Frontier Folk Nebraska
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Frontier Folk Nebraska

Covington, Kentucky, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2004 | INDIE

Covington, Kentucky, United States | INDIE
Established on Jan, 2004
Band Alternative Rock




" Interview"

Frontier Folk Nebraska Talks Classic Rock, Kimbo Slice, and Sweaty Nights in the Back of the Truck
16 January 2012

HAMILTON, OHIO – It’s cold in Hamilton, Ohio. Really cold. Frontier Folk Nebraska has just wrapped a show at DIY venue, née record store, Galaxy CDs. And we’re hungry. Well, I’m hungry. They seem more thirsty. The local “German” bar, wall-mounted Imperial Kriegsmarine ensign aside, has nary a smirch of gemütlichkeit. We settle on Steaky Shake for the post-gig interview. The waitress has to fill our community bottle. Like, fifty college kids just left, she bemoans; they ate all the ketchup.

I think these guys throw a Bad Company vibe. Certainly classic rock throwback. Steve, the bassist, is a bit of a ringer for Ted Nugent, plus ‘stache, il n’est pas barbu. But Bad Company? Mike, lead vocals and guitar, is incredulous.

“I think we dreamed of being Thin Lizzy.” This from Travis, lead guitarist. “We were going with big ‘70s guitar rock.”
“My parents love Bad Company,” says Steve.
Mike admits to a love of the Beatles, Ryan Adams and old country: George Jones, Willie Nelson, Johnny Paycheck. “But as far as the band sound, Thin Lizzy. And Steve is into Grand Funk. I know there was a moment where I was listening too much to Band of Horses and [Travis] pointed it out.”
“I mean, like, I don’t ever tell you what I think something sounds like to make you upset,” Travis jumps back in over his already-empty coffee cup. “I always feel like we’re going for a loud-quiet sort of thing. I feel like there’s a groove to what we’re trying to do. If you just play three chords over and over a lot of times it can get strange, but I feel like we just try and get something, keep going and it kind of morphs as it goes along. They’re not technically complex songs, but I don’t feel like they’re easy to play.”
Mike builds. “They’re three-chord songs, but we keep the dynamics going. I really started feeling the dynamics when Nate joined the band. Nate’s the perfect human – what’s that thing – click track?”
“Metronome,” says Steve.
Nate nods.
“And the dynamics really complete what we’re trying to do.” Mike leans back. The fries are here.


Frontier Folk Nebraska?
“We’re not a folk band anymore.”
“And folk you for thinking it.” Of course Nate is our character. Maybe that’s why I was never a good drummer.
“ We’re not from Nebraska. We’re not a folk band,” says Travis. He pauses. “We are on the frontier.”
“It wasn’t always deceiving though,” Steve asserts. “Because we were kind of legitimately a folk band at one point. We developed into what we wanted to be and that was a rock’n’roll band.”
Mike is in with the backstory. “I met Steve about seven years ago. We started playing and it kind of turned into this three-piece folk band with his then-girlfriend Andrea. She played the odds and ends, the violin, accordion. He played bass and a kick drum and hi-hat and I just played acoustic. We rolled with that for a couple years, because (A) we couldn’t find a drummer and (B) we just wanted to play.”
“We still play some of those songs,” Steve interjects. “They just have a different feel.”
So why the move away from violins and accordions?
Steve: “The violin player quit.”
Travis turns to Mike. “You said you always wanted to do this sort of thing anyway.”
“It just took time to get into it, really,” says Steve.
“You know, I’ll bet if we were like, ‘We could use violin on a song, do you wanna play . . . ,’” Mike arches an eyebrow at Steve.
“She would do it.”
“But it is a boys club,” Travis asserts. “Forts don’t got carpet.” He’s out of coffee. To the waitress: “I’ll always need more coffee.”


