Guest List: Whispertown

Morgan Nagler and Jake Bellows of Whispertown performed at Krug Park for Guest List. (Photo by Matt Miller/The World-Herald)

When it was time to tour this spring, Whispertown’s plan was to hit the road in the band’s van with their dog, Dragon, in tow.

But they ran into some trouble before they could even leave the driveway. Dragon, the dog of the band’s Jake Bellows and Morgan Nagler, was just fine, but the van was a different story.

After some van repairs, the indie rock hit the road and made it to Omaha. They sat down with us at Benson bar Krug Park to talk about the band’s new album and perform two new songs for Guest List, the World-Herald’s live music video series.

For Guest List, the band camped out in a booth and performed “State of Mind” and “Blood Into Wine” from its new album, “Parallel.” (Watch “Blood Into Wine” below and more at Omaha.com/GO.)

Nagler was also kind enough to talk to us from her and Bellow’s home in Los Angeles before the band hit the road.

Kevin Coffey: You used to be known as the Whispertown 2000. Now it’s just Whispertown. What happened?

Morgan Nagler: We dropped the 2000 because the Whispertown 2000 was pretty much a regular lineup. We were a band, but disassembled. I always wrote the songs, so it’s still songs coming from the same place with different arrangements and different band members.

It was an amicable breakup.

KC: Where did you record “Parallel?”

MN: Jake and I went to Athens, Ga., to work with Andy Lemaster. It was pretty much the three of us the whole time. Jeremy Wheatley came to help, and I had Maria Taylor and Orenda Fink do backup, but mostly it was the three of us.

KC: Some of the songs really sound different. “Open the Other Eye,” for example, is more of a synth pop song.

MN: I started with the same acoustic guitar songs without knowing what the sound was going to be. It could be anything, really. We could take them in any direction. You could color it in any way. That was really exciting.

Taking the jingle-jangle strum that was all over everything out and be more intentional with the notes that we were playing meant we had more ethereal concepts that we brought out with Andy.

It was really fun to do whatever you want with every song. It was really an experiment.
“Open the Other Eye” almost sounds like an electronic dance song, but when I wrote it, it was just another acoustic guitar song.

KC: Whispertown now includes Jake Bellows, an Omaha guy. How did you meat Jake and start playing with him?

MN: We met — I think it was about eight years ago — and Rilo Kiley was mixing their record in Omaha back when (Mike Mogis’ Presto! recording studio) was in Lincoln. I was visiting Jenny (Lewis). They were ending an acoustic tour that Jake and Tim (Kasher) had been opening up for.

There was a crazy snowstorm. Jake had driven out, even though it was snowing, to Lincoln. It was getting worse and worse. Cabs weren’t going and buses weren’t going and my flight was out of Omaha the next day.

Jenny was like, “Just go with him. He’ll take you to the airport.” My flight was then canceled the next four days in a row. I was just stuck with Jake at his house for four days.

At that point, I was still pretty shy about my own songs. That night, I think I played him a song and he played me a song. I wasn’t really familiar with his music and I made him play about 20 songs.

It wasn’t that long after that I started recording “Livin’ in a Dream” in 2005. I was in Omaha and Jake actually recorded three of the songs on that record in the basement there.

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