Monday, March 11, 2013

Interview With Owel (3/8/13)

Owel, which according to vocalist/guitarist Jay Sakong is pronounced "ohl," has been recently been making waves in the Jersey music scene due to their excellent combination of ambient string filled post-rock and emo. Formerly known as Old Nick, the band's self-titled record was just recently released on CD, and is now gearing up for the full release of the album. Jay took questions from us involving topics such as the name change, reasons for keeping the original release physical only, release dates for the digital and vinyl versions of the album, an upcoming music video, and much more that you can read below.

You guys used to be known as Old Nick, then you changed your name to Owel at the end of last year. What made you guys decide to change the band’s name?

J: We had a bassist Dan Zaleski who left around that same time because he wanted to focus on family things. It was a good separation, no animosity or anything, it was all really cool. Also, this band from California hit us up and said that they have this name. And I was like “that’s great” because the first thing you do when think of a band name is that you Google it to make sure nobody has it and I couldn’t find anything about them. I asked how I couldn’t have heard of them or seen anything about them and they said they’ve had the name since before the Internet existed. Apparently they’re doing some reunion tour and they had that name. We weren’t super attached to the name to begin with, so we just decided to change it.

What is the significance behind the name Owel?

J: Well, there is none. There really isn’t. I’ve always liked the idea of naming a band without the name saying too much. It’s just like how one would name their kid. Like the name Bob, what does that mean? As far as I’m concerned, a name like Bob or Jay or Casey doesn’t mean anything, it’s just a title given to a person. And this band being very much our baby, I would the idea of giving it a name and not having the name speak for what the band will be. There are so many bold names out there such as, off the top of my head, My Chemical Romance. I didn’t see us as a band like that.

You guys recently released your self-titled album. How’s the reception been so far?

J: It’s good. It’s really good. We’ve given it to a couple of blogs and people to review. You guys did an awesome review. You reviewed it, right?

It wasn’t me, I have to give all credit for Mat on that one, who really focuses on that post-rocky sort of area. He did a great job.

J: Yeah, he did an awesome job. I think that was my favorite review so far. I didn’t even think of that, I haven’t connected those two dots until now, but he gave us a super nice review. It’s funny because I was writing this bio for the band to give to our PR people. I just hate saying things about us, it’s just kind of embarrassing really. I actually used a quote from that review in our bio. If it came from someone else, at least it doesn’t make me look like such an asshole. The reviews have been really good. We haven’t released it digitally yet, but the people who have gotten the physical CD through our Bandcamp seem to be really enjoying it.

You guys have gotten a lot of slack for only releasing the album in physical form so far. What was your reasoning for wanting to keep it away from digital stores for the first few months of its existence?

J: The actual reason is kind of silly. People think that it was some sort of idealist thing. On some forum, I think it was AbsolutePunk, people were saying “I commend their decision to pay tribute to the old way of physical music” and everyone assumed we were making a statement, but we definitely weren’t. I apologize to everyone who thought we were doing something cooler than we were. We never have a game plan about the business side of things and the marketing side of things. I know those are sort of dirty words when it comes to music. We never thought of that kind of stuff. Right before the January 18th album release show, I had a conversation with this guy Matt Feldman who is a manager for a couple of the producers at the studio Machine Shop, and he was telling me that you should really have your ducks in a row for this, you shouldn’t just release it and have it not really be heard by as many people as it should be. You need to get everything in order with the blogs; in these days is important to understand the power the online media has. We just wanted to make sure everything was in order with that before we released it. Let’s just say hypothetically that a Pitchfork wanted to have it be featured on their website, if it was released already then it wouldn’t quite be exclusive and I don’t know. All that sort of stuff is over my head. It has to do more so with the business sort of things rather than an idealistic view on CDs and MP3s.

When do you expect to be posting the album online for purchase?

J: I just got an email today that April 2nd we have locked in for the digital release.

I saw pictures of you and Jane playing string instruments, which I assume was for the recording of the album. Do you guys have a classical music background?

J: As long as I’ve known Jane pretty much, she’s been playing violin. I knew her as a little kid as we both came from traditional Korean backgrounds and Catholic backgrounds. Our parents took us to the same church as kids, and that’s how I met her. She’s been playing violin for a while, and not too long ago picked up viola to expand on that. For me, I just picked up the cello a couple of months ago. I’m trying to learn it. It’s not something that I may be performing with live any time soon, but I hope I pull it off well enough.

Do you play the strings live at shows?

