“We’re getting ready to start our summer tour,” Culos says, speaking by phone from New York City. “Meanwhile, we’ve had a couple of one-offs (shows), so we came in town last week to do a few days of rehearsals, then we went down to Atlantic City for the weekend and played an after-party for the DMB Caravan on Friday night and then we played at the DMB Festival on Saturday. We’ve got some radio shows tonight and tomorrow because we’ve got a new single that just came out called ‘Heaven’ that we are promoting. We go to L.A. to shoot a music video for it and then we get a weekend off before we kickoff the tour.”
Whew. Fortunately, the band formally known as Of A Revolution will bring its summer tour through Birmingham for a Sunday, July 17, performance at Sloss Furnace. SOJA and Kelley James will open the 6:30 p.m. show. O.A.R.’s forthcoming album, King, is set for an August 2 release date.
“Most of it is new material,” Culos offers when asked about the album’s origins. “There are a couple of ideas that had been floating around for a few years that we had tinkered with, and then went back to, and everything came together. When songs come together, there’s something in the air and you say, ‘Alright, now this makes sense and now we can do something with it.’ If it doesn’t have that thing, we’re not going to rush it anymore and we don’t care. We work too damn hard to be putting songs on the fast-track. There were a few songs that came together for the record and the majority of it we wrote during the rehearsal period for the record. It was kind of a new process.”
Additional wrinkles played into the writing and recording of King. With its roots traced from Maryland to Ohio State University, O.A.R. now finds its five members living in different cities. To create its new CD, the quintet used its separation as a strength.
“Normally, it’s a rush job when we go into the album-making process because there’s always a tour lined up and there’s always something going on,” Culos, a Chicago resident of six years, says. “This time, we said we weren’t going to let anybody put any pressure on us and we were going to take the time to make it the best album that it could be. We went to each band member’s hometown for a week and did rehearsals and writing in each city. It was really cool because each band guy got to spend an extra week at home and we got to visit each other and let the vibe of each city and studio blend into the writing process.”
Next, the band opted for a more live, spontaneous recording atmosphere in the studio than on previous releases.
“We took our time and a lot of the material was recorded in a New York studio where we all set-up looking at each other,” Culos recalls. “It was a different process than the standard way of making a CD where you record each individual instrument. Even the casual fan is going to pick up on that vibe. One of the strengths of the band is our live performance and it certainly came through.”
These days, O.A.R. is reaching listeners via outlets including iTunes, Youtube and satellite radio. I ask Culos how he reconciles the accessibility of technology along with the flood of material it facilitates.
“It’s about making quality music,” he says.
“People will find it and when they find it, they’ll want to share it. You hear good music and it moves you and you have to tell somebody about it. That’s been there since I was a kid and I think it’ll always be there to some extent. Anyone can make a record at a computer, so how does anybody find anything good? I think that quality flows to the top. It isn’t an easy process, but I think they’ll figure out ways to make it easier for music fans. You’ve got to do what moves you. We’re a bunch of kids that started in my mom’s basement and we are doing it full-time. The industry has changed and we would never have guessed this would have happened. We just find new ways to adapt. I think we’ve always embraced the Internet. It’s been a little bit of a Catch-22—we definitely see that.”
Culos feels that staying close to its fans and true to itself have allowed O.A.R. to thrive in a turbulent time for the industry.
“Even the biggest bands aren’t selling a lot of CDs anymore,” Culos says. “You have to talk to your audience and to be involved, but you have to do what makes the band most happy. When we make music that makes us happy, we feel others will respond to it. You just keep making good music and it is going to reach people.”
Tickets to the show are $25.50 - $27.00 and can be purchased at www.ticketmaster.com
Brent Thompson writes about popular music for Birmingham Weekly. Send your comments to email@example.com.