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The scene at the Twisted Wheel on Friday, December 10 was nothing short of awe-inspiring – especially considering how such an enclosed space could produce such thunderous, ear-shattering sounds of rock n’ roll. The small stage that some of Peterborough’s finest local bands graced that evening saw some very heavy action.
The alternative rock group Nebraska, which won the 2019 Trent University Music Society Battle of the Bands, started off the show at 9 p.m. to a crowd of over a dozen people, dancing and chanting to anthemic originals and covers. Nebraska recently released their debut LP titled Tangerine, which was produced by Okzygen Studios as part of the prize package from the Battle of the Bands. Some original renditions of covers they played included a unique crossover of Rage Against the Machine’s “Bulls on Parade” with the lyrics of the Bee Gee’s “Stayin’ Alive”. Nebraska breaks away from the crowd with its explosive, knockout sound. A loud and aggressive three piece - Nebraska proves to be a band unlike any other. While they are punk rock at heart, they are unapologetic and comfortable stretching into different areas. Songs such as “Key Master” and “Boogeyman” showcase their talents as the thumping drums lay down a foundation for the interesting guitar riffs, and the vocals have room to stretch out. In a competitive market, Nebraska emerges as a young band callous enough to stand out from the crowd. You can check out their new album on Spotify, but we recommend you get a live show if you can. You’ll find they are unforgettable when your ears are still ringing the next morning.
Niall Jensen, the rhythm guitarist and lead vocalist, came on shortly after a gear change and intermission. They then began to play their soft-rock alternative scores, which is sonically reminiscent of bands such as The Smiths and The Killers. The band also played songs from their own self-titled LP. Miraculously, the band never missed a step in keeping the show on two feet. Even when a pedalboard briefly malfunctioned between songs, the rest of the band jammed away, leading into the board being fixed and the show going on, almost as if part of the script. Niall features an undoubtedly domineering stage presence, in which the audience becomes entranced by the easygoing rhythms that are amplified through the various effects and amplifiers. This is the kind of music that stays in your head, like a constant ringing in your ears when you stand too close to the stage monitors (remember to bring earplugs!).
We had the opportunity to interview Niall Jensen backstage after the show, and he had this to say:
Spencer Wells: How did you guys come together? Tell me the process in how you formulated these songs?
Niall Jensen: [Back when] I lived in Norwood, I had a friend in school, and we were playing folk music, but I was dying to play in a band. After I moved to Peterborough [in 2013], I finally met people that I could play in a band with, called Caulfield. It was kind of a groove-rock kind of thing, with pop sensibilities. Over the course of three to four years, I can honestly say that I absolutely detest working creatively with others, and the only reason I’m so comfortable in saying that is because I really do. So what I decided to do is just sail my own ship. I have no problem with others’ creativity – be creative as hell! I sponsor that, ya know? But for me, I just needed to be on my own, so I started writing music in 2017 for a solo project, and this [Niall the band] is what it became. I write all the tunes; get everything composed and send it off to the guys. They add their little flair on it, and we start jamming – playing shows, that’s how it all came to be.
SW: What are your guys’ future plans, if you’re willing to share?
NJ: I’d like to, yeah. We do have some great things coming up. I find a lot of people do the whole ‘big thing coming’ kind of thing, and make people wait for it, build anticipation. But yeah, I don’t like to just sell it all. We’re writing right now; well, I’m writing and they’re helping me. It's nice to have other people's opinions, and they give me their honest opinion – that works for me. We'll probably have a record out by the summer.
As the venue started to clear up, and the last of the merchandise was packed up, we offered to interview the members of Nebraska as well, in a retrospective look since our last encounter at the Battle of the Bands:
SW: What are your guys’ thoughts on the shows, and any remarks on your recent progress since our last meeting?
Sam: Since [the Battle], we gained a lot of traction and I think we should be proud of that. We secured our record deal with Okzygen, had a lot of fun in the studio with Justin, who we like to call “The Splicer,” and he was really fun to work with. [While] professional, he goofed around with us too. Would recommend him 10/10. Since then we took off, a lot of shows, contacts in the Rolodex –
Carter: We should actually get a Rolodex.
Sam: Haha, yeah, we should get a Rolodex. We’ve had a lot of fun playing shows together. It's fun to play shows that feel more legit, now that we kind of [are] more legit.
Darcy: To add onto that, for future projects, we’re working on new material. Hopefully a new EP is coming up soon, only time will tell. We’re working on it slowly but surely.
Sam: Also a second LP is coming after this EP. Stay tuned! I just wanted to reference Spencer's first article where we had said that we’re changing our names to the Oddities; I would just like to put on the record that that was very premature, and that we’re not doing that. So far, we’ve had no legal issues with the state of Nebraska, or any other band called Nebraska, but stay tuned in Spencer’s next article!
SW: You guys just released an LP called Tangerine. Any thoughts after the release?
Sam: Yeah, Tangerine was a lot of fun to record, and lots of fun to eat! Very important to get your vitamin C. We’re a band that promotes vitamin C, healthy eating - primarily tangerines. Also you can list us as Fruit Rock, we’re trying to get that started.
Carter: Yeah, that’s our genre!
SW: We will be looking forward to seeing what developments come in [regarding] that kind of spectre of music. And we'd like to end this great conference in GMC Savannah (a.k.a. the Nebraska van) conference by asking: do you guys have any big future goals/plans coming up?
Carter: Well, we have applied to Bluesfest which is a large festival in Ottawa, and we’ll hear back about that in the next couple of weeks. Oh, and the Bout! We've been accepted into the Bout – it's a very large battle-of-the-bands competition in Toronto at the Hideout, and we are performing at 11:00 p.m. on February 21, and we'll see how we do with that. When it’s announced in May, we’ll look into applying to Music by the Lake in Peterborough... But we kind of figured that [for our future goals] we would like [to] at some point play a show in Nebraska; that would be good. Hopefully it’ll be sponsored by the state itself. We’ll make all the profit off of it obviously, since we’re promoting the state, but yeah, shout out to Nebraska the state!
Keep an eye out for future shows from both of these bands – we can guarantee you won’t be disappointed!