By Sophie Minello
OWEL’s music sounds like a stream of water, running clear and smooth, but also holding a fragile nature. We were lucky enough to sit down with them at El Jalapeños in Lakewood, Ohio before their show at the Foundry. We ate chips and salsa while discussing their songwriting process, their week long tour, and new music.
What is your background in music?
Patti: I started playing the violin when I was four and did random school orchestra for a very long time. Then I went to college for music and then I stayed in school and got a masters and now I’m about to finish my doctorate. I just chill in New York City and play violin.
Seamus: Not much to it, just started playing instruments when I was a little kid. First drums then piano then the rest, as much as I could. I don’t play horn instruments though.
Jay: I started playing piano when I was a little kid, because I’m asian, and I hated it. I played drums when I was about 14 and played in bands as a drummer, then started playing guitar and then went back to piano.
Nunzio: Very standard. I started playing an instrument when I was a kid in school. My father is a musician, so that helped. Me and Ryan were in a band before all this, so it was very standard.
Ryan: My dad was a drummer which led me to be a drummer and then I got lessons when I was 10-13, then I was a jerk and didn’t want to take lessons anymore and do things by myself (I wish I had never stopped), but I’ve been playing since 10 years old.
Happy first day of tour. This is a quick run, like 1 week. I know tour can be exhausting so are quick runs like this more refreshing than exhausting?
Jay: Yeah, it’s definitely a lot easier to do a one week tour, but it’s kind of weird. We did a month and a half long tour with A Lot Like Birds and even though that sounds like a longer time than one week, it all kind of felt like one week in a way. Tour is a weird time vortex where sometimes it feels super long and sometimes it feels like you just started the tour yesterday. Anything that is just a weekend tour or a couple days, I don’t even consider that a tour. This is just sort of on the brink of that.
I know you’re playing some new ones tonight. What kind of leads can you give us on future releases?
Jay: We’re writing new songs. As soon as we finish making anything, all I can think about is ‘God, I can’t wait to make something better than that.’ Naturally I feel like the new songs that we’re writing are much better than the last batch, but I’ll always feel that way. As soon as we release these new songs I’ll be sick of them as well, but I’m super excited about them. Sonically, I would say we have a new string player, we have Patti, so we get to play a little bit more with the string arrangements and violin part. It might be heavily orchestrally involved.
For your first two albums, I read that you thought that the second was more optimistic than the first. Now, with your new set of songs have you seen any growth or change in the themes you write about?
Jay: Yeah, I think everything’s back to shit now… just kidding. It’s funny because I feel like there’s going to be a batch of new songs in the next few years that were written in this time where politically things happened and socially things happened, and there’s a bit of concern from all of that and we’re all sort of worried about what will happen. I feel like I couldn’t help but have some of the songs be affected in that way, where things went to shit a little bit, but there’s definitely optimism involved and rooted in all of that.
You’ve said things about not having political messages in your music before, so that’s interesting to hear.
Jay: Well, it’s still not a message. It’s still not me carrying a flag saying ‘this is what everyone should believe!’ The songs have always been, ‘this is what I’m going through’ and it’s just hard not to be affected by everything. Still nothing’s political, we’re not releasing any Rage Against the Machines albums here, but it’s hard not to be affected by the political and social climate.
When Dear Me came out, Equal Visions Records put out a ton of visuals for the songs on youtube.
Jay: The cinemagraphs?
Yeah, that’s the word!
Jay: This girl Kayla Surico, someone referred me to her videos and told me they were cinemagraphs. We were lucky enough to get her to do ours.
I was just wondering if using these types of visuals were important to you, to enhance the feelings your music carried?
Jay: I feel like we get this a lot, where people would say our music should be in a movie so I imagine that there should be some sort of visual happening along with the songs. But also, in this day and age with music and where people listen to music. Youtube is a pretty prominent thing, we could put out a lyrics video or we could just have these cinemagraphs. [Kayla] was really cool about reaching out to me and making sure she got the vibe of each song and the images she was putting along with the song matched my intention.
You’ve mentioned that your songs are like journal entries, which I’d imagine are pretty personal at times. I was wondering if your songs are sort of a stream of consciousness?
Jay: No, no I don’t think so. I feel like if I was to write stream of consciousness it would just be a lazy version of what I was trying to say. Especially more recently I’m trying to really be careful about saying things in a way that’s both poetic and meaningful.
Why do you think honesty in your songs is important?
Kay: Absolutely. But when you say honesty, it doesn’t have to be autobiographical, I don’t think. There can be honesty in a fictional situation, in the way that a fictional situation might affect you or illustrate how you feel about something because maybe you don’t want to lay everything out there in such an obvious way. But yeah, I think honesty is peramental.
Closing Question: What does sunlight mean to you? What do you envision or think of when you hear the word?
Jay: I want to go deeper than the obvious light of sun.
Seamus: My first thought would vision and being able to see.
Jay: So clarity?
Seamus: Clarity, sure.
Jay: That’s funny that you say clarity, because when I think of sunlight I think of the opposite where I’m blinded by it.
Patti: I think it’s warm, particularly during the summer. Up here, the sunlight is only warm at certain times, in Florida it’s just warm all the time, that’s where I’m from. I appreciate the sun more during certain times of the year.
Ryan: A fresh new beginning!
** Note from editor: Closing question is under construction, but I wanted a little wrap up question that pertains to the magazine. We shall continue to experiment with it. Thanks for reading!