Up Close & Personal with Oil Boom As They Channel Their Daily Joe Walsh

Oil Boom- "WWJWD, What Would Joe Walsh Do?"

Do you feel the music, in general, has rules or more like guidelines?

Steve Steward: Music is full of rules, and it’s probably helpful on a technical level to familiarize yourself with them, but after that, those rules should be treated like guidelines, and the sooner you’re able to ignore the guidelines, the more exciting your music will be. Black Flag’s a good example of a band that’s exciting for ignoring musical guidelines, and one of my favorite albums is Sublime’s Robbin’ the Hood because it’s so stylistically off-the-wall and bizarre. I also admire Ween for taking established genre ideas and doing whatever they want with them, and Steely Dan is one of my favorite bands for similar reasons, though Ryan doesn’t like Steely Dan very much at all. One good instance of a band coloring outside the lines is this video of a live Guns and Roses performance in which Axl goes “GIMME SUM REGGAE!”

Then some pretty terrible reggae happens, and I bet that was the best part of the whole concert. Of course, if there’s one musician I think is kind of a god for treating musical conventions as guidelines to be disregarded as needed, it’s Weird Al. Weird Al is kind of a god for hundreds of different reasons. “Dare to Be Stupid” is one of them. “Polka Your Eyes Out” is another.

Talk about the production of your music. Do you have a process that you rely on?

Steve Steward: We rely on Ryan to churn out awesome songs, and then Dugan and Zach and I fill in the blanks. Basically, he’ll send us a demos, and we’ll try them out at rehearsal, and the ones that stick go into our live set for a couple months, and then we piece them together in the studio, drums first, then bass, after which, Ryan and Zach jump into the guitar overdub rabbit hole. Or we watch a video or look at a picture of Joe Walsh for a few minutes and then go from there.

Your approach to music, in general, keeps a humor side running. Deconstruction I believe would be a correct word in how the bandmates of Oil Boom work. Is it the applied euphemisms or just total second-grade giggles?

Steve Steward: It’s more like second-period high school biology class giggles when you’re learning about photosynthesis and you look over and see a classmate get green with envy because he realizes that plants make their own food, while he has to eat the shitty cafeteria lunch. 
We also enjoy memes, though sometimes the memes outsmart us. 

If someone were to dissect the side of Oil Boom instrumentally what do you think they would realize?

Steve Steward: That we all have day jobs? But also, while we are at those day jobs, we are imagining ourselves ripping incredible solos, at home, in the bathroom with the door shut, in front of the mirrors.

You have spent some major time on the road playing with Social D and Toadies. Now, Oil Boom is releasing a new album, October 20th, Terribility. First, what is the story behind the album's name?

Steve Steward: Terribility is a made-up word Ryan coined to describe how everything in life, no matter how seemingly normal or good has the potential to be terrible. Think of the cutest, sweetest, most angelic, most absolutely precious baby ever born. Now imagine that baby at a wedding with an open bar. Is that baby still adorable after she’s had four or five drinks? Another example: social media is a marvelous construct that brings together people across broad geographic, cultural, and intersectional divides, including your racist aunt and various dumbasses from high school who are even worse as adults. Social media is neat because it makes it easy to purchase a t-shirt that combines your favorite elements of Empire Strikes Back and Iron Maiden, but the reason for that is because it’s assembled a psychographic advertising profile about you designed to predict and encourage you to buy shit you don’t need, and the way it compiles that information is basically through spying on you. 

The advancements in potato chip technology is also a form of Terribility. Potato chips are fine on their own, and they’re better when they’re barbecue, sea salt, or even buffalo sauce-flavored. But some chips replicate the flavor of things like “steak and onions,” “crispy tacos,” and “fried green tomatoes.” The fact that nobody seems to be saying “maybe we’ve gone too far with the potato chip flavors” is pretty terrible. Yes, you can make potato chips taste like hot dogs, but should you? 

Click the link to listen:

Advertising is almost always Terribility, especially when it crosses into the realm of crass or tone-deaf sentimentality. Right now, the best example is the Veggie Tales 9/11 post is Terribility. I’d like to think that all major brands, even one that uses anthropomorphic vegetables to teach Christian values to children, would give it a rest with the shameless appeals to nuance-free patriotism, but nope! Gotta let those Veggie Tales fans that Larry and Bob #neverforget. 

