Photography by: Samuel Hanson
By: Zeke Hanson
Tom Waits once described the process of songwriting as a reverse Houdini; “you’re not trying to escape. You’re trying to get in.” (Under the Influence – Documentary)
That’s when the magic happens.
A lot of creative endeavors need magic behind them.
You are trying to catch lightning in a bottle.
When it works, it is incredible. When it doesn’t, you’re just out there standing in a field with an empty jar.
There are a lot of empty fields in Nebraska, but to be fair, there looks to be quite a bit of magic brewing there too.
Infinite Video is a group made up of Cody Rathman on vocals and guitar, Billy Brown on bass, Nate Jensen on guitar and Nick Wenner on drums.
Music brought them together, and in the turbulence of the last two years, it has kept them together.
Nick and Nate met at a music festival locally, “that was at least a year prior to the band forming,” Nate says, “it was a festival that was put on by a friend of ours, where he matched different artists together and we all had to come up with, like, a different band, a different group of people, basically just a different act within a month.”
“A week!” Nate laughs.
“Yeah, we had a week,” Nick laughs.
“It was stressful,” Nate says, as he leans back in his chair.
Half the band had just started playing together, and they didn’t even have a band yet. “I had done that, like a year prior,” Cody says. “Nate started it. He’d made this Facebook page called…” “Nebraska Creatives Collaborative,” Nate finishes.
“I had just moved here (Omaha, NE),” Billy continues, “and I was on Facebook and saw that he (Nate) had an amp for sale, so that’s how I got to know him, and joined the Creatives Page that they had for musicians and just kind of started posting. We were both pretty active. One day, I randomly posted, ‘What does everybody want to do? What are your ambitions? What do you want to do this year?’ And I think Cody was the first one to get back to me.”
“Yeah, so…,” Cody picks up the thread, “I already had my own projects, but I was just…, ‘I’ve always wanted to do Indie Rock. Like, Local Natives, Hippo Campus…’ I forget what else I said at the time, but Billy was like, ‘Oh yeah, I’m down.’”
Back in 2006 I went to a concert in Denver where the bassist for The Click Five, Ethan Mentzer, was doing a soundcheck in a then empty venue. Mentzer absolutely shredded through the setlist. One of the stagehands stopped what they were doing and said, “I don’t think I’ve ever heard a bassist play like that.” Mentzer shrugged as he continued to play, saying that he had started on guitar, but the bands that were auditioning already had guitar players. If he wanted to play in a band, he needed to play a different instrument, so he started playing bass.
Like all great stories. The story of how Infinite Video became a band was based on a lie.
Billy starts laughing. He had played in and around the Dallas Fort Worth, Texas scenes for twenty plus years as a guitarist. But his new scene in Omaha wasn’t in need of a guitarist.
“I can play bass,” Billy raises his hand, “I am not a bass player. I’ve played guitar my entire life, but I was like, ‘yeah, I can do that.’” The group laughs as Billy continues, “it did just kinda fall into place. It was just, hit the ground running.”
Nick and Nate had met through the music festival earlier that year, already had a connection to Cody, and Billy was now newly learning to play the bass. “it was Nate,” Nick remembers, “He texted me, it was New Year’s Day or something. It was the first day of 2019.”
“We just knocked it out of the park right off the bat,” Cody says, “I came with one song prepared, and we don’t even do that song anymore.”
No matter what you do, or what you aspire to be, there are dry spells. There are times that you just find yourself in a desert and aren’t sure if you’re headed toward an oasis or a mirage. When those moments happen, you have to hope that those around you, that you trust, are in the same boat with you and not looking to jump ship and leave you in the lurch.
Covid has brought a lot of frustrations. Not just creatively, but in all things. Fortunately for Infinite Video, they were able to ride the high from an early wave of success, leaving that hum of anticipation resonating in their ears long after the lights had gone out along with the air from 2020.
“Riding off the success of our last show, we were like, ‘Holy Cow, that was amazing!’” Cody shares, “We got to open for a band that we’d based our sound around, Flor and Winnetka Bowling League… that was absolutely nuts, and we were like, ‘this is really gonna be something.’”
The time in lockdown didn’t take the wind out of their sails, it gave them motivation. “it was a vessel for something really cool to happen,” Cody thinks for a moment before he continues, “I’m thinking if we’d had shows to play, I don’t know if we’d have practiced those four songs enough to get them really solid for the studio. Maybe we would have, I don’t know, but the lack of having something to do, really pushed us to do something bigger.”
The band writes as a group now, but when they got started it was a lot of stream of consciousness. “Our best songs are written together, for sure, and then we’ll start with, ‘Nate, play something cool.’”
They all bring the best out of each other - one note, one riff, one lyric at a time.
Billy describes their writing session as, “Nate will play a riff, or Cody, or whoever, and it’s just keep playing that over and over again, and then Nick will start playing drums and I’ll listen to it for a little bit and I’ll start playing a bass line and then once we’ve got that portion down, we’re like, ‘okay, it’s gotta transition somewhere, there’s gotta be a chorus or a bridge,’ and then we figure that out. There have been countless times, I am confident to say, we’ve written a song in a two hour window.”
