CVIndependent

Fri12042020

Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

One of the most exciting shows I’ve ever seen was the Oh Sees concert in August of last year at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace. The hour and a half spent in the mosh pit was one of the most frantic, fun and sweaty experiences of my life.

A little more than a year later, the band returned to Pappy and Harriet’s for another show … but as you probably guessed, COVID-19 forced this concert to be presented differently.

The Osees—the “h” and the space are on hiatus, in the latest name tweak by the band—recently announced a partnership with the Austin-based music festival Levitation to perform a multi-camera, full-length live show as part of Levitation’s new online concert series, known as the Levitation Sessions. The band recorded a full set of music at Pappy and Harriet’s, and the show will premiere at 5 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 26; it will remain available for streaming through Oct. 8.

“Everybody is making do,” said Osees founder John Dwyer. “We’ve accepted that we’re not going to be playing any shows this year. I’m one of those people who refuses to cancel anything earlier than it needs to be canceled, but I’m also realistic. I’m not super-interested in playing socially distanced shows. I’d rather just wait it out, but obviously, a big part of our band is playing live.

“This is the first year in 24 years that I haven’t toured. Overall, it’s been a pretty wretched year worldwide. The only thing that anybody with a reasonable heart and mind has in common right now is that it’s been a trying year for everybody.”

Dwyer is known for his love of creating, and he’s already released several albums this year, including Protean Threat, the 23rd studio album by the Osees.

“We’re putting out so much this year that by the time we come back around to playing shows, people will be sick of us,” said Dwyer. “That being said, I’m happy to try to do some virtual stuff. We’ve done a handful of things already, and this one we just did at Pappy and Harriet’s will be one of the first ones—a little pay-per-view thing. The band needed to get paid after doing a bunch of free, charity-related stuff, so we gave it a try. The band jumped at the opportunity to get together, and we did four days of rehearsals beforehand to learn a bunch of new material. It almost felt like we were doing covers, because we’ve never played these songs before.

“We go way back with Levitation. We’ve been playing there for years through all our different variations and name changes. They’re cool and really square as far as treatment goes, which I really like. They offered us a deal with them to promote it and gave us a budget to shoot it. We jumped at it, because the band has mostly been just sitting around, but everyone is keeping themselves busy, taking on other projects or taking classes online. I’ve been insanely busy, but that’s just to keep the wolf from the door. Staying busy right now is the best way for me to deal with trying to not be depressed from the way things are.”

Rob Fitzpatrick, the co-founder of Levitation, explained how the new series of sessions came about.

“The idea was to figure out a way to salvage the album cycles for some bands on our label that we’ve been working with for many years,” Fitzpatrick said. “We also wanted to figure out a way to pivot as a business and a music community and still be able to create some commerce, which is needed for art. I started this very DIY and never had any support other than what we can dream up and sell. That’s really my approach with Levitation, and when we’ve had hard times before, it’s been about thinking how we can make it work and rethink it.

“I’ve seen other folks doing livestreams, and there’s definitely an element of artists performing in their pajamas—and through some friends, I heard that some of those were making some money. We’ve looked into doing proper livestreams for the festival, but we were always busy with the task of putting on the in-person event, and never really put much into it. A lot of the groundwork has been there for a long time, and my original background is in web development, so I’ve been looking at how to do this in an interesting way from that perspective. That’s how we came up with the idea for limited-edition merchandise, which will benefit both us and the artist.”

Fitzpatrick and his team wanted to make sure that they were producing a quality show, so they decided to pre-record the sessions.

“As time has gone on, more and more artists are doing fuller productions for their pre-recorded stuff,” said Fitzpatrick. “Part of us wanting to do a pre-recorded show comes with the fact that the sound is incredibly important to the presentation. Doing livestreams with all these guitar pedals and stuff is pretty tricky. … We wanted to be able to invite bands from all over to do this, and some aren’t even able to be in the same room, so these really had to be pre-recorded. There’s also some creative opportunities. … You can take it a little further with some interesting intros and segues. We’re essentially commissioning a film from artists. … Some artists are filming in their practice space; some are filming outside, like the Osees are; someone’s working on doing one in an old church, and another one’s working on doing one on a mountain. My dream would be to develop this to have a budget to commission a band to do their own Live at Pompeii, and see what that would look like.”

