Interview by Annar Veröld.
O’Brother has spent the last few years capturing a multitude of emotion in their orchestrations and endlessly touring. The band has finally taken a break from their years of touring to record their next, highly anticipated album. O’Brother, made up of five talented musicians, promises that their new album will reveal their musical and personal growth. Before performing their new music to the South by Southwest (SXSW) crowd, we sat down with O’Brother to find out what’s next in their musical endeavors, find out the deal with their hilarious podcast, their relationship with other artists, and of course, news about the upcoming album.
I read that when O’Brother started out, the band was highly influenced by your favorite artists, such Colour Revolt, mewithoutyou, and Appleseed Cast– has your influence changed with the additions of Tanner and Aaron?
Antone: Yeah, most definitely. We started listening to a lot more heavy bands, and also a lot more really quiet ambient music too.
Michael: They both brought incredibly different types of music into the group. Some of the stuff that he listens to is stuff that I Had never really heard of before I started hanging out with Aaron.
What is the music writing process look like for you guys?
Tanner: It is kind of different every time. There is no specific formula.
Antone: The ten or eleven songs that we have on our new record, I think every song was written completely different. We all have part in writing at least one song on the record. That is actually something that wasn’t really done on the first EP, but this time around, everyone has a big part, or a hand in writing this full-length, and that is why this next album is so special to us.
Aaron: There was a format for our first EP (below), but not this next one.
What else can you tell me about your upcoming, highly anticipated album? What will be different from your previous releases?
Antone: We wrote our first EP– those were our first five songs written, then we recorded those songs in about a week in a studio. We have been touring with those songs for the past two years. With touring constantly, we basically got to know how each person plays and how we all come together as a band. You definitely learn a lot when you are playing so many shows. I think that definitely prepared us for this upcoming record.
Michael: I don’t think we were ready to do anything else until now. It was really hard to be patient. We were playing the same five songs over and over for two years; we forget that they are new to everybody you’re playing for. We had to learn how to be a band and how to function properly within the group and expand our musical horizons. The timing, I think, worked out awesome.
I noticed a three year gap between your upcoming album and your last release, I find that unusual because bands seem to be pumping out releases these days. When is the projected release date?
Tanner: Summer, probably the end of June, beginning of July.
I understand you are getting some help on your new album from Manchester Orchestra. Can you tell me about your relationship with the group? How you met? How you came to work with them on an album?
Michael: We have known them for four or five years. We live twenty minutes from each other and they started Favorite Gentlemen three or four years ago, when it was just community, there was just one house to put all of their friends together. It is comfortable.
Tanner: That is why we decided to work with them, they got it. We have been friends with them for such a long time, and over the past few years, and they seem like a rapid growing success, and they are able to share those things with us. They have just been really supportive and great friends of ours.
Antone: They get what we are trying to do, and they are not trying to change anything. They are just trying to help us make it better.
Michael: Yeah, it is like complete support. More than anything, the production side of it and helping us on the album, they are mostly working with us and pushing us to where it will become the best thing that it could be.
Tell me about the O’Brother podcast. Who came up with the idea and what sort of things do you talk about?
Antone: I will tell you exactly the thing about the podcast. You see, it is that we all hang out and Aaron basically just films and edits it making us all look like complete idiots. It is funny to us, and probably not to anyone else.
Whose idea was it?
Aaron: It kind of just happened. I edit them, but it just kind of happened.
Michael: The first one, we just started filming. I’m not sure where the turning point was, but Aaron just sat down and it turned into this thing. For a couple of months, we would release one like every week and a half. The first eleven or twelve were just the funniest things I had ever seen. We were becoming known for them.
Watch this episode of the O’Brother Podcast from 2010:
You guys are real road warriors, always touring it seems. Who were some of your favorite bands that you’ve toured with and why?
Antone: Thrice is my favorite because we have been listening to them– at least me and Johnny– since we were in high-school.
Michael: We did our EP, and then once we finished the EP, I listened to their album, Alchemy Index. I knew who they were, but I wasn’t crazy about their old stuff because that wasn’t me in high-school. I was very into a lot more poppy music. When I heard Alchemy Index I was just floored. From that point on, they became my favorite band.
Antone: We just really look up to them and are really glad that we got the chance to tour with a band that we really like and look up to. And, of course, touring with our friends Manchester Orchestra. Circa Survive was awesome. Deerhunter was good too.
Tanner: We haven’t had a bad tour. Everyone we have toured with turned out to be awesome. We turn out to be great friends with everyone we have toured with.
Antone: We always keep in touch. Touring is a great way to make life long friends.
What were you hoping to accomplish by performing at SXSW?
Antone: Show people our new songs. We didn’t come here expecting anything but to play our new songs. Hopefully it translates well live.
Tanner: Also, let people know about the new record. Hopefully get some people to anticipate it.
Michael: It has been building for a long time. And hopefully now that we’ll be playing some songs live, people won’t be calling us on bullshit. There is actually an album coming out.
What is next for O’Brother? What does the rest of 2011 look like for you guys?
Tanner: We will be touring with Manchester in May, along with Cage The Elephant. Then probably release the record, and then tour again for a long time.
Antone: We can’t wait; We have been home for six months, and we are getting antsy!