Friday, August 9, 2019

an interview with The Odious

I've been writing about The Odious for years now; the Portland band was one of my first Bandcamp Picks. After a long hiatus, the band's third release Vesica Piscis came out this past June, completing a trilogy they started with their first release in 2011. Since I have a soft spot for small bands with big ideas, I reached out to The Odious to find out more about their history and their latest album; lead vocalist Patrick Jobe was kind enough to answer my questions.

Dreams of Consciousness: Please introduce your band - who are you, where are you from, and how do you describe the music you make?

For all the potential Odiots out there (prototype fan-base nickname), we’re Spencer (lead guitar + clean vocals) and Patrick (lead vocals + keys) from The Odious, and we’re most definitely not a cult. Hard stop, nothing more to say.

Please give a brief history of The Odious - when did you form, and what were your goals at the time?

We formed the group that would eventually become The Odious after the “alleged” arson of our 8th grade talent show (there’s definitely not footage of it on YouTube, don’t even try and look). At that time we really got into making super disturbing songs for fun, I know there are a couple are still floating around somewhere… Eventually that gave way to original material – an EP and an album. A lot of people don’t know this, but we recorded the EP in its entirety before realizing that it was garbage juice, so we started over and made the current version of That Night A Forest Grew (2011). I honestly can’t remember if those original files still exist or not, I just assumed we disposed of them mafia-style. I’d say our main goal from that point on was to get really good live and most important of all, make music that we like.

"Progressive" is a word that is commonly used to describe The Odious. What is it about your music that makes it progressive? Is "progressive" a mindset, a style of playing, or both?

It’s crazy because we never set out to make progressive music in the first place. We’ve always just focused on what excites us, making music makes us feel things, and developing strong emotional connections to the songs. We all have a deep love for all the great prog bands, but that has always been in addition to an abundance of other influences. I think our characterization as progressive is resulted from how those all come together through our music. When it comes to the term progressive, it’s usually in reference to odd time-signatures, modal mixture, long songs, experimentation, etc, but we’ve always kinda thought that super broad concepts like experimentation don’t belong within the confines of a single style. There is literally no limit to what can be created and we should all be experimenting to keep the scene fresh.

Over time, certain cliches have sprouted up that are associated with the prog culture, and that can happen when things become a little stagnant. It’s gotten to the point where some people write off anything with the prog label, or are at least skeptical about it, with the classic example being that the pressure to be musically “smart” results in something overly-grandiose and pretentious that you can’t connect to. As a result of all this, the term progressive has kind of felt a bit lifeless to us, maybe a bit outdated in the face of the future.

How would you describe your development (musical or otherwise) from your first EP til now?

The EP was our first attempt at trying to define our sound, which came from years of us imitating and copying our favorite bands until we learned enough about songwriting to try something ourselves. It was all building up towards fulfilling our goal of writing and recording a full length release; we really wanted to create a great album like all of the bands we looked up to. It is worth noting, however, that sometimes the urge to make something truly exceptional can end up being a roadblock.

Looking back on that time, the only reason Joint Ventures (2012) was completed was because we lowered our collective expectations and had fun making it above all else. I definitely think the album reflects that. We also programmed the drums to lighten the workload (that got a little out of hand), but it allowed us to truly experiment for the first time with virtually no constraints. Just like our newest album, we had a massive heap of riffs and lyrics piled up from the previous few years. The process of taking those small ideas and fleshing them out together really solidified our writing process and laid the foundation for how we do things to this day.

You have a new album out now called Vesica Piscis. What was the songwriting process like? Where was it recorded and what can people expect from it?

All the songs on Vesica Piscis were a LONG time in the making. Spenny started sharing around some of the first riff ideas in 2015 (while we were still inactive), and it was those very ideas that eventually brought us back together. We were all hyped as fuck at the prospect of making a new album, and we would spend the next few years building it up. As far as our writing process goes, individual songs typically start when we decide to develop either a specific riff idea or a completed song from Spenny, which get more and more fleshed out as we listen back and brainstorm additional riffs, arrangements, and vocals -- eventually becoming a rough version of a song. We’ll typically have some loose lyrical concepts floating around (as well as pre-written lyrics), which will often be the seed for a specific lyrical concept for each song. Once I write, arrange, and revise the fleshed out lyrics, I’ll use them to make my screaming patterns for each song, and Spencer will write his clean vocal patterns if they’re featured. This is how we construct our demos, which allows us to tweak and refine all aspects of the song before the final tracking takes place.

