Electric Needle Room inadvertently hold an outsider’s perspective to the Omaha music scene. In a town where a good number of the working musicians grew up alongside one another, played in bands together, partying and gossiping together along the ride, trying to elbow your way into the middle of it all is no easy feat.
By now, we all know that Omaha is no musical epicenter, not a Portland, an Austin, a Nashville. The number of sunken-eyed, starving musicians that relocate to Nebraska is easily cancelled out by the number of musicians that move away. There might be a thriving little musical community that steadily produces the occasional world-renown act worth noting in here somewhere, but Omaha is still flyover country for the majority of the music industry.
Even so, things are brighter here than other towns in the region. Take Wichita, Kan., for example. It’s a city much like Omaha: a conservative, mid-sized Midwestern city. For a musician, however, it is not the kind of place one can thrive in. There’s nothing comparable to Saddle Creek Records or One Percent Productions or the Benson music district. Sure, there’s a gentrifying downtown and a couple decent music clubs, but that’s it. But in contrast, Omaha does appear like Seattle of the early-‘90s.
Three of the four members of Electric Needle Room hail from Wichita: brothers Matt and Steven Beat and Daniel Lewis Diedrich. Both Matt (piano, vocals, multiple instruments) and Daniel (guitar) moved to Omaha in recent years for greener musical pastures. In fact, the closeness of Omaha’s scene introduced them to one another, as they’d never even met in their hometown. Steven (drums) migrated to Kansas City, where he still lives and works. The fourth member, bassist Bryan Poole, is originally from Louisiana.
Aesthetically, there’s a consistent oddness to Electric Needle Room, stemming from the bright and bouncy songs about un-profound everyday happenings written by Matt Beat. Paired with brother Steven, who samples audio from movies and places them over original music for his own project Beats the Movies, and Daniel, who also has a lot on his plate with his solo lo-fi projects DL Diedrich, Spiders For Love and Hello Ferocious Records, you have one of the best bands in Omaha that no one’s heard.
How long have you been playing? What have you released so far?
Matt: Well, me and Steven have been playing since middle school. And we played in other bands together. But the Electric Needle Room project, which was my solo stuff, I had an album that came out called “My Socks Never Match” (2005), and it’s very lo-fi. I recorded it in my bedroom. Basically, he (Steven) only added drums to four of the songs on that one. At that time, we never really played shows and once we started playing shows, since then, we’ve had two albums and one EP released.
Didn’t you play a Battle of the Bands at Club Roxbury?
Matt: We needed practice. The winner would open for 40 Ounces to Freedom. I guess they’re pretty big.
You mean the Sublime tribute band?
Matt: Are they? OK, I thought they sounded like Sublime. I guess they’re pretty big.
That’s a terrible prize!
Matt: (Laughs.) Well, I hope we don’t win.
(Note: they didn’t.)
I think “40 oz.” was a great album, but Sublime is…
Matt: They’re completely overrated.
What do you do with MavRadio at UNO?
Matt: I make sure we play nothing but Electric Needle Room, first and foremost. No, I’m kidding. It’s very small. I used to work in college radio in Kansas at KJHK and I loved. Then I worked in commercial radio for a little while – hated it. That’s why I’m not in radio today. I guess I was too idealistic. College radio is where you actually give music that won’t be heard other places a chance.
(At MavRadio) I just of walked in and (the station manager) was just trying to rebuild the station and I said, “Yeah, I have experience.” He said, “OK, great. You’re music director.” We have a staff of about 10 people. We all work for free. We don’t have time to do it, but I have some big news about the station, actually I can’t tell you now, but I’ll let you know when we can tell you.
I’ve recently discovered the label that’s supporting your latest release – Series II records. Can you tell me about more about this?
Matt: It’s a very small CD-R label based in Columbus, (Neb.). He likes indie pop, so that’s pretty much the only type of (music he puts out).
Steven: He asked me about shoegaze.
