Over the course of the last few years, Oberhofer - and their vowel-obsessed indie pop sound - have gone from low-budget basement project to full-fledged touring band. Their story starts in the Northwest, where Brad Oberhofer – the band’s lead singer and main creative force – began writing and recording music at a young age. When it came time for college, Brad decided to study music at NYU. But while his fellow students were getting in-class tutorials on the basics of rhythm and melody, Brad was getting an advanced degree writing and recording tracks in studio with producer extraordinaire Steve Lillywhite for the band’s first album – Time Capsules II.
That first album and their newest EP have managed to tackle some pretty tough subject matter while still finding a way to keep it light and airy. That’s all part of the allure, though. It’s their ability to craft songs covering life-weary topics like love, loss and addiction – all while a xylophone rings in the background – that has helped set them apart from an otherwise crowded scene. Brad was nice enough to jump on a call with us prior to hitting the Bunbury Music Festival on Saturday to discuss the band’s upcoming album, his interest in classical music, and his love/hate relationship with Lunchables Pizza.
Where are you right now?
I am in New York.
Just hanging out at home?
Sort of … you know … I’m actually just leaving my manager’s office. Spent some time trying to record. We’re going into the studio in August.
I was going to ask about that, so you guys released an EP recently, but there are plans to record more coming up?
Great, so Time Capsules II is one of those albums that’s pretty infectious, I read somewhere that you wrote and recorded it in the studio in about a week … is that true?
Yeah, that’s true.
So is the writing/recording process typically that quick for you?
I wish it didn’t have to be, but that’s all the time that I was given.
So you are a Tacoma transplant now living in New York. What was it like growing up in the Northwest and has it influenced your songwriting in any way?
I think the Northwest is just a good place to grow up for anyone. I think just having, you know, the basement of a house to record music in was a real advantage.
So when did you start writing songs and recording music?
Well, I started recording rap songs when I was about twelve … well, maybe I was about ten. Ten years old I recorded my first rap song.
So why didn’t you stick with rap?
I don’t know, kind of got phased out. You know people in high school made fun of me for being a rapper early on, so being a high school kid I was hyper-sensitive to that.
You named the band after yourself, which makes sense, but where there any other names rattling around in your head before you settled on Oberhofer?
Yeah, I wanted to call the band Teeth.
Any reason for that?
No, I thought it sounded cool when I was maybe fifteen or something.
You guys have toured extensively and performed in a lot of clubs, do you have a favorite spot to play or does it all kind of blend together?
Let’s see, we played at a large theater with Matt and Kim in Chicago and I don’t remember the name of it but yeah, that was incredible. I forgot what it was called.
From what I’ve read you have pretty interesting taste in music with a bit of a focus on classical … where’d the interest in classical music come from?
Yeah, I’m not really sure, you know. My mom was an opera singer when I was growing up and, I don’t know, I just sort of got into classical music through making hip-hop instrumentals, because when you make hip-hop instrumentals there’s a lot of layering and a lot of different sort of semi-orchestral textures that you’re incorporating. And as a result of that I got into music theory and studied music theory in high school, and just thought studying music theory was a cool way to intellectualize, you know, hip-hop music composition and the result of my studying that was just getting excited about classical music, and then going to college to study classical music composition.
You played Austin City Limits last year, were there any acts you and the band went out of your way to catch?
Oh yeah, we saw Neil Young and Crazy Horse play. That was incredible.
Were you looking forward to that one ahead of time or was it just a spur of the moment type of thing?
I was looking forward to that one ahead of time, most definitely.
Do you have any pre-show rituals we should know about?
Let’s see … I don’t know, we usually have some sort of huddle and discuss things and, you know, jump around and kind of get excited about whatever it is we’re doing, you know … whatever it takes to get in the zone. It varies from night to night.
I’m guessing you guys will be touring in a bus when you kick off in July. You may have driven around in a van earlier on, but at what point do you get one of those Rihanna-style private jets to fly around in?
Oh man, [laughs] I don’t know if that will ever happen.
I kind of need an exact date on this one, just tell me right now.
If and when it does happen, I would like a swimming pool on it.
[Laughs] That sounds like a good add-on.
So you guys are coming to Cincinnati for the Bunbury Music Festival … Last time you were here, you played a show at MOTR Pub in Over-the-Rhine. Did you get a chance to walk around or hang out afterwards?
Yeah, we spent some time walking around Cincinnati. I think actually one of the last times we were there, there was a huge thunderstorm, and the sky was kind of purple and there’s a large, beautiful bridge in Cincinnati and it was pretty scenic with the purple sky and the pretty bridge.
You recently posted on Facebook about SCFLP (Suppressed Craving For Lunchables Pizza) Syndrome … a) Are you that big a fan of Lunchables Pizza and b) how long do the symptoms typically last?
Yeah [Laughs] I mean I think it tastes good, the thing is I’m not a complete fan because it’s so bad for you. The reason why I have that syndrome is because part of me wants it, but my rational brain knows better.
I think you’re allowed a few of those every once in a while … I don’t know.
Yeah [laughs], what was the second part of that question?
How long do the symptoms typically last?
Oh, the suppressed cravings? You mean before I indulge? Oh, I don’t know it takes a couple of months.
[Laughs] yeah, alright that’s a good build-up.
And then when I do have it, it’s wonderful.
But then you feel terrible afterwards, right?
No, not really. You know, it’s just a once every couple of months type of thing.
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