An Interview with O.A.R.: Bring It On Home

1996 was a great year in rock music. Albums such as Alice In Chains’ Unplugged, Soundgarden’s Down On The Upside and the final record from Sublime were all released in that short time frame. Around the same time, four high school friends in Rockville, Maryland, decided to form a band of their own. Marc Roberge, Chris Culos, Richard On and Benj Gershman formed Of A Revolution, or O.A.R. for short, in their hometown. Upon graduating high school, they packed their bags and headed for Ohio to attend college. There, they met the final piece to the puzzle, multi-instrumentalist Jerry DePizzo.

They have had quite a career so far, with eight studio records and five live LPs under their belt. The band welcomed The Rockville LP back in June of this year. The lyrical content reflected several different topics, one of which is the idea of coming home and all of the experiences and feelings that come with it. I had the chance to talk to lead guitarist Richard On and discuss some of the ways he discovers new music, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and LiveOAR. We also discussed Pearl Jam and the Grateful Dead, as well as the band’s future plans. Check out what Richard had to say below:

The Rockville LP came out back in June. From what I gathered, you worked on the project in a few different locations, and you worked with a loose deadline.

Yeah. We actually worked on it in a number of different cities. We did some work in the Washington D.C. area, New York, Nashville, and in Columbus, Ohio. Since one of us lived in each of those cities, that person had the chance to actually sleep in their own bed while we were making the record, which is nice.

And the idea of writing at home must help establish an honesty in the writing as well.

Yeah, I think that helps. Most of the songs came from the nostalgic feelings we get when we come home from tour. For example, revisiting the places we used to frequent when we were in high school and first started out as a band. A lot of the songs are also based off of coming back home and visiting people that you may not have spoken to in a while, but you see them, and you catch up, and talk about life.

You guys have been promoting the record in some cool ways. You are holding a contest right now, in which fans make a playlist of their favorite songs.

Yeah, that song off of the new record, “Favorite Song,” is an ode to all of those tunes that you crank up in the car. It was directly captured from when you are driving around, and you sing along to it like no one is looking at you. That is what the feeling of the song should hopefully capture.

And these days, listening in the car is not only limited to terrestrial radio, or CDs. Now you can play music through applications like Pandora or Spotify on your smartphone as well. Some artists and bands are notable for being opposed to these applications, so it is interesting how you are using them as a way to promote a record and connect with the fans.

I think you gotta take a look at the music industry as a whole and where it is headed. It is a different world. People aren’t buying albums as a whole anymore. We live for the art of making albums, but I think consumers should have the right to choose whether or not they want to buy the whole thing or just one or two songs. I think Spotify is great because it is regulating and taking control of something that was out of control with file sharing.

And bands can share what they are currently listening to and make playlists. It establishes a connection with their fans, showing that they arent just musicians, but fans too.

Which is also great for discovery. It is so easy to say, “Hey, check this song out,” and share the link on Spotify or another social media site. Personally, I have discovered a lot of new bands and songs to listen to because of those applications. I think despite of where the industry is right now, I think it is a great thing. Hopefully they will be able to figure out how audiences can get access to everything that they want and the artists can still get paid fairly. I think it will continue to get better.

LiveOAR is something else that you guys utilize so well. Allowing the fans to download the high-quality audio of shows they have attended is something that bands like Pearl Jam have also had great success with.

We have always been a band that encourages live recordings of our shows. Early on, it really helped spread our music. There is no better promotion than having a friend come up to you and saying, “Hey, you gotta listen to this.” What was happening with these live recordings of our shows is that they were being passed around by word of mouth. This was a bit before people were really getting into file sharing.

There is this great community forum for the band that really kept this up. A lot of people would write what shows they could and couldn’t attend, and talk amongst themselves to see who could record the shows and send them out. From there, we really wanted to find a way to get the shows professionally mixed so we could guarantee our fans high-quality audio of these shows. There is also this instant gratification factor to it as well. If you liked the setlist and just want to pick it up after the show, you can. This idea has been around for a while if you take into account bands like the Grateful Dead. They promoted live recordings just the same.

Do you think this is something that eliminates live records/DVDs? Or is an accompaniment of sorts?

That’s a really good question. The LiveOAR stuff is all recorded and mixed on the fly. When you take a look at a live record or DVD, there is a lot more planning and work that goes into it. The live album that we make and put out will sound better. I also think the packaging adds another dimension to it as well. You aren’t just downloading files from a website, there is a certain presentation to it.

It definitely stresses the importance on the live show and kind of adds more of a collective factor to the fan. Now you guys are set to go on tour next week. Is this the calm before the storm, or are you guys prepping for the road?

I think we are all individually doing what we need to do to prep for tour. We love to learn a cover song, something we could do justice, and there are some song ideas floating around now, but nothing I can say yet. Hopefully we will get a good cover down. As for the shows, we are going to play a lot of the new record and a good chunk of the old stuff. It will be nice playing a longer set compared to what we played during the summer.

And you will be joining greats like Gregg Allman, Peter Frampton, Cheap Trick, and others to celebrate Lynyrd Skynyrd with One More For The Fans. How did this come about?

Don Was, who is a very famous producer, is organizing the entire event as the music director. He was looking for bands who would want to participate in it and asked us. It is such an honor to be asked to perform a song by one of the greatest rock and roll bands of all time. It was a no-brainer for us. We are honored to play any song by them, but there are a few songs that we have attachments to that we really hope to play. Because there are so many other bands looking to pick songs as well. We are just going to let the pieces fall and whatever song happens to fall on our lap is what we will do our best to make those guys proud (laughs).

You will be playing Hammerstein in NYC on Thanksgiving weekend. Is there anything else in the works that you can talk about? Anything after the Vegas show in December?

The Vegas show will be great. We also have a lot of radio events that we are going to be doing. December is usually a lot of events like Jingle Ball or holiday radio shows. We will probably take a short break during the holidays. We do have some stuff in the works for next year, but nothing I can talk about at the moment.

O.A.R. will play at the Tropicana Showroom in Atlantic City on Nov. 22. On Nov. 28 and 29, the band will play back-to-back shows at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City. The Rockville LP is available now. For more information, go to