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"That's what happens when you're not there for the mixing," Kristin warns. "People take your songs apart. That'll teach him."
OCG hasn't yet figured out how to perform "Two or Three" live -- "but when we do, it'll probably be the whole damn set," Byron says -- but the disc's other eleven songs will probably all make the setlist for its Friday, September 7, show at The Hurricane, although not exactly in their recorded versions. On disc, OCG achieves a gritty garage-rock feel by using an array of amps that muddies its angular, anthemic live sound. It also gives one of its oldest songs, "Action," a significant makeover, using oddly tuned guitars to produce a pristine chiming tone and enlisting James Dewees (Reggie and the Full Effect, The Get Up Kids) to add piano accents to the tune's hazy chorus.
Although its songs are short, OCG doesn't pursue many traditional pop melodies. It runs its riffs through sprint-and-stop interval workouts, staggers its rhythms and builds up to choruses that, while rousing, offer few hummable hooks or sing-along catch-phrases. Even its most memorable musical moment, "Laughing Dog"'s alluring, Big Country-style riff, plays a non-glamorous role, serving as a wordless bridge to a low-key resolution.
Byron's vocals, though largely laconic, are deceptively versatile. On "Keep it On" and "Lunch," the album's biggest rockers, he unleashes unseemly shouts that seem to shake his entire frame. For "Marshall, Will and Holly," he opts for a conversational delivery, casually wandering outside the beat to complete his thoughts. "Weightrr" sees him lapse into a distorted mumble. "It's what the song calls for," he explains. "I'm a slave to the songwriting. I do what I'm told." Before he resigns himself to the whims of the tunes, however, he must have absolute control. "Anything I sing, I have to write the lyrics, too," he says firmly. "I can't justify putting any thought or emotion into it if I didn't write it."
Letting Byron pen the lyrics is an easy enough concession for the rest of the band members to make, because none of them has singing experience -- except Kristin, who fronted the South Dakota-based punk group Switch. "I don't know if you could even call it singing," she clarifies. "It was a hardcore band, so there was a lot of screaming. A lot of mothers who saw it became very concerned that I wouldn't be able to talk anymore."
Much to the relief of moms everywhere, Kristin hung up her microphone. But she didn't give up on rock. After seeing her strumming a guitar in the house the two shared, Byron suggested that she take up the bass and play in his new project, which went on to become OCG. There were a few initial technicalities to overcome ("his bass weighed half of what I weigh," Kristin recalls), but after trading in for a less cumbersome model, she had little difficulty picking up the instrument.
Kristin has stuck with that bass ever since, but the group continues to add equipment, recently ponying up for a "fancy" handcrafted distortion pedal and a sampler ("I'm still reading the manual on that," Byron reports). With so many new toys to test drive and freshly written tunes to play, OCG's members aren't as susceptible to the temptation of side projects, which can quickly become demanding mistresses. Not that there haven't been a few flings -- Billy recently played a few reunion shows with Rocket Fuel is the Key and Byron sat in on guitar last Friday with Parlay at The Pub. But OCG's players are seriously committed to the band, a welcome sign of fidelity in a music scene ravaged by divorce.