Omaha mainstay Ted Stevens put time in with a number of influential acts, but Mayday was his most personal. Stevens began his esteemed career in the brooding chamber pop outfit Lullaby for the Working Class, an act whose trio of late-'90s albums pushed the boundaries of quiet melodic dirges and complex orchestration. After 1999's Song the members parted ways without officially disbanding, and Stevens found himself replacing Steve Pedersen on guitar and second vocals in Omaha's Cursive. After settling in on the group's breakthrough hit Domestica, Stevens went on to assume an even more commanding role with his powerful vocal presence. He also became a touring member of his Cursive bandmate Tim Kasher's the Good Life. Still, the quieter work of his past wasn't out of his system.
Named after an annual concert that Stevens and his friends threw on the first day of May, Mayday was the songwriter's return to his earlier style of composition. Fitting that it also featured a some of his Lullaby for the Working Class bandmates. Brothers Mike and A.J. Mogis and violinist Tiffany Kowalski all returned to the fold, and the result was a natural progression from where Lullaby left off. With a cast of players that also included members of Azure Ray, Now It's Overhead, Bright Eyes, and Cursive, as well as a musical palette almost as diverse as the company, Stevens put together Mayday's solid 2002 debut Old Blood. A mix of the lilting and quiet sounds of Lullaby and detours into Spanish flavored guitar workouts and sea shantey themes, the disc was clearly a release for years of Stevens original material that had been gathering in the vaults. Subsequent full-band tours proved that Mayday could be much more than a one-off solo project. Sure enough, the band returned in May 2003 with the inward-turned gothic country of I Know Your Troubles Been Long, released through Bar/None. Mayday returned to Saddle Creek for 2005's Bushido Karaoke. By that point its lineup included Stevens, Kowalski, Dan McCarthy, and Pat Oakes.
Peter J. D'Angelo