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"Backstage with Somasphere"

Backstage with Somasphere
Posted: 2/9/07
Compiled By: Robby DeFrain

Somasphere is a four-piece electronic/rock/experimental outfit in Lincoln. Composed of Jesse Hodges on electronic drums and percussion, Andy Marker on drums and percussion, Troy Lieberth on bass and synth and Brett Smith on guitar, electronic sample and MIDI triggering. The band will be playing a show Thursday, Feb. 15 at the Chatterbox, 815 O St. The Daily Nebraskan spoke with Smith about his four-month-old band.

DN: How did your sound evolve?

Brett Smith: We all definitely shared an appreciation of electronic music. Also, I was kind of coming out of a band that was trying to do a live electronic thing. We had all played together at some point throughout us knowing each other but had never been in a band together. It just kind of worked out that we could all get together. We all have the same interests, the same bands that we're into, as far as liking electronic music and DJs and that side of it, and also really liking the live music experience of a band, that whole aspect of it. Improvised music as well.

DN: Do you have any one influence in particular? Or a few?

Smith: Yeah, we're all really big fans of drum 'n' bass, so LTJ Bukem would be a big one. Sound Tribe Sector 9, that's one of the things that definitely brought us all together … seeing those shows. A lot of it, right now at least, is heavily influenced by drum 'n' bass in particular.

DN: Do you have any other local bands that you consider your peers as far as your sound?

Smith: Not really. A lot of the bands that I would put in my genre that we're really influenced by … not exactly local, but Pnuma Trio, The New Deal, Disco Biscuits, Lotus … A lot of that comes from Philadelphia. That's kind of a big Mecca for live electronic bands, but we get influences from everywhere too, it's not just, per se, the live electronic bands. There's not that many locally that are doing it, at least in our immediate Lincoln/Omaha range.

DN: There's a lot of fusion, dance, lounge, etc. going on in your sound. Why'd you decide to fuse styles? Why not do just one?

Smith: I think it's just because we all come from such different backgrounds. Andy comes from a really rock background, Jesse is really into electronic music and Troy loves funk and jazz, so we all just draw from those totally different perspectives, and that kind of brings it all together. That's kind of how we write, too, with just one idea, and everyone throws things in there piece by piece, and usually it comes out a little different every time with a different style.

DN: If you could compare your sound to any one burrito, which one would it be and why?

Smith: Interesting. It would probably be some sort of large, juicy bean burrito, full of many different textures. I couldn't really say one particular burrito. Good question.
- Daily Nebraskan

"State Theatre to do double duty as theater, rock venue"

By: Andy Boyle

The State Theatre is known for its comfy couches and recliners. But tonight those will be gone.

Exit the seats, enter a 32 foot by 12 foot stage.

Tonight at 8, popular local acts The Balance and Somasphere are playing the first music show the State Theatre, 1415 O St., has hosted. And if owner David McNeil's plans come to fruition, this won't be the last.

"We had always planned on doing this kind of stuff to supplement the movies," he said. "But the movies have been (making) only a fraction of what we expected it to be, so we're starting to look for other stuff."

Enter friend and local promoter Jeremiah Moore, who books shows at Box Awesome, 815 O St. Moore met McNeil when the State Theatre was being remodeled into its current incarnation.

Moore said he always thought it was a great location.

"Oh man, years ago as the building lay vacant, I always wanted to throw rock shows there," Moore said.

And now he has his chance.

The new venue is trying to find a niche among all the other venues in downtown Lincoln by being bigger than most but smaller and more affordable than the Pershing Center, 226 Centennial Mall, or the Rococo Theatre, 13th and P streets, Moore said.

Bands always hit Lawrence, Kan., because the city has similar-size venues that have lower operating costs, Moore said. He wants to provide the same thing in Lincoln.

"We'd like those bands to choose to give Lincoln a shot," Moore said, adding that the State Theatre would only have one or two shows a month.

"Hopefully we'll attract some bands that wouldn't normally be able to perform in Lincoln," owner McNeil said.

Somasphere's percussionist Andy Marker said the new venue is bigger than any his band has played in before. The band is approaching its first-year anniversary, and Marker said it'll be a cool place to celebrate.

It is also part of the reason the bands asked to lower the ticket price, Moore said. The bands weren't too concerned about making money, but instead in providing an affordable show for their fans.

Tonight's show will also feature a giant sound system, DJ Spence playing dance music in-between sets, and a VJ 8-bit, a visual jockey that will be creating live layered visual effects on the movie screen.

Oh, and it's Halloween, so wearing a costume comes with a bonus: $3 off the $10 ticket price. The show's promoters are having a costume contest and giving out tickets to upcoming movies and shows.

