Introducing: Oh, Rose

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Words: Claire Morales

Magical numbers, mantras, milkshakes and music videos. I had the chance to chat about all these alliterative topics and more during a recent call with Olivia Rose of Olympia, WA band Oh, Rose. It was the eve of their west coast tour, and the excitement of it was palpable over the line, even as I sat hundreds of miles away in Denton, Texas. Olivia and three of her best friends (who happen to be her bandmates) are currently piled into a big van, hurtling down the highway to play a slew of shows (24 in all over a 30 day span), and they couldn’t be more pumped.

I first met Oh, Rose almost exactly a year ago during their first tour. We played this club in Ft. Worth Texas together, and there was something magnetic about them and the music they made. As a singer myself, I’m always most attentive to vocals when I watch live bands. Olivia’s voice was striking, contrasting between soft listless croons and fierce grinding growls. There’s something uniquely feminine and wild in that mix of softness and harshness, and it blended beautifully with her guitar playing and the other instrumentation. More than just playing well together, there was a clear bond between bandmates, a sort of ease and understanding among them. They all looked like the road and freedom and possibility and gave you the feeling that you could do anything or go anywhere, and that you ought to just fuckin’ do it.

Below is my interview with Olivia. You’ll see what I mean, I promise:

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So my first question is about the album title. What does Seven mean?

It’s hard to describe the significance of seven. I just feel like it’s been a recurring number in my life. We were practicing the song “Seven” and trying to write it and [the band] was like “Okay what are you gonna call the song?” and I just said “Seven.” It just came out of my mouth, and I feel like it just kind of highlights everything that I’m trying to bring across with the whole mood. And yeah it was seven songs and they were really the only ones we had in mind for the album. No more no less. I even got a new amp too and I wasn’t really sure about it. I didn’t know if I liked the sound, and then I turned all of the knobs to seven and it sounded great.

Wow. So it’s like a magic number? Where else have you seen seven in life?

I remember it first really occurring with my partner in high school, just kind of weird coincidences with the number seven in our lives … And it was the first person I started playing music with. We started a band called Miceboy. I think the music’s still on myspace or something.

[Laughs] I had a “classic rock” band when I was in high school and the music is still out there too. It was called Fire for Hire. Such an embarrassing name in retrospect.

[Laughs] No I know. Why the fuck did we call it Mice Boy?! But yeah back to seven, I think I’m still trying to figure out what it means. But I also think that as a word it’s really interesting. Just the spelling of it you know.

Yeah. It seems like one of those where you could say it again and again and it would seem wrong.

Yeah it is! Sarah who plays synth was writing “Seven” on all the CDs and she was like the more I write this it feels like I’m spelling it wrong and it’s starting to look really weird.

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I was looking at your lyrics earlier, and sometimes you’ll repeat the same line and it almost has that same effect where you hear it so many times that the meaning changes. Something magic happens when you say something again and again.

Definitely. It becomes a mantra.

On the album how you have the songs “Run” and “Running,” and there’s and a clear connection from that repetition. What is it?

“Run” is this story of being maybe in a relationship or a place and trying to get out of it, and “Running” is this song where you get the fuck out. Then “Running” and “Seven” are totally intertwined. I have this video in mind for Running and Seven and it’s pretty much based around seven women.

Oh cool!

Yeah. I want to shoot this music video involving these seven women out at this quarry doing weird ritualistic thing.

That totally makes sense with the stuff we’ve been talking about. Mantras and magic and rituals.

Yeah.

I feel like this album is way more wild and aggressive but also more vulnerable at the same time than That Do Now See. I love both of them but this one feels like you’re stepping out more. What changed between recording the two?

Definitely having a band and playing music with three people who I really care about I think brought out a lot of confidence. Sharing my music and sharing a lot of pain. It’s something I really didn’t like to do for a long time. And I think with this album, it’s more aggressive and I need to get that shit out of me as a songwriter…This past year has been crazy. With That Do Now See originally it was just gonna be a solo album and then Stephen who was playing bass last year just said “Well I wanna play bass for this” and then Liam wanted to play drums. We just recorded it on a four track cassette. I just had no idea of how that was gonna go, I just knew I wanted to go on tour for two months. And then Kevin approached us at one of the shows and was like “Stephen is going on tour. Who’s gonna play bass while he’s gone?” and I said “Well I don’t know” and then he said “Well I am!”

