Loud Energy interview with Ozma - 2000

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Original article (archived by Wayback Machine): https://web.archive.org/web/20010822155527/http://www.loudenergy.com/music/v010/aotw_ozma.shtml


What kind of musical chaos ensues when the rock 'n' roll torch of the 20th century is handed down to a generation raised on such 1980s cultural staples as Nintendo, Back to the Future, and Tron? The answer is something of an oxymoron: a very orderly chaos. The Los Angeles powerpop supergroup Ozma quietly evolved their unique brand of orderly, guitar-based, synth-driven chaos in the latter half of the 1990s. They have been putting on club level concerts in every Southern California rock venue for years, and as singer Ryen Slegr would say, "getting the booties in the door and out on the floor." Accordingly, they have amassed a formidable following, built on a powerful (yet surprisingly intimate) live show, self-released cassettes and CDs, and (perhaps most strongly) an ongoing presence in the online world

Ozma formed when songwriters Slegr and Jose Galvez (guitarist) met Daniel Brummel (bassist, singer, songwriter) 5 years ago on the internet, and ever since then, they have used the medium to their advantage. Their self-designed website, www.ozmaonline.com, boasts more than 25,000 hits - a hotspot for fans looking to find reliable show dates, song downloads and lyrics, and other pertinent Ozma information. They consistently top the mp3.com powerpop charts with songs they release to the public free of charge at www.mp3.com/ozma - songs which give net users an incentive to purchase actual CDs with other tracks.

Ozma has sold thousands of CDs online, to listeners in several of the world's nations, and students familiar with the band's websites have begun requesting them on American college radio stations - all of this without the assistance of any record label, major or otherwise. They're confident that the January 2000 release of their new album Rock and Roll Part Three (produced by Bruce Witkin, released and codistributed by the label they have formed, Tornado Recordings) will lead to successes in store sales and commercial radio airplay, nationally.

Band influences are eclectic, including artists in genres as varied as jazz fusion, video game soundtracks, punk rock, and even classical music; Brummel manages to fulfill his duties on bass while pursuing a degree in traditional music composition at UCLA, where Slegr also attends. The contemporary acts that come up most in descriptions of the band are Hum, Ben Folds Five, and Weezer. The band is not afraid to cite groups like these as their dominant influences - but they're also quick to point out that they're not interested in blindly restating anyone else's musical ideas. Brummel, Slegr, and Galvez, with drummer Patrick Edwards and keyboardist Star Wick, concentrate on writing dynamic, lyrically interesting, melodically memorable songs ("more hooks than a fisherman," as one fan put it). They have been fortunate enough to be able to learn their trade firsthand from the best - previous recordings have been produced by Jason Cropper (formerly of Weezer) and Rod Cervera (The Rentals) - but they have never let go of their innovative approach to harmony and song arrangement, apparent both in epics like "Battlescars," and revved-up speed jams such as "In Search of 1988" and "Rocks." The way many of their melodies originate is also a testament to their imagination as musicians (and their roots in 80s technology): Brummel and Slegr use one of the band's keyboards (a Casio CT-700) to improvise at slow tempi and then speed up their creations to allow them to discern the quality melodies.

They have even been known to push demo CDs of these crazy digital improvisations they call "Commuter Music" onto their unsuspecting friends. One such song containing melodies made this way is "Domino Effect," the opening track on Rock and Roll Part Three. This fun-loving, imaginative approach to rock music is also obvious in their quirky approach to love songs. They have become known to many Star Wars fans for their song "Natalie Portman," a power-ballad about the teen actress (which was written "long before any of this Queen Amidala stuff, as Brummel will immediately point out). Another example is "Lorraine," an ode to Lea Thompson's character from 1985's Back to the Future, which was a crowd favorite off of their self-released 1998 collection of demo tracks, titled Songs of Inaudible Trucks and Cars. This collection also featured "Iceland," a tune which Ozma gladly donated to Seattle's Vast Records as the opening track on the 1997 tribute compilation Hear You Me! in memory of Weezer fanclub founders Mykel and Carli Allan, who were killed in an auto accident earlier that year. Other artists who had been touched by Mykel and Carli chose to remember them by rocking out on Hear You Me! - including that dog., Beck, and Weezer. Even in death, Mykel and Carli contributed to the world of heartfelt rock music, and the release of Hear You Me! augmented crowd turnout at Ozma shows. They became a mainstay in a club scene that included such established acts as Kara's Flowers (Reprise), Phantom Planet (Interscope), Smile (Headhunter/Cargo) and Nerf Herder (Arista).

In September 1999, they were introduced to producer Bruce Witkin (Adam Ant), who owns and operates Pop Squad Records and Studios in Hollywood. It was there that they spent more than a month recording the 10 tracks of orderly chaos that constitute their first full-length album. Ozma is currently playing all over California with bands including Weezer and Nada Surf, in support of Rock and Roll Part Three.


Loud Energy: Who are the members of the band and how did you all get together?

Ozma: Daniel Brummel - vocals, bass

Patrick Edwards - drums

Jose Galvez - guitar, vocals

Ryen Slegr - vocals, guitar

Star Wick - keys

Jose, Ryen, and Pat met in high school. Ozma officially formed when Daniel entered the group in 1995, and a string of keyboardists were used until Star Wick solidified the lineup in 1998.

Loud Energy: Where is the band from?

Ozma: Pasadena, CA, a suburb of Los Angeles.

Loud Energy: Do you have any CD's available to purchase and where?

Ozma: "ROCK AND ROLL PART THREE" is our latest release, and is available for $10 + s/h from both www.ozmaonline.com and www.mp3.com/ozma Also available is a collection of early demos, "SONGS OF INAUDIBLE TRUCKS AND CARS."

Loud Energy: Who produced your latest release?

Ozma: Bruce Witkin at his own Pop Squad Studios, Hollywood CA.

Loud Energy: What are your plans for this summer? Recording, touring etc...

Ozma: We just finished up a short stint opening for Weezer, and we are currently considering working with producer David Eaton (his track "Boyz N The Hood" for Dynamite Hack has been doing very well on L.A. and national radio).

Loud Energy: Who is the band's biggest influence?

Ozma: We are most often compared to Weezer, though our influences are quite varied, including older groups like Boston, Big Country, INXS, Depeche Mode, the Beatles, and more recent acts like Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, and Hum.

Loud Energy: Do you have any up coming shows? Where?

Ozma: An updated show listing is at www.ozmaonline.com/nshows.htm

Loud Energy: What are your favorite bands? Who do you have playing in your car stereo now?

Ozma: SMILE is a great outfit from Costa Mesa, CA. They've got an incredible album out called GIRL CRUSHES BOY, and I think we all really dig that record. Also, Cornelius from Japan, older Chick Corea records with Return to Forever, and Russian folk music.

Loud Energy: What is the hardest thing to do while being in a band?

Ozma: For me, it's to remember that nothing matters about your band if you haven't got good material. You can have the best PR and record distribution and website and all that stuff... but if you haven't got 10 tracks that'll blow people away, you don't have anything. The songs are what matter.

Loud Energy: Do you have a favorite band story? Tour fight, fanatic fan etc...

Ozma: We've got a really great fan in New Jersey named Carolyn. She sends us all birthday presents. No major fights yet, knock on wood!

Loud Energy: Additional comments...

Ozma: We're forever indebted to our online fans. We have been able to survive as band because we've got a humongous internet following, we do all our record sales online, and we promote all our shows online. You fans sitting at home, at your computers... you're the frickin' best.

See also