Pete Yorn and J.D. King's new band have nothing to do with fiery, four-chord rebellion. But if not for the wife of a punk legend, the Olms might've never existed.
Yorn first met Johnny Ramone in 2002 when the guitarist requested that Yorn contribute to We're a Happy Family, the all-star tribute album to the patron saints of CBGB's. For his part, Yorn covered the band's "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend." The two became close friends over the final two years of Ramone's life, before he succumbed to cancer in 2004. Yorn continued his friendship with the iconic guitar player's wife, Linda, who a few years later, introduced him to King, a respected artist and guitarist for his own band, J.D. King and the Coachmen. The two have now been good friends for the better part of the past decade.
Even though they individually create different music, there was always a mutual admiration between them. In 2009, Yorn invited King to tour with him; at the time, King was in the midst of promoting three different records he'd release that year. A few years later, while they were hanging out in the home studio King built, they felt the time was right for a collaboration.
The Olms perform at the Constellation Room, 3503 S. Harbor Blvd., Santa Ana, (714) 957-0600; www.observatoryoc.com. Tues., 8 p.m. $15. All ages.
"He played me some stuff he was doing in there, and at some point, he told me he had all these song ideas, and we decided to write a tune together," Yorn recalls. "That first day, we wrote 'Twice As Nice,' which is on [their eponymous] record; [we] recorded it, I think, pretty much how it is within a few hours. We had a good time doing it, so we started a routine."
Yorn would head to King's house on Tuesdays and Thursdays when both were in town, and they'd write and record a new song each day they were together. They both have solo careers to tend to, taking time away from their project, but they quickly garnered enough material to put out their first album as the Olms.
Collaborative songwriting—especially for two solo artists—can be strenuous, which can be attributed more to a change in routine above anything else. But Yorn says these sessions were a welcomed challenge in which they introduced each other to new styles they may not have been exposed to otherwise.
"The first few songs came easy," Yorn says. "We had to wrap our heads around it, and it was different than what we'd do on our own. I remember by the fourth time going up there, I put pressure on myself to keep making another song. Somehow, we'd pick each other up and keep the run going. It was cool to trade ideas and put them together."
The result of their harmonious sessions was released in June. The album's mix of laid-back, California retro pop with a splash of alt-country has been well-received. The Olms peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard's Top Heatseeker charts.
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Since the album's release, the Olms have stayed busy touring, including an appearance at the iTunes Festival in London, where they performed with Vampire Weekend. They're backed by a three-piece band, which helps accentuate parts of the album that couldn't be played by Yorn and King.
For the Olms, the most important thing, above any critical or commercial acclamation, has been the lessons learned in this new creative process. They are proud of the songs they wrote and have a further understanding of how this experience will help enhance their respective individual careers.
"I know this has been cool for me," Yorn says. "I've been a solo artist my whole career, basically. And to have this experience is something that I can take back to my solo stuff."