Oso Oso

Interview: Jade of Oso Oso

This past week, I had the opportunity to sit down with Jade of Oso Oso, before he played a supporting set at the Fillmore Silver Spring near Washington, DC. In this interview, I asked Jade about how much he follows what others say about his music, the recording process he went through during the Basking in the Glow sessions, and how he continues to find inspiration as an artist. Throughout our chat, I got a glimpse into what makes Jade such a talented songwriter, and found our conversation to be a hell of a lot of fun too.

I’m here with Jade of Oso Oso before he plays a show at the Fillmore Silver Spring with Manchester Orchestra and Foxing. Tell me a little bit about how this tour came together, and the differences you find in being a support act rather than a headliner. For example, your last US tour was back in the fall w/ The Sidekicks and Future Teens and you were the headlining act. Do you have a personal preference of being a headliner versus a supporting act?

So this tour, we got asked if we would be interested in doing it  while we are on the headliner tour back in August, which was about a day or two before our show in New York. Which ended up being one of our favorite shows on the tour. So it was kind of cool to have so many awesome things happening for this band. So, we really just jumped at the opportunity and got it. In terms of headlining versus being a support act, it’s tough to say because there are awesome about each type of situation. The August tour that I mentioned was our first proper headlining tour and that was so sick. That was awesome to just kind of play to an audience that was really there to support us and excited about us. But sometimes it’s really fun to play a support tour like this. We did the full US, and then played Europe (headlining) and we got to play for about an hour for each night  and then we had a couple weeks off before this one. So to do this tour will be a little less of a toll on us, with 30 minute sets. Ya know? It’s also fun to have that challenge of trying to win over a crowd of new people, new audiences. It’s also nice to kind of switch it up after a bit, ya know? If you do too much of the same thing, it can get a bit tiring.

Yeah, I guess you can kind of gauge the crowd reaction and say, “Hmm, I guess this didn’t work for this part of the song,” or things like that?

Exactly, I’m glad with how everything worked out as far as the timing. Right now, after doing the UK and US tour, it gives you a little bit of confidence with people buying into the music, so now we’re ready to go out and try and win new people over. On the other side, if you’re doing support tour after support after support tour, you get a little bit mentally taxing, you know what I mean?

Yeah, it would be as if you weren’t getting any traction with the audience…

Exactly, you would basically start to question yourself at that point.

I understand. I also noticed you released a music video a while back with crowd footage. Was that intentional because you just needed a video to tour with, or how did that come about?

It was kind of like that, because we are on tour in New York and Fred from Triple Crown was asking us if we wanted to film some crowd footage to “Basking,” or another song. So that’s how that worked out.

So, how do you rehearse for a tour like this one?  Do you typically book sessions with your touring musicians beforehand and how would you rate this current lineup’s “band chemistry”?

We have had the same lineup since that headlining tour in August, so pretty much everything except for one or two songs, we’ve played together before. So for this tour, we all met up in Long Island because that’s where the practice space we tend to use is. We met about three days before the tour, and for this tour the most important thing for us was to make sure we had a setlist that fits into the time. We wanted to play as much material as possible without going over, so that’s pretty much how we prepared for this one. We ran through a couple different sets (options) and picked the one that fit best. We didn’t have to worry about too much about running out of time.

Ok, so you didn’t have to worry too much about stage banter then, or feel the need to interact with the crowd as much on this one then?

Our plan with this one going into it was as little stage banter as possible. (Laughter) It’s not necessarily an older audience, but it’s a different demographic than what we’re used to playing. I don’t feel like that they wouldn’t want to hear my bullshit, ya know? (Laughter) Especially when they’re just waiting for Manchester Orchestra. This set, there’s a “thank you” here and there, just trying to remember to say the band name also.

Let’s shift gears now to your fantastic new record, Basking in the Glow.  Several media outlets, including Chorus.FM, were instantly enamored with the album. Do you pay much attention to how your albums are received, and how do you measure your success?

I definitely pay attention to how the albums are received, I definitely read reviews, it’s hard not to. Sometimes you read reviews and it’s pretty valid criticism, or it’s constructive. And there are other times where you read stuff and it just ruins your day. (Laughter) I definitely pay a lot of attention to how its gets received by different media outlets, and I check Twitter to see what people are saying too. How I measure success by is how I feel about it, how people who listen to the band feel about it, and how critics receive it. Some things will obviously hold more weight than others, you know what I mean? But it all definitely factors into how you feel about whatever you’ve done. For this album, I’ve never had to wait such a long time between finishing it and releasing it, but I think how this album was received made me like it more. If that makes any sense?

Yeah, it does.

With the last album, I felt good about it right off the bat. But I also think some of that had to do with me putting it out a week after finishing it. So how people receive this one and how people who listen to band received it really helped me with liking it more. Not that I didn’t love it, but there’s definitely periods of doubting myself and seeing if its going upward or not.

Yeah, I definitely feel like it is trending upward.  Just from a media perspective and a writer’s perspective, I feel like you guys have really upped your game on this record. I definitely see it trending the right way for you and your career.

Thank you so much!

What motivates you as an artist? How has this motivation evolved over time in your artistic career?

I think at a core value, as simple as it sounds, is to write music that’s fun and it feels good. It’s something that I’ve really gravitated to since I was 13. In terms of what inspires me, lately I’ve been drawing a lot from my personal life. In the past, there may have been a movie I’ve seen or a book I’ve read that really moved me. But lately, the stuff that I’ve been writing is from everyday life. I’m 27, so kind of getting older and drawing from that.

You’re not that old! I’m 36!

(Laughter) But yeah, I’m just coming around that curve of 30 so you start to think about your stamp on this life is. How its evolved over time, is that there’s definitely a lot more pressure now.

