Oberhofer Plans for the Apocalypse
Published May 18, 2011
BRAD OBERHOFER (FOREGROUND) AND HIS BAND.
Tacoma native Brad Oberhofer is an optimist, regardless of any melancholia you might hear in his songs. The NYU music theory and composition major (currently on hiatus from school) cites many of his songs as influenced by girls and the emotions that come with relationships. There’s a little bit of pop, soul, and rap in his songs—it’s hard to define, but it sounds a little like what might happen if Animal Collective, Surfer Blood and the Morning Benders had a Brooklyn-based musical love child. Oberhofer—who personally sends emails to people who request songs—and his band have played with Bear in Heaven, Twin Sister, Tapes ‘n Tapes and Cloud Nothings.
Oberhofer plans to release his debut album pre-Mayan apocalypse, and the band’s tracks have been released as singles over the past few years. We caught up with Oberhofer while he was visiting his family in Tacoma.
ILANA KAPLAN: How did you get into musical performance?
BRAD OBERHOFER: Growing up, my mom was always an opera singer. I was always around it. I was rebellious towards my mom. I kind of resented her for singing at times when I was a younger kid. I think subconsciously it had an impact on me. I got into free-style rapping at a pretty early age. I got into making beats. Then, from there, the beats turned into more, full-orchestral arrangements. Then eventually, I started writing orchestral music and studying music theory. I picked up a guitar when I was 16, which is actually not that long ago. Then I started writing pop songs when it wasn’t really cool to be writing rap songs anymore. I love the music that my mom sings. I think it was just kind of a phase.KAPLAN: You’ve been releasing your singles one by one. Did you intend for it to be very informal? Is that because you didn’t realize your music would become so successful?
OBERHOFER: I mean, it was just, after a while, “I like this song. Let’s put it on vinyl.” That’s why we released those singles. The whole idea of formalizing something, of having a friend do artwork or doing artwork yourself, putting out something out on a vinyl. It’s just a fun exercise. That’s kind of why we released those two singles. We have another one coming out that’s actually a studio recording. They’re new songs. They actually serve a practical purpose as singles.
KAPLAN: What are they called?
OBERHOFER: There’s one song that’s called “My One” and the other one is called “Gotta Go.” I was just listening to them this morning. I’m pretty psyched.
KAPLAN: That’s awesome. How would you characterize the o0Oo0Oo EP? Is it representative of the music you’re creating now? You wrote it over the past couple of years, right?
OBERHOFER: That “o0Oo0Oo” song, I wrote when I was seventeen. I’ve written these songs over the years. All those songs are time capsules. It’s kind of funny.
KAPLAN: Do you have an album coming out soon? I’ve been waiting and hoping!
OBERHOFER: I don’t think it will be out until 2012. The last year I can put one out.
KAPLAN: The last year you can put one out?
OBERHOFER: You know, because the world’s going to end.
KAPLAN: Because it’s the apocalypse, apparently.
OBERHOFER: I’m really looking forward to the day when the apocalypse is supposed to happen. It can just be a huge party or there can be tons of violence and crime. We’ll see how the day goes.
KAPLAN: Hopefully it’ll be really fun.
OBERHOFER: I’m going to make it really fun. I just hope everyone else does the same thing, innocently.
KAPLAN: Any specific musicians as influences come to mind?
OBERHOFER: For a while I thought there were some direct influences, bands that I spent time listening to growing up. More and more, I find I can’t really control my influences. Sometimes there are songs I write that I find are influencing my songs and I don’t even know the people who wrote them. So, I would say my musical influences are anything that I’ve ever heard. Ever.
KAPLAN: On that note, what are you listening to right now?
OBERHOFER: Right now, I’ve only been listening to one song the past couple of days: “The Age of Consent” by New Order. Last week, I was listening to this record of Revel’s piano pieces, a couple pieces by Ravel, “Jeaux d’eau” and “Sonatine,” listening to impressionist piano music. I state really specific songs as opposed to bands.
KAPLAN: How would you characterize your sound? Do you have any more melancholy songs coming out or mostly just upbeat?
OBERHOFER: Our songs are just all over the board. I went through a really intense break-up. There are a couple songs that are related to that, that are pretty intense, pretty emotional in a more dark and sad sort of way, but also an optimistic way as well. In general, I’m a huge optimist. Anything I write that’s kind of a sad song, also maintains an optimistic aspect as well. I’ve actually been listening to a little bit of Isaac Hayes in the past couple of months. He really inspired me. Some things I’ve written are a little bit more soulful as far as the guitar riffs are concerned. I’ve got some things like that, that are a little bit Motown-y, but not quite. I’ve got some things that have more orchestral arrangements around them that are pretty intense. Basically, I’ve written 40 songs. It’s music from all different kinds of angles. It’s better not to describe them, but to let them be as they are.
KAPLAN: Who are some of the coolest artists that you have played with?
OBERHOFER: We’ve played some shows with Bear in Heaven. I love all those dudes. I think they make some of the most interesting music happening right now. Those guys have been great. It’s funny. The more musicians I meet, the more I find I feel like I connect with bands that I play with more than I connect with people normally. When I meet new musicians, I find that I can relate to them well. I don’t know. We toured with Twin Sister and The Morning Benders for a while. I’m completely in love with everyone from Twin Sister. They’re some of my favorite people on the planet. I love the guys in Cults. I love the guys in Cymbals Eat Guitars. I love the guys from The Morning Benders too. We toured with Tapes ‘n Tapes, and I love those guys. We toured with Cloud Nothings, and those guys are total bros. We got really close. They’re friends with our drummer back in Ohio. Those guys are tons of fun too. Basically every band we tour with is awesome, but those are my main bros.
KAPLAN: What do you want to achieve as a musician?
OBERHOFER: I’ve gotten some emails from people, because the way our music was distributed for a long time [was] people would just email me personally and I would just send it to them. I’ve gotten some emails from people telling me, “When I see this girl, I think of this song. Can I have it?” Or, “Something serious just happened to me and this song is helping me get through it. Can you send it to me?” I got a surprising amount of emails sent to me. Every time, despite how busy I may be, personally sending emails to the people that want my music has been the most inspirational thing. It makes me feel that regardless of what happens now, that I’ve already done enough to make myself happy. I’ve written something to help at least one person. Then, I personally talk to them and that alone makes me feel satisfied. Whatever happens next for our band is also cool. I just hope to bring positivity to people and hope that some of these songs get through tough times, and also provide good road-trip and party soundtracks. My only goal is to write music that not only does something for me, but is fun for people to have.
OBERHOFER IS CURRENTLY ON TOUR WITH NEON INDIAN AND SLEIGH BELLS.