"I'd be happy if 200 of our friends came out and danced and had a good time," Marker said. "With The Balance having the draw they do, who knows where (this show) could go."

- Daily Nebraskan

"NEXUS festival mixes rock and techno"

NEXUS festival mixes rock and techno

Friday, Sep 26, 2008

Yes, drum sets and bass guitars will still be there.

But so will MIDI controllers and electric guitars, keyboards and laptop computers. Not to mention painters and break dancers.

The NEXUS Electronic Music and Arts Festival will turn Box Awesome into a cultural blend of musicians and artists Friday night and Saturday evening. The local live electronics band Somasphere is hosting the event for the second straight year, and all proceeds will benefit Nebraskans for Peace and KZUM (89.3 FM).

“After last year’s success, we thought, ‘Why not do it again?’” said Troy Leiberth of Somasphere.

The idea began in 2007 after Leiberth and his bandmates visited a few music festivals around the country. Their inspiration came from concerts such as the Sonic Bloom Festival near Fort Collins, Colo., where attendees could listen to live music and stroll through art exhibits.

Leiberth wanted a similar show in Lincoln. And after some prodding from area music fans, he and his band created one themselves.

“We wanted to do something bigger,” he said. “Also, there really wasn’t a music festival specifically designed around electronic music anywhere in Nebraska.”

The tunes are easy to get used to, Leiberth said. The songs have a mix of rock, techno and jam band roots designed to yank people onto the dance floor.

The technology doesn’t hurt, either. Brett Smith of Somasphere uses two MIDI controllers during performances — one on the floor he controls with his feet, the other near his laptop he manipulates with his fingers. The controllers are assigned to a variety of personalized sounds created on a computer program, and they add to the notes already blaring from electric guitars, keyboards and anything else the group brings on stage.

This weekend, Boulder, Colo./San Francisco-based M02 also will bring their electronic music to the NEXUS festival, as will Lincoln’s Dean Armband.

“It’s almost reggae music — but it’s not reggae,” said Ben Jones, creator of the Anti-Oppression Art studio at 14th and O streets. “It’s an electronic kind of vibe.”

Jones, 22, has become an expert of sorts at making impromptu paintings during live concerts, churning out different images for every song. He said he’s been practicing performance art for several years, and he welcomes music that has fewer lyrics and more energy.

That’s why he signed up to perform this weekend.

“I prefer to paint to music that’s abstract,” Jones said. “You get better energy and inspiration — freer inspiration — when the music is more abstract.”

He’ll have plenty of energy to work with during NEXUS. Several break dancers from Omaha are scheduled to perform, and solo musicians, such as DJ Spence, DJ Blac, Miss Knotty and more, will provide entertainment on the basement stage in Box Awesome. There also will be about 20 vendors selling handmade art and crafts tonight and Saturday.

But unlike last year, Leiberth said, all events will take place inside Box Awesome after the city of Lincoln denied use of the area outside the venue, citing recent graffiti problems at the location.

Still, the festival will go on. All it needs are a few electrical outlets and a lot of paint.

The gadgets and performers will take care of the rest.

“Although NEXUS events will be confined inside Box Awesome,” Leiberth said,

“we encourage everyone to come out and participate in a peaceful and organized event that promotes artistic expression in legitimate ways.”

Reach Michael McHale at 473-7254 or - Lincoln Journal Star

"Nexus rocks Lincoln"

Nexus rocks Lincoln

By: Casey Welsch
Posted: 9/29/08

As I write this, I'm really, really tired. For two weekends in a row, it's been music festivals.

Lincoln Calling two weekends ago had me so beaten by the end I didn't even want to think about concerts for at least another seven days. Many opportunities came up to see great live acts, but I turned them down out of both being busy and sheer musical exhaustion.

However, the weekend came around and yet another music festival rolled into Lincoln. This time, it wasn't the multi-genre, multi-venue setup of Lincoln Calling. Instead, it was the all-electronic, Box-based dance-fest of Nexus, presented by Somasphere, Nebraskans for Peace and KUZM community radio.

Nexus year two was, in many ways, an improvement on the successful year one. However, parts of it were a definite step down, through no fault of the festival.

Last year, Nexus took place on the main floor of Box Awesome (there was no basement yet) and out on the street under the overpass. There were vendors from a variety of Lincoln shops, street performances, an endless drum circle, communal art and graffiti projects and an overall sense of community going on outdoors while the beats blasted fast and heavy from inside the Box.

This year, Nexus took place on the main floor of Box Awesome, which was named "Swim" for the festival, and the basement, which was named "Sink." At any given time, patrons could have enjoyed the primarily live-based Swim stage or the primarily DJ-based Sink stage. The downfall this year, however, was the lack of an outdoor space, though this was not for lack of trying.

