I stopped daydreaming about music and started playing in college: Eve-Eyed, IG88, Pygmy Dynamo, and a Tool-esque band called Axis. I knew I was not going to stay in Texas any longer than I had to, so it was hard to get too invested in a project.
When I moved to Seattle, I hit the ground running. I’ve played with Chiaroscuro, Mother, Five Minute Fall, and others. The project that got my hopes up was called The Exterior, a glam “Bowie-on-metal” project. We had an amazing sound and a good set of tunes, but it was one of those bands where we kept changing drummers for no reason. It’s funny now.
More recently, I played keys and wrote songs for a metal band called Waking Hour. The band steered out of my hands once we started getting popular and making some really high profile gigs, which I’m very proud of. But, you know, at that point the guitarist gets weird and fires the singer, claims ownership of the band, and I couldn’t stay invested.
Overlapping with Waking Hour was The Witching Hour… no relationship to Waking Hour, despite the ridiculous name similarities. Anyway, we played some exciting gigs on our little tour, including the Whiskey-a-Go-Go in Hollywood. But the project wasn’t mine, I was just a hired gun, and the head guy called it quits.
What is different about Obol? Why do it? What is the point?
Obol represents what I’ve always wanted, musically: Heavy but pretty. Intense but haunting. Each song references some culture outside the US. Each has a few distinct patterns that overlap in different ways. The challenge, I think, is making sure all these overlapping patterns still have a soul. Progressive music sometimes forgets to be human and approachable. Ideally, the Obol songs will be just dreamlike enough to create visual images for the listener, but otherwise sound deceptively simple, accessible like pop, and full of memorable hooks. Obol is all about taking intelligent music and infusing it with a heavy dose of sexiness.
What is sexy to you?
Vulnerability. Awkwardness. Fears. The whole struggle I find pretty sexy. Trying again. Transcendence, I guess.
Musically speaking, I always cite Prince as an example. Progressive music appeals to the mind. Prince’s music grabs you, and kind of spins you around. I always wanted a progressive rock band to have that element.
Why progressive music at all? What do you think defines a song as “progressive”?
When I was a kid, my mixtapes were mostly TV themes and soundtracks. Listening to this stuff had a visual effect on me, my imagination lit up and I had all these ideas for stories that were unfolding. Radio rock and blues rock — popular in Texas, where I’m from — didn’t do it for me. All the visuals I would get were just musicians on stage… not as stimulating. But then, every so often, I’d hear a song that worked for me. I started asking people why I liked these bands and not others. The word “progressive” would pop up and I’d kind of ignore it.
In college, I was listening to Tori Amos, Peter Gabriel and Dream Theater. At that point, I knew something was up, because every band or artist I loved was labelled “prog”.
I like the layers, the dynamics, the variety from heavy to light. I think it all goes back to my attention deficit disorder and lack of patience. I have never been drawn to music you can just put on in the background and ignore.
What are your thoughts on the music scene these days?
It’s great! I am encouraged and excited that Obol fits in with some recent darlings of the musical landscape, including Muse, but we also bring something distinct to the table.
What kind of gear do you use?
I’ve got a few custom basses, including a Ken Bebensee and a nicely symmetrical David Pushic that I designed. The keys are recorded from my Roland. I use GK amps. I’m not a gear head, so that is literally everything I remember about my equipment. I’m like, “Does it allow me to play a series of notes so I can share this song idea? Great.” I rely on Jun to sculpt our actual sound, more than most people would guess. I just don’t have the bandwidth to worry about that sort of thing.
What keeps you busy outside of music?
Worrying about the world. Responsibilities. Playing games. I work from home in a design job.
What kind of things do you love?
I like it when people do unexpected or stupid things to make other people laugh. I love people, movies, and songs that are self-aware, that work on a couple of different levels.
What pisses you off?
I dislike it when people don’t question and change the things in their lives that hold them back. It’s all about progression. People get stuck in their point of view — their religion, their party, their team, their country, whatever — and cannot put themselves in other people’s shoes. That drives me nuts.
What do you want people to remember about you?
I guess I want people to remember that I kept trying. I think my parents would agree that I got sort of a raw deal, genetically. Life can be tough, and God may decide to screw with you from time to time. I’ve learned to be gentle, expose myself to other perspectives and pursue what I love.