J: Mhmm. Jane plays the five-string violin. It’s cool, because at the beginning she would play viola because the sound of the viola complements the music a little bit better, but as we went on we found out that there was a lot we could do with the last high string on the violin. So she got this five-string violin that has pretty much the four strings from the viola and the four strings from the violin, so it’s the best of both worlds.

How does that change the experience of performing to have to switch off between instruments?

J: For a band like us that isn’t currently playing huge venues there are only so many DI boxes, and we have to take into account that we don’t have as much freedom as a band that plays larger venues. For a while when we played “Float,” when Seamus went to his guitar lead I would jump over to the keyboard, and he would jump on to the keyboard and I would play my guitar lead. That’s what we did for a while, but after a while we realized that there is no room. I have to crawl behind Seamus and Jane to get to the keyboard and it is awkward. So I don’t think we do that anymore, but we have to take that into account. When we bring in different instruments to the live show, we have to know where we’re playing. I do plan on busting out the cello some time soon hopefully and that would mean that with the keyboard, the violin, the cello…that’s three DI boxes, and usually people like to box the bass and a lot of places don’t have four DI boxes. It’s a bummer.

You began the album with the longest song on the album, “Snowglobe.” What was the reasoning for taking that risk and putting the longest song first?

J: With the first song, you go about it in two ways. With some records you want the first song to immediately grab a listener so they don’t eject the CD. At least for the people like me who still listen to CDs, I’m still behind the times. In our case, I wanted to have a song that represented what the whole album would be. I felt that “Snowglobe” really captured the softer side of us and everything in between quite nicely.

“Death In The Snow” features Kevin Dye from Gates. What made you choose him to sing on the song with you?

J: Well first of all, I just love the guy and we’re pretty good friends. We play together a lot. I’ve never done a song in Owel or Old Nick or anything with a guest vocalist, so I wanted to try it out, and who better to do it than our good friend Kevin. We had this song and I had written this part for a scruffier vocal that wouldn’t be suited for me, and he came in and nailed it.

You’re doing a video for “Once The Ocean.” What made you choose that song to film a video for?

J: How did you know you were doing the video for “Once The Ocean.”

It was posted on your Facebook page.

J: Really? I don’t know who posted it. It could have been me that posted it. When you have five people manning a Facebook, there are posts that you see where you have no clue who wrote it and they’re embarrassing or something. I’m sure I write things that people in the band think “we shouldn’t have said that.” It’s like a schizophrenic person with a Facebook, having five people try to express things. Back to “Once The Ocean.” I don’t know, that’s a weird one. I love the song personally, but it wouldn’t be your single, as they say. Usually in the case of music videos, you have a song and you write the video to it. In this case, I had an idea for a video, and then we had to figure out which song fit the video. It wasn’t like a well thought out thing on our end to market it as a next single or anything, we just thought it’d be a cool idea for a video and I thought this song would go well with it. It’s more of an art project. If no one pays attention for it, it’s just like any other art project, done for the sake of doing it.

There’s also been a rumor of an upcoming vinyl release. Is that happening?

Yeah, that is happening. Our good friend Dan Marter has been helping us out so much throughout this whole process. He’s our band manager, so we call him Danager. He’s just doing so much crazy stuff for us and so much work for us for no reason. I don’t know why. Once in a while I’ll ask him, but I don’t want to awaken him from what he’s doing for us. But yeah, he’s making the vinyl for us, and releasing it. It should be cool. The presentation of the vinyl will be a little different from the CD obviously. When you open the vinyl, it’s going to look different from just a large version of the CD. It should be cool.

Do you have any timeline for that yet?

It will probably come out at about the same time as the digital comes out, so around April 2nd.

Do you guys have any plans to tour outside your local area in upcoming months?

We don’t. We have no plans to tour right now. It’d be nice, but we are the worst band. We are the worst. Any other band has a game plan when they release something. Tour, support the record, this and that. We’re just the worst, since we don’t do these things. I mean, we do, but we’re too lazy to follow through with it I guess. We love to play shows and I’d love to tour, but we just haven’t planned anything out yet. And at this point everyone has their day-to-day real jobs that keep them grounded, but at some point we need to make that leap and go on tour.

Any last things you want to say?

That’s all! Thanks for having me.

I'd like to thank Jay again for answering our question. The band has been my favorite discovery so far this year, releasing what is currently my favorite record of 2013. It's something that everyone should listen to, and it's worth taking the plunge to buy the album on CD now. If you want a preview, you can listen to a few tracks on the band's Facebook page, and look forward to that April 2nd release date of the digital album and the vinyl release soon to be out on intheclouds.

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