The Good Life know their rock.
And by "rock," we mean mainstream radio rock.
The word "we" refers to my band Speedy Ortiz, who shared a tour with The Good Life for three weeks during May and June 2016.
And when we say "know," we really mean that we suspected some unconfirmed IRL acquaintance.
Why did we suspect this? Let's back up for a sec.
The Good Life are the band responsible for 2004's Album Of The Year, one of the most popular records released during the breakthrough era of Omaha's Saddle Creek label. After two more records in 2007, they took a 7-year hiatus before returning for one of their best and most collaborative LPs, 2015's Everybody's Coming Down.
The four musicians within The Good Life spent a large chunk of the 2000s among the figureheads of the indie-rock spectrum, heavily associated with the artists who recorded at Omaha's ARC Studios and performing in bands like Cursive, Azure Ray, Bright Eyes, Neva Dinova and She & Him among dozens of others.
By May 31st in Portland, we had confirmed that vocalist & guitarist Tim Kasher had played high school shows in the early '90s with none other than 311. By that time, 311 were considered the hottest new band in Omaha.
Within a day of this discovery, I heard secondhand that bassist Stefanie Drootin-Senseney went to high school in Los Angeles with all five members of Incubus. Apparently, they had all the same members back then, and they were still called Incubus.
However, none of them had met Jimmy Eat World, which we found very disappointing.
But this did spark our curiosity: Had they crossed with any other 1995-2002 era Buzz Clip bands throughout their path to The Good Life?
On the last night of our travels in Norman, Oklahoma, I grabbed a table at a bar called The Garage with Tim, Stef, guitarist Ryan Fox (who days prior had revealed himself to be an excellent dancer and karaoke performer) and drummer Roger L. Lewis (who might have worn a different classic rock t-shirt for every show on the tour) for some necessary Q&A. We needed to get to the bottom of some things. We began with a few softball questions and worked our way up from there.
TMK: What was the best bar mitzvah you ever attended?
Stef: Oh my god, my own! It was a b'nai mitzvah with my brother.
Tim: Stef has a bar mitzvah she's going to this weekend, right? So that could be the best one possibly!
Stef: It might be potentially the best one. We'll see.
Tim: I've never been to one, but I'm going to my nephew's this fall.
Roger: That sounds awesome.
Tim: It's a required family event.
Roger: Where at?
Tim: San Francisco.
TMK: Have any of your bands played at a bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah?
Tim: Have you Stef?
Stef: My brother played "Born To Be Wild" at our b'nai mitzvah.
TMK: I'll have to look up how to spell that.
Stef: B'nai? I don't know either. I thought it was a b with a thing over the n.
Tim: B-E-apostraphe-N-A-H maybe?
TMK: We have a lot of "have you ever met this band?" questions. Do any of you know the band Collective Soul or anyone in the band Collective Soul? Have you ever met them?
Tim: No, anybody?
TMK: Has anyone ever met anyone from the band Live?
Roger: You know what, we've been talking about Live a lot on this tour.
TMK: Tell me about it!
Roger: Who bought Mental Jewelry?
Roger: Or was that Queensryche?
TMK: "Operation Spirit?"
Tim: Yeah, Roger put on the video of "Operation Spirit" and was like "hey, do you remember this old-ass Live song? And I probably hadn't heard it in over 25 years. It was like "oh my god, yeah!" And the bass player is just freaking out the entire time.
TMK: You know, they did have a sick bass player.
Stef: Didn't they have good dance moves?
Roger: Yeah. In the videos, those guys were super skinny.
TMK: A lot of these questions regard bands that we don't take very seriously.
Roger: Hey, I own that record!
TMK: I bought Throwing Copper when I was 15.
Roger: And Tim told me he bought Mental Jewelry.
Tim: Who told what to who?
Roger: You told me that at the hotel.
Tim: Fox said that.
Ryan: No fucking way dude.
Tim: Was it you, Stef?
Stef: No, I've never had anything.
Tim: I've never purchased a Live thing.
Roger: Ok, but you said you used to watch the videos.
Tim: Well yeah, when they were on MTV.
TMK: They used to play them on 120 Minutes.
Roger: It was weird how they got thrown on the alterna-train. [MTV] would say "Here's a Chapterhouse song" and then "here's a Live song." But then when Throwing Copper came out, I think they had to do away with the alternative tag.
TMK: Do any of you know anyone from Dave Matthews Band?
Stef: My other band Big Harp's old manager used to be Dave Matthews' tour manager.
TMK: That counts.
Stef: Yeah, that counts.
