Songs about zombies, drive-by shootings, Obi-Wan Kenobi, pirates, monsters, punching people in the face, pregnancy, “reeking and seeking,” families, obesity, virginity—all of them catchy, all of them disconcertingly happy-sounding, and all of them sing-and-clap-along-able. That is what Austin’s Oh No! Oh My! is made of, and their albums—their self-titled full-length; their new EP, Between The Devil and The Sea; and their Jolly Rogers demo that the songs from the new EP are culled from—are the best pieces of pop to come along in a very, very long time. No kidding.
When Torontoist caught up with the band over the phone to talk about their show at Lee’s Palace this Wednesday night, they were driving in Memphis, with Daniel Hoxmeier serving as tour guide through the band’s history. Their success started at the end of 2005, when Hoxmeier sent some songs to the blog Music For Robots, along with, he says, a “really-super-long e-mail about how much [the site had] shown me cool music.” It was the only self-promotion the band had ever done; at the time, they were charging people $1.50 for the band’s entire album, just enough to cover postage but not enough to cover the CD-Rs that the albums were recorded on. Music For Robots dug it and posted one song, “Walk in the Park,” along with a glowing review (“This song is pop perfection”).
That was all it took for word to start getting around about the band; as Hoxmeier says, it “opened up this whole new world,” a “pretty kick-ass” world where the band’s tenth live show ever was at Lollapalooza and where “Walk in the Park” ended up in a Telus commercial (albeit with the less-marketable lyrics, like “nice day for a drive-by shooting,” missing). Almost two years after Hoxmeier sent the e-mail that kick-started Oh No! Oh My!, half of the band still aren’t of legal drinking age in the States.
Hype, and its consequences, came with their grassroots-boosted success. “People kind of have these higher expectations of these dudes who are just making music in their bedrooms,” Hoxmeier says. “It’s hard to communicate to people that we’re just a couple kids who like making music.” It’s not that they don’t deserve the attention, though: their songs are fun, weird, and ridiculously likable. Though the band might be unclassifiable—in the interview, we tried to think of a way to describe their style and could only think of “dark pop”; Hoxmeier didn’t fare much better, hesitatingly calling it “dark irony”—they are very, very, very good.
This Wednesday night at Lee’s Palace will be their third trip to Toronto since last May, but if past performances here are any indication it will probably suck—at least for the guys in the band. “Toronto’s kind of a weird city to me,” Hoxmeier told us. “It’s cool, but there’s always been really unusual circumstances whenever we go to Toronto.” The first time they played here, at the El Mocambo in July 2006, “nobody came.” “Afterwards,” said Hoxmeier, “we stayed in this girl’s apartment and there was absolutely no air conditioning and it was the hottest any of us have ever been in our entire lives. And then the second time [in March 2007], we all went out to a bar and Greg [Barkley] left his birth certificate in a backpack in the venue…and that’s his way of getting back into America. So that was a really crazy night; we ended up driving around till four in the morning in the middle of downtown and [stayed] in a real crack whore hotel. It was kind of awesome.”
Whatever problems they’ve had, though, have gotten ironed out. They snuck across the border (as Hoxmeier told us, “it’s very hard to get into Canada but very easy to get out of it,” and it turned out that the band they were touring with had picked up Barkley’s backpack anyway). The hype is tapering off a bit, giving them a chance to build their fan base. “We had to grow up as a live band on a national scale,” Hoxmeier says, “so people came and saw us and they probably weren’t the most amazing shows, and they’d go ‘Oh No! Oh My! are horrible!’ and that kind of sucks. We’ve gotten a lot better. It just takes time.” And on Wednesday night we’ll see if the third time’s a charm.
Since we love Oh No! Oh My! so much, we have three pairs of tickets and three copies of the band’s new EP (no more CD-Rs for them!) to give away, courtesy of +1 Music.
‘Cause we’re in a bit of a rush, we’ll give them to the first three registered Torontoist users who leave a comment. The contest is now closed; congratulations to our winners! Be sure to check out the band’s MySpace to listen to some tracks, too.