Matt: Yeah, shoegaze. We’re more power pop than anything else, but, anyway. So I’m surprised (Series II) didn’t work more with local artists, but it seems like most of the indie pop bands that were already around in Omaha had other outlets already. With the Internet, he contacts these great bands like from Germany and Sweden, and they don’t have hardly any fans; no one knows about them. I mean some of these bands are just incredible. I found a lot great music that I never would have heard about.
What’s this “Nebraska Pop Festival” I’ve heard about scheduled at the Waiting Room this August?
Matt: That’s Chris (from Series II), also. It’s going to be a benefit for MavRadio. He’s already got bands from all over the world who said they’re interested in coming to Omaha, Nebraska to play this thing.
There’s a lot of really cool indie pop festivals that take play all over America. And Europe, too.
Matt: Indie pop is a lot bigger in Europe. Around here it’s more roots-y stuff, Americana.
Matt: I don’t think people realize how big the metal scene is here.
DL: A lot of it’s coming from Lincoln, Grand Island, Columbus. Everyone seems to be in nothing but metal bands.
How’d you end up joining ENR, Daniel?
DL: I just kind of slipped in. My first solo show here was at Saddle Creek Bar with these guys. It was when I’d just moved here. And at the time it was just these two (Matt and Steven). Last May, I saw you guys at Pizza Shoppe, and actually they weren’t really all tuned up. Bryan (Poole, bass player) comes up to me and he’s like, “Matt needs to tune his guitar better next time.” And I was like, “I can play guitar.”
Steven: Well, his guitar is never in tune. It comes out of tune after every song.
Matt: Piano is more my instrument. Plus when Daniel plays guitar for us, I have the opportunity to break out the trumpet, which is something I always want to do, but if you’ve every tried to play trumpet, piano and guitar at the same time, it doesn’t work. It’s frustrating because on the recordings, I’ll play 10 different instruments.
Steven: That we can’t play live.
Matt: I should probably try to get more people to join the band. But that takes time.
Are you involved with any other projects?
DL: Actually these two are working with me on a 7-inch vinyl EP. It’s kind of switching roles.
What name will you put that out under?
DL: I was thinking DL Diedrich and Matt and Steven Beat.
Matt: What ever happened to “DL Diedrich and the Devils”?
DL: It was this idea that we could get this big powerhouse band.
Matt: Like everyone else is doing: It’s True, Midwest Dilemma, Brad Hoshaw – recruit 10 people.
Over the last several months, your music is really starting to grow on me the more I listen to it. It’s got a certain charm to it, as a lot of your songs are catchy and kind of silly. What do you write about?
Matt: I get really sick of songs about love and death, morality, whatever. I mean, let’s face it, most people have their little things in their daily lives that there’s plenty of opportunities to write things about. I’ve never really been big on lyrics anyway. Some of my favorite songs, I don’t remember the lyrics for. I think I was trying to prove a point, especially with the tomato song (“I Don’t Like Tomatoes”). It was just a good little tune. You could add any lyrics to it and make it good.
What do you do outside of music?
DL: I work consignment at Homer’s. Local bands need a way to get their CDs in stores. I’ve been trying to get the word out a bit more.
Steven: I work in Kansas City. I work in this DVD, CD, VHS duplication place. We mostly make blank videotapes for casinos and stuff like that.
Matt: MavRadio! I go to school fulltime where I study education. I work fulltime at Lakeside Hospital and I park cars for a living. I wrote a song about it, the hospital valet song.
Did O’Leaver’s Pub really ban you guys for wearing wigs during a show?
Matt: Whoever does the O’Leaver’s posting on S.L.A.M. Omaha said because we wore wigs, we can’t be taken seriously. I was thinking about Talking Mountain and all these other bands that dress up, and what’s the difference? A lot of it’s political, I hate to say it. I guess I didn’t really care, but at the same time I thought I should write a song about it. I hope I didn’t offend them.