In fact, I’d say that most major brands exemplify Terribility in one way or another, certainly the instant they advertise in any way that isn’t “Here’s our shit! We hope you buy it!” And I say that as a total sucker for expertly targeted ad copy – it’s how I ended up with a Billabong hat that didn’t fit very well and made my head sweat more than any other hat I’ve ever owned, but that I purchased it and wore it because the Terribility quotient completely nailed the idea of “remember putting that poster of Donovon Frankenreiter on your wall when you were a kid? Remember how much you liked playing Kelly Slater’s Pro Surfer on Xbox?”

Why a full-length album, instead of releasing singles over the course of the next year? Do full length you feel still work for Oil Boom?

Steve Steward: What a great question! It’s one we’ve asked ourselves repeatedly, especially when the recording process for Terribility extended seemingly into infinity. On the one hand, when I look at the album cover, and I put the record on my stereo and spend 40 minutes or whatever it is sitting on my couch and listening to the music, I think “man, I’m so glad we did it this way,” because I’m proud of our music and think it deserves to be in a collected format that elevates the fidelity as high as possible. 

I also think that because the songs on Terribility are somewhat thematically cohesive (because they all explore a side of “Terribility,”), I think it was important to release them in a unified format. But when you consider the financial outlay and the amount of time you spend before an album is complete, it’s a lot of fucking time and money. In 2017, do your fans still sit there waiting with bated breath for your next album to come out, or would they be happier if you gave them a new song to add to their Spotify or Bandcamp playlists ever few months? I hate to say it, but I think the latter approach is a better way to keep you current in your fans’ brains. 

But I think having a full-length out on vinyl is pretty much the most satisfying accomplishment you (as a band) can do for yourselves. Even if you’re left with boxes of your own unsold LPs, when you drag that record out and listen to yourselves and think about all the time and money you invested in the final product, how good it sounds versus a digital single… Well, hopefully, the other people sitting in the day room at the nursing home can appreciate your story. But we’ve kicked around the idea of just putting out singles. 

Terribility’s concept was kind of an accidental realization, but the songs do go together; however, our newest stuff is comparatively less connected, so it might make sense to put out new songs piecemeal during what you’d think of as our “Terrbility follow-up period.” That’s getting pretty far ahead of ourselves, to be honest. Hopefully, Terribility will just fly off the shelves, thereby validating another dive into the full-length album process.

The album has some great song titles. Is there one track in particular that carries the whole jest of Oil Boom is?

Steve Steward: I don’t know about the other guys, but for me, it’s a tie between “Yung Bullion” and “By Degrees.” Sonically, they both reference our ’70s rock and soul influences, and I think lyrically, they speak to our mutual anxieties.

There must be a story behind “Last Call For Milkshakes!”?

Steve Steward: There is! That song had three or four previous names – at the time it was either called “Raising Hellafornia” or “Judith Priest” – and we were having a band meeting at this burger place in downtown Arlingfun called Twisted Root, debating about track listing and album art and tour plans and hotdog-flavored chips versus Philly cheese steak-flavored chips, and it was getting near closing time, and we heard the cashier announce over the P.A. “Last call for milkshakes!” And Ryan was like, “That’s it. That’s the final answer.”

Do you have a 'secret' band or musician you love that everyone would go... “No Way, not them!”

Steve Steward: I don’t know if he’s embarrassed by it, but Dugan likes Danny Carey, which means he’s definitely had a Tool phase. Ryan is a life-long Ozzy fan, and I’m pretty sure he wrote an essay in middle school about Ozzy that was very complimentary about Zakk Wylde, which also means he probably knows more about Black Label Society than he’d ever admit. He also thinks doo-wop is the best music ever made, but that isn’t all that surprising because he likes to wear leather jackets and snap his fingers – if we stop on a corner for more than a few seconds, he basically breaks into song. Zach was all about that Danny Brown album that came out last year, and I was surprised about that. My favorite songwriter is Jimmy Buffett, but I’m not ashamed, and I’ll happily talk about him to anyone who will listen.

When was the last time you figuratively put your foot in your mouth? How were you able to recover? 

Steve Steward: I work at a bar, and recently, I was making a point with a drunk guy about my own opinions regarding the existence of God, how if he were real and as omnipotent as people say he is, he would save himself and his believers a lot of trouble by publicly proving his existence to atheists every time the subject came up. This friend of mine who is a Christian happened to be within earshot, and he looked kind of dejected when I said that, so I pretended to be struck by lightning in mid-sentence. And then everyone laughed and learned something about other people’s point of views, and life was better for all! 

