It is arguably better to shoot too high with your first record than to risk coming up short. Local rock charmers Oh Captain My Captain have undoubtedly gone for the former of those two options, and they’ve done it well.
It is arguably better to shoot too high with your first record than to risk coming up short.
Local rock charmers Oh Captain My Captain have undoubtedly gone for the former of those two options, and they’ve done it well. However, in their ambitions they have created a sound that is proving hard to maintain.
“We don’t get too dramatic in our approach to our shows,” says Josh Spacek, vocals and guitar for OCMC. “We like to keep that for the studio.”
The discrepancy between a theatrically inspired album—with tracks touting Prize Fighters and Sinking Ships as their set pieces—and a no-theatrics approach to their live shows is one that shows the marks of a band still in development.
It was about 10 years ago that Jesse Bettis (vocals and guitar) and Spacek, then in high school, began practicing together and laid the foundation for OCMC.
The two came from somewhat different musical styles; Jesse was taken by bands like Weezer, Radiohead and the Eels, while Josh came from a more ’60s rock influence, listening to bands like The Beatles and The Beach Boys.
The Beach Boys influence is never more evident than in the band’s previously unreleased track “Feet of Lead, Wings of Tin,” which cleverly utilizes the opening organ from “Good Vibrations” and takes listeners right back the Pet Sounds age.
“There’s the indie-folk scene going on in Portland,” Bettis says. “And there’s the metal house party scene. And we never really fit into any of those scenes.”
This is due in no small part to OCMC’s gradual evolution. The group went through a few bassists (including Alex Ellis of The Builders and the Butchers fame) before finally happening upon current bassist Connor Gilles in a coffee shop in Gresham. Jeremy Fetters was brought in for help with keys and arrangements. However, OCMC’s essential member would wind up being drummer Joe Bowden.
Not only did Bowden add the heft of percussion to the group, but he came to the band with his co-ownership of Bladen County Records in tow.
“It gave us insight into the record label’s side of things. We basically paid for the last record on our own,” says Spacek about their debut LP, Recklessly She Split the Sea. “But since Bladen County, we have learned to function more efficiently as a band. We’ve realized how often we need to practice as a band, and who will schedule shows.”
In many ways it has made OCMC become more serious. Their album Recklessly She Split the Sea came out last year on Bladen County Records and was largely the effort of Bettis. He wrote the album and then doled out the parts to the rest of the group.
This way, they admit, is not ideal for a band that makes music together, which is why they are going a different route for their next album, which they hope to have out in the late summer.
“We are shifting a lot from guitar-based theatrical,” Bettis says. “The newer stuff is simpler and pop-ier.” And when they take the stage it is evident that the theatrics of the music are slowing going the way of the buffalo.
Bettis is reserved and sings his vocals as if they were precious jewels. Their sound is becoming similar to that of the Queens of the Stone Age.
Bettis says into the microphone: “This is a new one.” And their bodies instantly relax. They play their new songs with more ownership and more of a sense of a band together. This change extends to the audience as well, creating a dancehall-like environment with more joyful exuberance being reflected.
OCMC have learned in a few years what some bands take their whole career to find out. They know how to work with a record label and they have learned how to make music as a group. With dates lined up in California and on the East Coast, OCMC are reveling in having discovered their sound at what looks to be exactly the right moment.