Smells Like Noah’s Ark

Noah’s Ark Was a Spaceship runs a golden mile

The scene is O'Leaver's on a Saturday afternoon. How could a bar so fun and full of life in the evening look so bleak and frightening in the daylight? Flat, winter afternoon sun glared through the dirty windows, cutting the darkness where a handful of faceless people sat stooped over the bar, drinking and watching college basketball. The room's tiny “stage” in daylight was a patch of dirty carpeting behind a couple tiny monitors that I pushed out of the way while dragging a chair up to the table where the boys of Noah's Ark Was a Spaceship sat drinking a variety of tallboys. Guitarist vocalist Andrew Gustafson was late arriving from a luncheon with his family. We bided time talking about how the band’s music has been influenced by a handful of acts that these guys are way too young to have heard when first released. “I was in third grade when I first heard Nirvana,” says drummer Rob Webster. “I had a friend whose older brother was really into that shit.” Guitarist vocalist John Svatos explained how a friend had made a VHS mix tape of “super ’90s bands” that introduced him to Smashing Pumpkins. While bassist Ricky Black professes to being “super into Weird Al. I'm not as cool as these guys.” Once Gustafson arrived the interview became chaotic, with everyone talking at the same time, made all the more confusing when the jukebox erupted into Thin Lizzy so loud that I couldn’t hear what anyone was saying. I warned them that I was going to get the story wrong, but they didn't seem to mind. The thumbnail sketch of the band's history: Gustafson met Svatos during art class at Creighton Prep in 2002. “He had a Nirvana patch on his backpack and was already in (local metal band) Paria at the time,” Svatos says. “We were both into Sonic Youth.” With bassist Black, the trio played their first gig on the under card of a local metal show at The Ranch Bowl. Drummer Rob Webster didn’t join the band until the winter of 2006, when he was Svatos’ roommate. Back in the old days, Noah’s Ark Was a Spaceship was an instrumental noise band, very much influenced by Sonic Youth. It wasn’t until Black returned from the University of Iowa that the band added vocals, which changed everything. Their discography includes a 7-inch on local Dutch Hall Records and an EP on Slumber Party, the record label that’s releasing their debut LP, Hanga-Fang, at an album release show this Friday night at The Waiting Room. I say “album release” because there will be no CDs — just digital downloads and $15 slabs of 180-gram orange vinyl. You can get the drift of Hanga-Fang's post-punk by playing it on your computer speakers, but you’ll enjoy it much more by dropping it on your Technics turntable hooked to your Harman/Kardon stereo and a pair of beefy Boston Acoustic speakers — or at least wearing headphones — where you can pick up subtle hints of Sonic Youth, Nirvana, Husker Du and Fugazi beneath layers of densely packed guitars and crisp, cracklin’ drums. Noah’s Ark does more than emulate. They reinvent that ’90s facade in a modern setting without taking their eyes off the past. Their sound reminds me of the Lawrence scene circa 1993 (think Vitreous Humor or Zoom) — noise rock taken to slacker extremes born under a lonely, empty sky. The album was recorded last spring by long-time Noah’s Ark engineer Mark McGowan at his Suitcase Recording studio, and mixed by AJ Mogis at ARC Studios. The band pressed 500 copies under the Slumber Party moniker. We talked about the logic of only pressing vinyl, and how they couldn’t afford a distro deal. Money is not high on their priority list. “I encourage bootlegging,” Gustafson says, though I couldn’t talk him into allowing me to post the download link in this article. Their next step is heading east and south on a tour with pals The Yuppies, followed by a western tour this summer that Black has yet to book. They’ve become renowned locally for their live show, but there also have been miscues, like playing Laslo’s Brewpub last summer, a restaurant where Webster was a cook. He warned them. “We played to kids and grandparents,” he says. “When we got done, you could hear a pin drop.” “The guys from Oxygen played after us,” Gustafson says. “They told us, ‘We really love your hard-edged sound.’” Webster quit Laslo’s shortly afterward, and the band never did get paid. But they made up for it, opening for Cursive at a sold out New Year’s Eve gig in Chicago that they nearly missed due to an ice storm. “We almost ran over a cop about a half- hour outside of Iowa City,” Webster recalls. For the band, the best part of the job is touring, and discovering weird new places, like Fairfield, Iowa, “America's capital for transcendental meditation,” Svatos says, though none of the band knew that when they booked the gig. Gustafson says Fairfield and that tour stop could be summed up by a conversation between him, a local girl and a guy who had just arrived in the U.S. “We were standing on top of this building, and the foreign guy asked, ‘What is medicine?’” Gustafson said. “I told him it's like a pill that you take when you’re sick. The girl gave me a stern look and said, ‘No, it’s not.’ And then she pointed at a bird that was flying over and said, ‘Medicine is that.’” Svatos then adds, “That turned out to be the best show on the tour.” Lazy-i is a weekly column by Reader senior contributing writer Tim McMahan focused on the Omaha music scene. Check out Tim's daily music news updates at his website, lazy-i.com, or email him at lazy-i@thereader.com.

posted at 07:56 pm
on Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

COMMENTS

(We're testing Disqus commenting (finally!); please let us know if you have trouble.)

comments powered by Disqus

 

« Previous Page


Remembering Dave

It began in November 1992. I was a few years out of college at UNO, already working full time at Union Pacific, but still writing about underground music, something that I’d begun doing as the...

more »


Totally Crushing on Millions of Boys

Omaha power-pop punk band Millions of Boys’ new 10-inch record, Competing for Your Love, is a 180-gram slab of vinyl complete with digital download key, and even comes with a photo of Omaha booze...

more »


Future Tense: 2012 Music Predictions, Pt. 2

And now, the conclusion of my annual music predictions columns, where I gaze into the glossy black finish of a Fender Squier and see visions of what will occur in the coming days / months / years....

more »


Future Tense: 2012 Music Predictions (Pt. 1)

And so, as we enter into the year 2012 (the last year of our existence, according to another great seer), it is once again time for me to gaze through the fabric of time to reveal how all of our...

more »


<p>  It's True, 4/1/11.</p> Stage Dive: The Best Live Shows of 2011

In years past I made it to at least a hundred shows in a calendar year. This year the number was around 60, but looking over the following list, 2011 was as good as any year that I can remember:

...

more »







Advanced Search