The boys in the Lincoln electronic band Somasphere are the brains behind Nexus, and they fully intended to continue the highly popular outdoor aspects of the festival, but the city of Lincoln had other plans. Troy Lieberth, bass/synth/sampler, Jesse Hodges, electronic drums/percussion, Andy Marker, drums/percussion and Brett Smith, guitar/laptop/midi were all seriously let down by the city's ignorance and intolerance.

Last year, Somasphere applied for their outdoor permit and got it, and good times rolled. This year, however, Somasphere applied for their permit and the good times didn't roll anywhere. Their outdoor permit was denied by the city for a number of slightly contrived reasons.

First of all, the city cited recent, unrelated graffiti on one of the columns of the newly reconstructed overpass as a reason to not allow the artists the right to paint outdoors. Also, the city did not want the festival to take away a full 20 parking spaces from the Husker game. Finally, the city demanded a copy of the festival's original insurance bond, which they legally had, an action that the city did not take last year.

Something tells me that the city just doesn't like artistic and expressive people concentrated in one public space. But that's just me.

Even though the outdoor festivities were over, the organizers made the best of it. There were limited art projects on the sidewalk in front of the Box, and all the vendors were moved indoors into the basement, where they seemed content to do exactly as they would have otherwise.

This annoyance out of the way, the festival was still the beat-breaking dance-fest everyone expected it to be. The art that was produced was expressive and legitimate. The vendors, which included booths from popular shops such as the Black Market, Bodhi Imports, Cultiva Coffee, R.A.K. and more, were full of interesting wares.

The community aspect of the festival was still there, just on a different scale. The music itself, the main focus of the festival, jammed just as well if not better than it ever has because of the addition of the second stage.

Good times were had by all as the electronic and artistic community of Lincoln came together to celebrate its passions. The Boulder, Colorado-based band MO2, who were invited by Somasphere to perform, were genuinely surprised by the enthusiasm of Lincoln's electronic scene, as stated by their bass player Sean Mahaffey,

"Wow, we had no idea that all this was going on out here in Nebraska," Mahaffey said. "Thanks a lot, you guys."

Yes, Sean, it is going on, and it will continue to go on. No matter what the city tells us, no matter where it is, the beats will go on. And on. And on.

I need another festival break. - Daily Nebraskan

"Sokol to host two electronica bands"

By: Adam Templeton
Posted: 1/29/08

Fans of electronic music who hang around the Sokol Auditorium Tuesday night won't be disappointed. In addition to taking in a performance by big name electronica instrumentalists Sound Tribe Sector 9, dance fiends will have an opportunity to attend an after hours show by local drum and bass electronica band Somasphere.

"In bigger cities, after hours shows are a lot more common," said Andy Marker, a drummer and percussionist for Somasphere. "With the turnout we're hoping for, Sokol will see this as an opportunity to do (an after hours show) again."

At 8 tonight, STS9 will take the stage at Sokol Auditorium. Following that, at approximately 11:30, Somasphere will light up the Sokol Underground. The STS9 show is $18 and the Somasphere set will only set music lovers back $5.

"We've been very, very blessed. You can put that in bold letters if you want," Marker said, laughing. "An opportunity like this to get across to the fans of a band we have so much respect for, we're really grateful."

Somasphere has been rocking Lincoln for about 15 months. Marker affectionately refers to the band as a "live dance party."

"We take electronic music, which encompasses drum and bass, jungle, techno and all these things DJs have been spinning for the past couple decades and add synthesizers and computer programs," Marker said.

The four-man band's sound stems from its use of nontraditional instruments. For starters, Somasphere has two drummers.

Jesse Hodges, the band's second percussionist, plays a set of electronic drums. The drum kit can produce thousands of sounds, including noises downloaded off the internet or sounds the band creates itself.

"We have a plethora of possibilities as far as drum beats are concerned," Marker said.

The bassist, Troy Lieberth, alternates between his bass and his synthesizer, and guitar player Brett Smith makes full use of every appendage, using his feet and his hands to create music. By tapping a button with his foot, he triggers a wall of sound from his laptop.

"I use (the sounds) live with the band, either samples or loops or prerecorded sounds that I manipulate further," Smith said. "All around it adds more textures and layers to the sound."

Smith said the band's sound has been decidedly influenced by other bands who utilize electronic instrumentation, such as STS9.

"I feel like our kind of music is tailored toward an after hours, late night environment," said Smith, "especially where we're able to play after a band like Sound Tribe Sector 9. We like being the end of a great night of music."

