I recently posted a quick note on Oxenfree, an intriguing new band out of Brooklyn. who caught my attention with their sweet new single, “Captain.” This week, I saw their captivating new video for the song and just had to learn more.
Here’s my quick conversation with lead singer Jeff Doyle, as well as an early look at the excellent video. Read it, watch it, love it, share it…
Cretin: Your sound is refreshing and unique. For someone not familiar with your music, how would you describe your particular niche in the rock marketplace.
Jeff Doyle: We’ve gotten lots of comparisons over the years, but hold a few closer to heart — Bruce Springsteen, Broken Social Scene, and The Replacements. We don’t think we’re actually comparable to any of them, but would like to think we’ve borrowed from each and created something fun, loud, and a bit more anthemic than some other things that are buzzy these days. And though in no way are we trying to write ‘anthems’, as that sounds douchey and horrible, we’ve also all listened to a lot of Bruce, so…
Cretin: Cool. As a New Jersey native, I’ve listened to a bunch of Bruce in my life, too. So, onto the new song “Captain,” it’s catchy as hell, and was one of our songs of the month in March, can you share a little about the creative process for the song?
Jeff Doyle: Well, thanks! Captain was actually a bit unique for us. It always feels like a lie when someone says, “This song was written in 10 minutes in the studio.” In this case, it was more like 20 minutes in my bedroom and then 3 years of not knowing what the hell to do with it. I hadn’t written a song on keys in years and so wasn’t at the piano to write — I was just messing around, probably playing bad covers of Rilo Kiley or something, and just stumbled upon that keys and bass riff. I recorded the riff quickly, felt it need something else and so grabbed a vocal effects box and recorded the looping background vocals. I then made that 10 second section loop for 3 minutes, threw on one more layer of nonsense lyrics and a Casio keyboard solo. And there it stayed for 3 years. Then last year I was going through a back catalog of song ideas and brought it to the band, who felt it strange but catchy, and we just spent some sessions making it into something real.
Cretin: The video is strange, really strange. You need to explain.
Jeff Doyle: It was the concept of all-around creative Emilie Soffe, who has more of a background in experimental theater than music videos. And when we riffed with her on what the song was about and ran through the lyrics, she grabbed onto one line in particular — “Big fish in the waves, over to Planet Rose” — and then laid out the whole concept right there. Paralleling a song about my desperate evening out seeking forlorn love in the city to a fish’s desperate (though more endearing) evening out of her tank seeking forlorn love. We also made a conscious decision to leave out the music video trope of cutting to the band pretending to play instruments, which I think makes it feel a bit stranger than the usual video; but, it is so you you can get lost in this weird little world. And weird is good.
Cretin: Cool, now it’s all coming together for me, it’s actually pretty damn creative.
Cretin: I love hearing piano and wish I heard it more often in rock songs these days. I enjoy that it plays such a prominent role in “Captain.” Is it a staple in your music?
Jeff Doyle: Keys are on a number of songs on the record and our last EP, but not as central as they are in “Captain.” Piano was my first instrument and I love playing, but is still a bit of a challenge to write on for me, having grown up on and emulated so many chunky guitar-based songs over the years. I’m excited to say that we’ve actually been writing and road-testing some new tracks that feature them more though!
Cretin: The new album Beacons comes out on May 13th, my birthday. Can you share a little more about what I should expect in this gift from the five of you?
Jeff Doyle: Sweet! Happy Birthday! Honestly, I feel like it might be fitting birthday jams — birthdays tend to be filled with poppy and loud music, dancing, and some yelling…all with an underlying depressing internal narrative reflecting on growing older and encroaching self-doubt.
Cretin: Ha, can’t really argue with that.
Jeff Doyle: We wanted to make a fun record, but one that wasn’t all just candy. So there’s some horns, some guitar solos, and a lot of chunky, poppy guitar-driven songs trying to get your feet moving, but also with some composition, arrangement, and sections to take you on a bit more of a ride. That’s the idea anyway. And just to note, the first line of the last track may suit the conclusion of a birthday evening pretty well — “Crawl asleep with clothes on, feeling free.”
Cretin: Nice, There’s probably about a 90% chance of that happening.
Cretin: The band just played SXSW. How was that experience?
Jeff Doyle: SXSW is crazy. Our hometown version is CMJ, and while it is crazy/silly/etc., it is all happening within a city that doesn’t care. Whereas in Austin, it felt like we just transported to SXSW City. Pretty much everyone we met was either a musician, an industry person, or a drunk asshole there for the free afternoon shows and random SWAG. That said, as silly as it was, we had a pretty good time. We played a few good shows, saw a lot of friends, and caught some bands we’d been meaning to see but just hadn’t yet.
Cretin: What are tour plans over the next few months?
Jeff Doyle: We’ll be on the road again in the summer, but are going to be spending some devoted time in the spring working on new material. We’ve had demo versions of some tracks we’ve been playing around with in the studio and on the road, and we’d really like to flesh them out, write a few more, and get back into the studio late this year if we can!
And, check out some other killer new music we’ve dug up for your enjoyment here: RARA’s Fresh Crops