So you may remember a band that made quite a stir in the community with their release of their song "Old Man Skies." That was Oshwa. Their distinct sound has been described in a lot of ways, it's even been referred to as "butterfly math pop". They are currently working on an LP that I am highly anticipating and I was lucky enough to get in contact with Alicia Walter for an interview with her and Mike both. And wow, let me tell you, I couldn't have asked for a better first Interview.
Alright so let's get this ball rolling. So how did Oshwa become Oshwa? How did you meet?
Mike: Alicia met Jordan at Columbia (College). I met Alicia at a collective house in the north side of Chicago. Alicia and Matt went to high school together.
Alicia: It's true! I started it as a solo project back in that house that Mike mentioned.
Alicia: Holy shit, yeah! No one knows that, or at least I thought no one knew that.
How long have you all been playing together then?
Alicia: Jordan and I started playing together in May 2011, but I think Oshwa actually started in winter of 2011, and by August 2011 Mike and I were playing together. Matt Noonan joined in winter 2012. Our first show as the current lineup was some time in February-ish of 2012
So you've been together a little over a year?
Alicia: Yes! That's crazy, but Matt left last summer, he left at the beginning of the summer for Peru and he came back just this December of 2012, so he was gone a good six or so months.
Alicia: Yeah! You're telling us.
So did he find himself?
Alicia: Ha! To be determined.
Did any of you play in bands prior to Oswha?
Mike: Matt was in Albatross and I played in Shiloh for a while.
Alicia: I never played in any bands, except for a little small stuff in high school.
The name Oshwa is very close to Osh Indian; is there something behind that?
Alicia: Osh Indian is a nickname that Matt gave me in high school in third hall.
And what made you decide to change it to Oshwa when you guys got together?
Alicia: Well the full nickname was "Oshwa the Indian" so it all stems from the same thing.
Ah! How Interesting! Ok so about this LP, When 'Old Man Skies' was released you turned a lot of heads interested in Oshwa's new distinct sound. Will the songs on your next LP resemble closer the sound we hear in 'Old Man Skies' or that of your older stuff? (Ex. Thanksgiving EP)
Mike: We're just finishing up the last two songs, but nah, Old Man Skies will stand out. Every song is different.
Alicia: I wouldn't say that Old Man Skies is like the "title track" or anything like that, though.
Would you consider your sound as mathrock?
Alicia: I think that label is going to be diminished when this album comes out.
Mike: I wouldn't say that that's not something you could consider us. I think people will probably steer away from that after the release of the record, because it will seem inaccurate.
Alicia: Yeah we're like "vaguely mathy" or something, but I wouldn't say that we're all "math" listeners or anything. I guess personally, I went to a lot of mathy shows in high school. I think the whole "mathy" label means different things to different people; Mike an' I were just talking earlier today about how "mathy" means different things to different people.
Mike: I don't know. I think me and Alicia just started writing really involved guitar things together.
Alicia: Yeah, I think despite our different pasts with "the guitar," Mike and I approach the instrument similarly and I think, as a band, we're all generally interested in music that's just not very immediate to the general public. We're all kind of music dorks in different ways, so we like things that make us work, make us think, make us try a zillion things before we figure it out, generally speaking.
Alright, so the more I think about this the harder it is to pin it down. What are your influences? Where does your butterfly math pop sound originate?
Mike: I think Matthew Noonan contributes a lot to a math rock sound, you can hear it in Albatross.
Alicia: I would say that most of the music I listen to, I wouldn't describe it as "mathy", but I was going to Albatross shows, maps & atlases shows, para-medics.
I think our list of influences is pretty vast. We all have different backgrounds with music, but Jordan and Matt and I were all band kids in high school. Jordan and I are also pianists, and we've studied a lot of piano literature, so there's a lot of that somewhere in our blood, too. But even as a band, we all have different favorite pop artists or current artists. Mike and I are probably the most similar in taste of the 4 of us
I think that as a band, each of us kind of brings what we personally want to hear
which is why the result is *~*oShWa*~* rainbows and unicorns!
What is your goal as a band?
Mike: I think it's good to keep changing. A lot of my favorite artists do that.
Alicia: I hope somewhere some college sophomore stays up all night listening to our LP when it comes out and it blows his/her mind. And yeah, I feel what Mike's saying, I think we'll keep changing a lot; we've already changed an insane amount.
Mike: Yeah, I want kids to listen to our music at college parties. I feel what Alicia is getting at, similarly!
How about high school sophomores?
Alicia: Hahaha also them
How long have both of you been playing and writing music and what instruments?
Mike: Well, I really only play guitar. I used to do some solo stuff and play drums and bass, and whatever other instruments I found that sounded good. It was kind of just a recording project. So six years, I guess. I've been writing songs for like three years though.
Alicia: Okay, I've played piano since I was 7. I started college as a piano performance major before switching to Columbia college. I started writing songs in high school on ukulele, Osh Indian type stuff, and I did that through my freshman year of college, but incorporated more piano. I didnt play guitar until like the inception of Osh Indian in jan 2011, essentially.
This is more out of my personal curiosity, a while back you sent me a link to your tracks you wrote as Osh Indian. Now out of all those tracks, one especially peaked my interest: the third track, titled "A Plan"; where on earth did you get the inspiration to write this? If you can't remember its fine.
Alica: Hahahaha, honestly, I have no idea where that whole plot came from, I just liked songs that told a story. That piano part, though, that was definitely inspired by an Elliott Smith song. I did that all in one day when my parents weren't home and I thought it was hysterical the entire time. I showed them when they came home, and they were just confused.
So recently you were singed to the small record label Naked Alley Records. How did this small record label discover Oshwa?
Alica: Well. Matt Frank, one of the co-founders of Naked Ally saw us play with joan of arc at swerp mansion in chicago, back in july of 2012, and then he saw us again at a show at space jam, the recording space/show space where we recorded our EP and then he approached us about the release and we have lived happily ever after.
So will this LP be the first release with naked ally?
Do you know any of the members of Renaissance Sound?
Mike: Steve Marek!
Alicia: He's doing a lot of our recording and mixing for the LP.
Are you guys in college and majoring for anything?
Alicia: I just graduated this past December with a degree in music composition.
Mike: I'm finishing up at Columbia studying audio/acoustics.
So was it worth it? Do you regret majoring in music, rather than something more practical?
Alicia: Absolutely not, no regrets. Music composition is definitely a niche world as far as college majors go. I think I could have done something like what Mike's doing and maybe had some things be slightly more applicable... but at the same time, a lot of who I am is influenced by the fact that I went to college for what I went to college for. I don't think I'd be who I am without having done things the way I did, even though I transferred a bunch. I honestly enrolled at Columbia college for composition because it really scared me.
Mike: I think studying music is completely applicable to the real world, especially when you are a musician.
So how long have you love birds been dating?
Matt: Ha ha. Shh...
Alicia: We started dating in August-ish of 2011.
Well I think that was all of my questions.
Alica: That's great!
Mike: Okay. This was fun.
Thanks so much, its been a pleasure!