“We just like to write together,” Cody says, “it’s nonstop. Nowadays, Nate starts on a riff,’ we jam that for an hour or something, and then I start writing lyrics and I’m like, ‘Wait, stop, we need to record first.’ We’ll record this idea and then come back to it. We’ve had to do that a lot.”
Billy laughs as he recalls, “I’ve just got hours of recordings from the beginning on my phone.
Cody chimes in, “I’d say our best songs are like that. There are a few songs that I took solo and I brought in, but most of them have been a riff idea by Nate or a bass solo from Billy and then Nick always crushes it on drums. And he’s like, ‘I don’t like it,’ and we’re like, ‘no dude, it’s fine, it’s great.’”
The Facebook page is dormant, “I think the group is pretty much dead now,” Cody says. “There’s hardly any activity on it but it could still be a thing. It still exists, we could revive it. It’s always in the back of my head, doing more stuff with the community, building it up and getting more activity locally. It’s a lot to juggle, for sure,” Nate finishes. The fruits the page bore out of its short existence have been busy. Since they first started, Infinite Video has feverishly produced content.
“We had seven songs written before we had a band name,” Nick laughs.
“I was pissed, because we didn’t have a band name,” Billy continues.
Cody laughs, “you forced it, yeah.”
“We had, like, two EP’s worth of songs, didn’t have a band name. We were just four dudes in a basement,” Billy says as he shakes the memory off.
“And we had to come up with it for a show, right?” Cody reflects.
“Yeah,” Billy recalls, “we had a show, or we were getting ready to start booking shows, and that’s what we did, we used a keyword in a band name generator.”
And just like that. There was a name for all of their hard work.
“I like to write my lyrics in my notepad and still, this band folder is still under ‘New Band,” Cody laughs, “because we didn’t name it for so long.”
The community of Omaha has provided a great venue for indie music to thrive for many bands, but especially for Infinite Video. “It’s a pretty close knit community,” Nick says, “I started with that Conspire Music Festival thing, that really opened up the doors for networking and stuff, and I just think it’s super cool that everybody knows everybody and everybody is supportive of each other and we try to help each other book shows and we’ve got some really cool, supportive, venues to play at. It’s just a good time.”
Billy nods and continues, “It’s definitely different than what I was used to growing up, playing in band scenes in Dallas and Fort Worth. I mean, that’s a really, over saturated market. Phenomenal talent, but it was just a lot different. I would say, when I started playing music here in Omaha, like Nick said, it’s just a really great community. Everybody knows everybody and we get to go see their shows and everyone comes to our shows.”
“One of the things, though,” Cody cuts in, “there wasn’t a lot of indie rock music in town, and that’s why this is a thing, because there’s a specific sound that we wanted to hear and no one was doin’ it, so, we were like, ‘well, then we should do it.’”
“When I first said, ‘I’ll play bass,’” Billy laughs, “you know, Local Natives, Hippo Campus, what Cody had mentioned in that comment, I had heard them before, but I had never played that kind of music, so I just kind of lied and was like, ‘yeah, I can do that.’”
Cody laughs, “You fooled us all.”
Billy shrugs, “So, it was either going to work, or it wasn’t. And, luckily, it’s worked out so far.”
ZZ Top has a documentary on Netflix called ZZ Top: That Little ‘Ol Band From Texas. In lead Billy Gobbins reflects on his first meeting up with the late bassist Dusty Hill with long time drummer Frank Beard for the first time and they jammed the blues “shuffle in C” for “three solid uninterrupted hours” without realizing that any time had passed. That’s when they all knew they had something.
Infinite has found the people they want to play with and they play. They turn it up to 11 and they create a ruckus.
Towards the end of the ZZ Top documentary, bassist Dusty Hill wraps it all up as he recounts the story of releasing their Eliminator album, “we really wanted to do some different things, things like a synthesizer or different technology. We wanted to use it and if you don’t do that, you play shuffle in C forever.” For a group like this, that has taken some of the most mentally excruciating months that have presented themselves in generations and created from it a living, breathing, art…
…the possibilities are…
And so, we come now to the end.
You are the band on the Titanic and you’re gonna play through as people scramble to exit. What would your set be, and why? You get to pick whatever you want.
(Cody) We don’t have any covers.
(Nick) For me it would be exactly what we played at our last show, at the Down Under Lounge. Those are all my favorite songs. Burn My Bones, and Tell Me, and Secret Treasure which isn’t on Spotify yet, those are my three favorite songs. And I would fight tooth and nail to make y’all play those with me.
(Cody) Any song that I yell, which are most of them. Icarus, Secret Treasure, Burn My Bones.
(Billy) If nobody says we should play Thursday, y’all are just wrong.
(Cody) We have this ballad song called Thursday.
(Billy) It’s a ballad. I don’t play for half of it, Nick doesn’t play for half of it, but it’s so pretty.
(Nick) Sometimes we get a drunk guy that plays saxophone on it.
(Cody) Do we have our drunk saxophonist for this Titanic set?
(Billy) Obviously, what they said, but we have to play Thursday too, because… For one, it talks about Kung-Fu. That’s a very important topic on the Titanic.
(Cody) Let’s not get the people too excited, it’s not out yet.
(Nick) I was going to ask what song we all thought we’d end with. My vote would be Thursday.
(Cody) Mine would be Burn My Bones. Let’s talk about death.
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