By Sam Crisler, Audrey Hertel and Jessy Hunt
Aug. 20, 2019
Omaha power-pop band Uh Oh appeared on Hear Nebraska FM on Aug. 12, 2019 to talk about their first LP, “Stay Close.” Listen to them chat with the Hear Nebraska FM hosts and debut two unreleased tracks.
Since the release of Omaha indie rock band Uh Oh’s most recent EP, 2016’s You’re Not Dead, two of its founding members (guitarist Scott Ausdemore and drummer Anthony Bradley) left town in the exploration that often comes with the arrival of adulthood. Meanwhile, Uh Oh’s other two members, bassist Erik Trent and frontman Joe Champion, stayed in Omaha, left with a band whose future was in flux.
Calling it quits never crossed Champion’s mind, though, and he quickly enlisted Jay Jacobson (Timecat, FiFi NoNo) to take over on drums along with lead guitarist Mari Crisler (The Way Out, Death Cow). For those who have caught Uh Oh live within the past two years — whether in a Benson dive bar or a sweaty basement — this personnel switch has had plenty of time to get used to, and the new members’ contributions are being heard for the first time on record in 2019 with the release of Uh Oh’s long-awaited debut LP, Stay Close.
What Uh Oh loses in the celestial synths and sparkplug guitar leads of You’re Not Dead and In The Glow, it regains in Crisler’s excellent vocal harmonizing and songwriting (particularly on the restless “Time Zones”) and in Jacobson’s knack for adapting his primal rhythms to whatever each song calls for.
Champion still runs the show, though, and he’s doing so more confidently than he ever has. Songs like “If You See Me” show Champion besting Conor Oberst’s pained wail, and “We’ll Laugh Again” is a totally unexpected six-minute, slow-building emo-rock ballad, whose group vocals at its first climax are absolutely triumphant. It feels like Champion hitting his songwriting peak.
His nice-guy, earnest delivery asks you to take a walk with him through Midtown as he digs at his deepest fears and comes to grips with tough-to-swallow late-20s realizations. His coping method, best detailed lyrically in “True Blue” (“I want to be surrounded by whoever’s there”) and “Closer To Midnight” (“It’s worth it just to talk a bit tonight”), seems to be an appreciation for the present, taking in every fleeting second with his friends like they might be the last.
The lifespan of a local indie rock band is fickle, too. There’s no guarantee any band will be around for longer than a few years. While much of Omaha is still enamored with the city’s early-aughts indie rock explosion, the modern underground is very alive. And on Stay Close, Champion — though strongly inspired by Omaha songwriters of the past — cements himself among the best in town today, and Uh Oh proves they’re one of the bands you should be appreciating while they’re around.
Sam Crisler, Audrey Hertel and Jessy Hunt are co-hosts of Hear Nebraska FM on KZUM.