Remember that “tornado” threat a couple weeks back? Around these parts, the only tornado we witnessed touched ground inside Music Hall of Williamsburg on the night of October 2. Fittingly, that’s when Omaha, Nebraska’s Yuppies happened to roll through town. Joining a killer bill of locals headlined by Parquet Courts, these keen, artful noise punks managed to hold their own, and then some. In fact, Yuppies pretty much blew us away.
At Bushwick Daily, we’re featuring interviews with some of the raddest touring bands during their pit-stops in our favorite borough. In the very first edition of a new column we’ve titled Bushwick Bandwagon, we chatted with the nicest of guys, Yuppies, just before they took the stage, covering such topics as the band’s recent debut LP, bad radio music, the Omaha music scene, and where to find the city on a map (hint: it’s in the middle). Read on for a Spotify playlist, interview, and exclusive photos from the show.
At MHOW, Yuppies performed their stellar debut from top to bottom, track by painfully impressive track. Earlier this fall, the album was released by Dull Tools, the label run by Parquet Courts’ own Andrew Savage. Perfectly paced from start to finish, Yuppies drifts effortlessly between moments of cool, careful silence and shocks of riotous noise. “Across the Prairies” first introduces Jack Begley as our cryptic narrator, leading a hypnotic march into what’s soon revealed to be the dusty calm before a storm of fitful rhythms. While “Hitchin a Ride” is a maddening, anxiety fueled stomp through raw riffs, vocal shrieks, and slick, bouncing beats, Noah Sterba creaks a far more wistful tale on “I Don’t Know,” claiming that “we all build boats,” but he’d “rather be a raft made of driftwood than a yacht made of sand and pixelated ideas.” Yuppies is unnerving through and through, startlingly dark until its conclusion. “Across the Horizon,” offers (even if) just the slightest hint of light. And yet, the album is extremely satisfying in its anxiety-ridden punk bouts.
“It just kind of came together over time,” Noah Sterba explained regarding the album’s creation. “We never said, ‘We’re going to write an album that’s dark.’ All of that came together on its own.” Yuppies formed in 2007 with Sterba, Begley, and drummer Kevin Donahue; bassist Jeff Sedrel joined them a few years later. But while ideas for a full-length had been collaboratively swirling for quite some time, the band knew they just “weren’t ready” until recently. After meeting Andrew Savage en route to SXSW in Denton, Texas, and later playing with Parquet Courts in Omaha, things quickly began to fall into place.
There’s simply no debating that in person, Yuppies are a force to be reckoned with. Having had ample time to hone their craft, they’re able to form sets that are precise, aggressive, and completely captivating the whole way through. In fact, Yuppies don’t even bother stopping between tracks, because why would they with sounds this sharp, this stirring? “I never liked that weird awkwardness of, ‘Hey, how’s everybody doing tonight?’” Sedrel admitted. Thankfully, “awkward” is something that never enters the equation when it comes to Yuppies’ passionate, skillfully delivered sets.
The Omaha scene that birthed Yuppies is, according to the band, very “DIY” and “incestuous” in nature; pretty much everyone knows everyone, everywhere you go. Of course, there are definite similarities to Brooklyn, just on a much smaller scale. “We played Death by Audio a couple of years ago, and there’s a really similar spot in Omaha, but just not a lot of people who would come out,” Donahue said.
For the most part, the early-aughts Saddle Creek Records boom has become mere memory in Omaha, right along with those alt-folksy CDs (Conor Oberst, anyone?) probably still buried in the back of your childhood bedroom closet. As Begley described, basement shows are very popular, and there is a “good amount of dirty punk bands” currently circulating: Digital Leather, Piss Walker, and Power Slop are just a few names to watch out for. Plus, David Kenneth Nance, a “very talented songwriter” with a new release on Grapefruit Records. “In Omaha, there are really talented musicians, they just don’t get around the country,” he added.
Both prior to our meeting and afterwards, the band covered lots of ground with shows all across America. In Baltimore, one geographically challenged new fan asked Yuppies where Nebraska was located; on a separate occasion, someone thought Omaha was in Wisconsin. Naturally, this prompted some band members (who shall, in the name of good journalism, remain nameless) to quote the oft-forgotten midwest ballad “Omaha” by Counting Crows. It also sparked a debate on the merits of several radio “dad bands” the guys had been listening to while driving state-to-state. The verdict? On the whole, Steely Dan is “not that bad.” Agree to disagree, Yuppies.
So, in the end, does the book on Yuppies close on an optimistic note? We’re partial to agreeing with Jeff Sedrel, who says that the album concludes “realistically, not optimistically.” Regardless, we’re totally digging this new, twisted take on the American Dream that Yuppies have to offer, and we think you will, too.