AU61: Oppenheimer In The Studio piece

January 4, 2010

Here’s a curio for you. This article was published in November, a month before Rocky and Shaun announced that they were splitting up . So although the interview is all about their upcoming third album, that record will not now see the light of day. And they sounded so optimistic and all… Oh well. Apparently they are going to release an EP culled from these sessions, so we can look forward to that. And wish them all the best for the future.



WHAT: Third album
TITLE: TBC (potential titles, Nightmare On Ice, All In With The Kicks)
PRODUCER: Self-produced
STUDIO: Start Together, Belfast
TRACK TITLES: ‘One Day Your Life Will Flash Before Your Eyes – Make Sure It’s Worth Watching’, ‘Let’s Get The Hell Out Of Texas’
COLLABORATORS: Tim Wheeler, Hornby, Tom McShane, string arranger Van Dyke Parks (TBC)
RELEASE DATE: Spring/Summer 2010

Big changes on planet Oppenheimer. Since the release of 2008’s Take The Whole Mid-Range And Boost It, Rocky O’Reilly’s (and friends) Start Together Studios have gone from strength to strength, while partner in pop Shaun Robinson has got married and decamped to New York. We dropped in on them when Shaun was last in town to get the skinny on album number three.

How’s recording been going so far?
R: We’re both living very far apart at the moment, and we’ve been recording songs by ourselves and sending them to the other person. It’s the first time we’ve been so isolated. It was initially a problem and really weird, but it’s turned into something really cool because we’re developing the ideas in a different way. [Shaun]’s not restricted by me being the engineer and sound-finder – I’m writing lyrics and trying vocals, which is terrifying.
S: One things that’s changed for me is that I’ll play a song for three days until I’ve got it totally live, one take, so it’s a real human being. We play it straight and rely on machines to record it, but rely less on machines to, erm, polish that turd.

What’s this album about, for you?
R: I want this to be about the stuff we’ve been listening to and the bands we’ve been touring with. I want it to be about people, and for that human angle to connect with people. We both got to see The Bronx play in New York this year and that was just life-changing, because there were 800 people tearing down the walls of this building and it was rough as anything, but amazing. We toured with The Presidents of the USA, who believe that if you can’t play it in one take, you shouldn’t be writing it. It’s not quite that extreme because we can’t play anything in one take but, you know, it’s definitely taught me about different ways of writing and recording.

How are the songs sounding?
S: Well, Rocky’s rapping, which I think is a brand new thing.
R: A terrifying new thing.
S: Writing songs, this time round I had a piano in front of me rather than an acoustic guitar. So I’ve written some Pink Floyd-esque monstrosities – there’s one song that’s nearly eight minutes long, which is a complete departure.
R: The way Shaun’s been writing, and the way that I’ve been writing as well, it’s much more structured around the song than about the process or the production.
S: Plus, changing the rules or having a blast at doing things. One album that I’ve been quoting is Midnite Vultures by Beck. [On] over half of the tracks on that album, there comes a point where it just turns into a completely different song, and it never goes back to the way it was before. It just goes… zhoink! It’s something that I’ve thought about. You’ve got to be playful sometimes.

Do you think people will be surprised when they hear it?
R: I think it’s one of those things where they’re still going to hear Oppenheimer in it because it’s still us, but for people who’ve written us off as an electro, synth-pop duo, deliriously happy – those days are gone. We’re not happy any more.

Are you collaborating with anyone on this album?
R: There is going to be, hopefully – budget allowing, a collaboration with a string-arranger who has come forward and wants to work on the album. We just need to find the cash to make it happen. That’s going to take us in a completely different direction, and in a way that we never thought possible.

I take it you’re not naming names?
S: His name’s Van Dyke Parks. He did the instrumentation for Smile by Brian Wilson.
R: The Bear Necessities for The Jungle Book, U2, Silverchair. It’s remarkable. And he just contacted us saying that he really, really liked us and let’s find a way to make this happen. So possibly, at some point, we’re going to be in LA watching an orchestra playing Oppenheimer songs, which is incredible.


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