Spotify is loved and detested at times by musicians and bands. How have you used it and overall what have you found to be its greatest asset? 

Steve Steward: Well, since we travel around in a luxury helicopter, bathe in Fiji bottled water, and have our meals flown in from exotic locations (if we’re in Carl’s Jr. Country we get Hardee’s flown in and vice versa), we hardly notice the pittance we earn from Spotify plays anyway, so it’s hard to get mad about all that money we’re apparently not making. 

As such, Spotify is more of a useful promotional tool. If you just think of it as a means to reach more fans who will hopefully come to your show in the event you can make it to their town, then I think Spotify is totally useful. It’s also helpful if you think you might want to become a fan of Magma but aren’t ready to commit to acquiring their records. As for its greatest asset, I think the recent addition of Bob Seger’s catalog is the best move it’s made thus far.

You get to have an audience of fans undivided attention for ten minutes. What would you tell them or sing to them?

Steve Steward: Personally, I would sing “Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes,” then ask if they wanted to know more about Jimmy Buffett, and if time allowed following that discussion, play it one or two more times.

Does the band have a particular philosophy/Motto?

Steve Steward: In general, we try to follow WWJWD, which stands for “What Would Joe Walsh Do?” And by “do,” we usually mean “wear.”

Since you are well seasoned in touring what are some of the unwritten rules of tours, performing, recording, living a band life?

Steve Steward: Tips for touring: Try to eat at least one thing every day that has lettuce on it. The instant you shut your engine off in New York City, a parking ticket will magically appear under your windshield wipers, so if you can just drive around for hours and hours until you have to leave, do that. Need to rest up for a long drive the next day? Don’t overdo it on ghost stories. 

Touring is not always fun, but don’t be a band that complains about touring, especially to other bands who are also touring, and even more especially to bands who wish they were touring. It’s better to bring a merch person, even if he must ride on the roof. Carrying weed? Don’t speed. Always get up early enough to account for a highway in Ohio that is shut down to a single lane. 

Always load your own gear. The cool factor of any bass cabinet (but especially 810 or bigger) is inversely proportional to its convenience. Bring a spare snare and a spare kick pedal; if you don’t think you have room for them, the merch guy can hold it in his lap, unless he is already riding on the roof. If you’re playing in California, Colorado, or the other legal weed states, be aware of what time the weed stores close; they will close shortly after your sound check is done. 

If you open for a bigger band, their soundcheck will usually extend for a gratuitous duration, definitely so if your sound check follows theirs and the weed store is about to close. Don’t forget your phone charger. Don’t forget your bass head. Don’t forget your cymbals. Don’t forget your guitars. 

Don’t forget deodorant! You will need more socks and underwear than you brought. People in Alabama actually say “roll tide.” People in Maryland actually sound like the characters from The Wire, and places in Baltimore actually look like they could be locations used in The Wire. 

In Washington D.C., always make time to visit the Showtime Bar. In Philadelphia, always make time to visit the El Bar. 

Eating after the show? Waffle House is better than IHOP, IHOP is better than Denny’s, and anything is better than White Castle. Unfortunately, eating at White Castle is required when routing through White Castle Country. Finally, Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s are basically the same things; they are really just geographic signifiers.

For performing: Always stretch before you play. Yoga moves, light calisthenics, a brief walk around the block, and/or shots of whiskey are all good ways to stretch before a performance.

For recording: Watch Some Kind of Monster, do the opposite, unless replacing your bass player with Robert Trujillo is a legit option.

For living the band life: try to eat at least one thing every day that has lettuce on it. 
Oil Boom is grit, blues, garage in descriptive words... what components of where the roots of rock come from do you each individually find you always hold true to?
Laughter and fun.

Touring, or videos to support Terribilitty?

Steve Steward: We have videos for “Terribility” and “Earful” that are done and queued up. 

We have ideas for “Yung Bullion” and “Horseclothes,” but they require a bigger budget, possibly a trip to Hawaii or Lake Havasu for the former. 

We’ll be hitting the road either in November or a time after November, either through Carl’s Jr./El Pollo Country or Hardee’s/White Castle Country.

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