Is that because more people are noticing your band?

Right. Because you don’t want to let people down. I could’ve written songs for forever and had nobody take notice and been happy with it. I may have felt a little unfulfilled, but as someone who listens to music, and a fan of real artists I’ve fanned over. I’m very fearful of having someone who really likes the stuff we’ve done and then releasing something that they say, “This dude fell off.” So there’s definitely more pressure involved now where I may overthink songs or  parts of songs and where as before it was more of a “free for all.” So that’s really how its evolved over time, but it’s hard to say if that’s good or bad for your art.

Everyone gets some type of writer’s block or doubt at some point in their life. Where either you write a ton and you think it sucks, or you just can’t write at all. It happens to the best of us!

Yeah, I hear ya.

A lot of comparisons are made between the Basking in the Glow record to the classic emo Weezer record, Pinkerton. Do you hear any of those comparisons looking back at the recording of your album? 

It’s funny because I hear Weezer on certain songs. Mainly, “The Cool” and “Reindeer Games.” But it kind of escapes me in other parts. It’s one of those things that I didn’t hear until it was brought up. I see some people say that it reminds them a bit of Weezer and then I could really hear it. In the cadence of the chorus of “Reindeer Games” in particular I really heard it then. That happens a lot to me when listening to music, like where someone will say “oh, this sounds like…” and then I can instantly hear it. Even things I’ve been listening to for years, I can instantly get that connection.

What albums were you listening to during the Basking in the Glow sessions?

Truthfully, I wasn’t listening to a lot. And the stuff I was listening to I don’t think really influenced me. The only thing that may have influenced this album at all was that I was listening to a Tom Petty playlist for awhile. There’s a lot of times where he does something in one of his songs where I’d pick a part of.  But the thing about writing for Basking in the Glow leading up into December and then we really wanted to record with Mike Sappone (producer). He only had a limited amount of time available and we were trying to get the record done in a time that the label wanted it done, and we had to record by the end of January. At that time, which was the middle of December, I only had like three songs ready. (Laughter) Typically, I like to take a lot of stuff in: music, movies, books, where I can feel inspired by that type of stuff. But I really didn’t have that much time. I had a lot of stuff going on in my life at that time, I was working in a restaurant at that time and I’d go in at like four o’clock, so the time I’d spend getting ready for work, I’d really just write all day with YouTube videos on in the background, or podcasts or things like that. That was mainly how the real foundation of that record came together.

How would you describe the recording process of the new record?

In these sessions, I played everything except for the drums. I kinda just mapped out the drum parts, and I met up with Aaron with about four demos. We met up the night before we recorded and played just all of the songs and all of the parts through. I just kind of gave him an idea of what the songs were and we had ten days to record, but three of those days were for drums. Only nine of the songs had drums on them, so I was trying to make a goal of finishing three songs a day. We spent the next three days recording drums, and working with Mike (Sappone) and the detail he brought…I got to about an intermediate ability on drums but never really evolved with it. So I’m really a “bare bones” kind of drummer. So I thought I had all of the parts mapped out for the drums, but there were little intricate things he would change about the drums where he would say, “don’t play this cymbal, play that one.” And for me, it was really educational and really huge for me in terms of learning how important an instrument the drums can be. It’s really not just the skeleton of the song.

Did you feel okay with trusting someone else for their input?

That was the first real recording studio I had worked with a producer who made records I had listened to. It wasn’t like working with a friend, instead when I would work with people my age or peers it was different. With Mike, if I wanted to work with him and to not trust him completely, would kind of be a waste of time. You know what I mean? I just really had to trust him. There’s different parts on the album and different parts of recording where I totally gave him the complete trust and I’m very happy with how it turned out. I learned so much from recording with him, and in terms of songwriting. Hopefully it’ll be able to benefit me in the long-term as a songwriter and pick up on certain things. Like maybe this guitar part is a bit too busy and doesn’t need to be there.

After this tour wraps up, what are your plans for the new year?

We’re going to keep on touring, honestly. I’ve moved to Philadelphia recently and I’m excited to check out that city and see what it’s like. We have this tour with Manchester Orchestra going through January and then we’re off all of February. We’re doing a tour with a few bands coming up that hasn’t been announced yet, but it’s going to be super sick! It’s going to be really fun to tour with those three bands in the US and be playing new venues. Then we have a few festivals lined up for the summer as well. So yeah, that’s the plan is to keep touring and at some point to just really focus on writing.

Thank you for your time today, Jade. Before you hit the stage this evening, I was always curious if you have a favorite song from Basking in the Glow? 

It really does change every day. <Pauses> Right now, it’s “Dig.” But my all-time favorite from the record is “The View.” It was one of the first that I wrote for the record, and it felt really good. I was in a bit of a writer’s slump, like we were talking about before, and then that song came through and I was like, “Okay, I can do this.”

If so, do you make a point to always include it in your set, or does it really depend on the show?

On a tour like this, I try and take into consideration all of those things, but if there was someone who came to see us and spent $25 on a ticket and watched us for 30 minutes, I would want to make sure we play songs that they specifically want to hear. I mean, I would be bummed if I paid that money to see a band open for someone and they didn’t play the songs I wanted to hear.

Hopefully they won’t be heckling you at the same time with some, “Play Free Bird!” (Laughter)

(Laughter) Yeah, it’s my goal to one day be able to play some parts of “Free Bird” just in case that were to happen. (Laughter)

It was great meeting you, and I wish you nothing but the best in your career.

Thanks so much!

Adam Grundy Adam Grundy is a contributor at chorus.fm. He can also be found at @paythetab on Twitter and on Facebook.