O.A.R., the abbreviated name of the Ohio-born band Of a Revolution, released their seventh album, Stories of a Stranger, in fall 2005. From their humble beginnings in the dorms of Ohio State University in 1998, O.A.R. established their popularity with the college hit, “That Was a Crazy Game of Poker”, and went on to spread their fan base through friends and file distribution over the Internet. O.A.R. consists of lead singer Marc Roberge, lead guitarist Richard On, bass player Benj Gershman, drummer Chris Culos, and saxophonist Jerry Depizzo. I recently spoke with Jerry over the phone to discuss the band as a whole and his life as a member of O.A.R.
So, what’s the “revolution” referenced in your band name?
Well, I think it’s one of many simple ideals promoting positivity and togetherness and just unity between yourself and your fellow man. Do we want to overthrow the government? No. Do we want to start some sort of religious movement? No. I think embracing those simple ideals and principles will go a long way and I think if everybody did that, the world would be a much better place.
Have you ever lost it all in a crazy game of poker?
I think Marc wrote the lyrics for that song … [when he was] about 16 years old. The first half was written out in structure and the second half was- literally, the band went into the studio and the one take that they had to improvise the second reggae portion of the song is the stuff that Marc made up off the top of his head, and now it’s stuck with us ten years later. I think it just deals with searching for ideas and searching for answers and the wanderlust of being a 16-year-old and realizing there’s a larger world out there.
Did you graduate from OSU?
I realized kind of early on that there was no chance in hell I was going to be able to finish. I just really focused on packing T-shirts into Tupperware and loading the van. Maybe when my kid goes to school in 18 years, maybe I’ll go with her.
Your latest album, Stories of a Stranger, has been proclaimed as THE album for O.A.R., how do you feel it ranks among your other albums?
I think it’s our best effort to date. I think it’s the most all-encompassing record the band has done. It took about a year for us … to get it done and get what we wanted out of it. We knew we wanted songs on this record that we thought would work at radio. We also wanted to show the other side of what we were able to do. We wanted to make the reggae more reggae.
Have the tabloids ever run anything on you?
We kind of live under the radar. I think the band has enjoyed a certain level of fame and I would say when people ask something like that, I would say that the band is famous, but we’re not.
Do you encounter a lot of strange people on the road?
To be honest with you, most people are very respectful and very down-to-earth and just want to shake your hand and say they like the band and that they really enjoy your music. That’s just so cool to have that happen to you. But, every once in a while, yeah, you come across some people that kind of blur the line and who don’t really know when enough is enough, but that’s part of what we do.
A friend of mine tattooed “reality” onto his shoulder in honor of your song “I Feel Home” … creepy?
I think that’s kind of cool- shoulder’s cool. I wouldn’t be so sure if someone did it on their forehead or something like that. Some guy tattooed the Any Time Now logo on his forearm yesterday. I think that’s really, really cool and very flattering just because that’s going to be with you for quite a long time and I hope he’s as thrilled about putting it on his arm later on in life as he was yesterday.
What other music do you listen to aside from your own?
I listen to a lot of jazz things and I love rock music. I listen to Block Party. You know who I’m really into is Ryan Adams. I think he’s really, really just amazing.
What do you do when you’re not playing music?
Well, I just had a kid five months ago, so I’m trying to be the family man. I’m pretty much at home playing music- either practicing or trying to write songs for the band. That’s basically all I do … and then some bowling every once in a while.
What’s your favorite song to play live?
“[That was a Crazy Game of] Poker” is a really good song to play because everyone gets really excited and goes crazy. That’s a song that I don’t think really ever gets old. It’s nice because we tend to play it at the end of the night and it’s always a pick-me-up at the end. When you start to play the opening guitar riff, everyone gets up and you feel the excitement rush through everyone.
What’s your favorite band that you’ve ever played a show with?
Steven Kellogg and the Sixers is a band we’re playing with now. They’re just a really, really great, salt-of-the-earth, Americana kind of band. They’re really great guys and we’ve played with them in the past and it’s been a ton of fun.
Ever get stage fright?
No. I probably feel more comfortable on stage than I do walking down the street, to be honest with you. I just always really dug it and felt home up there. Especially with this band, it was always just very natural and I always felt like it was the thing I was supposed to be doing.
Any plans for Valentine’s Day?
Well, we usually don’t get off for it because it’s more of a holiday for the ladies, but this year we get to go home which is nice. I get to spend it with my wife and my baby.
Any plans in the near future to record an O.A.R. Live at Assembly Hall album?
It’s cutting it a little close to get that done. But, we multi-track every show every night, so we’re going to do that. And, you know, kids are able to come to the show every night and tape it if they want to. So, there will be no “official live record O.A.R. at Assembly Hall.” But, it’s a good thing to think about.
O.A.R. will be playing at Assembly Hall Sunday February 12th at 7:30 p.m.