INTERVIEW: Once and Future Band

-Hi guys, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

(Raj Ojha) Hey, we’re feeling pretty rad! We just got back from our first major tour of the UK where we did our second live session on Marc Riley’s BBC 6 Radio show, supported Thee Oh Sees on two dates for “Castlemania” in London and Manchester and played a bunch of shows from Glasgow, to Wales, to Liverpool and elsewhere. It was a whirlwind, the crowds were amazing and we made a lot of new fans. We can’t wait to get back over there.

Can you talk to us more about your song “Destroy Me”?

(Joel Robinow) Destroy me was one of those magical moments, we were jamming in my old basement room where we used to have rehearsal, and Eli started playing this amazing riff on my acoustic guitar, and we worked out some simple chords to put behind it…the next time we met to jam Eli had the bare bones of the song, the chord progression, most of the lyrics…this incredible tale of longing and wistfulness…I was just floored. We fleshed out the last verse at that practice, and started arranging it as a band. I was so excited about it, I stayed up til 6am writing chord arrangements and vocal harmonies. Recording it was so easy, after doing the basics, me and raj just kind of layered till it worked…raj came up with all these awesome little delay synth things, I would play it on the moog and he would tweak the sounds till it was just right. I’m incredibly proud of this track…it really was the first time we all wrote and arranged together.

(Eli Eckert) I remember we had finished rehearsal one night and I picked up Joel’s acoustic and played this figure I had written at home. I liked it because I could play the chords and the melody at the same time, kinda like a piano. Joel said something like “Hey, what’s that?” and he suggested a couple chords that gave the melody closure. I’m grateful that he noticed it! This ended up being the opening chords and melody of Destroy Me.

The next morning I came up with a variation of the chord progression for the verse and a vocal melody. Looking for a chorus, I remembered an old chord progression I had written a few months before with these cascading minor chords that I loved and it worked perfectly with this new song. There are so many fragments of could-be songs that I have floating around, it always feels magical when one of them fits with a new idea. I’ll usually wait until late in the process of working on a song to write the lyrics, but with this one the words just poured out.

When I showed the guys what I had, it all came together so easily. (This was back when we were just a trio, before we were lucky enough to have Raze join the band.) Joel added his personal touch to the chords, Raj came up with the perfect groove and I instantly had the bass line to compliment it.

I remember first hearing the song after we had recorded the basic tracks and Joel and Raj had spent many, many hours layering overdubs on it. I was blown away by this expansive sonic landscape they had created, where the richness of the vocal harmonies, the killer synthesizer hooks, the soaring guitars, all of it felt so perfectly at home.

-Did any event inspire you to write this song?

(JR) I’d have Eli illuminate more… the lyrics I contributed on the final verse were kind of just going along with the feeling of the song.

(EE) There is a specific event that inspired the lyrics, but I’d rather let people have their own take on what the words mean than spell it out. If by chance someone has a personal connection to the lyrics, I’d hate to do anything to take away from that.

-Any plans to release a video for the track?

(RO) We’ve been toying around with a few video ideas. Now that we have some time off the road we can get back to them, and we hope to have something out later this year.

-The single comes off your EP Brain – why did you choose to re-release?

(RO) We originally released this EP in 2014, when we were just starting out. Back then we didn’t have the backing of an label like Castle Face. Luckily, our friends Chris Appelgren (who also did the album art), Frankie Koehler and Andy Asp had a zine called “Mouth”. They graciously offered to release our EP as a limited edition release as the second issue of their zine. While it really helped us get the word out, we sold out of the vinyl quickly. We decided to do a broader release with our current label, Castle Face now that we’ve covered more ground with our LP, released last year.

How was the recording and writing process?

(RO) “Destroy Me” was the first song we really wrote together as a group. In general there is a lot of collaboration in our arranging and recording process, however the other three songs on this EP were songs Joel had written before we had solidified this band. We all add our own voice and creative input into these tracks but “Destroy Me” was more of a team effort between lyrics, melody and arrangement.

We started working on this track sometime in 2013. Even though it was recording almost 5 years ago, the recording and production process we used for this track hasn’t changed too much. After the form is mapped out, we laid down a rhythm section bed (drums and bass guitar), in Joel’s bedroom at the time, which was a shag carpeted cave. The vibe and sonics of that room really aided in the laid back feel of the recording. After that, we had Joel play the upright piano in the living room at his place, I remember birds chirping and doors creaking in the background while we got the take. If you listen closely, you can hear those things in the background. We left them in because we like what it added to the atmosphere of the recording. Then came lead and backing vocals, all triple tracked and scrutinized heavily. After that anything was fair game, we experimented with a lot of overdub ideas, running guitars through our Moog’s filter, E-Bow guitar orchestras, strings, acoustic guitars, echoplex’d tambourines, you name it. The experimentation part is the most fun for us and we’d let it last forever if we had no deadlines. We wrapped up the track by mixing it on an old trident board at Phil Manley’s Lucky Cat Studio, mixing it down to two track reel to reel tape. You can hear a some tape pitch warble at the beginning of the song from that mixdown, which we also left in for character.

-What role does Oakland play in your writing?

(JR) well I grew up in oakland, and this is where the band fomented… I don’t know, it’s just home. There is a rich history of jazz fusion and rock and funk and everything just getting thrown into the blender… nothing is off limits here… it’s a lot different now. That’s all I will say about that.

(EE) When this band started we were doing exactly the kind of music we wanted to do, without worrying too much if anyone was going to like it, which feels very Oakland to me.

-How has Queen and Steely Dan influence your music?

(Raze Regal) – While we are fans of both bands(The wit and harmonic sophistication of Walt and Don and the experimentation and using the studio as instrument ethos of Mercury, May, Deacon and Taylor and the producer Roy Thomas Baker) the main influence that those cats have on us is to do your thing and stay true to your vision regardless of trends or zeitgeist.

-Where did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?

(EE) For me, everything that I have absorbed is an inspiration. Either in what to do, or what not to do. Sometimes the influences are obvious and sometimes so far from the actual product that no one would ever guess where the inspiration came from.

-Any plans to hit the road?

(RO) Yes! We’re about to embark on a North American tour supporting Chris Robinson’s “As The Crow Flies”. We’ll finally be playing some parts of America that we haven’t made it out to yet. It’s gonna be a wild ride.

2018 US “AS THE CROW FLIES TOUR” – With Chris Robinson

Apr 17 Capitol Theatre, Port Chester, NY

Apr 18 Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA

Apr 22 Iron City, Birmingham, AL

Apr 24 Thalia Hall, Chicago, IL

Apr 25 Manchester Music Hall, Lexington, KY

Apr 26 The Signal, Chattanooga, TN

Apr 28 Joy Theatre, New Orleans, LA

Apr 29 Ryman Auditorium, Nashville, TN

May 01 The Pageant, St. Louis, MO

May 02 The Truman, Kansas City, MO

May 06 Ogden Theatre, Denver, CO

May 08 Brooklyn Bowl Las Vegas, Las Vegas, NV

May 09 The Wiltern, Los Angeles, CA

May 11 The Fox Theatre, Oakland, CA

May 12 Montbleau Resort & Casino, Tahoe Village, NV

May 13 Crystal Ballroom, Portland, OR


Huichica Festival

June 8th – 9th, Gundlach Bundschu Winery, Sonoma, CA

Freaks For The Festival

September 21st – 22nd, Big Sur, CA

-What else is happening next in Once and Future Band´s world?

(RO) We’re getting back to our studio work on our next full length LP and a few other surprises for this year, including a live album and a few more tours.

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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