A candid interview with OBERHOFER; Played Syracuse, NY with Matt and Kim
Brooklyn, NY noise-pop group Oberhofer is only 3 years old, but they’ve achieved a great deal of success to brag about in that short period of time. Signed to the (brilliantly run) Glassnote Records label, the indie-rock quintet has also had stints on White Iris Records, slots opening for Neon Indian and Sleigh Bells, has performed at Coachella, Lollapalooza, Late Night with David Letterman, and will be heading to Austin City Limits later this month. Ambitious much? Jeez!
Currently touring in support of their 2012 release Time Capsules II, created by one-time fellow NYU student Brad Oberhofer, you can expect an energetic, bouncy good time when you see them in concert, and you should. You can find Oberhofer in a city near you opening for NYC indie-pop darling’s Matt and Kim before heading south for a pair of shows in Austin, and I got a chance to sit down with the guys over sandwiches prior to their performance in Syracuse, NY to talk about the band, their tunes, and how their touring with Matt and Kim is treating them.
G- Hi there and thank you very much for taking the time to speak with Live High Five! Introduce the members in the group… Who is everyone, what do they play, and where does everyone come from?
P- I’m Pete. I play drums, and I’m from Ohio.
Brad- I’m Brad, and I play guitar and sing. And I’m from Tacoma, Washington.
Dylan- I’m Dylan. I play the bass guitar, and I’m also from Tacoma, Washington.
Ben- I’m Ben. I play guitar, and I am too from Tacoma, Washington.
Matt- I’m Matt. I play guitar and glockenspiel, and I’m from Connecticut.
G- Right on. So you guys are currently on tour providing direct support for Matt and Kim, and these shows must be pretty killer at this point! How has everything been going on the road thus far?
Brad- (laughing) At this point, yes… they have been. There’s been 1. There’s been one show.
Everyone’s laughing at me at this point.
G- Oh this is the second show?
G- Well, good. That means we’re at a 100% ratio.
P- We’re one for one, man! It was alright, yea.
G- Well, tonight is also sold out, so you can expect another raging good time here in Syracuse, I’m sure. It’ll be a hot and nasty time here at the Westcott.
Brad- Hot and nasty!
G- Yes it will be, and the beer is really good and the bartender is awesome, so… Hi Sam!
Brad- Sounds nice.
Pete- I’ll bring a towel.
G- So everyone is from kid of different areas… Tacoma, Connecticut, everywhere…
Pete- And the other place.
G- And Ohio. But the group formed in Brooklyn, correct?
G- And that’s still the epicenter of indie-hip and up-to-the-minute cool scene. Tell me a bit about your experiences performing in NYC, and your feelings on the current indie circuit happening right now.
Brad – Well, I think the term ‘indie circuit’ is sorta vague, and I don’t think I could describe it. Most bands are actually on independent labels right now…
I have a longstanding grudge against all things indie and hipster, and it was great to hear someone who is in what is considered an “indie” band make the differentiation.
G- True. Excellent! Right on!
B- And most bands play what people would refer to as ‘indie,’ which is sort of whatever exactly what alternative was at one point. It’s just, like…
G- It’s good that you brought that up because, coming up, I always thought indie artists were bands signed to indie labels, and now it turned into this warped genre-ish thing that encapsulates just about everything.
Brad- It’s practically not even a genre. I mean, it’s just like a description of some kind of aesthetic that people are sort of confused about.
Pete- I think it kind of follows, like… The original indie bands did have a jangly pop, new wave kind of sound about them that became what indie is now.
Dylan- People think that… People have considered Owl City to be indie, and like…
Pete- Camper Van Beethoven
Brad- So, there are a lot of different scenes. I would say I’m most closely connected a lot of bands that played DIY venues in Brooklyn, like Todd P venues. Todd P opened up a bunch of venues, and now a lot of people run them independently of him, but a lot of things sort of stemmed from Todd P’s venues, and there’s sort of a scene that’s generated around that.
G- Yea like Secret Project Robot and 235?
Brad- 285 Kent, yea. And Market Hotel and Shea Stadium.
G- You guys have played all those places too, correct?
Pete – Sure.
Dylan- I don’t think we played at Secret Project Robot.
Brad – We played at Secret Project Robot, and we played Monster Island Basement, and we played Market Hotel, and Death By Audio. Um…
Ben- And Studio 54.
Brad- And those places are really cool, and I’ve worked at a couple shows there running door, or just taking care of basic tasks. You know, my friends have lived at those spaces, and it’s kind of a cool community.
G- Nice. Do you have a favorite venue?
Brad- It’s closed down now, but Market Hotel was my favorite place of all.
G- Any particular reason? Was it the sound or just the vibe of the spot?
Brad- It was just sort of the feeling of the place.
G- It’s always a bummer when you see venues in the city go away quickly, but sometimes they pop back up.