After everything is tracked, the process usually ends with production edits, mixing, and mastering. This is done by Jeremy (our original drummer), Spencer, and I, with Jeremy taking lead on all production matters. We’ll usually stop at a certain point for each song and circle back to them during the final production edits for whatever release we’re working on. For Vesica Piscis, we went through the entire album several times (both individually and as a group) and gave our final edits to Jeremy. This final phase allows us to combine our respective ideas/visions for the album, which includes editing things like instrumental/vocal effects, specific mix adjustments, sound effects, samples, and any other things we want to try or change. After that process is complete, each song is finalized and ready for release!

The line-up for Vesica Piscis includes members of the bands Bystander and Sheers. How did they get involved with the recording?

There’s a lot of collaborating within our friend group, we’ve known everyone who has featured on Vesica Piscis for a long time and we always want to include as many people as we can whenever we make something new. Garrett from Bystander has been playing with us for a few years now, and Aaron from Sheers is actually another founding Odious member (along with Spencer, Patrick, and Jeremy).

The album title Vesica Piscis refers to both a mathematical and artistic concept of intersecting spheres/circles. Why did you choose it, and how does it encapsulate the themes and music of the album?

We basically saw the Vesica Piscis as this pervasive, inescapable symbol that is not only fundamental to existence, but is also manipulated by humanity to symbolize specific material constructs as well (which frequently overlap yet contradict one another). All our releases up until this point have kind of been tied together by the idea of analyzing the entanglement between universal truth and the human condition. Each song is like a snapshot of a different aspect of those two elements coming into contact, and how they simultaneously harmonize and clash.

Joint Ventures followed this same model, with songs like “Combaticus” and “Charlie Guiteau” symbolizing bloodlust and mental illness, respectively. I haven’t ever explicitly detailed the themes behind each song, mainly because I think it’s more effective when people find their own unique interpretation. Now WE’RE the ones manipulating the Vesica Piscis symbol for our own narrative -- as a way to symbolize that concept.

Vesica Piscis finishes off a trilogy started with your first EP. What are the themes that unite the three releases? How did the concept develop since the first release? Did you know you were going to make a trilogy when you released your debut?

We definitely didn’t know it would end up as a trilogy when we started it, it kind of just evolved into that over time. It really became apparent when we started writing the new album, for a couple reasons. We worked really hard over the years slowly developing our sound throughout our EP and full-length, and due to our hiatus we never got to explore the continuation of those sounds/concepts. It felt like majorly unfinished business for the longest time, and none of us wanted The Odious to join the ranks of all the amazing bands that ended way too soon. Once we started writing VP, we were determined to see it through; not only giving closure to ourselves, but to all of our fans as well.

We just kind of naturally picked up where we left off and eventually got to focus and expand on all the creative elements from the previous releases. This was also solidified in the lyrical concept, with the new songs on VP following the same “snapshot” model referenced in the last question. The trilogy started to make more and more sense because everything about Vesica Piscis is not only meant to evolve the world that we created, but also serve as a satisfying finale to close the long first chapter in The Odious’ history. We’ve all grown a lot since we finished writing the bulk of Vesica Piscis, and we thought the trilogy was the best way to signify to our fans that we’re back for good, leaving the hiatus behind, and exploring a completely new creative path.

What's next for The Odious?

Now that we’re back in the groove, we don’t intend on going anywhere. We just started playing shows again locally, and we’re hopefully working up to something bigger. Anyone who lives in the Portland area should definitely come see us play at the Black Water Bar on Saturday, October 19th at 8 PM! Also, our first merch run did ridiculously well, so definitely stay tuned on our Facebook/Instagram in order to hear news about the new merch. Lastly, we got quite a hefty stockpile of new tunes we’ve been steadily developing, so get fuckin ready for the new era.

The Odious on Facebook
The Odious on Instagram

The Odious on Bandcamp

The Odious on YouTube

Prog Gnosis:

Mixtape 77:
Jason Göbel (Part One)