Friday, February 24, 2012

O'Brother's Tanner Merritt on the art of melodic rock and the band's new album, Garden Window

Posted By on Fri, Feb 24, 2012 at 10:36 AM

  • Christy Parry Photography
The genre term "melodic metal" sounds a bit ridic', but it's not a bad descriptor for bands such as O'Brother. The band mixes heavy rock and atmospheric, ambient melodies.

The five-piece calls Atlanta, Georgia, home but is currently on a co-headlining tour with Junius. We recently spoke with Tanner Merritt of O'Brother and found out how the fellas got Andy Hull and Robert McDowell of Manchester Orchestra to produce the band's new album, Garden Window, and what the band has learned from other musicians while touring.

The Pitch: You guys mix heavy and some melodic, ambient stuff. How do you create music that complements both genres?

Merritt: Well, I think bridging between kind of naturally happens because everyone in the band has slightly different musical tastes. It's pretty broad. Those are two genres we all have really liked. And it just seems [to come] from wanting to do a little bit of both. Wanting to do ambient and melodic — the balance — we try not to make it confusing and try to have a happy medium.

Were any of you in any different types of genres of bands prior to forming?

Yeah. It's pretty weird. Our drummer, bass player, and one of our guitar players grew up together, and they played music together 14 years ago when they were all in middle school. And right after high school, I was in a bunch of ambient, instrumental bands. We're all over the place.

I read that your last tour helped shape your latest full-length album. Did people, bands you encountered help in the process, too?

Yeah, I think just the bands we were touring with shaped us as a band, the way we toured. And we've been fortunate enough to tour with some bands who've been doing this for a very long time. So I think we were able to learn things quickly. And watching those bands live influenced us musically as well.

I assume you met Andy Hull and Robert McDowell, the producers of your new album, while touring?

Well, actually before we were touring. We're all from Georgia, and they've kind of been supporters of the band ever since we started with our current lineup. They were always there to help us in any way they could, and then when it came time to do the record. We didn't have a label at the time, and no one was funding it, and we still wanted to do this record. They came to us out of the blue and were, like, 'Alright. We're going to make this work regardless of how we have to do it.' None of us had done a full-length by ourselves at that point, and we just figured it out as we went.

Were there any bumps in the road while recording, like, creative dry spots? Or did it go pretty well?

There were definitely some bumps in the road. Just it being our first full-length. We were tracking when we could. We were doing touring in between. A lot of us hadn't done it. So there were things that we did wrong, and we didn't realize we had done them wrong. So we had to go back weeks later and retrack, like, all the bass, or certain parts of a song. So, yeah. It took a long time because of that. Full of trial and error.

Have you started thinking about your next album? I assume you'll do it a little differently. And will the subject matter, sound be any different?

I've been thinking about doing the next album. And since we finished this one, I think it's kind of always on your mind. I think we're the type of band that wants constant progression in everything we do. I think with each album, we will slightly change and progress as we become a better band, but not so much to lose your audience. I mean, they obviously like you for a sound.

I assume fans are reacting well to the album?

We've been extremely pleased with the response from it. This is our first headlining tour, and we've been doing a lot of supporting tours for bigger bands. So it's really awesome to see kids coming out to all these shows for us. Just singing along and saying they really love the new album. That they were waiting on it.

How did the co-headlining tour come to be? How'd you meet the band?

We actually officially met them on the first show of the tour. It was just one of those things that we were mutual fans of each other, and our booking agent thought it would be a good fit, and we thought it would be a good fit. It's been great. They are a great band, fun to tour with.

When will you have a break from touring, and will that break be welcomed?

I think we will have a short break after this tour, but we just had a really long break over the end of the year when our album was released. And our bass player, Anton, just got married, so he was planning his wedding. Even though breaks are always welcome to a certain extent, I think we're really ready to tour a lot for the most part of this year.

Junius and O'Brother perform at the Jackpot Sunday. Doors for the 18-and-older show open at 8 p.m. Cost is $8 in advance, $10 at the door. Support from Maps for Travelers.

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