Kethro
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Kethro

Omaha, Nebraska, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2008 | INDIE

Omaha, Nebraska, United States | INDIE
Established on Jan, 2008
DJ Electronic Hip Hop

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This band has not uploaded any videos

Music

The best kept secret in music

Press


"With The Spotlight Gone, Omaha's Music Scene Grows"

Around the start of the new millennium, the eyes of the nation turned to Omaha, Neb., and bands like Bright Eyes and its label Saddle Creek Records. As it often does, the spotlight has flickered elsewhere in the search of what's next. But Omaha's music scene is still going strong: there are a number of new albums coming out this year with ties to the Midwestern city.

On a recent afternoon, Omaha rapper Brenton Gomez (aka Conchance) stops by Make Believe studios just outside of downtown. The studio is still under construction, but CEO Rick Carson shows off some of the progress. Carson moved to Omaha a few years ago — he's lived in Detroit, Chicago and Colorado, but settled on making records here.

"It's all market research," says Carson. "Omaha's the best. We have one of the best economies in the world. We have one of the lowest unemployment rates, which means that people can pay [a] lower rate and they can still have a job — y'know, someplace in Chicago, in Detroit for sure, that's not exactly how it goes down."

That low cost of living was one of the reasons The Mynabirds' Laura Burhenn moved to Omaha. When she left Washington, D.C., six years ago, making music was a second full-time job.

"When I moved out to Omaha it was really nice," Burhenn says. "I actually was able to find myself in an environment where I could make music full time. That's what's nice about a low cost of living."

In addition to finding time to write her debut album as The Mynabirds, Burhenn also found a thriving artistic community.

"There are all of these really incredible activists and artists who live in this town in the middle of a very conservative space in the Midwest. When you live there you realize really how much the rest of the world sees it as flyover territory," Burhenn says. "But then you get in there and you realize how many great things are happening all around you."

Burhenn now calls LA home, but her upcoming album, Lovers Know, features an ode to Omaha: "Omaha, will you still call me darling? / Omaha, will I still be your girl? / When I come home from the thrill of hunting lions, mining ruby-throated riches from the world."

"In the end, Omaha's Omaha and that's the thing I love about it — it's like we welcome everybody in here, but we're not necessarily changing for anybody and that's a real incredible thing," Burhenn says. "Those are the people you want to be friends with, right?"

One of her friends is Simon Joyner, who's released music from the city since the 1990s. In 2002, the national media descended on Omaha thanks largely to Saddle Creek Records and its handful of bands. Joyner says that brief flurry of attention still haunts musicians in the city, but says Omaha is probably like any town with a music scene.

"The train stopped here for a minute and then moved on," says Joyner. "There are great scenes in all these cities. They need some breakout band for the world to look and say, 'Oh, I wonder what's going on in Des Moines.' ... I guarantee you there's exciting scenes going on all over the place that we don't know about."

But a lot of musicians feel to really get attention you've got to be in New York or LA. Omaha native Conchance says he feels like he has to leave. For now, he and his friends collaborate for M34N STR33T, one of his three musical projects he's working on while in Omaha.

"It's really important for us not to necessarily stay here — because I can't deal with too many more winters," says Conchance. "But to be the artist that did our city justice, like many people before us. Because there's not a huge community of hip-hop here in Omaha settin' a standard for it. So, like, that's what I'm trying to leave with the help of my friends."

For his part, Simon Joyner says he's thought about leaving, but he likes the speed of Omaha. He has a family and runs an antique business as well. He says while Omaha might be more conservative than other cities where a lot of creative people are working, that tension sparks a kind of positive struggle.

"And struggle usually adds to creativity, whereas the easier things are the lazier I think people can be ... so Omaha's good for keeping it just hard enough, I think," Joyner says, laughing.

It's just hard enough to keep the music scene thriving, with or without the spotlight. - NPR


"Omaha's Make Believe Records fosters creativity, gains national attention"

Editor's Note: A previous version of this story misidentified Keith Rodger as co-owner of Make Believe Studio, not the Make Believe label and Rick Carson has having dropped out high school, not testing out. The mistakes have since been fixed.