That’s great!

And then Sarah Redden is like my soul sister and I had to have her coming with us too so she just learned how to play synth, she had never really played an instrument before.

Man that’s wild, because seeing you guys on tour I wouldn’t have guessed that it just appeared out of nowhere.

It did though! It totally appeared out of nowhere. And then we put it online and people liked it. So that EP was kind of something that just happened and with Seven it was something we discovered with each other over the past year. Seven is like the start of Oh Rose. That’s how I see it.

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It’s like a genesis. I feel like as an artist you eventually reach this point with your music where it isn’t only something that you’re okay with sharing but something that feels like it is you and it’s what you wanted it to be and it’s what you’re about.

Definitely. And it’s the first time I’ve written and especially recorded and thought damn I like this, this feels really good and really real.

Recording it’s so hard sometimes. You have this idea in your head and it can be really hard to articulate, and when it happens, it’s such a good feeling.

I’m really proud of it. And we recorded it all ourselves

So it really is just you. Every bit of it is you guys.

Yeah we’re all over it.

It’s really hard to find people that can support you and inspire and change you in a good way, to find that closeness.

Yeah definitely. It’s something that I was looking for for about 20 years and I’m not gonna go anywhere anytime soon.

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I have a fun question for you. If Oh Rose was an ice cream flavor which one would you be and why?

Mmmm….maybe a banana Oreo shake. We all just shared one of those this morning and we were all hung over and it was really good. The best thing about today is that we all feel like shit but it’s perfect.

Let’s talk about tour.

We’re leaving tomorrow and yeah I can’t wait…I just I love tour. We just got a van and I’m gonna get in there with three people that I love. I have pretty much shut down on everything except that. I don’t know how all the shows are gonna go. On some of them I know they’re gonna be awesome but then a lot of them it’s like let’s go it to the wind and see who we meet…We had a kick off show last night and it was like awesome and insane. There was like 150 people crammed into the Guest House basement.

What are some cities you’re especially looking forward to playing?

I am really excited about playing in San Luis Obispo on the 5th because we’re doing an in studio at KCPR … I have a brother that’s incarcerated in San Luis Obispo right now and I get to go visit him. The college radio station does shout outs to the prisoners which is awesome. So the prisoners have been listening to Oh Rose.

Wow! You’re like Johnny Cash!

They all know we’re doing this in-studio thing. My brother said that whenever our music comes on everyone just goes totally quiet and they are all like “Don’t talk your sister’s on your sister’s on!” So I’m excited about that.

I want to talk to you about going from being a solo act to having a full band.

Mhm. I’ve always made music and had kind of just committed to being a solo artist. Forever I felt like no one wanted to play music with me. I realized I’m really bad at asking for help. Stephen just sat me down and had a real talk and said “No one’s gonna do this for you but we will totally do this with you.” I really took that to heart. As soon as I started telling people what I needed, people responded. And now it’s like the perfect band. They’re my best friends now and are all incredibly talented musicians and interesting people in general … I definitely prefer being in a band.

Oh me too. I feel like I had the same thing happen. I just had someone say “Hey, you just think things are gonna fall into your lap as far as people playing with you but they’re not. You have to go and figure it out.”

Yeah you have to tell people what you want. It’s like a weird thing to fuckin do! I don’t know. Maybe it’s like an insecurity but I also wanna say that it kind of ties into ego in a way.

For sure. I definitely feel vulnerable asking for something like that. It’s like saying “Hey do you think me and my art are cool enough for you to give up a lot of your time?”

Because it is a job! It’s totally a fuckin’ job. That’s where I’ve just been like holy cow I can’t believe it…just starting the band we had practiced for maybe a month before we went on tour. It was kind of like we’re gonna get in a car and be together for two months. There was part of me that felt like if that didn’t work there was really no reason for us to be playing music together. And if we could get out of that and not want to kill one another and just still being super stoked and loving one another, that’s perfect. We have everything we need to be successful, at least in my eyes. So that’s the best part about it.

Seven is out now.