GrizzlyGround recently had the opportunity to interview the charming Long Beach, CA indie rock band oblio. The trio consists of Blake Russell, Alex Strahle and Free Hallas. We chatted about everything from their latest single "Days" to their upcoming album Autophobia to Pokemon Go and salad dressing (...?)!
GrizzlyGround: First, I’d like to say that I really enjoy your single “Days” a lot. The lyrics are extremely poignant. Especially the opening lyrics, “I’ve dreamed of drowning in oceans. A love without emotions. Abandoning devotions, just to see if they were there.” I like that dark, poetic vibe. That being said, what is your songwriting process like? And how important is the lyrical content of your music?
oblio: Thank you! We feel like people will appreciate those lyrics even more, once people arrive at the end of the album’s story. Lyrics are a HUGE deal to us… not more than the music, but certainly just as much. That might sound “normal”, but I think it’s abnormal in current music. Recently, it seems like most bands (even good ones) seem to think lyrics are just for spouting off about how they feel. That’s a part of it, but that’s not the whole picture. You have to stop yourself sometimes and ask things like: “Has someone already said this thing before I did?” and “Am I improving or offering a different angle, or am i just repeating something contrived or cliche?” But some cliches exist for good reasons… It’s a fine line to walk sometimes (especially with a concept album).
GrizzlyGround: Do you derive the initial inspiration more from writing lyrics or composing instrumentation? (Does your process start with lyrics or music first?)
oblio: Well, all three of us write music and lyrics. That said, Free & Alex tend to initialize more of the musical ideas and Blake tends to write more of the lyrics. Eventually one of us finds two parts of a song that match well, and it kind of just comes together. We haven’t really perfected any methods yet. Much of Autophobia was originally written by Free & Blake before Alex had joined, and since then we’ve updated and refined a lot with Alex’s help.
GrizzlyGround:Has anything in your life or otherwise changed over the last few years that is reflected in your new batch of songs?
oblio: Yeah. A lot of the album is based on our own life experiences. It’s like in the movies when you see “based on a true story”. The album sort of evolved into being our ultimate “alternate ending”.
GrizzlyGround: Now I know this is a single off your upcoming album Autophobia AND it just so happens to be a concept album. Can you drop a little hint on what concept, theme, or narrative it follows?
oblio: Well, the album its basically a deconstruction of this troubled nameless character who introduces himself in the track “Days”. The album is about his experiences interacting with other people and how he eventually winds up developing “autophobia”. (The morbid fear of being alone with yourself).
GrizzlyGround: I’m a concept album fiend-- I live for them. Is there a reason you all chose “Days” as the single that introduces this album?
oblio: Awesome! So are we. On top of being our first single, "Days" is also the first track of the album. In the song, the nameless protagonist introduces himself and his outlook on life to the listener. It’s meant to (hopefully) allow listeners to understand him a bit more. Why he does what he does, or feels what he feels. Most of the album takes place from his perspective.
GrizzlyGround: Again, this is your first full length album. I’m impressed that Autophobia is completely self-produced, written, performed, mixed, and mastered entirely by the band. Was this an intentional choice when you first decided to make this album? Did you know that this was the route you wanted to take?
oblio: We like wearing lots of hats, but honestly it's not really intentional. A lot of our "DIY ethic" stems from the fact that we want to be frugal. We would love to have other people we trust at the helm to help us craft an album, but at the moment we can't afford working with the kind of producer or engineer we would trust. We have mostly wound up doing things ourselves out of necessity.
GrizzlyGround: Your music has a lot of traces to punk and 90's alt rock sonically, and you also made an entire EP of covers (including a great Elliott Smith song!). What are some of your biggest inspirations?
oblio: Yeah, we listen to artists from a huge range of genres and styles, but we definitely funnel all of that through an alternative rock/punk vibe. Artists like Elliott Smith, The Replacements, The Breeders, The Cure, and a lot of ‘90s rock groups have played a big influence on this new album.
GrizzlyGround: I’m going to shift the focus more to your band for a minute. I see you all are from Long Beach, California. I know a couple of you were touring with other bands. How did the band form? Was it an organic coming together moment, or did you know beforehand that this was something you all wanted to do for a while?
oblio: Free and Blake are cousins, and have previously worked together in the east-coast band Pawns For Kings. Alex and Blake were childhood friends, who had originally played together in the LA folk-rock band Dead Ball Era. Free and Blake have also both played as drummers for the popular UK rock band The Big Pink. The three of us are all from musical families, and we’ve all been involved in many different musical projects in many places… even we have a hard time keeping track.
GrizzlyGround: On a scale of 1 to Snoop Dogg, how important is it for you to represent Long Beach?
oblio: Hmm… Maybe a 6? A lot of great music has happened, and is still happening in Long Beach. We’re much happier saying we’re from Long Beach than just being another “LA” band.
GrizzlyGround: While we are on the topic of Long Beach, I see that you all host a one day only-local music festival, which is super rad. Can you tell us a little more about that?
oblio: “Pointless Fest” is this fun little show we put on once in a while that is basically a gathering of bands that we love. The only “purpose” of it, (if there is one…) is to promote good local musicians and bring them together at one big event. We’re hoping to be able to host another Pointless Fest in 2017.
GrizzlyGround: For you all, what makes a perfect house show (or show in general)?
oblio: The more that the crowd gets into it, the more we get into it. Not just at house shows, but at any shows. The best ones are the shows where people are visibly/audibly happy that we’re on stage making the racket we make.
GrizzlyGround: How does touring inform your creative process?
oblio: That’s an interesting question… Thus far, we’ve only been on one tour as “oblio”, so it’s hard to say. I think we are constantly learning about how people respond to certain songs, and sounds.
GrizzlyGround: We have to ask… Do you play Pokemon Go? What are your thoughts on people using it at shows?
oblio: Hah. Free still plays the original Pokemon games on his gameboy. I’m not joking. But yeah, we partake. It's never fun to see people on their phones at a show, but on the other hand... if there's a Dragonite in the room while we're playing, then by all means: make a fool of yourself and catch that rare.
GrizzlyGround: Finally, has anyone informed you of the dangers of "Dressing and Driving"? (In reference to a tweet from you posted not long ago with two bottles of salad dressing in a car cupholder).
oblio: Oh boy. When there’s corn dogs or chicken tendies around, you KNOW we gotta have that ranch dressing on deck. Danger zone or not.
Thank you so much oblio for chatting with us. We are so looking forward to your upcoming album!
“Days” is the first single off of oblio's full length Autophobia, which will be released in September of 2016. Check out their single below: