The Unapologetic Psychedelic-punk of Osees, Interview

An Interview with John Dwyer: The Hardcore Psychedelic Music of Osees

Osees is an American rock band that originated in 1997 in San Francisco, California, and is currently based in Los Angeles. Initially a solo project by John Dwyer, the band has seen a rotating cast of musicians and undergone several name changes, yet Dwyer remains the consistent leader and primary songwriter. Known for their high-energy performances and substantial discography, Osees’ music blends elements of garage rock, krautrock, psychedelia, and folk. Currently, the lineup includes John Dwyer, who not only leads but also plays multiple instruments. He’s joined by Tim Hellman on bass, Paul Quattrone and Dan Rincon who both handle drums, creating a complex rhythmic backbone, and Tomas Dolas on keyboards, adding a psychedelic layer to their sound. Over the years, Osees have released twenty-six studio albums and have performed under various names, including The Oh Sees and Thee Oh Sees, reflecting their evolving style and lineup. Their sound is a fusion of traditional garage rock, layered with elements of 1960s psychedelia and modern krautrock. They often incorporate a lo-fi sound reminiscent of early punk bands but manage to bring a unique freshness with intricate melodies and complex rhythms.

What were the first musical projects you were involved in before forming Osees, and how did they shape your musical style?

My first band was called Krang—my first real band, anyway. It included Jeff Rosenberg from Pink and Brown, and it was sort of an alternate guitar tuning pop band. I was super into Polvo and early Sonic Youth—stuff like that. I certainly had earlier attempts at jamming, but nothing serious. I recently unearthed all my early four-track tapes and digitized them, which I plan on going through at some point. I learned how to play by jamming with people and still do that quite often. It’s my favorite way to open up creative paths. Then, obviously, I joined Landed, which led to Pink and Brown, Coachwhips, and many other smaller projects. Mainly, I took with me the Providence aesthetic of DIY booking, recording myself a lot—stuff like that. I also learned how to play for no one early on.

Can you recall a specific moment or event that made you decide to start a band?

I’ve told this story countless times, but the real moment I realized I wanted to pursue music was when I heard Can’s Monster Movie while on LSD.

What were some of the biggest challenges you faced when you were starting out as a band?

Certainly, it involved finding the right people to play with, getting people interested in coming to underground shows, and not sucking, ha ha. I think developing a sort of word-of-mouth/flyer-in-hand kind of scene in San Francisco was very helpful. Branching out and connecting with other bands that I liked, and trying to do shows with them helped in creating a sort of network.

The OSees interview
© Osees

Which musicians or bands were your initial major influences when you first started playing music?

For me, everything started with AC/DC, then The Cramps, Misfits, Adam and the Ants. Lots of metal, lots of punk. Voivod—I just never stopped soaking up everything around me. I love all kinds of music, but early on, it was definitely more on the aggressive side. And then I heard things like Whitehouse and Masonna and fell in love with noise.

What was your first piece of musical equipment, and do you still use anything from those early days?

My first piece of equipment was a cherry red Charvel electric guitar and a Crate amp. Both were stolen from a house where I lived, which was burned down afterwards. So, I don’t have any of that anymore. I’m pretty sure my parents gave them to me for my 16th birthday.

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© Osees

How did you land your first major gig, and what was the experience like?

I think the first gig I played was at a place called the Met Café in Providence, Rhode Island. I can’t remember who we opened for, and I was mortified and very stage frighty. I just kind of muscled through and got it over with. After that, things got a lot easier.

What’s the strangest thing that has happened during a recording session or a live performance?

I have a million stories in regard to that, but I would say some notable moments include audiences getting nude, fights, and some horrible things at shows. We’ve definitely had people die at shows, which is something you carry with you for the rest of your life. I’ve also spoken to people who met and got married at our shows, so I guess the wheel turns.

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© Osees

Of all the albums you’ve released, which one is your favorite and why?

It will always be the next one. I am already bored with all of our past material. I’m always curious about what’s around the corner.

What themes do you find yourselves returning to in your lyrics? What inspires these themes?

It’s impossible not to be affected by today’s world. Often, greed, fear, and things like that make their way into the lyrics. For respite, I often reach back into my childhood for things that calmed me and worked my imagination. It’s like a memory smell sometimes. A song can conjure a feeling of peace.

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© Osees

What has been the most memorable moment on tour?

Being with friends, eating a good meal, connecting with a crowd—it’s as simple as that.

Can you give us a sneak peek into any upcoming projects you’re exploring?

I’m working on a few things for this coming year. Obviously there will be new material from Osees. But I don’t want to divulge too much too.

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© Osees

Photo courtesy of Osees

Last Updated on May 14, 2024 by retrofuturista

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