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Back When keeps pushing its sound past the confines of its metal, hardcore roots

The amorphous sound of Back When belies the band's very name.

That ever-changing spirit is alive on the band's forthcoming release Champion Hologram.

The experimental metal band has grown through hardcore roots and noisier phases, emerging as a heavy band that bookends those pounding moments with deft touches of delicate, intricate melodies.

This is Back When circa 2011-2012. The four-piece Omaha band is Aaron Broveak, Chris Kelley, Joe Mickeliunas and Jon Tvrdik.

The band is coming off a two-year hiatus, which ended in late 2009, Kelley says. Shortly after regrouping the band released We Sang As Ghosts.

By Thanksgiving 2010, the band started writing for a new album to follow that one.

They entered Enamel Studio near downtown Omaha and recorded with Clark Baechle. The band did 14 songs, which they narrowed down to 12 for the album.

Kelley says when the band got back together, all of them were eager to play music together. They also knew new albums would be part of the plan.

"It's pretty much been full steam ahead," Kelley says.

The hiatus helped the band members realize that they still wanted to make music together. Kelley says this go-around of Back When feels different than it did before the hiatus.

Now Back When seems much more willing to stray from the expectations that both band members and the band's fans have. Kelley says

"Everyone felt much more open to new things," he says.

Kelley says the evolution has felt natural. Even with change, the core soul of the band still lies in those metal and hardcore roots.

"We like heavy music and we are a heavy band," Kelley says.

Mickeliunas says he still sees defining elements in the music Back When makes.

The band has always relied on big dynamics in the songs, but now those songs are more structured, Mickeliunas says.

Mickeliunas goes as far as to call Back When's current music "heavy pop songs."

The band's earlier incarnations did longer, heavier songs, but those dynamics have carried over. Even in that earlier wallop, there were quieter movements tucked into the heavier whole.

Mickeliunas says the vocals are one of the things that have changed alot. The band's hardcore beginnings meant a ton more screamed vocals.

Now there's more singing parts, Mickeliunas says. Mickeliunas and Tvrdik split the vocal duties.

There's vocals you can understand, so you can follow the story. Chalk it up to maturity, Mickeliunas says.

"As Jon and I gotten older, we've gotten less to scream about," he says.

As Back When settled into their concise four-man line-up, that also allowed them to change. On Champion Hologram, the four members handle all the instrumentation.

The band had an easy choice in working with Clark Baechle. The Faint had the space to record other bands since opening Enamel and Back When and Baechle had been longtime friends.

The band wanted to work locally and with someone who cared about the album.

"We wanted to record somewhere where we didn't have to rush through the record," Tvrdik says.

Back When worked for ten days recording songs, with a few days off in-between the course of the sessions. The short break helped add clarity for the band, as they were able to look at what they were doing fresh after working on it day after day.

"It allowed us to come back and listen to things critically," Tvrdik says.

The album also contains a few guest appearances. Cursive's Ted Stevens sings on "Sugar Devils" and "Whiskey Thieves", Mynabirds' Laura Burhenn sings on "The Sloth" and "Motorcycles" and Jonathan Purcell guests on "Good Evening, Captain".

Mickeliunas says the solid four-person line-up changed the mood in the way that they wrote. The possibilities multiplied because the band was working in town and playing everything themselves.

"All four of us were able to experiment more on this record," Mickeliunas says.

Tvrdik says the band's process is very much just writing what sounds interesting to them. After building something, they work down to the skeleton of the song.

They then discuss what makes sense in determining what the finished song will sound like.

Tvrdik says he knows people are going to expect Back When to play big, loud and heavy songs, but he says he hopes they are catching how detailed the new songs are, as well.

Tvrdik says once Back When completes an album, they are immediately ready to turn over a new leaf for the next batch of songs.

"Once we write a record and a group of songs, we definitely like to explore something new," Tvrdik says.

Back When w/ Conduits, Noah's Ark Was a Spaceship and Honey & Darling plays the Slowdown, 729 N. 14th St., Wednesday, Dec. 28 at 9 p.m. Tickets are $7. For more information, visit

posted at 11:11 pm
on Monday, December 19th, 2011


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