Tim: A woman I used to live with - she's from Charlottesville, Virginia, and that's where he started. So she knew [Dave Matthews] back in the day when he just played coffee houses. Coffee house bro. But then he got really big. Kinda like the thing with 311.
TMK: Well that leads to my next question: Do any of you know 311?
Tim: Hell yeah! We haven't stayed in touch though.
TMK: That's too bad.
Tim: Yeah it is.
Roger: Do you think like, if you're walking around LA and you saw.... [was his name] Nick?
Tim: Nick Hexum?
Roger: Nick Hexum. Would he recognize you, or remember you if you were like "hey, I'm Tim Kasher."
Tim: I think there would be a zero-percent chance of him recognizing me. I think there would be about an 80% chance of me recognizing him. Depending on what he was wearing.
Roger: Was S.A. Martinez in the band when you played shows with them back in the day?
Tim: Oh yeah.
Roger: And you knew him?
Roger: I think he would recognize you.
Tim: Hmm, I think Mahoney would be kind enough to be like "Oh yeah!"
TMK: Which one is that?
Tim: He's the guitar player. He gives me the impression that he would be the type to be like "Ohhh yeah! You guys used to do that Saddle Creek stuff!" I think Nick Hexum would act like he doesn't know there's any other bands from Omaha.
Roger: So Mahoney - Was he like the long hair guy with all the tattoos who looked kinda cool?
Roger: Oh yeah, I like him.
TMK: What was the name of your band when you played with 311?
Tim: March Hares.
TMK: Do you remember what year it was?
Tim: Uh yeah, it woulda been... [pause] like, 1990.
TMK: Do any of you know Incubus?
Stef: Yeah totally!
TMK: I heard about that!
Stef: Yeah, I went to high school with them. And Jose - the drummer - was part of the surf/skate crowd that I hung out with. He was a friend.
TMK: You actually hung out with them?
Stef: With Jose, yeah. And I went up to their house after they'd play - at the mansion that they all lived in and recorded at.
TMK: They lived in a mansion?
Stef: At the time, they all lived together in a mansion. Brandon and Jose were very nice people.
Roger: Was it [the mansion] from the album cover where they recorded [their first] record? I always liked that album cover.
TMK: I always wondered what was up with the dude on the cover of S.C.I.E.N.C.E.
Stef: (after finding the photo) I've never seen that guy before. I don't think he's a real human.
TMK: He must be fictional.
Ryan (to me): Are you a fan?
TMK: I like it. I think they're good. I think they're better than the other bands we just discussed by a long shot.
Stef: I just thought of something else. There was a family night at the place where my daughter's going to pre-school. I looked over and the old bass player Alex was there. So our kids go to the same pre-school.
TMK: They go to the same school?
Stef: They did for like a year.
TMK: Do you know Tracy Bonham?
Roger: Who's that?
Tim: Oh she's [starts singing random words to the tune of "Mother Mother"] "My name is, I mean this, I met her, I'll fix it up, and I know where youuuu aaare!"
TMK: Yeah, the song was called "Mother Mother." This was Sadie's question.
Roger: "Mother Mother?" That wasn't who did the "Bitch" song?
TMK: That was Meredith Brooks.
TMK: Why don't any of you know Jimmy Eat World? That was also Sadie's question.
Stef: I mean, I've definitely hung out with them but I don't know if we ever talked. In like '97 maybe?
TMK: You guys used to party?
Stef: No, not at all. I played a show in Phoenix once. Were they from Phoenix?
TMK: They're from Arizona.
Stef: That makes sense, because they were hanging out at the show.
TMK: Who makes the best bloody mary in Omaha?
Tim: Mindy Lahey. (To Roger) You disagree?
Roger: I think I make a pretty gooddamn good bloody mary.
Tim: Well, she wins awards.
Roger: She's good, but I'll make you one the next time you're in town. And you'll be blown a-way.
Tim: Every bartender makes a pretty good one, right?
Roger: I make a good one. I put some stuff into it.
TMK: Is that who makes the famous bloody mary in Ohama?
Roger: Mindy makes an awesome bloody mary.
Stef: Where's the famous one?
TMK: I mean, it's famous to me. At the bar near Saddle Creek.
Tim: That could have been Mindy.
TMK: How did you start playing together?
Tim: I did the first Good Life record, and then I started playing with Roger because we needed a touring band. We picked up Ryan for the second Good Life touring band - 2.0 - and then we did another record, Black Out, and Stef joined up with us after that.
Roger: She supported Black Out, right?
Stef: I started with the Lovers Need Lawyers EP.
Tim: Oh yeah.
Stef: And then Album Of The Year.
TMK: So it's been a while.
Roger: Late 2002, I think. Or early 2003.
TMK: That's almost 15 years!
