Greg and Daniel from Oh No! Oh My! were kind enough to talk with me about their band’s formation, putting themselves into their songs, and their upcoming show–the band’s first “real” one–with the author of the song they took their name from: Ryland from The Robot Ate Me.
What’s been the biggest difference, attitude wise, between Oh No! Oh My! and your past bands, (poor) yorik and The Jolly Rogers?
Greg: With poor yorik, it was more of a deep, introverted self-examination type of music. Kinda like Sigur Ros or something. Then with the Jolly Rogers, we decided to do away with all of the weirdness and try to be more happy and not just be so crazy.
Daniel: We were really depressed with poor yorik and then got tired of being depressed and did the Jolly Rogers and wanted to write songs that were catchy because that’s what we were listening to.
Does that reflect your personal outlooks at the time? Were you more introverted during the poor yorik days?
D: I think we’re still pretty introverted *laughs* Yeah. Definitely. We were all sorta hunkered down and didn’t really talk to a whole lot of people. We’ve been getting a lot better about that, though.
G: Now we write happy songs.
Were most of the songs on your debut album written in Texas?
G: Yes….Well, actually no. That isn’t true. “The Backseat” was written in Nashville. “Farewell to All My Friends” was recorded in Nashville and written in Texas.
Is “Farewell…” to be taken literally? That is, about how you were leaving Texas?
G: In a way. At first, when I wrote the song, all I had was the line ‘farewell to all my friends.’ I kinda thought that was funny to say goodbye to all my friends who I’ll never see again–which isn’t really serious because all my family’s back there, so I’ve already taking a trip back there. But it started out as a joke that’s just saying goodbye to all my friends, I’ll never forget you. Then it kinda turned into more about relationship…
D: …More girl stuff.
G: *laughs* More girl stuff. Made-up girl stuff.
Daniel, your song is also more girl stuff, right?
D: Yeah, more girl stuff.
G: The difference between my and Daniel’s girl stuff is that mine was completely fictional.
D: I wish mine was fictional. It happened two weeks after I moved from Austin to Nashville. “The Backseat” is the result of that slam in my face which happened so abruptly without any warning.
I guess that’s good that you reacted in an Oh No! Oh My! sort of way, rather than going back to (poor) yorik.
D: Hopefully I’ll keep it that way. I’m working on songs about going to the moon…I don’t know if that means anything.
So, why did you guys pick Oh No! Oh My! as your new band name?
D: We came up with a lot of band names that Greg didn’t like, because he refuses to come up with band names. Any band name I’d come up with, he wouldn’t like. I just kept going and going and Oh No! Oh My! was one that I liked. It didn’t have anything to do with the song as much as it’s just a pretty cool title. I kept thinking how Radiohead named themselves after a Talking Heads song, so I figured it was okay for me to name our band a song by a band I like to listen to.
G: Actually I didn’t even know it was a Robot Ate Me song until after we decided it was our name! I was like ‘oh, it’s a Robot Ate Me song…that’s kind of cool!’
What were some other band names that you’d been kicking around?
D: I liked “Lions, Tires and Chairs.” I still like that one.
G: I hated that one. We actually went to a restaurant and had three band names in our minds and we were trying to decide which one–actually, I don’t even think ‘Oh No! Oh My!’ was a part of that. And so we told Joel to go ask some random people which one they liked the best. *pause* Was “Oh No! Oh My!” in that group? I don’t even think it was.
D: I think so. I don’t know.
G: Oh well, it doesn’t matter.
D: Aha! I found a list of possible band names on my computer: The Cake I Bake, Sunshine In My Pants…
Greg, I think I’m beginning to see why you didn’t want to pick any of these.
D: You don’t like ‘Lions, Tires and Chairs?’
I don’t know if we’d be having this conversation if you’d gone with that name.
G: *laughs* It is a good thing I disagreed with all of them
D: He didn’t ever commit to any of them. Me and Joel had to force “Oh No! Oh My!” on him.
Well the important thing is that you got a good one.
D: The good thing is that Ryland didn’t care.
How did he react when you told him? Did you tell him when you asked him to master your album?
D: Ryland posted about how he was starting a mastering service for indie bands for affordable prices. We weren’t even planning on mastering it, but I was getting artwork back from Laura and we were going to send it off in February, and Greg was like ‘maybe we should master it’ and I emailed him and didn’t even tell him our band name until the end. “I hope you don’t mind, but we named our band after one of your songs….gotta go, bye!”
Did he say anything about it?
D: He said “I think I’ve heard you guys before.” It must have been a name that seemed familiar or he’d seen it somewhere. He’s fine with it; he said he liked our songs a lot. We’re opening for them, so that’s good!
