A kitty cat that is no longer with us helped spark the birth of a charismatic, fun-loving band that polarizes a new blend of rock here in Omaha.
Pancho and the Contraband consists of drummer Jarron Storm, Drew Morgan on bass and ukulele, Turner Morgan on guitar/vocals, Mindy Wood on trumpet (and kazoo), Joe Reynolds on guitar, Monkey Meade on saxophone, and Todd Reynolds on trombone.
The band is still getting their bearings, as they’ve only been together as a full lineup for a year.
The music has grown organically over time with the addition of new members. Pancho and the Contraband is made up of two brothers, two cousins, a lover and friends. Mindy is dating Drew, who is Turner’s brother, and Joe and Monkey are the brother’s cousins.
The band is not always able to perform live as a full 7-piece, such as missing the horns every now and then, but Pancho always brings energy and a fun time to the stage. This Thursday at The Slowdown promises to be a wild ride, with Pancho and the Contraband opening and setting the tone for a great night of music.
The music can be described as a blend of indie rock and pop with a horn influence and big melodies to keep your feet tapping. There is also a sense of country/honky tonk. One fan has described the music as “feel good 4 a.m. rock and roll when you’re drunk but still need to call your mom for a ride home.” Interesting.
Furthermore, Turner used to dabble in what he described as “bad white-boy funk music.” Perhaps the unique sound of Pancho and the Contraband can be credited to the blending of these various influences and instruments, including the ukelele and horns.
“They’re the most rockin’ ukulele songs you’ll hear, damnit,” Turner said.
As far as inspiration for the band’s name? Take a wild guess. Right meow.
“I had a cat named Pancho,” Turner said. “He was a prick; just a wild cat.”
Pancho and the Contraband just kind of stuck after that. Go figure. From funk to feline, Pancho and the Contaband was born.
Turner said he writes most of the songs and lyrics, but brings his ideas to practice and watches them take on a new form while jamming with the whole band.
“I’m a sucker for a good hook,” Turner said. “I’m always thinking how we can make a certain part stick out. At the end of the day we follow what’s right for the song and just go with it. It’s a collective effort as a band.”
They are currently tracking new music at Hidden Tracks Recording Studio. Turner plans for an 11-track record and said he hopes to release the hounds and push more out towards the summer when the time is right.
“You don’t want to pull the trigger and land flat on your face,” Turner said.
The band portrays a fun-loving, tight-knit relationship with each other, because after all, they are family. Interests outside of music include camping, the outdoors, the community and just having fun. Turner works at Habitat for Humanity and is also a sucker for Dungeons and Dragons.
“Being in a band is more rewarding than being cool and playing music,” Turner said. “It’s a creative part of my life I can be proud of, but it’s also a catalyst to enrich your life.”
The band tries to play in Omaha at least once a month, and they also have plans in the works for a release party when the CD drops. For now, Turner said they enjoy gigging at new venues and playing with bands who have a similar vein.
Dust off your dancing shoes and head on down to the Slowdown on Thursday, March 12 to see Pancho and the Contraband with The Boxers (Chicago) and Oketo (Lincoln). The show starts at 9 with Pancho opening. Bring your cat, too.