Tim: A lot of turnover initially, but yeah.
TMK: Darl has question for you guys. He submits this question for every interview I do. His question is "Why?"
Tim: Because it feels good.
Ryan: If it's possible, why not?
Roger: [pause] It's cool?
TMK (to Stef): Do you have an answer to "Why?"
Stef: I don't. Why don't I?
TMK: Darl also asked "what was it like when you met Bill Clinton?" [Note: They've never met Bill Clinton.]
Stef: It was sooo cool! He was so nice!
Roger: You hung out with Bill Clinton?
Ryan: We hung out on our birthday. And we were having a saxophone jam off. There were all these waterslides and the saxophone party was pretty nice. He was ok. A little old.
Tim: Ryan Fox and I share a birthday with Bill Clinton.
TMK: The two of you guys are born on the same day?
Tim: Yeah, me and Ryan. And Bill. August 19th.
Stef: Is that the night you and Chelsea started dating?
Tim: It would be cool if we were famous enough that Bill Clinton would look up famous birthdays, and he would see Tim Kasher and Ryan Fox and like, "hey, I need to listen to that Good Life." We should start putting it online more often, and onto Wikipedia. If there's an August 19th birthday page, it should say "Bill Clinton, John Stamos, Ryan Fox and Tim Kasher."
TMK: That's huge that you guys have the same birthday.
Stef: Mine's 4 days after theirs.
TMK: Wow. After the 21st you get different star signs.
Stef: I'm on the Leo cusp.
Tim: You got your astrology down.
TMK: No, I don't know anything. (to Roger) When's your birthday?
Roger: May 6th.
TMK: Happy birthday! It wasn't too long ago.
Roger: Yeah, a few weeks ago. We're all together now. It's a party.
TMK: Do you guys like the Moby Grape song "Omaha?"
Roger: I like the Counting Crows song "Omaha."
TMK: There's a Counting Crows song?
Roger: "Somewhere in the middle of America..."
Tim: I haven't heard this Moby Grape song.
TMK: It's old. It's from the '60s.
Ryan: Do you like it?
TMK: It's ok.
Ryan: We'll check it out.
TMK: How would you rank the dancing skills of the 4 Good Life band members?
Stef: Ryan Fox is #1.
Tim: Fox is #1 for sure. And then Roger would be #2.
Tim: And then Stef, and then me.
TMK: Ryan Fox, what's going on with your label?
Ryan: Sometimes I put out tapes.
TMK: What's the label called?
Ryan: It's called Majestic Litter. Facebook wouldn't let me make a label page for it because the word "clit" is buried in "majestic litter." So I think the facebook handle is like "magnetic ladder" or something.
Tim: I never knew that. Ridiculous.
Ryan: It's like, "Some word is not allowed." And I'm like "ok, well I didn't wanna do this anyway."
TMK: Buncha jerks, those facebooks.
Ryan: Yeah, but we got the Big Harp tape - Stef's band - and The Good Life tape and a few other things.
TMK: I heard [Ryan's band] Our Fox. Is that also on the label?
Ryan: That's true.
TMK: When is that happening?
Ryan: I've put out one tape, and I'm gonna do some more recording this year.
TMK: When's that coming out?
Ryan: Not sure. It's gotta get recorded.
TMK: Roger, how many classic rock shirts do you own?
TMK: What's your favorite one?
Roger: Led Zeppelin: Hammer of the Gods, We Are Your Overlords. It's so dark and evil and radical. It's a good one.
TMK: What's your second favorite?
Roger: [pause] Oh I don't know. I have this really cool Earth Wind and Fire one.
TMK: Stef, you play in She & Him?
Stef: I played in She & Him.
TMK: You used to.
TMK: When M. Ward drives the tour van, does he ever play any metal?
Stef: He doesn't play metal, but also they do a bus tour. He's not a driver guy.
TMK: I know, I figured that. I was being jokey.
Stef: No, never metal. More like older music.
TMK: Older music? No metal? No Pantera?
Stef: Never heard any Pantera.
TMK: Does Zooey Deschanel listen to Pantera?
Stef: No, she also likes the old classics.
Roger: When you say classics, do you mean rock and roll classics? Is it all like Paul Simon and Carly Simon?
Stef: We don't listen to that much music.
Tim: Are they into music?
Stef: They do like music and they're actually both pretty knowledgeable about music history.
Roger: Even Zooey?
Stef: Zooey especially!
Roger: What's like her favorite band?
Stef: I don't know what her favorite band is.
Roger: Was she ever like, "I'm way into this, you should check this out!"
Stef: She never said anything like that.