Mike seems to be, if not de jure “leader,” of the combo, then primary phrase curator. They do write collaboratively.
“Mike brings ideas and such,” Steve offers. “He writes things and brings them in and then we flesh them out together.”
“I feel like anything that comes up that [Mike] didn’t come in with, he takes home,” adds Travis. “If we give him a bunch of parts, he kind of has to make it go. If he’s not into it, it’s not gonna work.”
“You gotta own that mic, Mike!” Nate’s back..
“I strongly disagree with that.” Mike looks around the table. “I think we’re all important.”
Travis: “Nate doesn’t matter at all.” Cheeky.
Nate nods. “Yeah. You guys could just get a drum machine.”
“Technically Nate was in the band before Travis was in the band,” says Steve. “Nate was in the band for a few months when we still had the violinist. But I guess he had bigger priorities in a different band, so it didn’t really last very long.”
“Hookers and blow, dude.”
I choke a little on my veggie soup. Nate’s killing me. Think Lawrence from Office Space.
“But it must be true love,” Steve sums up, “because he came back.”


“I mean if there’s anything that shouldn’t be held to what its name sounds like, it’s a rock’n’roll band,” says Travis. “I -

"Heavy Heart"

By its nature, rock ‘n’ roll always blurs the lines between musical styles. While its roots can easily be traced back into blues, country, folk and jazz traditions, the modern era rock ‘n’ roll continues to evolve into a seemingly endless stream of subgenres on a near-daily basis. While many bands thrive within these confines, Covington, Ky. quartet Frontier Folk Nebraska (FFN) bucks against artistic constraints and easily definable parameters with their new self-titled album. The band will celebrate its release this Saturday night with a show at South Park Tavern.

Formed in 2006, Frontier Folk Nebraska’s original lineup was formed by Michael Hensley (vocals, guitar) and included Steven Oder (bass) and Andrea Lee (violin, keys). Lee left in 2008 as the group was turning in a new rock ‘n’ roll direction. At this time, the band went from a primarily acoustic/folk act, to not really a folk act at all with the addition of Brett Tritsch (drums) and Travis Talbert (guitar). The band issued its debut album Pearls in 2009, earning the band airplay on and shows from Milwaukee, St. Louis and Chicago, to Birmingham and Atlanta. As the band built its reputation with Pearls and an intense live show, the band quickly got tagged as an Americana act, although they would dispute its legitimacy.

“Quite honestly, we hate it,” admitted Talbert. “Nothing against ‘Americana’ music, there are lots of things that fall into that category that we all really love — Whiskeytown, Uncle Tupelo, Drive-By Truckers — but that just simply isn’t what we do. We are an American rock ‘n’ roll band and always try to be upfront with bookers about that. So many people are thrown by the word folk, but seem to miss ‘frontier’ completely. We’re all people constantly looking to learn as much about making music as possible, and while many musicians do find a niche, we look for ours to be only what we feel we can play genuinely.”

As Pearls spread to new listeners and the fiery live show earned it converts, FFN set to work laying down tracks with the new lineup for their new self-titled release. With nearly two years spent on the album, the record was recorded by (current bass player) Steven Oder at a makeshift studio in the band’s practice space owned by then-drummer Brett Tritsch.

“We started recording in the summer of 2009 and completed final overdubs in the fall of 2010,” explained Talbert. “Everything was done by us. We recorded live in the space to get all the basic tracks down and then moved to a smaller space to do overdubs like vocals and some guitar solos and acoustic guitar parts. There are all kinds of extra noises that are part of the overdubs. Lots of layers of things to find in the record.”

While the band may swim against the “Americana” tag, the heart-on-the-sleeve songwriting of Hensley and the band’s twangy tones certainly make a case for the tag on tracks such as “Heavy Heart” and “Tonight a Rainfall, Yesterday’s Nightmare.” However, it’s easy to hear how the band bucks against that genre’s boundaries with the blistering “Electric Satan” and “Cradle to the Grave.” Even relatively subdued recording of “Queen City Serenade” hints at a restrained fury that could open up in a live setting. With its new album, FFN hopes to build on its reputation and dispel many of the misgivings its moniker presented with its last album.

