O.A.R. returns to Vail for free show Saturday
If you go ...
Where: Solaris, Vail.
When: 7 p.m. Saturday.
More information: Visit www.vailbeavercreek2015.com.
O.A.R.’s latest album may be called “The Rockville LP,” but don’t take the title to mean it was recorded in the group’s home town of Rockville, Maryland.
In fact, the foundation of the album came together during an early session with songwriter and producer Nathan Chapman in Nashville in 2013.
Then other parts for the album were recorded in a host of non-studio settings in summer 2013 as O.A.R. toured amphitheaters across the United States.
“We brought a recording rig out and we utilized every venue that we were at,” sax player Jerry DePizzo said. “We would record guitars outside in Virginia at a show and we would have a soundstage in Connecticut and we would be doing handclaps at the end of (the song) ‘I Will Find You,’ and piano we would do at Saratoga Springs because they have a bunch of Steinways just sitting there.”
But the album title is fitting because the group drew inspiration for the project by returning to Rockville and revisiting the community that still feels like home nearly two decades after the group began its journey together as O.A.R.
“The band was looking for a concept for the record, looking for something to really creatively sink our teeth into,” DePizzo said, looking back at the beginnings of “The Rockville LP.” “So we figured, let’s go back home. Let’s go back to the Rockville area. We went down the same roads, went to (drummer) Chris (Culos’) basement and kind of recharged and reconnected with that energy and that spirit that first got everybody together playing gigs and things. That was enough to recharge the creative batteries and go out and finish the record.”
DePizzo credits Chapman (best known for his work with Taylor Swift) for helping for helping to get the project off to a strong start. He and O.A.R. singer Marc Roberge had met during an event in Los Angeles and decided to try writing together.
‘EXPAND THE BORDERS’
These Nashville sessions produced four of the album’s most concise and poppy songs — “Peace” (a tune with a Lumineers-ish folk feel) “Two Hands Up” (which has some electronic touches) “Favorite Song” (a sunny reggae-pop track) and “We’ll Pick Up Where We Left Off” (which sounds like a song Train would like to write). These songs gave O.A.R. a foundation for “The Rockville LP” and met one key goal for the album — to have songs that could be sent to radio as singles.
Having the radio-ready songs in hand allowed O.A.R. to connect with something else that relates to Rockville — the attitude they had back in 1996, when Culos, singer Marc Roberge, guitarist Richard On and bassist Benj Gershman got together as students at Wootton High School in Rockville to form the band. (DePizzo joined O.A.R. after meeting the band during college at Ohio State.).
Back then, there were no thoughts about writing singles or paying attention to songwriting conventions or rules. The guys in O.A.R. simply wrote whatever music formed in their imaginations. DePizzo said the band wanted to reconnect with their inner 16-year olds and the freedom they felt in making music. And having four potential singles already in hand let the group, in DePizzo’s words, get “a lot weirder” with some of the other songs.
“Once we knew that we had some (radio-ready) material that we felt was going to connect with people, regardless of whether they are fans or not, we felt we could really focus on some material that conceptually can expand the borders a little bit more, open up the borders,” DePizzo said.
Those “weirder” songs include such extended tracks as “Caroline the Wrecking Ball,” “I Will Find You” and “The Architect,” which make room for more intricate arrangements, stylistic left turns, solos and instrumental interplay.
Those songs hearken back to O.A.R.’s early albums, which found the group fusing a wide range of influences (including pop, reggae and island music) in songs that often topped five minutes and usually expanded further in concert, where the band improvised liberally on its music. That approach gained O.A.R. a strong following within the jam band community.
Wanting to expand the group’s audience and develop their songwriting chops, O.A.R. began to concentrate on tightening up its songwriting as it made albums such as “Stories of a Stranger” (2006), “All Sides” (2008) and “King (2011).
Those albums did indeed grow the band’s audience, and now O.A.R. is on tour behind “The Rockville LP,” hoping to continue to reach new fans.
Having already explored some of the new songs during shows this past summer and fall, DePizzo said the new songs should continue to take on new dimensions this winter.
“Music’s never done,” he said, including earlier material in the quotient. “So it’s constantly evolving and it’s constantly changing. That’s what makes it fun and that’s why we keep on coming back every night and playing shows is that we get to challenge ourselves and come up with cool, new creative ways to play the songs everyone knows and loves.”
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