Plenty of young bands rely on the use of video projection in their set to make their performance feel artsy and unique. Sadly, the simple act of rolling a moody, art-house film behind them onstage tends to feel either extremely emo or pitifully forced. But on a recent Monday night, MT. OSSA's commitment to elevate their visual performance actually left us feeling, well, pretty high.
In front of a full crowd at the Echo in LA, the South OC natives actually seemed to disappear in a flickering flurry of homespun images. Blizzards of sparkling silver shards on a white screen melted seamlessly into crashing, Technicolor waves and psychotropic cartoon footage from the '70s. Each frame is edited by the band and scored to fit their layers of woozy, surf-toned R&B and rippling pools of vocal delay. In short--these guys know what the hell they're doing.
"We've always been into a lot of colors and the brightness of everything," says drummer Tony Tancredi. "We want people to feel that when they see us. We want them to see the whole picture when we're playing live."
It's a sentiment they've made sure to inject into the video for "Love Jam," the lead single from their forthcoming album, Homework Machine. Spliced between the story of a burlesque dancer's audition gone horribly wrong, Tancredi and fellow band members Richard Theisen, Johnny Wilson, and twins Jordan and Adam Sabolick huddled together with their instruments, mimicking their head-bobbing, rainbow-slathered live show. The camera closed in on lead vocalist Theisen during the song's hypnotic refrain: "I haven't been in love for three years, and everything's been just fine this far...People wondering just where I went, 'cause I ain't been around." There's some truth in the last line, as the band were actually avoiding the local scene throughout the recording of their debut album.
Instead, they spent the bulk of their time holed up in a four-bedroom house in Mission Viejo. It was on a huge green plot of land, with a spare apartment and a garage that serves as a studio jam room. During that time, Tancredi says, more than 30 friends stayed at the house on various occasions. "It's been a big part of our lives for a few years now," he says. "It takes people in and spits them out better than they were before." On March 1, the house spat out a new band with a full set list and a name taken from Jordan's previous solo project.
A mission to test out the new material has them filling their summer calendar, including a few key OC gigs, such as the one this Thursday at Detroit Bar and OC Weekly's Summer Fest on June 9, plus an opening slot for rock legend Todd Rundgren on July 8. It's quite a come-up for a local band barely out of the gate. But Tancredi explains it as though it were enviously simple: "All I did was email his people about the gig, and they got back to us saying Todd was into it and loved the sound."
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That whole notion of "going for it" and taking chances is something you've got to respect about this band, no matter what sound they're touting. It's the kind of moxie that helped develop mutual relationships with comrades such as psych-pop outfit Wildcat! Wildcat! and Louisiana bands Gashcat and Ghost Foot (whom they'll be playing with at Detroit bar this week). While a new band starting out has much more of a mountain to climb, MT. OSSA know it'll all be worth it when they get to the top, wherever that might be.
MT. OSSA perform with Ghost Foot and Gashcat at Detroit Bar, 843 W. 19th St., Costa Mesa, (949) 642-0600; www.detroitbar.com. Thurs., May 16, 8 p.m. Free. 21+.
For more info on MT. OSSA, visit facebook.com/mtossamusic.