“We felt quite a bit of backlash for not being a folk band even during the promotion of Pearls, so this next step may not have been as big of a surprise to people that have followed our whims thus far as their initial confusion when they first came to see us thinking we’d be just tickled pink to be there to pick for the folks,” said Talbert. “We’re super proud of the record and hope that we get it to as many people as possible.”

As plans are being made to tour throughout the Midwest and South in 2012, FFN members are excited to present their new album to Dayton audiences well before its official release next year. Make no mistake, however: this is a loud band.

“Honestly, bring ear plugs if you aren’t deaf already,” Talbert said. “We don’t think we are that loud, but we’ve been told otherwise. Dayton is always our favorite place to play. We tell everyone everywhere that. No shit. We always meet genuine people in Dayton, and people actually listen. Home is great and we’ve had great times in other cities, but Dayton is always a good time and we are always excited to come back.”

Frontier Folk Nebraska will celebrate the release of their new self-titled album with a show on Saturday, November 19 at South Park Tavern, 1301 Wayne Ave. Also on the bill are King Elk and the Turkish Delights. Doors at 9 p.m. Admission is $5 for all ages. For more information, visit
- Dayton City Paper

"Not The Final Frontier"

Perhaps we should begin with a clarification. It seems that Frontier Folk Nebraska’s name has sparked some misconceptions about the band that should be addressed. Frontier Folk Nebraska does not have any particular affinity for the frontier, they are not necessarily a Folk band and … well, you can guess where this is going.

“We played in Indianapolis, and they asked if we needed a place to stay and I said we were driving home after the show, and the guy was like, ‘Holy, shit, that’s a long drive. What part of Nebraska are you from?’ ” FFN guitarist Travis Talbert says over lunch at Newport’s Pepper Pod. “We said, ‘We’re not from Nebraska.’ ”

There might be some question about their point of origin but there can be no doubt about the quartet’s present location. With their bold, brash and muscular new self-titled album, Frontier Folk Nebraska is firmly on the verge of a breakthrough. The band’s debut full-length, 2009’s Pearls, was a reflection of their largely acoustic beginnings four years previous, but the new album, for now available only in the vinyl format, finds them in loud and expansive mode.

“Pearls was more of a transition,” bassist Steven Oder says. “We were in the midst of going from an acoustic band with violin to what we are now.”

Although the two albums are relatively different in tone and volume, frontman Michael Hensley notes that the inspiration for many of the songs on Pearls and Frontier Folk Nebraska is largely the same.

“I don’t want to sound cliché, but I was in a five-year relationship, and the majority of those songs were inspired by her,” Hensley says.
“They don’t come off too pleasing. I think she knows. I did try to disguise them; I can’t be too blunt about it, but I guess I am now. But through Pearls and the self-titled album, that was our relationship and our demise. It wasn’t just about her, it was about myself, being young and dumb; I’m definitely trying to figure it out before I get old and dumb.”

Musically, the songs on FFN’s new album wouldn’t sound out of place on a playlist stacked with Wilco, My Morning Jacket and Son Volt tracks. The band’s literal amping up on this album has been Hensley’s plan from the beginning.

“It’s not just the record, I was planning on going electric since we first started,” he says. “It started out acoustic and Folk, but the new record needed to be louder and different. The ‘Folk’ in the name might throw people off; there’s still Folk there. I wrote the songs on acoustic guitar and then we all came in and filled it out.”

Although it’s not reflected in the new album, FFN’s rhythmic texture is provided by former Lions Rampant drummer Nate Wagner. Wagner had joined an early version of FFN and was replaced by Brett Tritsch, who played on Pearls and the new album before departing early last year for new opportunities. The band continued to work on the album using the parts Tritsch had already recorded.