The fine print:

What: Sound Tribe Sector 9

Where: Sokol Auditorium, 2234 South 13th Street, Omaha

When: Tuesday, Jan. 29 at 8 p.m.

How Much: $18 at the door

Note: The show will be benefitting the Nebraska Food Bank Network, Inc.

What: Somasphere

Where: Sokol Underground, 2234 South 13th Street, Omaha

When: Tuesday, Jan. 29 at 11:30 p.m.

How Much: $5 - Daily Nebraskan

"Mini-festival Nexus to jumpstart Lincoln's electronic music scene"

By: Wade Larson
Posted: 9/28/07

The underground electronica scene is spilling onto the street this weekend. But it's more than just bumping beats and raving riffs that will be rocking Box Awesome.

Nexus, a two-day electronic music festival, is the brainchild of the band Somasphere and Jeremiah Moore, owner of Box Awesome, 815 O St. It's a joint effort to bring more attention, and more shows, to the Lincoln electronic music scene, which Andy Marker of Somasphere admits is experiencing some growing pains.

"I think electronica can in some way get dismissed as not a true style of music," he said.

Marker said he and his bandmates love to travel to shows and festivals across the Midwest and were inspired to host their own to give the people of Lincoln a taste of electronic music. They asked their friend Moore if he would be interested in hosting the event at Box Awesome, and Marker said it snowballed from there.

The original idea was to have a two-day concert, but with a little more planning, the event turned into a mini-music festival.

Both nights will feature four different electronica acts with Somasphere, a live electronica/drum and bass band, closing out both shows.

Moore said he hopes Nexus will bring more attention to Lincoln as a viable electronica music venue. He credited Bricktop, 1427 O St., with laying the foundations he wants to build on.

"We're getting really blessed with the groundwork the Bricktop laid down in bringing a bunch of performers to the Lincoln area," he said.

Often, big name electronica acts only come as close as Minneapolis or Chicago and occasionally Omaha.

Moore wants to change that.

"We're very accessible, and we have a lot of people who are excited and want to make things happen," he said. "There is no reason why Lincoln can't be like Minneapolis's music scene," he said.

In order to fulfill that goal, Moore said Lincoln needs to have more venues that showcase that kind of music. He said he wants to make Box Awesome one of those venues.

"We really have the goal of making this a tour spot that acts want to play," he said.

To make Nexus more than just a pair of shows, Moore and the members of Somasphere decided to include more than just music.

Moore said they sought permission from the city to use the sidewalks in front of Box Awesome but got more than they bargained for. Instead of just the sidewalks, they were granted the parking lots from 8th Street to the beginning of the O Street bridge, which means people will have to walk a bit since the roads will be blocked off.

The space will be used to host local vendors and artists while the shows goes on inside, Marker said.

"The idea is to have a microcosm of what a festival is like," Marker said. "It's a way to celebrate that underground culture and give people who might not be aware of it a view of what goes on."

The visual acts going on with the music include a visual jockey doing improvisational imagery on a projection screen behind the band, as well as artists doing live painting during the band's performances.

The two paintings created during Nexus will be raffled off to attendees. Raffle tickets can be purchased for a donation of three items for the local food bank, an idea Marker is particularly proud of.

"We're the kind of people that want to give back and create positive change," he said. "The music is representative of that and so are the people."

Moore said the art community as a whole will be on display at Nexus.

"[We hope] to really affirm and stoke the fire of the subculture that's going on here," he said. "It's not just about the music. It's not just about the art. It's about the community."
- Daily Nebraskan


Winter EP (2006)
More Shapes EP (2008)

Audio and Video available at



The four-piece instrumental electronica group known as Somasphere is on the brink of taking the nation by storm. Formed in late 2006, the band quickly became known in Lincoln, Omaha, and surrounding areas for energetic live shows that combine the dance floor sensibilities of DJ culture with the performance capabilities of rock music.

Their unique approach centers on solid danceable rhythms created by the use of both traditional and electronic drum kits. The flow of these distinct, yet equally energetic sources, allows the band to traverse the spectrum of grooves and tempos ranging from steady house, hard-hitting breaks and intense jungle, to mid-tempo and hip hop. In any of these styles, Somasphere always brings the low-end deep and dirty using both bass guitar and synth.

While the rhythm section is powerful, many of the sonic textures that have come to define the band’s sound center on melodies created by both guitar and laptop based sample manipulation. These disparate elements combine to create a sound that is equally at home in the headphones or on a packed dance floor.

Somasphere has performed alongside some of the most innovative electronic acts in the country, including Bassnectar, Lotus, Pnuma Trio, EOTO, Big Gigantic, Vibesquad and Pretty Lights. Watch for upcoming tour dates and events at venues across the country and a new full length album slated for release in 2010!