Interview: O'BrotherPosted 04/25/2012 06:21AM by Nick Senior as Interview
Before the Junius/O’Brother co-headlining tour (read Nick’s review of the tour here), Nick Senior was able to sit down with Tanner Merritt from O’Brother.
Nick: Hi and welcome to Columbus. Can you introduce yourself for our readers?
Tanner: I’m Tanner, and I play guitar and sing for O’Brother.
Nick: What kind of guitar do you use?
Tanner: I use an old Fender Stratocaster. It’s a Frankenstein. It’s been completely gutted and rebuilt. It belonged to my Dad, and I just haven’t been able to get rid of it.
Nick: So have you been to Columbus before?
Tanner: We were actually here in October with Thrice.
Nick: What was playing with Thrice like?
Tanner: It was great. It was us, La Dispute, and Moving Mountains. It was probably my favorite tour we’ve done so far. It was just a lot of fun playing with those great guys every night.
Nick: Well, plus it’s a big deal to be one of the last bands to potentially tour with Thrice.
Tanner: Yeah, actually we’re on the Thrice farewell tour that’s coming up. It’ll be a great tour.
Nick: Yeah, I’m looking forward to that tour, no question. On to the album for a bit: This is your first full-length release after a couple of EPs. Did it feel like the monkey was off your back in a way?
Tanner: Yeah, actually. I mean it’s something that every band wants to do from the moment they start: to write and record a full-length record. It just took us so long to do that. We just kind of decided that we wanted to tour a bunch first, so we recorded our last EP and toured for a couple years. But yeah it felt great to finally release Garden Window, to finally have an adequate representation of what the band is.
Nick: How long did it take, from start to finish, to record the album?
Tanner: We had a few songs that we had sort of written and had been tossing around for a couple of years, but the bulk of the album was written in the fall of 2010, and we started tracking the album in December of that year and finished tracking in May 2011. So it was over a year until the finished product came out in January of this year.
Nick: So you guys have a bit of a unique sound, encapsulating a bunch of different genres. Did you guys try to come up with something that was your own, or was it just the influences coming together?
Tanner: Definitely, it has been a goal of ours to come out with something unique. We have such diverse musical tastes, even with each person, so that all went into creating the O’Brother sound.
Nick: How would you describe your sound to someone who hasn’t heard of you before?
Tanner: I’m always bad at this [laughs]. Always loud, sometimes pretty, and a lot of times aggressive.
Nick: You guys definitely have a Southern, sludgy sound, especially in your guitars; was that intentional?
Tanner: Yeah it was one of those things that happened, but we were definitely influenced, in a way, by bands that we know and are from our region. Coming from the South, I think that sound is part of our heritage that just comes out, whether you mean to or not.
Nick: So how did you create the concept behind your album, Garden Window and what does it meant to you guys?
Tanner: It had a lot to do with our lifestyle changes because somewhere in 2008 we all quit our jobs and decided we were going to start touring. We were working part time jobs and only sometimes coming home. We all paid rent in the city but had to move out because it was cheaper. Being on the road a lot and living a different type of life, and I guess the whole idea of Garden Window is that changing outlook on life from an outside perspective.
Nick: So on your next album, are you going to try to do another concept album, or was that just too much work?
Tanner: Oh for sure, if it works out that way. This album isn’t a concept album in the sense that it had a continuing story, but it was held together by a lot of recurring themes throughout, and I think a lot of it has to with the fact that when you have to write a body of work all at one time, it’s going to be conceptual in that it’s what you were doing or thinking about in that period of time.
Nick: I’ve heard your album described as a series of mini-compositions, like each song is a short symphony. Is that something you try to do when writing your music?
Tanner: Definitely! We try to put as much sound into each song as possible.
Nick: Is this your first headlining tour?
Tanner: Yes it is. We are co-headlining with Junius, so we’re just trading off who plays last. It’s been great so far.
Nick: So are you guys enjoying the transition into a longer set, as headliners?
Tanner: Definitely! It’s awesome. We’ve gotten used to playing short opening sets, like 25 minutes a night, but we like being able to play more songs and give a fuller representation of the band.
Nick: So where is the best place to eat in your hometown, Atlanta?
Tanner: Elmyr, no question. It’s this hole-in-the-wall, almost divey looking burrito joint and bar where they have the best burritos. I kind of want one right now. [laughs]
Nick: Interesting, I don’t think of Mexican food when I think of Atlanta. [laughs] So what do you guys do to entertain yourself on the road?
Tanner: Act like assholes. [laughs]. Just act like idiots, lots of shenanigans. Everyone in our band is just goofy individuals, so it works.
Nick: I can believe it. [laughs] Well I’ll let you get going, since the show’s about to start. Thanks for taking the time to talk with me for Decoy Music.
Tanner: Hey I’m glad to do it. Enjoy the show!