Matt Krahula and the rest of the gang in the Nightmare River Band owe their very existence to Jim Henson. OK. That's not entirely true. This New York City alt-country band would probably be hitting the American roadways with or without the assistance of the late, great Muppet mastermind. They just wouldn't be called the Nightmare River Band.
"I'm a big fan of Jim Henson's Emmett Otter," Krahula says about the Christmas-time classic in which our hero, Emmett Otter, and his friends in his jugband face off in a battle of the bands, only to lose to a raucous rock outfit, the River Bottom Nightmare Band, who delivers a performance that's one part Alice Cooper, one part Deep Purple, and one part kick your motherlovin' ass. "I thought that was really cool."
And in order to pay tribute to Henson's creation — and perhaps to avoid any legal complications – Krahula and company decided to name their band the Nightmare River Band. Oddly enough, given the debt that the band owes to Emmett Otter, the Nightmare River Band has yet to perform River Bottom Nightmare Band's signature tune. "It has come up," Krahula says. "At some point we will."
While the River Bottom Nightmare Band may have inspired the band's name, Henson's creation didn't inspire Krahula and company's latest disc, Last Goodbye. With their brand of sing-songy alt-country, the Nightmare River Band is like a joyous mashup of the Old 97s, They Might Be Giants, and Mumford and Sons. (For the record, the Nightmare River Band also bears a resemblance to the now defunct Canadian outfit The Deadly Snakes on their stellar 2005 album Porcella.) "I think in general the old timey feel we're going to as a whole," says Krahula, who counts Bob Dylan, Neil Young, the Pixies, and the Talking Heads as his inspirations. "Our first record was in more of a punk-country direction."
Speaking of inspirations, Krahula says that he wrote the title track to Last Goodbye in honor of his late grandfather. During younger days, Krahula spent long stretches with his grandparents in the Adirondack Mountains in New York. "He taught me how to play golf," Krahula says. "We'd play twice a week." While the song may have somber origins, it's powerfully uplifting chest-sweller that builds and builds to a rowdy explosion of Irish pub celebration. And for that one song alone, the Nightmare River Band's Last Goodbye is worth checking out.
The Nightmare River Band is playing this Sunday night at The Mill in Park Circle. The show is free. Oh. And best of all, it's Krahula's birthday, so swing on by and help the man celebrate another year and a solid new collection of songs. For more information, visit nightmareriverband.com.