PropertyOfZack Interview : : O’Brother

by Zack Zarrillo - Jun 8, 2011

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PropertyOfZack had the chance to talk to our good friend Tanner in O’Brother a few weeks ago and it turned into a great interview. Tanner and I discussed the band’s recent festival shows as well as touring with Manchester Orchestra, details behind their brand new record, future touring, and more. Read up and enjoy!

For the record, could you state your name and role in O’Brother?
I’m Tanner, and I play guitar and sing in O’Brother.

Last year really brought the band to the next level. How would you guys put 2010 into words in terms of exposure?
It was awesome. Basically everything changed at the beginning of 2010. March was when we went on our first major US tour with Manchester, and then directly after that we did the Thrice/Manchester things and that just kind of staged the rest of the year, so it was definitely a turning point. It was a really good year for us.

The band did some major touring as well in terms of lineups and lengths of tours. Did it take its toll on you?
Not really because the tours were a little more comfortable. In 2009 we did the same amount of touring. We still played 200 shows in 2009, but they were shitty shows for the most part. Touring for a long time at a certain point gets tiring, but those tours were way easier than what we had done in the past. The longest one we had done was ten weeks straight and we had done that the previous year but it was a lot harder. Everyone in 2009 on the ten week tour was out of money and broke and we were eating ramen every day.

The band has been sort of quiet this year, but O’Brother did take part in SXSW and Bamboozle. How were the festivals?
Really awesome. Both went better than we could have expected. SXSW is always fun because there are bands you know from all over the country on one place. It has all the qualities of the good parts of a big festival, but it’s in smaller venues. We had a great turnout at Bamboozle too.

O’Brother hit the studio in November with Andy and Robert from Manchester Orchestra. When did the writing process for the record start?
I guess we really hit the writing hard in September of last year. There are a couple songs on the record that had been floating around for more than a year. There’s one song that we almost tracked for the EP, but it wasn’t ready and it didn’t seem realized so we put it on the shelf and rewrote it. Most of the songs were written in to two three months from September to December.

How would you compare it to your previous material?
I would like to think that it’s a whole lot more mature and that we’ve kind of are finding our writing style. The EP was the first five songs that we wrote as a band. Some of those songs I had written on my own and brought them to the band, but we had much more time for trial and error. People would bring parts and we’d hash it out all together. Some of them were done the same, but it was a much more collaborative record. After touring so much, we definitely learned how to play together a lot more.

The band is obviously on Favorite Gentleman Records, but how did working with Andy and Robert get set up?
From the beginning they were interested. We’ve been friends for a long time, and they’ve been extremely supportive and have liked what we were doing. They’ve done a lot for us. It’s been awesome working with them on a record because they brought a whole other side of thing to the record. Our bands sound different, but we have a lot of common ground and we work well together.

Was it an interesting experience being in there together? Andy did guest spots as well right?
Yeah, he did. Andy’s strongpoint was that we would work out vocal parts and he did harmonies and one verse on one song. That was really cool just having him there because recording was even collaborative with Andy and Robert. They were like six and seventh members of the band for the five months that we were recording.

When did you guys wrap the recording process up?
We finished tracking right before we did that run for Bamboozle. We played two shows on the way to Bamboozle and we literally finished at 6:00 in the morning and drove straight to Virginia. We tracked for over five months.

It was announced that the record is called Garden Window. What does the title mean to the band in relation to the album?
The whole album has a very natural perspective metaphorically in terms of life and living and dealing with where you are. Metaphorically we wanted to take a very earthly approach to it. There are a lot of organic sounds and even lyrically it’s very organic.

How many tracks will be on the record?
Right now eleven. We might cut one because the album is 65 minutes. We’ve always been that kind of band. As of now it’s going to be eleven tracks.

There’s a tentative late summer release date, but has it been narrowed down anymore?
Not finalized. Probably anywhere between middle of August and beginning of September.

Should we start hearing any tracks shortly?
We’re hoping to release a track by the middle of July.

Mike Sapone is mixing the record. How did that come together?
When we first started working on the record, we were talking about who we’d get to mix it and I like the way he makes records sound, so I mentioned it to Andy, and Andy thought it was a perfect idea. He had his contact info and put me in touch with him and apparently had had heard and liked us and was stoked to work on the album.
POZ: Have you heard any of the mixes so far?
Tanner: Yeah, we just got back three or four songs of first draft mixes. It’s sounding awesome. He’s doing a really good job. It’s interesting to hear someone else’s take on it.

O’Brother are currently out on tour with Manchester Orchestra and Cage The Elephant. How have the first dates been so far?
It’s been awesome. These are the largest rooms that we’ve ever played. These shows are massive and hugely intimidating. The Filmore in Detroit, that was one of the largest venues I’ve ever seen. The room itself was frightening. They’re incredible and Cage is awesome. We consider ourselves very lucky to be on this tour.

Have fans been into the set?
It’s been awesome. I really could not have asked for us to be more well-received.

What can we expect in terms of touring after this run of dates?
After this run we’re not doing anything for a little while because we’ll be busy getting the album finished. We’re planning to do a full US in July.

Would you like to get overseas by the end of the year?
We’d love to. We want to get overseas, but we’ll see if that’s in the cards. We’ll take the opportunity.

I believe you also laid some vocals down for The Dear Hunter Color Spectrum. How was that experience?
It was awesome. We love that band a lot. It was cool because they did their Red EP at the same studio we recorded at. We took a break in the middle while they came in. They did the whole EP in like five or six days. We were all around hanging out with them. Andy and I did some guest vocals. Everything that I’ve heard sounds awesome.

Thanks so much for your time, is there anything else you’d like to add?
No, just thank you so much for following us.