G- Anyways, back to the music… You are currently touring in support of Time Capsules II, and have a couple of big performance coming up in just a few days at ACL in Austin. How excited are you to be a part of the ACL experience, and are there any acts you hope to catch while you’re down there?
Pete- I’m really excited about it. I don’t know that much about ACL. I’ve heard of it growing up and all that, but I don’t know what it’s like. I don’t have any idea. So, we’ll see.
G- Hopefully it’s not as wild, or is as wild, as SXSW.
Dylan- 75% as wild would be great.
Band in concensus.
Ben- If we can park in front of where we’re playing, then yea.
Pete- SXSW is like a test, a challenge that you have to get through
Pete- But it’s really fun. Stressful and fun. I don’t know… Is ACL more like Coachella and Bonnaroo? Is it a one area thing? I don’t know anything about it.
Everyone chimes is at this point, and it’s hard to decipher, but you get the gist. Let’s just say the band is pumped to see Neil Young play while they’re down there.
G- Yea I have a feeling Neil Young will make Austin go off! So, have you guys played Syracuse before?
Brad- No we never have.
G- I don’t think you have, either, and for some of our readers out here who may not be familiar with you, and who won’t get a chance to come to the show tonight because it’s totally sold out, can you give us a few examples of any bands or artists in particular that influence Oberhofer’s style, a few artists you typically like to listen to, and maybe a few acts you think we should know about in addition to yourself?
Brad- Bands that I think everyone should check out. Well, there’s a band called Total Slacker that’s pretty good, and a band called Widow’s Peak. The singer from that band is also from Tacoma, Washington, and the rest of the band are really sweet people. A band called Celestial Sure, and Twin Sister, also.
G- Yea Twin Sister is making a lot of noise right now. Now, I always get a bit of shit for this question, but do you have a favorite Oberhofer song, or if you were to give a new listener 1 song the best describes what Oberhofer is trying to do in music, what would it be and why?
Brad- I wouldn’t answer that question.
Brad- “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.”
G- No, one of your songs.
Brad- I don’t think I would answer.
Pete- We actually wrote that song.
Dylan- In 1980.
Pete-And we were of negative age.
G- In Utero?
Ben- Yea. Pete was. He wrote that song screaming it from his mother’s womb.
Pete- It was a little weird.
Ben- It was a little pitchy, though. He wasn’t quite a singer yet.
Pete- I didn’t have any pitch and I couldn’t form notes, but I could belt it out. I had no knowledge of holding myself back, so… It was so loud, the notes. That’s true of babies.
At this point, the band is beyond ready to eat their sandwiches from Dorian’s, so the conversation moves from hypothetical questions to discussions on whether one sandwich is corn beef and who ordered sweet potatoes fries.
G- It was also pre-digital, so you had to put up with all that analog noise. Can you tell us about the craziest or most memorable show that you have played to date? Where was it and what was it like?
Pete- Memorable show? Brad, what’s your most memorable show?
Brad- Most memorable show? Umm, hmm. Uhh… Lollapalooza was.
Dylan- You know what, my most memorable show was when we played in Iowa.
Brad gruntingly approves as he is now fully entrenched in his sandwich. Looked frickin’ good, too.
Dylan- And we played in the basement with Night Moves, and they hadn’t played that many shows at that point. They were awesome! We were blown away by them. We drove around and drank a bunch of whiskey and stuff. And we played all the songs we knew how to play, and it was a bunch of college kids. We just ended up doing a blues jam at the end; we didn’t have anything else to play. We were just rockin’, and sloppy, and kind of a mess, but I had a really fun time.
Brad- I was just making up all the words and just like rolling around on the ground and was like “I’m rolling around on the ground. I’m rolling around on the ground.”
Dylan- And we never really do that. We don’t really improvise like that, so that was kind of a one-off sorta thing.
Pete- Free jazz odyssey. Saucy Jack.
G- Saucy Jack? Since doors were pushed back to 10pm, might we expect any whiskey drinkin’ and rolling around on the ground, Saucy Jack style tonight?
Brad- We only have a half hour to play, so if we are going to do that, it will consume a half hour’s time.
Pete- And any whiskey will be sweated out. Quickly.
G- Probably, yes. I think the cap of the room is 700, maybe 750, and tickets are gone, so… Lastly, while you guys are consuming, as a group who are currently rising in rank in the music business, you’re on a great label, and on a great tour right now, what advice can you give some of the young, up and coming bands everywhere who want to make it in music, on the road, and as a professional musician?
Dylan- If you have any talent, don’t stop. Just keep going. And work really, really hard. And if you don’t have any talent, and still want to do it, find somebody who has talent, and just hang out with them until you can be in their band. Be their manager or something.
Pete- Challenge yourself.
Brad- And also, on top of that, just be good to people all the time, or just do what you know is right and are honest with yourself.
Pete- Unless you just want to be a famous asshole.