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Professor records indie-rock album

Sophomore Sarah Soles listens to a lot of music. When she first heard the band Halloween Town, she said she liked them instantly.

“They remind me of Coconut Records with a little bit of Kings of Leon,” Soles said.

Halloween Town, a Las Vegas-based band, recently released an album that lead singer Ryan Pardey has been working on since 2008 and a University of South Dakota professor took part in making it.

Nolan Stolz, a professor in the music department at USD, played drums for Halloween Town before accepting his professorship at USD.

Prior to this year, Stolz was teaching at the University of Nevada — Las Vegas and playing live shows with the band.

Pardey said a lot of the album is about the ghosts and memories from his childhood and growing up in Vegas.

While Stolz said he is typically a progressive-rock and jazz-fusion drummer, he described Halloween Town as an indie band.

“The shows are fun because I’m with my friends and playing well-crafted music,” Stolz said. “Ryan Pardey is sort of like the king of indie rock in Las Vegas.”

The band, which Stolz called a laundry list of musicians, has over the years, included four members from Louis XIV, three members from The Killers, two from Big Talk and one member of The Shys.

“All these folks have either played with them live or recorded with them on the album. It’s sort of like a who’s who of the Las Vegas and San Diego indie-rock scene,” Stolz said.

Pardey said over the last three years the band has had 60-70 different members working toward the album “Zafra Ct.”

“It makes it gratifying and stifling at times,” Pardey said. “You get to those points when you want to give up, and you wish you had a band or a group of guys to keep it going. I got to make the record the way I wanted it. I got to have people on the record who couldn’t have played live.”

Aside from being the name of Pardey’s band, Halloween Town is the name of a Disney movie and the setting of Tim Burton’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas.”

“Halloween Town rolled off the tongue nicely; it wasn’t until I was committed to the name that I found out there is a Disney movie and a Tim Burton movie,” Pardey said.

Pardey, who came up with the name Halloween Town when he was eight years old, said the name is a metaphor for his hometown, Las Vegas. Their new album, “Zafra Ct” is named for the street Pardey grew up on.

Before Halloween Town, Pardey spent five years working for The Killers.

“Touring can be hell,” Pardey said. “I didn’t unpack my suitcase for five years. At one point, we did 80 shows a year for a number of years. I was seeing venues every night and I got a unique perspective on the world. I watched The Killers go from a bar band to a stadium band, but I just felt like I was losing myself in this whirlwind.”

Now that he’s got his own project, he’s opened shows for them, Pardey said.

“Live shows can be intensely awkward,” Pardey said. “The songs are really personal.”

Pardey has played shows to varying sizes, stating that the smaller they are the more personal it feels.

“I’ve played shows in front of 10,000 people,” Pardey said. “It’s more comfortable than playing a show for five people.”

Pardey said he’s always surprised by how many people he sees at the shows.

“I just want people to hear my record. I’m really proud of it,” Pardey said.

Reach reporter Kati Stauffer at [email protected]