Midnight Devils on Stepping Out and the Community of Rock and Roll
by Jamie Vassar
High energy glam, self proclaimed “slam boogie woogie” rock and roll band The Midnight Devils has been bringing the noise since 2015. The band started with two restless members of 80’s hair metal project 3D In Your Face, Sam Morris and Chris Hineline, wanting to tour after the group slowed down. The duo set out, doing an acoustic tour and after getting blessings from 3D’s vocalist to move forward, gained a drummer, creating a circus of their own filled with big hair, big guitar solos and bigger personalities.
“After just a few tours and about a year as a full electric band we’ve done some of the biggest shows of our careers”, Morris says.
And while the spirit of loud and dirty Rock n’ Roll is strong with these ones, the members of The Midnight Devils take from other influences like Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry to mix up the sound, making it an experience you have to witness. For them, it’s about bringing back the decadence that thrived in 80’s rock music, including the all-out showmanship of glam.
The Midnight Devils are currently touring to promote their album, Lost in Volume, including a stop during week six of the Hear Grand Island concert series (RSVP here). Lead vocalist, Sam ‘Spade’ Morris took the time to chat with Hear Nebraska about the band’s musical influences, stepping away from long term project 3D In Your Face and what continues to drive them.
Hear Nebraska: Midnight Devils is the side project of your larger band, 3D In Your Face, performing shows when the whole band isn’t able to. How did the decision to create Devils come about, and what makes the project unique in its own right?
Sam Spade Morris: In 2015/2016 3D In Your Face had started to slow down and the guitar player Chris “Sniper” Hineline, and I were sitting at home on the weekends wondering what we were doing wrong. We had a new album on the way and we decided to start touring small towns across Nebraska as an acoustic duo. We did tons of shows and it was successful. The lead singer of 3D In Your Face decided he wanted to take a step back from the road and gave us his blessing to move forward. We made the tough decision to jump out into the deep end and go at it on our own. We got a drummer and started booking shows. We not only booked shows in Nebraska but we started to hit the surrounding states. After just a few tours and about a year as a full electric band we’ve done some of the biggest shows of our careers. Now we have international touring drummer Jimmy Mess from Chicago playing with us and we are setting our goals even higher for 2017/2018.
The cool thing about this band is that we aren’t limited to just the 80’s glam rock formula. We wanted to throw in our love for rockabilly, blues, and boogie woogie. Guys like Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Chuck Berry were huge influences on us and we wanted to combine that style of music with sleazy glam rock. It’s unique and never really been done before. Essentially it’s loud guitar driven rock n roll music which is difficult to find now but you add the hair and the makeup and it becomes a real show for the crowd.
HN: What’s the inspiration behind the name Midnight Devils?
SM: The name actually came from the 2013 3D In Your Face release also called Midnight Devils. We just added “The” in front of it as a tribute to bands like The Who and The Rolling Stones. Midnight Devils actually came from an idea we had going into writing that album. It was about the feeling you get as soon as the sun goes down on a Friday night. It’s about that energy that comes over you that makes you feel like anything is possible and that some wild adventure is potentially right around the corner.
HN: As a band that has seen many evolutions of the genre, what still draws you to the atmosphere of 80’s glam rock In 2017?
SM: What keeps us coming back for more after all these years is quite simply our love for bands like KISS and Van Halen. We grew up listening to those bands and I think at one point any guitar player from this style of Rock n Roll wanted to be Ace Frehley or Eddie Van Halen. We want to put on a show for people not just musically but visually. Every time we play it’s a time to cut loose and let go for a few hours. Our music is fun and positive. The whole glam rock community is a united family not just in America but around the world. To be a part of that is very special. It takes a special kind of person to get up there in glitter and lipstick but that’s what makes this whole thing unique. We aren’t afraid to be different or express ourselves. Walking down the street you might think we look a bit outrageous and my dad certainly thinks so too but once the lights go down we are all in it together, the crowd the band, it becomes one big celebration.
