Destroy All Monthly interview with Ozma - May 2003
"2 P, you take my control. Teach me how to rock'n'roll or I'll fall down and die. I bet you don't know how to find our extra life times 99. I know you try but still we die..."
Anyone with the slightest knowledge of video game trivia will spot the reference to Super Mario Brothers in "Gameover," off Ozma's latest CD "Spending Time On the Borderline." Take a look at the band's website as well and notice how practically everything is related to vintage Nintendo games, bringing back memories of the days when owning the Power Glove meant being the collect kid don't he block. Then there's their rendition of "Korobeiniki (Traditional Russian Folk Song)" off "The Russian Confusion" EP which most people will recognize as the theme song to Tetris. Christ, Ozma, what's with the video game fixation?
"Our website is so old. We're going to get something new up soon for the new record; but that (Nintendo) was just something we were into when we were younger," said Ozma vocalist and bassist, Daniel Brumme, explaining the incorporating of video game references. "Our first couple of records were about nostalgia and childhood and longing for safety and comfort. I don't really play [video games] anymore."
That's a relief. Better to cease now before announcing a Duck Hunt tour or something similar.
Before any angry Ozma fans write hate letters to Destroy All to complain about how I, the writer, poked fun at their favorite band, let's make it clear that I'm not. To be honest, I like Ozma. I'm not going to label myself a fan, but I've been exposed to their music for a good five years. To that, I thank my younger sister who repeatedly blasted her Ozma CDs at top volume on her stereo, forcing me over time to eventually recognize an Ozma tune whenever and wherever I heard one. Also, as a resident of San Gabriel Valley, I've seen many young indie-kids sporting Ozma t-shirts and badges. Especially in the Pasadena area where Ozma is from. Surely the youngsters have been aware of something spectacular their older brothers and sisters were too arrogant and/or stupid to realize. Well, the word is out. Ozma has talent. No, even better: Ozma is talent! Their combination of intelligent lyrics and sparkling harmonious melodies produces a blissful musical sensation that aggressive power-chord groups can't imitate...unless they were on Ritalin maybe. If my words aren't good enough, there's the noteworthy fact that Ozma has toured the country supporting the likes of Weezer and Nada Surf. Yes, Nada Surf, that "Popular" band from 1996. Remember them? Yes, they still exist. But back to Ozma. It's members (that's Brummel, Jose Galvez and Ryen Siegr on Guitars, drummer Patrick Edwards, and keyboardist Star Wick) had done a lot for themselves considering they've relied mainly on their musical capabilities rather than connections.
Continuing my conversation with Brummel. So, the members of Ozma have decided to shelve their systems and move forward. Since their previous CD, it's evident they've been honing their craft both musically and lyrically. On "Spending Time On the Borderline," their romantic, but not downright maudlin, pop songs that make Ozma appealing, still exist. However, the band's horizons have broadened past personal experiences to acknowledge issues that are hard to be ignored (a common tread these days). "Bad Dogs" carries a discreet anti-war message ("A thousand dogs are loose in the night. You say they're for protection, but you use them for fight...") while views from the WTC attacks, censorship, and marshal government are expressed in "Curve in the Old 1-9 " and "Turtleneck Coverup."
"In terms of lyrical content, we're writing for people our age because we're writing about ourselves. I hope the fans from our first couple of records will stick with us and grow with us."
Numerically speaking, the fans certainly have certainly grown. Ozma has become one of the most popular local bands in Southern California in the past couple years. Girls like them for their melodramatic lyrics, yet they have enough guitar bite to please the boys as well. In short, fans of emo music love, love, love Ozma. That doesn't mean, though, that Ozma loves emo.
"I dont like the label, "emo," at all." Daniel stressed. "There's the original emo-core from the eighties like Fugazi who I love. Then it got watered down and after Weezer's album, "Pinkerton," lots of bands took that over-emotional style and sucked out the melody and songwriting craft that Rivers Cuomo had down. You Just get this whining, melodramatic, bland stuff that I can't stand. I hope we don't get grouped in with them because we play heartfelt music."
Before any of you emo kids think that Daniel isn't thankful for your support and throw a huge tantrum, keep in mind that he does indeed appreciate your loyalty. What he wants is for Ozma to be admired because they are Ozma, and they are good. Remember, the best musicians are the ones who attract fans of other genres of music. Leave the segregation to stuffed-up posers.
"I like playing for different groups of people," said Daniel. "That's why I like touring. Right now we're in Tulsa Oklahoma which was a tough city to play. In Indianapolis, we had to play a bar in front of all these cowboys and we're from Los Angeles with dyed hair playing this new wave type of music. It was a challenge, but we welcomed it. We won the crowd over by playing our hard rock songs instead of our wussy, emotional songs.
Isn't it great when a musician describes his songs as "wussy"? It means he doesn't take himself so seriously Then please explain the lyrics "Come Home Andrea," a song that can be deemed "wussy."
"Andrea is my girlfriend of three years. There's not a whole lot of real people in our songs when we write love songs. We don't cop out when naming some character/ We have a song called 'Denise" from 'The Cosby Show.' With 'Andrea,' I wanted to take that stereotype of the raunchy, bloated rock star who writes power ballads about his girlfriend with her name in the title. It's so 80's and Raunchy. I wanted to take that and go far with it."
Ozma returns to Los Angeles on May 17 with a homecoming show at the El Ray Theatre. Not bad for a band whose sets at No Future café in Pasadena are still freshly embedded in the memories of those who attended. Given the size and space of the venue there's plenty of room for recently converted fans. What awakening experience should they expect?
"Us being loud, melodic, and heartfelt is all I can promise," replied Daniel. "Hopefully we're getting tighter everyday, but we're not flawless. We have good shows and bad shows. We just try to have it all come from the heart."
"Plus I sweat a lot."
Story by: Erica Kinnelly