Ryan: I remember when we were recording at ARC, we were in the B-room and she was in the A-room, and it was the first time I had ever seen Greek yogurt. And it was like "whoa, she fancy."
Stef: It was all healthy food on that tour.
TMK: So you were touring through Omaha and you recorded there?
Stef: They did. That's where I met her. I knew Matt [Ward] before, and I met her then and I think that might be partially how I ended up playing with them. Probably from them seeing me there.
TMK: So no metal?
Stef: No metal.
TMK: Anything that's off the wall for either of them?
Stef: I don't think so. But they could, easily.
TMK: What's your favorite New Girl episode?
Stef: I've never seen one.
TMK: I've never seen it either.
TMK: Ryan, when you play Starfox, does Slippy do the barrel roll?
Ryan: Probably. Is that Sega?
TMK: I think it's Nintendo 64.
Ryan: I've never played that game, but I want to though.
TMK: What are your karaoke go-to's? Do you have a karaoke arsenal?
Roger: I used to like "Round and Round" by Ratt.
TMK: That's a really good one! We played that in my cover band.
Tim: For a while I was doing "Movin' Out."
TMK: Billy Joel?
Ryan: Sometimes The Doors, "Light My Fire" because the keyboard solo gives me time to dance. But also "Bust A Move" by Young MC.
Stef: I don't usually do karaoke, but we did "Eternal Flame" recently.
TMK: And it was beautiful.
Stef: It felt like we really nailed it. I don't remember doing it at all.
TMK: What other songs have you done?
Stef: Guns N' Roses "Sweet Child O' Mine."
TMK: Do you guys play in any cover bands?
Roger: Yes, I do actually. I play in a country cover band. It's like classic songs and classic songwriters, and it's really fun. We've played 2 shows.
Ryan: What's it called?
Roger: It's called Dolores Diaz and The Standby Club.
TMK: Right on.
Roger: Yeah, a lot of cool motherfuckers in it.
TMK: Who's in it?
Roger: Matt Maginn [from Cursive], Dan McCarthy, Conor Oberst [from Bright Eyes], Corina [pauses] Escamilla, Miwi La Lupa, [pauses] who are we missing, Phil Schaffart...
TMK: Isn't Mike Mogis in it?
Roger: Oh, Mike Mogis [from Monsters of Folk & Bright Eyes], Ben Brodin and...
TMK: Wow, it's a big fuckin' band.
Roger: And I think that's everyone. Is that 9 people? I think that's everyone.
TMK: Has Cursive ever played at a bar mitzvah? You basically already answered that question.
Tim: Well we've done private party events before, and it's awful. You feel like a real jerk, because you realize that you did it for money, and nobody really cares who's paying attention to what you're doing.
TMK: Any cool festivals in Cursive?
Tim: Yeah, we've done cool festivals.
TMK: What was your favorite one?
Tim: Coney Island used to do that Siren fest.
Tim: Yeah, they don't do that anymore.
TMK: Who was the headliner?
Tim: One time I think Spoon was the headliner.
TMK: Sadie had questions about her Twitter. She wanted to know if you liked any of her tweets about Cursive. She's tweeted about Cursive 6 or 7 times.
Tim: Oh really? I probably have. The funny thing about Twitter is the feed goes by so fast that you don't see most of the stuff. You open it up, and you go to the top and whatever the last 500 things are that people said you never see. I'm gonna have to stalk her twitter page and see.
TMK: A lot of people do.
Tim: And I'll "like" all the Cursive ones.
TMK: How's playing bass? How's that goin?
Stef: I'm pretty into it. I'm getting more interested in drums lately.
Roger: Drums are fun!
Ryan: I like drums. We all like drums.
Roger: I'm trying to talk Smooth into getting a flange pedal. What are your feelings on flange?
TMK: Which one is flange? It depends on the song. It's all in context.
Tim: There's sweet flange on Lenny Kravitz's "Are You Gonna Go My Way."
TMK: That's a pretty classic flange.
Roger: There's one dude we hate but he uses flange well - Ted Nugent. The bass has all that flange on it and it's radical.
TMK: He's a douche though.
Roger: He's a jerk. I hate him.
TMK: Any final thoughts? On The 'Nuge or any other topics?
Roger: I'm excited about Game 6 tomorrow night.
TMK: By the time this gets posted, that might have already happened.
Roger: Well I'm excited about the eventual world champion Cleveland Cavaliers.
TMK: Who's the famous guy they got again?
Stef: Lebron James.
Roger: Kyrie Urbing, he's no chump. He's cool. I have to go play a show now. [Roger performed double duty drumming in The Good Life and opening in Oquoa for 6 of the shows on our tour, including the one on this night.]
TMK: Well guys, thanks so much! This was really fun.