Conduits have grown into Omaha’s brightest indie rock beacons thanks to patience.
Right players, right label, right songs. All have come together as the band, headed up by singer Jenna Morrison and guitarists J.J. Idt and Nate Mickish, have given their project time to evolve.
“Everybody just came in and fell in like they were pieces fit for the puzzle,” Morrison says.
Now the band, which includes drummer Roger Lewis, keyboard/synth player Patrick Newbery and bassist/keyboardist Mike Overfield, is ready to unveil its self-titled debut album, out this week on Team Love. The album is a lush, panoramic set of smoldering post-modern elegies, basically offering up a musical dose of widescreen color in the dead of a cold, city night.
Mickish and Idt started swapping demos about three or four years ago, gathering up a whole chunk songs to work with.
Mickish and Idt were just wrapping up their time in Spring Gun, where Mickish sang lead vocals. Idt was also ending his tenure in Eagle Seagull around the same time.
Both wanted to embark on droney, subdued project and both envisioned a new approach to vocals. Idt says Mickish was pretty set on no longer being a lead singer.
“I think pretty early on we both the we needed the right kind of female vocal for the stuff we were doing,” Mickish says.
Then in 2009, Idt and Morrison met and she quickly suggested the idea of working on music together.
“J.J. just kind of brought us all together,” Morrison says.
Mickish and Idt still swap song demos and then flesh them out together.
Mickish says Idt’s songs come to the band more fully formed than Mickish’s song sketches, but even those songs change shape when the band plays them together.
“They’re all kind of different. I mean, J.J. has definitely done the majority of the groundwork for a lot of the songs on the album,” Morrison says.
On some songs, Mickish and Morrison will write the lyrics or craft a melody. Another song was built by Idt from an a cappella version Morrison had recorded herself.
“With this particular album it’s hard to say there’s one diagram for how we write songs,” Morrison says.
Idt says some of the songs are close to the original demo, some were created by the whole band and there’s even songs that arose from parts of 2 or 3 others.
“It really covers the whole spectrum,” Idt says.
“Last Dirge”, a slow-burn rocker built on post-rock-influenced guitarwork that ends up percolating until it turns into a deluge, started with a first chord progression that Mickish recorded at Idt’s house. The song fragment was lost for about a year, until Idt started working on it while flying back from Europe. Suddenly, the forgotten part had developed into a full song.
Morrison, who sung in Son, Ambulance, says the varied process of creating Conduits songs feel unique to the band.
“The creative process of this album has been really interesting,” Morrison says. “I don’t feel like all bands do it in this way.”
Now the band will finally unveil its first album, which has been done for close to nine months, Morrison says.
Idt says the band did initial tracking at ARC Studios in town over two or three days, then finished the rest at Idt’s home studio during a three-week period. The album was mastered last summer.
By working in Idt’s home studio, the band found freedom from the process of creating full demos, then sticking to those final versions once locked into the time-crunch of professional studio time.
“We just got to kind of let the songs evolve on the actual recording rather than planning everything out,” Idt says.
Morrison says the home studio allowed her to approach vocals multiple ways and feel which takes matched the music best.
“We got to play around with more interesting things and interesting sounds without the clock ticking,” Idt says
Having time on their side also allowed the band to let ideas percolate. The band had the opportunity to step away and come back fresh if they needed to.
“We had the luxury of being able to sit on it for a day and listen to it the next,” Idt says.
Mickish says he sees the band taking advantage of both the home studio and more controlled studio spaces, especially when it comes to recording things like drum tracks.
Still, Idt says he’s in love with keeping that home studio control over the project.
“I don’t see us doing full album in the studio all on our own probably ever,” Idt says
Once the album was finished, both the band and their manager, Cursive’s Matt Maginn, stayed busy sending out the album, hoping to generate label interest, Morrison says.
In Europe, we got a label interested pretty much right away. There was an American label that expressed a desire to release the album too, but that came with more uncertainty.
“Team Love had always been interested in putting it out but they weren’t sure whether they were going to still be putting (new) stuff out,” Morrison says.
In the end, Team Love liked it enough to support it, Nate Mickish says.
And a lot of that comes from Maginn, who has become one of the band’s biggest champions. Maginn still keeps a hand in helping run Team Love, in addition to managing Conduits.
“Without Matt, a lot of the stuff that is going on for us right now wouldn’t have happened,” Mickish says.
Morrison says Maginn had been supportive since the first time he heard the band. As it grew, so did his desire to work with the band.
That might be thanks to Roger Lewis, Conduits drummer. Maginn and Lewis are longtime friends
“I think Roger provided the excitement level enough for Matt to pay attention to it and once Matt heard what we were doing, he liked it,” Mickish says.
Conduits CD release show w/ Gus & Call and Sun Settings takes place Friday, March 16th at the Waiting Room Lounge, 6212 Maple St. Tickets are $7 at the door. For more information, visit onepercentproductions.com.