The Oh Eeks are one of the interestinger bands I’ve come across in some time. It’s great that they have real solid musicianship in guitarist Jimmy Bayard, bassist Al Vorse, drummer-arranger Dan DeMuth, and vocalist Johnny Park, who plays guitar and harmonica and writes fine material. What fascinates me is Parks’s sardonic hand with lyrics.
When Gin Blossoms gave up the ghost, I was terribly disappointed to lose that combination of hook-driven melodies and bittersweet sentiment. Then came local upstarts July Fighter to brighten my spirits with dry, dark sensibilities powered by first rate alt rock. Now, they’ve apparently bit the dust. So, for me, the Oh Eeks—odd name and all—are sterling successors. Their album Greater Than Magnets (I don’t understand the album title anymore than I do the band’s name) was a hands-down winner on first listening.
In fact, I didn’t have it yet, was catching the band at a shakedown gig, working out the pre-CD-release kinks in late spring and they played tracks from it over the p.a. while the fellas were getting it together to take the stage. Just those few songs I heard had me convinced there was some new good guys in town. Sure enough, when I got the album, it was from top to bottom a winner. They had the release gig in July at Hell’s Kitchen and will be back there August 21st at 10 p.m. A few days after the album release, Johnny Park answered my questions by e-mail.
How’d the release thing go?
The night was perfect. The opener Javier and the Innocent sons were terrific as usual. The room was packed, the band was on, and even though we had never played a lot of the material, the performance went smooth like butta. There was more energy and intensity than we have ever put out in a show it seemed. We were covered in sweat and workin hard for it. The CD sales went great as well, but we didn’t get hung up on sales. We just made sure that we got one to everyone. We went through a ton of CDs.
The live disc I have of the band, it’s completely new stuff, or at least it’s different than the released CD. Do you have plans for an EP of that?
We did get a live recording of the show. We will most likely put it together with the video we had done that night and make it available for free download on our website. I can’t guarantee that the entire show will be up there, but the majority should be.
Where do your lyrics come from?
There are many different aspects that I take away from different artists. First and foremost—and not terribly unique—as a young kid I had heavy exposure country and folk standards. Artists like Doc Watson, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Wayon Jennings, Dylan. These roots are my heaviest influence. I guess the storytelling aspect of these writing styles is what I most enjoy and try to emulate. However, there is a dark humor that is cutty and was on the edge at the time in some of these old country tunes that sticks with me more. I think maybe it is the ability to not take itself too seriously that makes a person and a story genuine. From artists more recent, I am locally influenced and look to many different Minnesota rap artists to get current examples of this real storytelling and dark humor.
What musical songwriting influences?
As far as the music itself, I am directly influenced by those same country roots, I even use the same chords. The only difference is I change the tempo and step on the distortion! Ha. But it’s true, the music that influences me in that respect is the alt-country artists of the early 90s, especially those from the Midwest. Wilco, The Jayhawks, Son Volt. These bands are where it’s at for me, and maybe a little more rock and roll. The Replacements. Of course, everything gets translated through the lenses of four different people.
What’s best about working on your material with Dan?
Dan and I have a distinct order of operations. I will work the song to a certain point—and by that I mean in the studio, that’s just where we prefer to start. I will build up the song until I can’t take it any further and I feel like I have communicated enough through my arrangements and instrumentation for Dan to step in and finish the job. No real words are exchanged. Only “I’m done, you need to finish this.” The rest goes unsaid. Dan will record the percussion, finish the arrangement, re-record any instrumentation, and clean everything up. I guess what is best is our ability to be so much on the same page that, as far as the music goes, there is not ever any discussion. We both just know exactly how it’s supposed to be without ever saying anything.
What’s next for the band?
Keep bustin’ out bills here at home for sure. But this fall, we hope to see some other states. Do a Midwest tour. More importantly, we want to get back to the studio and record those new tracks and maybe release an EP by this spring.