It's easy to drive straight past Make Believe Recording Studio on Hickory Street in Omaha.

The building, which has changed little since its birth in the 1970s, seamlessly blends into its surroundings. Much like the crew inside, the studio itself, with its copious wood paneling, plush carpets and collected concert posters, is filled with character.

Though the studio has seen its fair share of history, a promising new chapter has begun.

Make Believe's staff includes everyone from recording and mixing engineers, to a photographer and multiple musicians. Though each person contributes a unique skill set, they all share in their love of music and their desire to create quality recordings for musicians.

"You know, I don't own a car," said Rick Carson, record producer, mixing engineer and self-proclaimed "catalyst" behind Make Believe Studio. "We would bring bands in here, I used to tell them that I'm the only person I know who pays a couple thousand dollars a month and walks two and a half miles to go to work everyday. I do it because I love it."

After testing out of high school to pursue his passion, Carson attended Full Sail University in Winter Park, Fla., at 16, where he earned a degree in recording/audio engineering. Ever since, Carson said he has not held a job that wasn't somehow involved with the recording industry.

Keith Rodger, co-owner of the Make Believe label (alongside Jeremy Deaton), first became involved with Make Believe while recording a record with his band, Lightning Bug.

"When I met these guys, they were running an operation out of their house," Rodger said. "They figured out ways to make those tracks sound good even then."

"The name means a lot to a recording studio," Carson said. "It's a place for people to come and be creative and really just do whatever they want, that's how I feel about it."

The creative free rein given to the artists is just one of the many reasons bands have become loyal to Make Believe. The operation is consistently noted as "grassroots" and a "family" operation.

"I've come to believe that success derives from a family base," Rodger said. "Whether it's real relatives or not, I think you have to have a good core group of people that know how to design, innovate, create. They're constantly doing that."

The music recorded in Make Believe Studio bridges multiple genres. They record everything from Block Movement, a South Omaha hip-hop group, to Snake Island!, a psychedelic rock band. Carson joked that one day the studio will be moderately tidy and the next day it will be trashed, as different-sounding bands use the studio space in varying ways.

In addition to the many local groups Make Believe has worked with, they also record musicians who hale from outside Omaha.

One of Make Believe's trademarks includes selling both a vinyl and CD for 10 dollars at their bands' shows. Though currently the records are pressed elsewhere, Make Believe Studio is about to become part of an elite group of companies with the capability to press their own records. With only 14 record presses in the whole country, Make Believe's staff hopes their plan to press records in-house will put them on the national map.

While vinyl record sales will be a big part of the Make Believe once the pressing begins later this month, Carson said they will continue to bundle their CDs with records for those without a record player.

Although the record pressing will become a trademark for Make Believe, recording will remain their primary focus. Carson explained that seeing recording artists begin their careers and watching them gain a following has been a rewarding process for Make Believe.

"Not to be cocky, but a lot of people really seem to like the records that they make here," he said. "I've watched people transform from being less to more serious just by coming in here and working real hard and getting something that they believe in."

With the record press about to start and 11 projects currently in the works, Make Believe's future looks bright.

Manager Mike Gergen said the studio's success can be tied back to its name and principles.

"It's one of those things where you have to believe in it, like we did when we started," he said. "We had a belief and a dream of something that we could achieve and we made it happen. With hard work and if really believe in what you do, you can really make it happen." - Daily Nebraskan


Discography

Still working on that hot first release.

Photos

Feeling a bit camera shy

Bio

Kethro (Keith Rodger) is a DJ, Producer, and Owner of Make Believe
Recordings
based out of Omaha, Nebraska. Throughout his career, he has
hosted and opened a variety of events for international acts such as
Peanut Butter Wolf, Terrace Martin, Robert Spearlight, Mr. Lif, The
Faint, Depressed Buttons, DJ Spinna, Sage Francis, Black Milk, and more.
His company, Make Believe Recordings was established in 2012 under a
state-of-the-art recording studio complex after gaining a strong
clientele ranging from The Ready Set to Terrace Martin. Press outlets such as NPR and Juxtapoz have given praise to the labels aesthetic.

Kethro is currently working on an EP titled "Evoleno" which is
slated for release in summer of 2016.

Band Members