“We couldn’t have done the album without Brett,” Hensley says. “But when we got this lineup, it felt like a real band, like we could go out to other cities and really explore. It feels complete.”

The titling of an album can be as tricky as it is important, and a self-titled album is often perceived as a work most reflecting the identity of the artist. But sometimes the answer is simpler than that.

“We forgot to do it on the first one,” Talbert says. “We judged it on the fact that it was more of a band record.”

“It kind of feels like a new beginning,” Oder says. “I didn’t feel like it needed a name, to be honest.”

While the album will ultimately wind up in downloadable form, the initial run is on vinyl only (currently available at Shake It, the band’s blog at and at the release show this Friday). That decision reflects the band’s purist mindset, to a certain degree.

“It seems like CDs are dead,” Hensley says. “Vinyl is coming back.”

“And it’s big and you can hold it,” Wagner adds.

“I just really love records,” Talbert says. “And it doesn’t feel like a compromisable medium. If somebody wanted to put it on the Internet, they’d have to take some time to do it. They’d at least have to get up and flip it.” - Citybeat

"Frontier Folk Nebraska"

"...When we first got wind of them (Frontier Folk Nebraska) early this year after the release of their album "Pearls", it did not matter where they were from, we wanted to hear more.

So it was a natural progression to have the guys into our studios for a lounge act session, and the results were nothing short of lovely. The 4-piece band have been playing together for a couple of years and make earnest, heartfelt, roots music that brings to mind some of our favorite Americana sounds." - WOXY

"Frontier Folk Nebraska @ MPMF '09"

This quartet conjures a hovering, haunted sound that has the mysterious aura of Band of Horses, as the various pieces of the band combine in a spectral aural haze. The music, lyrics and vocals bleed despondency and there's almost a numb, shell-shocked feel to the proceedings. Even the rhythms reflect the mood - the slow sway has an uncertainty, like a drunk pirate taking a late-night stroll on the deck right before a big storm. The band's "Pearls" release is a gorgeously gloomy piece of work, the sound of emotion delivered with mumble passion and quiet resignation. If Springsteen would have started his career with his lo-fi, solo acoustic masterpiece "Nebraska," the Boss might have ended up in a place like Frontier Folk Nebraska.
DIG: Avett Brothers, Damien Jurado, My Morning Jacket on downers and acoustic guitars.

-Mike Breen - Citybeat

"Frontier Folk Nebraska"

"...there is just enough twang and tension to make it the perfect voice to walk through the desolation, on one hand pleading to be saved and on another resolved to continued suffering in this life." - Glide Magazine

"Frontier Folk Nebraska"

"Every so often, an album succeeds less as a trademark for its generation and more as a testament to the timeless omnipresence of human love and sensibility. Kentucky's Frontier Folk Nebraska have created one such album with their upcoming release, 'Pearls.'" - TRACER Magazine


"Frontier F**k Nebraska" Fall 2014 No Chaser Records

"Drop The Ball, Waste Another Year" - 2013  No Chaser Records

"Frontier Folk Nebraska" - 2011 No Chaser Records
"Pearls " - 2009 Self-released
"Devil's Tree" EP - 2007 Self-released



Playing music that is sometimes simple, and stark, sometimes a glorious mess of kitchen sink noise and volume, FFN's new album Frontier F**k Nebraska (Fall 2014), finds the band streamlining their songs to big choruses and early 45 side song lengths. Recorded by bass player Steven Oder and produced by the band in frontman and songwriter Michael Hensley's Covington, KY home, ** brings the singing and the songs to the forefront with all other aspects of the music focused on support. Tasteful textures and guitar flourishes still abound, but all in a sense of helping rather than standing apart. No extra notes necessary.

FFN has toured all across the Midwest and the South in a 1999 F150 playing with acts such as Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit, Damien Jurado, The Whigs, Guy Clark, and Pierced Arrows. They embody the DIY ethic, recording, booking, and even filming their own videos and a documentary about themselves all on their own.

Band Members