5Q :: The Midwest’s ‘Dilemma’ originates in OmahaOmaha's latest noteworthy export is Midwest Dilemma, which is quickly winning over Americana-leaning fans with the gigantic-in-scope "Timelines & Tragedies."
Omaha’s Saddle Creek Records is to indie rock what Minneapolis’ Rhymesayers Entertainment is to underground hip-hop. In other words, if your indie rock group operates out of Nebraska’s biggest city and you’re “not down with the SCR,” your music probably doesn’t get talked about as much elsewhere in the nation.
But we here in the Northland know that is a plain shame. After being treated to a number of shows from the impeccable Omaha collective Shelter Belt — which just released a must-own new album, “Everyone Might Be a Senator,” by the way — we understand there’s much more to that city’s scene than Conor Oberst and his cronies.
The latest noteworthy export is Midwest Dilemma. The group is quickly winning over Americana-leaning fans with the gigantic-in-scope “Timelines & Tragedies,” which finds inspiration in the family lineage of frontman Justin P. Lamoureux — all the way back to the days of fur trading, no less.
Lamoureux, who will soon be in town for a performance at Beaner’s Central, recently spoke to us about his on-the-up-and-up outfit:
Budgeteer: “Timelines & Tragedies” has quite an interesting sound. How did you keep 23 different artists on track, working toward a collective goal?
Lamoureux: Interesting, to say the least…. It was more than interesting; it was a full-time job pulling this all together. And then some.
The only thing keeping me sane was that it sounded like nothing else. I am so proud of this album and our band. But, more than collectively, it was individually: I started with guitar and vocals as the first tracks, then the clarinet, then the cello, etc., with drums and bass last. Each musician came in one by one, sometimes not even hearing the music prior to arriving in the studio. It was very magical and inspiring to see this all unfold.
Considering how much creative effort went into crafting “Timelines & Tragedies,” how do its songs come together in the living setting? How many members are in the touring incarnation of Midwest Dilemma?
Many of the players on the record were used for just that. However, the ones that showed interest in live performances were soon on board in the van and traveling coast to coast with our ensemble.
It’s a revolving cast, though. For a while we have up to 11 or 12 musicians on the stage for local Omaha shows, and usually around six for shows out on the road.
Our Duluth show will be Nathaniel (drummer) and me. It’s always a great time, and we love the change and challenges of not knowing what type lineup we will bring. It’s all about timing and availability.
So much of what we (as in, non-Nebraskans) hear about the Omaha scene is somehow related to Saddle Creek’s stable of artists — are those guys pretty open about playing shows with non-S.C. groups, or are there kind of like two scenes going on down there?
We just played with one of Saddle Creek’s newer acts, UUVVWWZ. Now that I think about it, I have played with Joe Knapp of Son Ambulance and Neva Dinova, and I was invited up to sit in with Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes’ backing band, which included David Rawlings among a handful of local legends, at an undercover performance at the Barley Street Tavern. Our record was partially recorded and mixed — twice — in Mike Mogis and Conor’s studio, which is called ARC.
I found it fascinating how “Timelines & Tragedies” traced one family’s lineage all the way back to the days of fur trading. On that, how do you feel that our lives today stack up to those of yesteryear, when people struggled to survive every day?
I tried to put myself in each time frame and see life from my family’s perspective from the past. It helped me tell the story and it felt good to go there. I feel proud of the accomplishments and honored that I am able to tell their stories.
There is always going to be hard times, and we really can’t say our hard times are less troublesome than the ones from back then. Technology and society seems to be advancing, but so is heartache.
Finally, on a lighter note, your music has one foot firmly placed in the past ... how do you think your sound would’ve gone over in the early 1900s (or earlier)?
Smile! I think they would probably not get it. Most people today don’t get it. Our music is not the norm; it’s not what you hear on the radio or TV, and it’s not what’s popular with the kids. It’s honest and, at times, harsh. It’s not for everyone, but it does seem to impact the people who are looking for something outside what they are being fed by corporate America.
NEWS TO USE
Midwest Dilemma will perform at 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 19, at Beaner’s Central. Yeltzi is also on the bill. Cost is $5. For free MP3s of the songs “The Great Depression,” “Chicago and North Western” and “Omaha,” visit www.midwestdilemma.com.
Tags: budge a and e, arts and entertainment, midwest dilemma, beaners central, justin lamoureux, saddle creek, conor oberst, online exclusives, life, music, 5q, omaha, nebraska, yeltzi, americana, interview