HN: Your album Lost in Volume is loaded with high energy songs, what is that recording experience like?
SM: Recording Lost in the Volume was awesome in that is was basically our sophomore release with that line up. Sniper and I worked together very closely writing the songs that would follow up the Midnight Devils album. Essentially we had success with the 2013 release and we didn’t want to deviate from the blueprint. The songs came about while we were on the road and were inspired by what we experienced out there. We combined our love for classic rock, punk, and old glam rock together but made it our own. It was recorded in our own studio and produced by our live sound engineer Troy Way. I think the most amazing thing about these two albums is that we recorded everything all sitting together in one room. It’s essentially done live. The drums, bass, and lead guitars are all put down on one take and if it’s wrong or somebody messes up we do it again. We wanted to give it that raw, raunchy, rock n roll feel. I personally hate going into the studio and sitting there for hours working on tracks. At the same time I find it amazing to see how a rough demo track recorded on your phone comes to life and becomes a single, then a video, and then played in front of thousands of people. We still get goose bumps watching people sing our lyrics back to us on stage.
HN: Why is local, original music important to Nebraska communities?
SM: Local music and art inspire creativity and individuality. Rock ‘n’ roll quite literally saved my life. If it wasn’t for this music I probably would have ended up in jail or something worse. Being able to put a band together, get a van, and travel the country is the ultimate form of artistic expression. We are living proof that you can make your dreams come true. It’s not easy but it definitely gets in your blood. I don’t think we could stop if we tried. Growing up in Nebraska can be hard but having that outlet makes all those dark times worth it. Finding places that support live music is like finding an oasis in the desert. Here in Nebraska we have great venues, websites and music fans that give us the opportunity to grow and evolve as artists. We love Nebraska and we know that every time we leave we are representing an amazing state and an amazing musical community to the rest of the world. We don’t ever take that lightly.
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Apply now for HN’s fall internships
by HN Staff
We want to make Nebraska music internationally known, and we want your help.
Applications are now open for Hear Nebraska’s fall internships in editorial, multimedia, marketing and events. Apply below no later than Monday, August 7.
Working both remotely and at either of our Omaha or Lincoln offices, you will help us cover, promote and present the state’s music community. Tell the story of Nebraska music through written and multimedia coverage, promote great events showcasing local musicians (specifically, Lincoln Calling music festival, Benson First Friday Femme Fest, Nebraska Hardcore Showcase and much more) and gain valuable experience working on the ground with an ambitious nonprofit.
Questions? Email managing editor Andrew Stellmon at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Below, find just one example of the engaging work produced by our interns in Lauren Farris’ interview with The Faint.
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Q&A: Chess Club on making records as teenagers and why they like Nebraska shows
by Sam Crisler
For Chess Club, its members graduating from high school means no more incredulous questions from math teachers asking why they were late for class the night after a show and no more classmates rolling their eyes at the idea of someone else starting a band. Graduation also means more time for focusing on touring and songwriting, rather than staying up late working on biology reports.
“Nobody in high school ever really took our band seriously until they came and watched us and saw how seriously we took it,” says vocalist and guitarist Griffin Nelson.
Since the Lawrence, Kansas emo band formed in 2015, it has dropped one EP, last year’s Hi Sad and has played short three-date out-of-state jaunts, but they’re heading out on their first tour, which takes them through Lincoln (July 9 at The Commons) and Omaha (July 10 at Lucy’s Pub). Ahead of the tour we caught up with Nelson, drummer Cooper Avery and bassist David Krejci about balancing high school and music, the longevity of the “emo revival” and the struggles of dragging a truck and trailer around on tour.
Hear Nebraska: How did you guys get your start?
