Shortly after releasing their sophomore record Chronovision, AMBY had the pleasure of giving Oberhofer frontman Brad Oberhofer a call to discuss orchestral intros, experimental recordings, walking in cemeteries, digging David Bowie, and drawing plants. Learn more about the stellar record and Oberhofer himself in our exclusive interview below. Chronovision is now available for download via iTunes here.
Oberhofer: Hey Alicia. Thanks for calling and doing this.
AMBY: No problem at all, thank you! How are you doing?
Oberhofer: I’m really good. Hanging out in LA.
AMBY: Oh cool, I’m glad you’re doing well. The first time I saw you was actually in Toronto where you played Yonge and Dundas and I’ve been a fan ever since, so I’m thrilled we could do this chat today.
Oberhofer: That was such a good day.
AMBY: The Flaming Lips!
Oberhofer: Yea, it was Flaming Lips and Of Montreal.
AMBY: I love Of Montreal so much. I actually went to that show to see Of Montreal, so it was neat to discover you on the bill, because I haven’t heard of you before that day.
Oberhofer: Yea, that was an awesome day.
AMBY: Well, I must congratulate you on the release of your new record Chronovision! I know it’s been in the works for a while, so I’m assuming it must feel pretty great to finally have it out there?
Oberhofer: It feels really good.
AMBY: It’s one of my favourite records of the year. It openers with an orchestral song, the title track. Why did you decided to kick things off and open the record with the instrumental intro?
Oberhofer: The thing is that the orchestral intro was connected to the second song on the album, Nevena. I’ve always been interested in writing classical music and writing orchestral music, so that orchestral intro I recorded in my apartment in New York. It just felt good to start the album with something that I recorded at home, and I recorded on my own with string players. I felt like having an introduction to an album that kind of sets the tone is really important.
AMBY: I read that you actually had over 100 demos created for the album. How did you go about narrowing it down to just the twelve that appeared on the record?
Oberhofer: It was a really long process. We first recorded a version of the album with a producer and then eventually got rid of it and started over. Then after we started over, I wrote some new songs and I tried rerecording some old songs and even rerecording parts of the songs at the studio in New York, Electric Lady. After that I wrote a bunch of new songs and kept going back and forth with the label. The label wasn’t into some of the songs, some of the recordings, since some of the recordings I made were pretty out there and pretty crazy sounding. They just didn’t fit the album or fit the structure of the album. I just picked the songs that were the most cohesive.
AMBY: You mention how it’s pretty experimental. What kind of things were you messing about with that maybe didn’t make the record — as in the things that were a little more out there?
Oberhofer: I’m working on another record right now that might include some of those things. That may be an in between album type thing. A lot of the songs have no chorus. They’re not linear and they have no sections that repeat themselves. They have a lot of weird sound effects and they’re sort of intended to sound like dreams I had or like things that happened to me. Maybe I’m singing from the perspective of an alter ego that isn’t me or doesn’t necessarily fit under the name of the project because it comes from a completely different voice.
AMBY: Chronovision was recorded and produced in cities all across America like Los Angeles, you mentioned New York, and your hometown in Washington. How did you find that experience of writing in different places?
Oberhofer: I’m never really phased by travelling at all because recording studios kind of feel the same everywhere you go. The only difference is you have a change of scenery. You get to walk to different places. When we’re mixing the record in Atlanta I got to walk around the cemetery every day. In LA I spent a lot of time driving around or running on the beach. In Washington state, I’m from there I was hanging out with my parents a lot. In New York, I live there now. There’s always interesting scenery in New York.
AMBY: What’s one of your fondest memories from the writing course, being that you were in different spots? Does a particular city come to mind when you reflect on recording?
Oberhofer: I mean they all do, but the one thing that kind of sticks out most in my mind is probably because it’s the most recent was mixing in Atlanta with Ben Allen. I would come to the studio, talk about maybe what I was thinking about for a song, and then I would leave and go get a cup of coffee and a cookie. I would walk around the cemetery and just walk around. I don’t know, I mean I must’ve done this something like 15 times. Just walked around this cemetery and eat a cookie and drink a coffee.
AMBY and Oberhofer: [laughs]
AMBY: Your music always has these psychedelic and new wave undertones, and I love how those hints were carried onto this new album. Are you a fan of eighties or new wave music, or are these nuances just there coincidentally?
Oberhofer: I’m not specifically a fan of 80s music, but I’m a huge fan of The Cure. And he’s not even only 80s, I think he spans four decades now. So yea, I’m a huge fan of The Cure and that might fit in. I’m a huge fan of David Bowie and am really into 70s and 80s era David Bowie, too.
AMBY: Awesome. I saw that you recently Tweeted out “If you buy a copy of Chronovision and send a photo to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, then I will draw any plant or animal of your choosing and send it to you”. Where did this idea come from?
Oberhofer: I just wanted people to know that if they’re going out to buy the record, that means a lot to me and I’ll draw a picture. I still haven’t drawn the pictures yet because I’ve been tending to other things in the present but I think next week I’ll gonna have a chance to sit down and draw those pictures and send them out. It’s kind of fun for me. I want to work on my drawing skills too, for me to sit down and draw some plants and animals might be good for my drawing skills.
AMBY: Is art something you regularly take interest in or is it something that you want to take up?
Oberhofer: I don’t know. I just want to work on my skills. I don’t know if I want to take it up. I guess I take a little bit of interest in it.
AMBY: Outside of music and art, because of course we know Oberhofer for the music and the awesome performances, what do you enjoy doing in your downtime?
Oberhofer: In my downtime I really enjoy… I don’t know. I only spend time making music basically.
AMBY and Oberhofer: [laughs]
AMBY: When I ask people that, they’re always like “there is a world outside of music?” [laughs]
Oberhofer: I mean, I read. I walk around aimlessly quite a bit. I just like to walk mostly.
AMBY: To wrap everything up today, for your fans who are going to be reading our interview, is there anything that you want to say to them all?
Oberhofer: Yea. I just want to tell my fans that it means a whole lot to me, and that supporting any artist basically keeps them alive as an artist. And that if artists have no support, they will have no money to keep on and have to get another job and spend less time making music. The less time they get to spend making music freely because everyone has to work to make a living. To give them the opportunity to make music for a living, they can make more music for you and spend more time making music that you my love. And if they don’t get any support, well then they have to spend all their time working at a café and they get burnt out from working maybe 10 hours a day at the café. And then it’s harder to make music and it’s harder to find time and that’s the reason why a lot of artists quit. It’s because everyone’s got to sustain themselves, and if you can give musicians or any artist the opportunity to sustain themselves with music, then you get more.
Thank you Oberhofer, for giving us your answers!
Interview by Alicia Atout | @AliciaAtout