Interview: Oberhofer

By Jaime Pitillas

There must be a place in the depths of the internet and radio waves where there resides a wonderful spirit who assists us in stumbling upon new bands.

Sometimes you discover a group that is at the beginning of its career when few people know them, and due to a strange feeling of selfishness, you want to keep it that way. On the other hand, we can also come across an established group with a couple of good albums and a legion of fans. Both experiences are different but both are extraordinary because after all, it’s all about the music.

Now I realize this superior being is on a mission to help the indie rock aficionados in Chicago discover Brad Oberhofer, a 23 year-old in the beginning of his musical journey. He is supported by his band, four of his friends who are accompanying him on the right path.

Since it was the third time in nine months that Oberhofer (Brad’s last name and also the name of the group) performed in Chicago, it was no easy task for the quintet to surprise us last Saturday at the Congress Theater. In his conversation with us, the lead singer discussed this point. “We’ve played many times in this city in the last year; we hope people have not had enough,” Brad said with a nervous smile while gazing through a small window to the audience that is waiting for him. “We love Chicago. We have family and friends here. Also, we were lucky enough to perform here the day the [debut] album was released[, March 27].”

During the past two years, Brad has been playing and working on songs he wrote during his stay at the New York University. His band has managed to ascend slowly, playing throughout the country, opening for bands that in a few years will probably do the same for them, and touring in Europe and Australia. None of this is result of chance, but rather of the magical formula: talent + hard work = success.

Unlike many of the groups that we usually listen to, Oberhofer is composed of academic musicians. “Studying music has helped us to understand each other and to challenge ourselves by adding new melodies and instruments” says Matthew, who alternates between guitar and xylophone, an instrument that provides the songs with a simple, catchy and clean melody over the more distorted harmony created by the guitars.

The group’s debut album Time Capsules II contains some of the songs Oberhofer has been playing live for the past couple of years.The only, but important, difference between their demos and this album is the addition of experienced producer Steve Lilywhite, who has worked with greats like Talking Heads and The Rolling Stones.  “Working with Steve was fun; he sat back a lot. He told me what I needed to do in some songs, forced us to do it again when we sounded poorly. He brought energy out of everyone!” said Brad.

Thinking about the difference between then and now I asked Brad if the band finally get the sound they wanted for the songs they have been playing for so long. To that he replied, “Yes, of course. You always imagine the song in a certain way, but someone might come and add a melody that goes great with the tune. Sometimes we try to play the song the way we did it in the demo, but it is impossible.”

Brad is not shy about the fact that he has composed all the songs, lyrics and musical arrangements of their debut, but he is also excited that his bandmates will start to contribute. “We’ve recorded five new songs that we created together. This group of friends is [coming] together as a band, and the next album’s compositions will probably contain a greater musical diversity, said the leader of the band. “Without a doubt, this is more fun.”

In the only second of silence in our conversation, Brad, throwing me a bone, broke the mold of the journalistic interview, asking me, “You know which was my favorite festival we played? Lollapalooza. We performed on Sunday morning and we saw Black Sabbath, At The Drive-In and more. Also, I finally met Caroline Polachek of Chairlift. It was incredible.”

Thanks, Brad, for providing the best question of the interview, this just proves how much you are enjoying your musical journey and staying true to your humble roots.

Maybe that’s the reason why I am forced to throw away that bizarre/hipster notion of selfishness in the case of Oberhofer. Or maybe it is due to their obvious fast track to notoriety, which they deserve. Or maybe it’s just my job.

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