years to better fit our updated sound. One of our favorites that we’ve redone is “Nick of Time” from our first album. We changed the beat and made it more energetic than the album version and it’s a blast to play live.

HN: What new material are you working on now, and what direction are you taking the new work that Skypiper hasn’t been before?

KC: We’re currently knee-deep in writing songs for a new album. We’ve got about 5 or 6 songs completely finished and about 25 (give or take) others to finish and pit against each other to see which ones are album-worthy. We are definitely building off the direction we went for our Troubledoer EP, but not settling there. Our newer songs are much more rhythmic, groovy and drum heavy than anything we’ve ever done. We’re working harder than ever on our melodies, as well. And lyrically, these are some of the most personal songs we’ve written to date, as well. We’re trying to figure out how to deal with divorce, broken hearts and how to endure through struggle. And these songs are a vehicle for that. All in all, it’s coming together to be more energetic, heavy and unexpected than anything we’ve ever done.

HN: Eighteen years from now, on the first annual “Skypiper Roots Tour,” (celebrating the 20th anniversary of your band’s founding), where in Omaha would be the first stop: “the birthplace of Skypiper”?

KC: It would probably be the fireplace room in Gabe and Graham [Burkum]’s parents house in Council Bluffs, actually. That’s where we spent most of our time at the inception of our band (seven years ago!) writing, practicing and even recording our first album. It’s a smallish, wallpapered room with a piano and several paintings where we would all huddle around to write songs and hang out. We even recorded our visual EP there.


Hear Nebraska: If you were to define a “LIFE is COOL mentality” or attitude, what would it be?

Jim Reilly: Confrontational. We deliberately do things that other bands are not doing, or will not do. When we’re at our best, we’re humorous, political, sexual and subversive.

Alex M. Houchin: To affirm that, LIFE Is COOL is to turn away from the mournful cynicism that tempts us all. It is to lift our heads and celebrate human existence and all its infinite spectra of experiences. It is to insist so fiercely on joy and vitality in the face of despair and entropy that it no longer seems like a choice at all.

HN: How often do you tailor your songs specifically for live performance? How much do they change from show to show, room to room, for different audiences?

JR: We do not tailor our performance for any venue. Though, at the Railyard grand opening in Lincoln, we played a set to a largely law-enforcement crowd. It seemed there was one armed weapon for every two concertgoers. I remember counting the guns. This was a few months after Bradley D. Canterbury of the Omaha Police Department was filmed kicking Octavius Johnson’s ass. I was distressed about seeing those weapons at my show, so during “Mo & Gloves,” — a song about police brutality — I was singing directly to them. They were so butch. It was so very intimate.

HN: Turner Park may not have a fog machine backstage — will you bring one anyway, and what is it about a cool, thick, hazy mist that you guys love so much?

JR: It’s important for us to create our own environment. Now, you know everything.

AMH: If you have to ask, you’ll never know.