Griffin Nelson: Cooper and I have been playing in bands together since we were twelve, and we started to form this band after the end of the last band we were in, and the other person we had in that band decided he didn’t want to be in the band with us anymore, and so we found ourselves without a bass player. And one of the only other bass players in town that we thought was good enough and was around our age was David, and so we asked him to play in our band. And it just so happened we knew each other through middle school. Our other bands had played shows together in the past too, so that was sort of how we were familiar with each other through music. Just like playing shows together when we were thirteen or fourteen years old.
HN: You were playing shows when you were thirteen and fourteen years old? What kind of music were you playing back then?
Cooper Avery: Griffin and I were in a metalcore band for like three years when we were twelve to fifteen, and then David was in an Arctic Monkeys-type indie band.
HN: How did you get to playing the type of emo you play now?
GN: I think that kinda came from just the whole emo revival thing. Bands like Midwest Pen Pals. We started getting into that. Then bands like Snowing, and of course bigger bands like Modern Baseball and stuff like that kind of re-opened that genre again. I had listened to bands like The Get Up Kids, Saves The Day, Sunny Day Real Estate, those kinds of emo bands, but I had never gotten really into it until we were about 15 or 16 years old.
CA: Tiny Moving Parts was one of the biggest bands that got me to want to play this style of music.
HN: Is that where a lot of your tapping guitar parts come from?
GN: I would say so, yeah. That’s a huge influence there because we saw that and we were like “oh, that’s really cool; we should do stuff like that.”
HN: What do you think of the whole emo revival? What kind of longevity do you think it still has?
CA: There’s still a lot of bands that have just gotten really popular that came from the emo revival, you know? And there’s still like a lot of up-and-coming artists kind of doing pretty original work within that style or genre.
David Krejci: I think a lot of the emo revival genre still has a lot more to give. I don’t think it’s necessarily on its way out. Like today in Kansas City, we’re gonna go play with Mom Jeans, and they’re like one of the more up-and-coming bands, and you definitely have a lot of really cool bands coming up from the Midwest as well as in Philadelphia where you have a ton of bands that fall into the emo revival genre that are just amazing bands that write great songs and know how to play and are interesting. It feels like people are still into it.
HN: What’s it like making records and touring when you’re just out of high school?
CA: It’s really fun. This is what we want to do hobbywise. I guess this is kind of a hobby, but we take it a lot more seriously than that, too.
GN: I think at one point we all kind of agreed that it was surreal to the fact that, especially when we were in high school, we would come back home the night before we had to wake up at 7 in the morning to go to high school because we played a show to 50 or 60 people with a band that nobody had ever heard of besides people in our scene. And it’s kind of surreal, like the whole math teacher thing being like “Why are you late?” It’s like “Oh, I was playing a show last night.” Nobody in high school ever really took our band seriously until they came and watched us and saw how seriously we took it. I wouldn’t say we take ourselves seriously personality-wise, but I think we take it seriously because this is what we want to do, and we really want to work at it.
HN: What do your parents think about all of it?
CA: My parents kind of know they can’t have a say in what I do anymore, so they’re just like, “okay, he’s doing that.”
DK: My parents have always been really supportive, but I think throughout the years, they’ve been kind of apprehensive about me going and playing house shows when I was like 15. And when we were playing out-of-town shows when we were like 16 and 17, they were like “Is it really financially feasible?” And I would be like, “Well, no, but this is what I want to do.”
GN: My dad played in a band back in the day, and he was like part of the underground punk scene, if you will, in our hometown, so he totally understands the want to go out and play. My mom wasn’t in a band, but she was part of that scene too. So they were always really supportive about it. They were more like “So where are you gonna go out on the road?” Our parents have always supported what we want to do and our ideas.
HN: This is your biggest tour yet. Is there anything that makes you nervous about it, or are you just excited?
GN: I don’t know if those feelings will come until we’re like kinda thrown into that situation maybe, just because as of right now, we’re all just super excited to get out on the road and go. Because we’ve played in Nebraska before.
CA: Yeah, we’re really excited to be back in Nebraska.