Fitzpatrick promises that the Osees show will be nothing short of amazing.

“John is such a great dude, and he’s the biggest artist that we’ve done this with so far,” Fitzpatrick said. “For him to take a leap of faith with us is huge. It’s a big icebreaker for other conversations. Osees have been a headliner for so many of our festivals and events that we’ve presented. It’s a very big deal to have Osees as part of this from all angles. I’m a big fan of the music and of the guy. John has never changed. He’s the same dude and has an insane work ethic. It’s a joy to work with someone like that.

“It’s such a special set that John and the band put together. He didn’t want to do something that wasn’t going to be unique.”

I was curious why Dwyer and the gang chose Pappy and Harriet’s as the venue.

“We love that joint,” Dwyer said. “We’ve played there a few times, and they’re always real cool with us. They’re like Levitation—the barbecue and venue version of the festival filled with people we’re familiar with and that we like working with. Also, for location, we figured we could shoot right out in the dirt in the parking lot with the sunset behind us, and we went from dusk ’til nighttime.

“When we got there, it was 107 degrees, and we set up a bunch of umbrellas over our gear. Right when we were ready to start sound-checking, the power went out. We had to hire a tow-behind generator off of some guy, and he drove the generator up to us. As soon as he got there, the power came back on, so it was just one of those classic interesting desert days. Nobody panicked when it happened; we thought, ’Well, fuck, the entirety of Yucca Valley is without power right now,’ and everyone else was drinking a beer in the shade, saying, ’Don’t worry; we got a guy.’ Pappy and Harriet’s is probably one of those spots that has a guy for everything.

“We hadn’t played in so long, so after we drove back to L.A. and unloaded everything, I felt like I had gone to a festival, gotten drunk, sobered up, played a set and everything—when really, I was just cooked from being in the heat all day. I slept like a baby that night.”

Osees fans will be interested to know that the show includes seven songs never before performed live, along with some live staples.

“I’m planning to do something else down the road with another set of songs that we haven’t played live,” Dwyer said. “I think that’s the key—to mix up the set with stuff people want to hear, stuff they’ve never heard, and stuff we’ve never done live. We have so much material that we’ve never done live, and I get emails from people complaining that we don’t play any old material, so I’ve been dipping back into the catalog and relearning songs that just didn’t work live. With this new band I have, they can play anything I throw at them, and everything we tried to play for this thing, we nailed.

“I get it if someone who’s familiar with us doesn’t want to pay to see this thing, but there’s material they’ve never seen live that may add some extra oomph to get them interested. The other thing that’s kind of nice about the virtual thing is that the ticket is only $4. And who knows? Maybe this thing will end up free at some point. YouTube is a pirate ship, and I’m up there playing whack-a-mole with people who’ve posted full albums of ours.”

To add to Dwyer’s already impressive 2020 discography, a new release by the Osees is set to debut Oct. 16. Metamorphosed contains some leftovers from the band’s 2019 album, Face Stabber.

“That album (Face Stabber) is just such a behemoth, and was too much to listen to for some people,” Dwyer said. “It was The Deer Hunter of records. There’s a lot of material that wasn’t throwaways, but just didn’t fit with the aesthetic of the record. I saved those for another EP, and it took a while to get enough material for it. Then we went down to play a festival in Hermosillo in Mexico, and part of the deal for playing the festival was that we’d get to spend a day at the beach and have a day of studio time there. We went in there and just jammed, and got two pretty great tracks. I brought them home to my studio and did vocals here. It’s three tracks from the Face Stabber session and two tracks from Mexico, broken down into a record. It was supposed to be an EP, but it turned into a 40-minute album. That’s just the way it goes with us; we have constant creation.”

The Osees: Levitation Sessions premieres at 5 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 26, and will be available through Thursday, Oct. 8. Ticket prices vary, including various albums and merchandise, but start at $3.98 plus a fee of 80 cents. For tickets or more information, visit events.seated.com/live.

Published in Previews

You may know the band as Oh Sees, Thee Oh Sees, OCS or one of several other names that have changed along with the lineup over the last two-plus decades.

