By Jacyee Rockhold
When Brad Oberhofer first introduces himself, it’s clear that he’s endearingly odd. Dressed in all black except for a faux fur coat, Oberhofer is standing in the middle of an empty venue, thanking the man working the sound board every time the band bursts into a song for sound check. He’s polite, eccentric, and it’s obvious he knows what he’s doing as he describes to a small group of us how to make a cheap amp from Guitar Center work like a charm.
Oberhofer, not only his last name but the name of his band, has been gracing the world with a mix of heart felt indie pop and surf rock since 2008. Before his energetic show at Schuba’s, he was able to go on a quick sunset walk with Hooligan.
Q: Do you go into a different headspace for DIY shows versus playing in actual venues?
A: The house shows have a built in audience because it’s people that have friends that put together the shows. The venue shows are like a little bit different, and you don’t know if people are going to come or not. It’s a little bit sketchier. A house show is usually smaller. You don’t have a lot of space to move and you don’t know how it sounds, but nobody really cares how it sounds if the songs are cool or if there’s at least something cool happening. Venue shows are really where everything you play is essentially naked. Everything can hear everything you’re playing.
Q: Do you prefer playing one over the other?
A: The show we played last time was sick. I don’t really know. For instance, my favorite show we’ve ever played in Chicago was at Lollapalooza. I love it when I have space to run around, but I like both for different reasons. I like playing house shows because I meet cool people who get my jokes and also make funny jokes, and don’t get offended when you’re sarcastic because they think it’s funny too. A lot of people at more commercialized shows don’t understand sarcasm and I can’t connect with them as easily. They get really offended when I try to make jokes, and I’m like, what’s offensive about jokes? I like both.
Q: Do you think studying composition at New York University helped you expand your music or did it prevent you from diving headfirst into music?
A: I don’t really know honestly. I think being around other musicians and seeing how much more better and talented everyone else is than you is really inspiring and it helps you work harder. I learned a lot from peope. I took an electronic synthesis class. I got my first job in New York working for this venue called Market Hotel through my friend Rick in a class at NYU. There was one day me and Ryan from Colts were sitting on a couch together and I was like ‘I’m playing my first big show ever tonight’ and he was like ‘Me too’. We were both kind of having a big show, and we’re sitting there and he was opening for Sleigh Bells. Weird little things like that, and meeting cool people, and recording cools parts…There was one room at NYU that had a grand piano and no one knew about it and I could just go in there and crank the speakers and lock the door and just cry to music alone in a classroom that had a really nice view of Washington Square Park. I benefitted a lot from music store. It was sort of a place for me to retreat to.
Q: Did you drop out to go to music?
A: Yeah, we toured for a month and a half during the semester, so I missed a month and a half of school. I failed a class and I worked really hard and I made up the work and handed it in late, but I failed because of it.
Q: You recorded in four different places for this new album. Did the vibe for each recording change with the environment?
A: Every place had a totally different vibe. However, every place that I record in, I try to control the environment. When we recorded in Seattle with this guy named Phil Eck. He was the producer. There was no vagueness about it, he was the producer. We ended up scrapping that whole album. He’s awesome and he’s amazing at his job, but something about having someone else in charge was a little bit uncomfortable for me. We ended up redoing everything, recorded a lot of stuff alone in my apartment in New York, recorded a lot of stuff in my friend’s studio called Strange Weather in New York…We recorded four songs in LA called Sound City at Fairfax Recordings which is Nirvana and Fleetwood Mac and Neil Young recorded…We did the mixing in Atlanta with this guy named Ben Allen.
Q: What are you listening to right now?
A: I’ve been listening to nothing new. I just discovered this French impressionist composer and I’ve been listening to some of his music online. I’m obsessed with this guy named Maurice Ravel. He’s really fascinating and there’s not really that much information on him. There’s a lot of things he kept secret. A lot of composers sex lives were open, like their affairs, or their arguments with other composers, and Ravel was pretty secretive. There’s a lot there that nobody really knows about his personality.
Q: Was moving to New York from Seattle a big change?
A: I was going to school, and those differences don’t affect me at all. I’m me wherever I go, and that’s the only constant that matters. What does change me is like whether or not things seem to be going well. When I got to New York, things seemed to be going really well, and I was still in school and making new friends or whatever so it didn’t feel like much of a change.
Make sure to catch Oberhofer if you can, and pick up their newest album Chronovision, out October 9th, available here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/chronovision/id1002166342