GN: Yeah, Nebraska’s awesome. I think we’re most excited to see these people that we’ve met along the way, and just meeting new people and stuff like that. Every single show that we’ve played, especially out of town, there’s a new person that you talk to and a new relationship. And it’s just cool because you can be like, “Oh yeah, the next time we come through, I’m gonna see you again, and it’s gonna be awesome.”
DK: I think the only thing that I’m nervous about is just driving a really big truck and trailer for like ten days. It’s gonna be stressful like backing it up and stuff. We’re pretty new to driving, really, like three or four years.
HN: You say Nebraska is awesome. Why do you think it’s cool?
GN: Every show that we’ve played in Nebraska, whether it be Omaha or Lincoln, it’s just a great show, and we see great people. We know quite a few people, so it’s nice to catch up with people we already know.
CA: There’s a lot of really good bands in like Lincoln and Omaha too, like Better Friend, The Ambulanters, The Way Out, Idlefox and Centerpiece. Those are all like really, really good bands that we’re friends with and like visiting.
DK: That’s probably the coolest thing about playing in Nebraska is that every band that we’ve ever played with has just been like killer on-stage and just really good, nice people. And we’ve never had a bad experience in Nebraska. It’s always been a really cool place to go play.
HN: So what’s next for Chess Club?
GN: Within the next six to eight months, I would say we’d have a full-length record out. We’re gonna try to see if any labels will try to bite at it and if there’s any other attention like that. And if there’s not, then we’ll just do what we did with our EP, and then we’ll self-release it. We’ll probably even try to tour that record. New music is coming out, and we have a few friend bands that want to release splits with us. Within the next year, especially since we are out of high school, we have so much more time to just focus on the band and on music instead of on math.
HN: Will the “Finding Emo” hat be back on tour?
CA: We can if people want it. We didn’t know there was a demand for it, so it may be back, then.
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Ridgelines drops ethereal, isolating “Lost” video ahead of new album
by Sam Crisler
As he prepares for the release of his latest LP, Beautiful View, Omaha producer Ridgelines, aka Mike Johnson, is dropping the album’s first single and music video, “Lost,” which features singer-songwriter Jacob James Wilton and emcee J. Crum.
The track opens with ethereally dreamy synths and dreary, spaced-out guitar lines while the video watches from the International Space Station as a cloud-covered Earth rotates in a 360 degree view. Wilton’s voice then ominously carries into the song like he’s singing at the top of his lungs from a closet.
Then, in comes a pounding kick drum, and J. Crum’s hypnotic rhyming and wordplay take over, spitting about alienation and confusion with bars like “Something like a castaway/riding these waves, hoping they take me past this place.”
Give “Lost” a watch below.
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Keep the post-Independence Day summer fun going with a show or two. Find a fuller list of shows at our events page here, and let us know which shows you’re planning to hit in the comments section below.
Omaha Under The Radar Festival – The fourth annual Omaha Under The Radar Festival kicks off tonight with a music talk at Project Project featuring Scott Shinbara, Tomm Roland, Jason Domonkos and Philip Kolbo. Also happening tonight is a party at Hi-Fi House for the festival’s artists and ticket holders with VIP passes. Find the full lineup and schedule on the festival website here.
Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit with The Mountain Goats at Sumtur Amphitheater – Two years after dropping his critically-acclaimed LP Something More Than Free, Nashville alt-country superstar Jason Isbell is back with a new record, The Nashville Sound, and a tour that stops at Sumtur Amphitheater tonight. Indie folk veterans The Mountain Goats, sporting their latest album, Goths, are along for the ride too. 6:30 p.m. $40. All Ages. RSVP here.
KZUM Stransky Park Concert with Belles & Whistles – KZUM hosts its sixth Stransky Park concert of the year Thursday night, and this week they’re bringing Omaha mother/daughter country pop duo Belles & Whistles to the gazebo stage. HN recently talked with the band about its musical voice and passions in a Q&A, which you can read here. Thursday night’s show starts at 7 p.m. and is free to the public. RSVP here.