However, one thing has remained constant: founding-member John Dwyer’s blistering guitar and crunchy vocals. Oh Sees, as we’ll call the band today, puts on one of the best live shows around—meaning that the group’s Friday, Aug. 9, show at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace is not to be missed … that is, if you can get tickets, because it is currently listed as sold out via the venue.

During a recent phone interview, I asked Dwyer—who said proceeds from the show would be donated to an as-yet-undetermined local charity—whether he thought the band’s name was important to its success.

“No. In fact, if anything, now we just change the name to irritate reviewers and journalists, because they took such umbrage to it being moved around a couple of times,” he said. “I started my own label (Castle Face Records) so I could do whatever the fuck I want, because with personnel and tone changes, we’d change the name around a lot. I’d talk to PR people, and they’d ask, ‘How are people going to know it’s the same band?’ I say that if somebody’s enough of an idiot to not know that this is the same band, then I don’t want them watching our band. That being said, our fans are smart enough to follow the lead. I don’t know if it’s been a detriment or not, but honestly, I don’t really care. It’s such a nonstory to me that it became a point of humor for us to slightly change the name to irk Pitchfork.”

OCS was at first Dwyer’s solo project, started while he was in other bands with names such as Pink and Brown, Zeigenbock Kopf and Coachwhips. I was curious whether it was hard to turn his solo project into a full band.

“The very first (OCS) record is really long, almost three LPs into one record, and most of it is just improvisational noise stuff,” Dwyer said. “It wasn’t hard at all to change it into something else, because it was always this amorphous, shifting, protean thing. I don’t know why I kept the name—that would be a better question, because nobody knew who the hell OCS was anyway, but it just sort of fell into place.

“It started when I brought in a guy named Patrick Mullins. He started playing drums for me. … Then he just started writing with me, and that planted the seed that it could be a full band. Twenty years later, it is what it is now, but we just got stuck with the name. People ask me what the name means, and I have no fucking idea. … I grew to like it. It took me 20 years to get there, though.”

Since 2003, Dwyer’s band has released a whopping 22 albums.

“It’s all I do. I don’t have a job anymore, because this is my job, but I really enjoy it,” Dwyer said. “I’m very lucky to have made this happen. We have slowed down, though. People always throw around the word ‘prolific.’ It’s almost a detrimental tag—prolific, as in these guys put out a ton of garbage.

“The thing is that everybody works at different rates. For a long time, though, with more drug consumption, we were working a lot more. Now that I’ve gotten older, we spend a little more time, and there’s more of a cooperative element to the songwriting process. It’s takes a little longer, because I’m not alone writing. I prefer it this way, because it’s more fun, and it makes it more diverse.”

Dwyer said he rarely encounters writer’s block; instead, he distances himself from projects when he begins to struggle. He cited a solo project under yet another name, Damaged Bug, as an example.

“I’ve been working on a new Damaged Bug record for about two years now, which is pretty unusual for me, but it’s not so much writer’s block,” he said. “I’ve written 30 to 40 songs, but they’re just not done, so I’ve taken a break and switched gears onto a different project. It’s important to take breaks. Our band takes breaks from each other for vacations or for other side projects, and then we come back.”

Dwyer said he’s constantly on the lookout for bands to add to Castle Face Records.

“I always try to watch every band I play with,” he said. “Before I had the label, I always watched for bands to play with, write with or just meet. I have the easy job at the label. There’s a guy named Matt Jones who’s my partner at the label, a 50-50 kind of deal, and he does a lot of the heavy lifting with the bureaucracy of it—all the bullshit that I don’t want to deal with. I have the job of going around the world, playing shows and meeting bands. People send me shit all time, and we go through demos. I listen to everything people send us.”

One of the bigger names on the label is Ty Segall, who just performed at Coachella.

“Me and Ty are very good friends, but I don’t see any collaborations happening in the future,” Dwyer said. “If anything, I would provoke him to play further out into black space. … That dude is on his own trip—heavily. I do love his collaboration with Tim Presley, though.”

Oh Sees will perform with Earth Girl Helen Brown and DYNASTY HANDBAG at 8 p.m., Friday, Aug. 9, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Tickets are $30-$35, but are currently listed as sold out. For more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit pappyandharriets.com.

Published in Previews