Austin act Oh No Oh My's music is full of skillful pop hooks, lush string parts and sunny melodies, but the tunes disguise a darker lyrical streak. Malcontents and the insane abound in the gracefully melodic songs. Multi-instrumentalists Daniel Hoxmeier, Joel Calvin, Greg Barkley and Tim Regan make up the band; Hoxmeier discusses their new album "People Problems" (out Tuesday) and how Oh No Oh My is able to tour Europe for two months with three self-released albums.
I keep seeing references to you guys as a Nashville band? Were you there very long?
No! We were in Nashville nine months! That's where we went to school for audio engineering program (at the SAE Institute of Technology, Nashville). We wanted to do the same (SAE) program in LA but it didn't work out, so we went to Nashville. We moved back here as soon as we could. We only went there because the band wasn't really taking off here so we thought, "Let's go to audio engineering school so we can record better." When people took notice of our band was around the time we were in Nashville, so we got labeled as a Nashville band which is kind of a bummer.
Let's talk about the new album. What makes a great pop song, and is there a theme running through "People Problems"?
To me, it's all about melody. That's what intrigues me, it's the most important thing and it's what should come first. Besides that, it's whatever comes out of my mouth and if I can remember it. If I can remember it and if it sounds like something that somebody will else remember and latch on to and has its own identity, it becomes part of the song. I don't really have a formula.
As for the theme, well, half the songs were spearheaded by me and half are Greg. Most of my songs have to do with people going crazy or losing their grip on reality to an extreme level. There's a song on there called "Summer Days" about the apocalypse, but that's kind of the metaphor for being overwhelmed by life. "Brains" is about somebody caught up in their own mind and they go crazy. "No Time for Talk" is about killing your parents. There's another one called "So I Took You" about slitting a girl's throat. So the theme is definitely "people problems."
You have self-released three CDs but are able to do an eight-week tour in Europe. That seems pretty impressive. How are you able to pull that off?
We'll be in Europe for 56 days and I think 47 or 48 of those are shows, including a run of 20 in 20 days. I think we're bigger in Europe than we are here, possibly because we've actually done quite a few commercials all over Europe. Even if our music isn't on the radio, someone might hear a song and think "I know that from this ad." We've done at least 20, including one for the cell phone company Orange which is like AT&T over there, and one for Nissan (for the Nissan Micra) which is worldwide except for America, one for Interstate Batteries. Some of these have been for five figures, one was for six figures, which sounds like a great deal of money, except it is split four ways and most of it goes back into the band.