They're the Rodney Dangerfields of the Omaha scene. While every dyspeptic shut-in with an acoustic guitar in town seems to be joining Bright Eyes and The Good Life on Saddle Creek Records, Neva Dinova remain the odd men out. With an accent on odd.
"We're the heaviest band in Omaha. By weight," singer/guitarist Jake Bellows claims by cell phone, while rolling through Idaho. "We're all pretty ugly. It makes it hard to get on the radio. We don't even send out pictures in our press kit."
These alienated outcasts have been making music for more than a dozen years long enough to have been contemporaries of Omaha guiding lights Conor Oberst and Tim Kasher's first bands, Commander Venus and Slowdown Virginia. They self-released several albums during the '90s but couldn't get arrested, let alone a record deal, until L.A. label Crank! issued a self-titled disc in 2002. Existing in near-anonymity even years after the whole Saddle Creek "scene" started to blow up was tough on morale, but it stiffened their resolve.
"It was totally brutal," admits Bellows. "But it's like you either have to play music or you don't have to. People are always asking what they need to do to get signed, and it's like, who gives a fuck? If you don't have to play, if you've got a choice don't play because you probably suck. If it's not like a sickness, then just don't do it."
The band formed in 1992 and is heavily influenced by the slowcore movement, penning dreamy, ethereal ballads to dysfunction and bad attitude. Said attitude apparently hasn't gotten any better, judging from "I've Got a Feeling" off the new album, The Hate Yourself Change, in which Bellows sings, "scratching my nuts right at God/On second thought there's no one there/And I don't give a fuck … what's this world without pain? It ain't a goddamn thing … the world's a shitty place and I can't wait to die."
After a dozen years of making music, they're unlikely to change, and that may be a good thing, because their forthcoming album is a beautiful, remarkably cohesive work that's as clever in its self-deprecation as it is dispiriting in its overarching sense of loneliness and loss. And if you can't laugh at yourself, well, you're not Neva Dinova, for whom success is more than just not an option it isn't even a consideration.
"It's almost like a medal we wear around all the time," Bellows says. "It doesn't depend on quality, quantity, money they just can't stop us."