I guess we’ll get on with the actual music questions. A lot of your songs, like “Lisa, Make Love” or “Jane is Fat,” seem to take the form of character profiles. I’m curious to what extent characters like Lisa or Jane are a part of you or people you know, and what part is fictional.
G: Those songs are kind of like personality traits that I have. Like with “Jane Is Fat,” I’m convinced that I’m gaining a whole lot of weight. The chorus is basically like about how you need to go run a lot because you’re getting fat; and that’s what I’m thinking about is that I’m too lazy to run.
D: It’s basically Greg projecting himself onto female stereotypes.
G: *laughs* I did it with “Lisa, Make Love” too. I didn’t want to say that I go to the back of the school bus and put on headphones
D: Because that makes you seem pretty queer.
*laughs* That’s pretty interesting. Are there any other examples in the album where you might have done a similar thing?
D: “Skip the Foreplay” is kind of a profile thing, but without a name.
G: That song’s kinda funny because I had a friend who had gotten his girlfriend pregnant and I honestly didn’t even write that song about them. Like, I wrote that song and everyone was convinced that it’s about him. Then the same thing happened to my brother, who got his girlfriend pregnant. My brother came up to me and was like “hey you wrote that song about me, didn’t you?” I was like “I swear I didn’t write it about you.” Maybe something in my subconscious just thought about my earlier friend.
D: Greg has special powers about writing songs that come true.
G: I’m prophetic or something.
I guess the album’s coming true one song at a time.
G: I hope “Walk in the Park” doesn’t come true–‘drive by shooting.’
What’s the significance of that? Out of nowhere we just get slapped in the face with a drive by shooting.
D: The significance is that Greg was having trouble with the end of the song, and that’s the one line of the song that I wrote. So everything’s happy in the song except the one line that I wrote.
Do both of you come from musical backgrounds?
D: I don’t know. On our site, Greg wrote that for lack of anything better to do, we learned instruments. Guitars have always been around and when I was a teenager that’s what I hooked on to. From there it was just getting more instruments. I originally learned the piano, like I had a teacher and everything. Then I taught myself the bass and guitar and went back to piano.
G: Yeah, I played piano too. I have a whole lot of instruments that I got but could never play. My parents bought me a violin, but that’s sitting in the closet now.
D: Yeah, our parents both bought us violins for Christmas.
G: I’m trying to learn the trumpet and a theremin and all these things.
Sounds like the next album’s going to be crazy.
G: Yeah, I hope so.
Speaking of which, your album is pretty varied. Was this intentional because you were afraid of being pigeonholed, or was it the result of experimenting?
G: I think a lot of that comes from whatever I’m listening to at the time. Like when I wrote “I Love You All The Time,” I was listening to a lot of 80s music, and like Devo. I came up with that beginning intro part and kept that; then wrote the parts for the vocals at a different time and was like ‘hey, I wonder if they’ll go together!’ Then with “Farewell To All My Friends” I was listening to a lot of Belle and Sebastian. What I’m listening to at the moment directly affects what type of songs that I write.
So how are you all feeling about playing with the Robot Ate Me next week? Any nerves?
D: Yes, extremely. Actually, one of our friends from Austin that played from us once during one of our two times playing in a coffee shop in Austin just flew up this morning. We had actually just gotten through the first song of practicing with him when you called. I dunno, I’m nervous about it just because Ryland’s going to be there, and Nathaniel from I Guess I’m Floating is going to be there, and you’re going to be there. So there’s all these people that are going to be there watching us, so I hope we don’t suck and let everybody down. I’m pretty pessimistic.
G: Daniel worries too much.
That’s what we call an opportunity! So what’s in the near future for you all? More specifically, have you been shopping for a label? Are you seeking to get signed?
D: Record labels….There’ve been two that we’ve talked to, but didn’t want to commit to because it’s so early. We really didn’t have anything else going except having “Walk In The Park” on a couple blogs. We’re talking to some people about management. We also just applied to CMJ and we’re hoping that will work out. We’ve gotten a little bit of attention, so hopefully someone will know who we are. Once we’re done with school, we’re going to be getting in touch with some people who want to set up shows in the northeast, like in Boston and stuff. And we don’t want to live in Nashville–at least I don’t–so we’re hoping to tour around and find a good place to live. Also, we’re releasing a single in the UK in the next month, and there might be a possibilty of going over there for a tour or to play some festivals.
Awesome. So I’m curious; a couple blogs have pointed out that “Walk In The Park” seems fitting for a car commercial. I’m wondering which song you’d of yours licence to what commercial.
G: “Skip the Foreplay” for Trojan condoms.
D: “Jane Is Fat” could be used for TrimSpa.