Tie These Hands: Nebraska Music, Big in Japan | Feature

photo and words by Cara Wilwerding

Tie These Hands call themselves the “dinosaurs” of the Nebraska music scene, only they don't foresee any sort of extinction.

The band built of three-fourths brothers — Aram, Naum and Seth Stauffer — has been playing together for more than a decade, while bassist Ryan Phillips joined the trio after the release of their third album, We Work Out.

As a result, Naum says that Lincolnites see Tie These Hands as a mainstay. They’ve always been around and just continue putting out albums.

“I feel like we just sort of lived through scenes,” Aram says. “We were in this scene and all those bands quit. It’s like the next phase of the music scene and we keep playing, but they just stop.”

However, they haven’t stuck to phases in just Lincoln’s scene. Tokyo’s Linus Records began selling the band's split album with Mr. 1986 in 2003, and customers also showed a demand for their 2002 record Wearing Red. Over the years, their music made its way across Japan, and 2007’s We Work Out made Linus’ top selling/recommended list.

After Japan’s Kilk Records contacted Tie These Hands in 2011, they began working on a new album, Come On, which they released in Japan in October 2012. And the group will officially release Come On in the U.S. on Aug. 6, though it’s already available digitally.

Naum says that the songs on this album are more mature, lyrically and musically, than songs on the previous three albums. “Anniversary” for example, has fewer lyrics but is still fraught with somber emotion. Naum wrote the song about reuniting with his girlfriend in the airport after she moved to Scotland for three months.

“Overall, this album has every song directly correlated to an event that actually happened, where other albums were more hypothetical,” Phillips says.

While many of the songs are about relationships, Seth explains that the album also displays deeper themes of free will and change. “Atlas,” for example, is about breaking up with someone who isn’t right for you, but the motivation behind the song goes much further.

“The overwhelming theme of ‘Atlas’ is that I’m the one who has to make the decision when you realize it’s not the right thing,” Aram says. “Somebody has to choose that, you can’t just walk away and not resolve that.”

In a recent press release, Riot Act Media touted Tie These Hands as pulling “on the same heart strings as Death Cab For Cutie, in all the best ways.” Band members agree with that description, adding that their clean, full sound is just a touch more upbeat than Death Cab.

While previous albums displayed stronger pop influences, Aram says they stepped away from that style of writing while producing Come On.

“I feel like we tried to push ourselves to do something before,” Naum says. “This album may have the most poppy song we’ve ever written (“Pro Choice”), but I wasn’t trying to do that. It was just natural.”

Tie These Hands members will perform songs from Come On tonight on Hear Nebraska FM on 89.3 KZUM. The show starts at 6 p.m.

It seems the Stauffers and Phillips take great pride in the songs on this album simply because they wrote for themselves. Tie These Hands just wants to play music that sounds good to their own ears. Aram said that’s always been the case, ever since he started writing music as a kid.

“It wasn’t the greatest thing ever, but every once in awhile, I’d write something that I thought was cool,” he says.

And today, Tie These Hands continues to write the music they like to listen to. They’ve already crafted nine songs for their next album, which they hope to release much quicker than the last, realizing that another six-year gap may lessen their fanbase.

Fans can catch them at Meadowlark Coffee & Espresso on Aug. 16 for a now-rare live performance. Touring has never been a huge factor of the music-making process for Tie These Hands, they say, and it’s now become even more difficult to schedule shows as all four members work full-time jobs and two have children. But they still agree there’s no better feeling than playing in a dark bar, with ears ringing and beers flowing. That’s what music is all about for them.

“We’re not going to be rock stars or anything like that, and that’s fine,” Seth says. “It’s just part of our lives.”

Cara Wilwerding is a Hear Nebraska intern. Reach her at caraw@hearnebraska.org.