Interview with Odawas

Where and when did you form?

Odawas was formed in Bloomington, IN. Michael and myself both worked for the student newspaper. I wrote film and music reviews and Michael was my editor. While working on a short film, I learned that Michael occasionally played music, so I decided to see if he would be interested in doing some music for the short film. He played some demos for me and asked if I’d be interested in recording some parts from a keyboard he had. Neither of us had been in a band before that point, and I don’t think either of us thought for a moment that a band was being forged in those moments. The short film was never finished, but those demos became the Vitamin City EP, and I suppose the rest is history…

Who plays what during you live performance?

Typically, Michael plays acoustic guitar/harmonica and covers the vocals, while I play a couple of different keyboards.

How have you changed stylistically since forming?

I think the stylistic core of Odawas has remained the same, in that it is music based around the folk singer/singer-songwriter and the stories they tell. However, the worlds in which we choose to situate those stories has developed and gone through changes over the course of our albums. Following the EP, our first album for Jagjaguwar (The Aether Eater) was a psychedelic blitz of ambition coming from musicians finding themselves in a studio for the first time with free reign. The elements of psychedelia were honed down and filtered through a spaghetti western aurora for our following effort (Raven and the White Night). With our most recent album (The Blue Depths), the musical exploration of other and strange worlds found in psychedelia were continued, but now found themselves awash in synthetic reimaginings. But always at the heart is the singer-songwriter.

How do your songs come together?

This is another process that has evolved with time. Our current method of working usually involves Michael recording a series of demos for possible songs and ideas for the direction of sound. These are handed over to me and I begin working on arrangements and trying to assemble both the world Michael envisions with his songs and the sounds these worlds will consist of. After new and fuller demos are cut, the real work begins of figuring our what is and isn’t working, new directions suggested, old ideas abandoned, and stitching the pieces together again.

How do you write lyrics, and what themes do you prefer to cover?

Michael writes the lyrics for Odawas and these most often come after a song has been written. In a lot of ways, it really follows stream-of-consciousness as we work out the structure of the song and Michael plays with various phrases or ideas until he finds something that sticks and then a story begins to form around that. Stories are fairly central to all of our work. With The Aether Eater, we followed the hell-bent maddening of an astronaut, a la Dante’s Inferno via the furthest reaches of space. Raven and the White Night was loosely based around the events and experiences of the Jonestown massacre, the ideas of religious ecstacy and hypocrisy, and ultimately abandonment. With The Blue Depths, conceptually we focused more around the world we situated the songs within and less on a series of interconnected stories, though themes of love lost and won, secrets and death permeate its entirety.

Who have you most been most excited to play live with?

We’re always excited to play with the different musicians we’ve formed relationships with over the years. Shows with the likes of Zelionople, Elephant Micah, and the Black Swans always brought great times, great music, and great memories. We also have a show coming up at the Great American Music Hall with Autolux, which is an incredible band from LA that we are really excited to be playing with. Both the band and the venue seem pretty overwhelming, and that’s just how we like it.

What inspires you other than music?

Most directly, other than music, would be film. Film in all of its auspices has been greatly influential to both of us, its means of weaving stories with music and sound, and, in a way, is a great mirror to the means of production and work that goes into making an album of ours.

Where do you see yourselves as a band in five years?

This is completely dependant on the outcome of 2012, however, in five years, I believe Odawas will either be castled away in some decadently remote and ghost ridden studio, tapping the ether and releasing our creations in a Wizard-ly fashion or perhaps performing elaborate productions that are equal parts Scott Walker and Cirque du Soleil. Hopefully both. We definately have aspirations to be working in film/televison.

What has been the best moment you’ve experienced being in Odawas?

While we often consider ourselves a more studio oriented band at the time, playing live is always interesting and some of the best moments of being a part of Odawas come from those shows. We are always greatly appreciative and equally afftected when people come to us following a performance to tell us what they thought of the show. Regardless of where their opinions fall, its nice to know you’re connecting with people and that they care and/or are moved enough to come talk to you about it.

Why do you think your music is important?

I think if there is any one reason why our music is important, outside of to ourselves, it’s because it is definately the result of two guys who have had a dream and have been persistent in chasing that dream. Neither of us our virtuoso musicians, with all the time and money in the world. We’re average guys, with boring jobs that we have to work to make ends meet, whose cell phones get turned off from time to time. But we have this dream of music, and we follow it, we do the best we can, and we keep going. We may not be the best at what we do yet, but we’re fighting to get there, learning along the way, and not looking back. Dreams are an immovable compromise and our music is a reflection of that journey. That’s what is important.