Local pop group Head of Femur (whose members are Nebraskans in origin) went through a bit of a reinvention a couple years ago when the band decided to strip down the elements it was most known for—the endless barrage of instruments on stage, horns to strings to whatever else—and go with the bare essentials, finally fastening itself as a five-piece. You couldn’t really tell from the band’s new record, “Great Plains” (Greyday Productions), released at the end of March. The giddy pop is still very much present, as are the complementary pieces that have made Head of Femur an intriguing outfit through (now) three full-lengths and a duo of EPs.
“We toured a ton in 2005 and we were in the van, and we would literally be in the Great Plains for hours on end, driving and driving,” says vocalist and guitarist Matt Focht of the new album’s inspiration. “We had a whole bunch of time to think about imagery and the past and family, stuff like that. We also did a lot of camping—2005 was very outdoorsy.”
“We would build bonfires and write songs around there,” says drummer Colby Starck. “It seemed like the natural thing to write about—not only was it all around us, but it was where we grew up.”
Starck says paring down the band didn’t dissuade them from ambitiousness on the record. “It’s interesting,” he says, “on the past records, when we would go on tour, we’d have an eight- or nine-piece monster with horns and strings. But with this record, we pared it down to a concise five-piece, and we play off of each other as a five-piece. But, what we did [with the recording], being Head of Femur, we were like, ‘You know what would sound good here? A flute.’ And it expanded off that. We went back to the nucleus and expanded from there.”
Since Head of Femur launched six years ago, has the local scene, or just the band experience, changed? “I feel like six years ago when we started this, it felt like there was a ton of bands,” Focht says, “but we felt really unique and special. I really felt like we stood out and made a mark in that way, but now it feels completely different, because there’s like 8,000 more bands.”
“Growing older is one thing that takes you away from the community,” Starck says. “The music industry is going through such a rough change, every band really has to look out for themselves. It’s tough to play a show with a bunch of other bands you don’t know, because you don’t draw as much. When you’re younger, you want to play every show you can.”
Does that mean local bands are less supportive of each other? “I think it has to do with what age you are when you’re in bands,” Focht says. “I feel like when I was 26 here, there was a lot more support from other bands. We were all kind of the same age, [it was like] we had nothing to lose. We weren’t as worried about money and security and the future. Now that we’re all in our thirties, it just seems like we’re not at the bar as much.”
He adds, “Well, some of us.” (Tom Lynch)
Head of Femur plays April 11 at Schubas, 3159 North Southport, (773)525-2508, at 10pm. $10.