Recently, we got a chance to talk with Tony Pagorek from alternative-rock act Oceans Over Airplanes about their band, their dreams, and their newest EP Young Nights which released on November 27!
The band originally hail from Crown Point, Indiana but have made a strong splash in the Chicago scene. Opening up for acts such as Hawthorne Heights, Empires, Real Friends, and more as well as being featured at SXSW’s Chicago Showcase, are just a few of the bands already impressive accomplishments. Over the past couple of years the band has gone through several line-up changes and evolving writing methods but one thing has remained the same: their hope to inspire nostalgic reflection through their songs!
Check out our interview below:
Thank you so much for talking with us today, congratulations on your latest release Young Nights. Can you give us a timeline of your band from its’ inception to this third EP of yours?
Well first thank you very much, we are very excited to have our new music out, its a great feeling at the moment.
Our first self-titled EP was released in 2010. Our follow up full length Album “Rip the Sky from the Earth” was released in January of 2011. Our EP REVIVAL SONGS was released on Stayposi records in the fall of 2013. Finally our newest EP YOUNG NIGHTS was released in November of 2015.
You guys have gone through a little bit of a line-up change over the years, but can you tell us a bit about how you all met and started playing music together?
Joe Muzyka and I first met at Andrean High School in Merrillville, IN. I was actually a teacher at the school and Joe was a student. I never taught Joe, however we began to talk music quite a bit and would recommend bands to each other. We also had a mutual interest in recording and we would stay after school to work on updating and fixing the school’s recording, which was dormant for years. When Joe Graduated we kept in touch and our interest in recording actually kept us together. We started Hey Charlie Studios and where helping to record each other’s bands. As the recording process continued for my project, I had Joe play more and more leads, so we eventually thought it would be a good idea to play together in a band which was called The Cover-up. This band would evolve and morph into Oceans Over Airplanes. Joe Bickham would replace the original drummer of the band during the writing of Rip the Sky from the Earth. I knew Joe from my interactions with him in other bands in our area. I actually played at his first show ever. He was one of those guys that stood out from the moment I met him. I would see him randomly over the years and every time we ran into each other we always had a great conversation. I remember seeing him play randomly a couple of years back and thinking to myself, I love this guy’s style of playing, I would love to be in a band with this guy. I randomly contacted him after our drummer decided to leave. Joe was actually on the tail end of looking for a band. He was considering not playing anymore because he couldn’t find anything that interested him. I am so glad that I made that phone call. After we had become a three piece and I had switch from guitar to bass, we would always have these talks about adding a 4th guy back into the band. We really wanted to open up what our guitar player could do in a live setting. So we began having conversations on who would be a good fit. We originally met Jeff by recording his bands. I know we always loved his gear, his tone and his unique style of guitar playing. However he was always in another band and we didn’t want to ask him out of respect to his current projects. However when we asked him if he knew any guitar players that might be interested in playing in our band, he responded with “yeah I want to play in your band”. So really when I look back at this band, really I am super lucky to play with guys that I have all met from our area, that have all played in other bands and All of them I have secretly wanted to play with, so it’s like a dream for me.
You guys are from Crown Point, IN but it looks like you have a pretty strong following in Chicago? What was the thought process and execution like for getting into that market?
Well its a big market; one that we are still only scratching the surface. We know that in Chicago there are better venues and a better chance of getting our music in front of music lovers, not just people that are going to a bar first and music second. So honestly we are still figuring things out, which promoters are really there for the bands, venues that treat you right, bands that will welcome us to the Chicago scene and accept what we are doing. Joe has moved to the city and we are now trying to take advantage of his presence moving forward with flyers, etc. However our goal is to continue playing small/mid sized clubs and try to pack the rooms consistently. Finally we are just trying to get a couple of new fans every show so that we see our audience with new faces every time we come back. We know that we might not ever be considered a Chicago band, but at least we want to known and respected. So far the response as been positive and we hope that we can continue to form great relationships along the way.
Are you currently signed or affiliated with a record label?
We were signed to a small indie label STAYPOSI records for one EP. The label unfortunately is no longer running. So we are currently searching for another label to represent us.
If not, how was the DIY/indie process for recording and releasing this EP?
Even when we were signed to a label, nothing has changed for us. We have recorded every song that we have created from Day one. The only thing that we did differently this time around was to use a couple different people to mix and master the EP (Marc Nelson, Pete Grossman (mixing), Dale Becker and Collin Jordan (mastering). That was the big chance we took. We also have decided to only press digital download cards and have the songs available for purchase at bandcamp.com.
We have also decided to have some people aid us in the press/marketing of the new EP to see if we can reach a new audience and gain some more traction that we can not just do on Facebook and Twitter ourselves.
Are any of you guys still in school, or did you go to school for anything related to the music industry?
Our drummer Joe Bickham is actually graduating from College next weekend. I have a college degree from Kalamazoo College, however it is in Biology and Environmental Studies. I almost had a minor in music and took some recording classes. Joe Muzyka actually has a degree from DePaul University in Sound Recording Technology.
What does the songwriting process generally look like for OOA?
We follow one of two methods: We usually will bring riffs to the band, everyone brings ideas from time to time, and we sit in a circle in our practice room and try working out the idea, just see where it takes us, see if we can build off of the initial riff into an actual song, something with structure.
We also have full ideas that are brought to the table, sometimes we have a full blown idea in our head and come with what we think is a finished idea and teach it to the group.
You’ve opened up for some pretty big acts so far, can you tell us a little bit about that and what your favorite show has been so far?
We have been lucky to say the least to have shared the stage with some good acts. I think for us the best show to be apart of was our SXSW showcase. We played with some great Chicago staples that day and at that time a huge band in Chicago, Empires. That was during all the success they had with that Rolling Stone Contest. We played directly after them, played a very energetic set, we just fed off of their energy and the crowd. At the end of our set, the crowd wanted an encore from us. Here we are our first time in Austin and people want more and up till that point, the crowd wasn’t calling for encores. It really made us think that we have something special going on hear. So for me that is one of those moments that still drives me today.
Are you looking to do any tours on this new EP?
Yes. We are looking to string a bunch of weekend warrior outings together at the start of 2016. We are really hoping that we can find a band that will take us out with them. We want to focus on the Midwest and the East coast. We are also hoping to land some festivals and conferences in the upcoming months.
PopMatters describes your latest single “A-GAME” as “an infections new alt-rock track” do you agree with this statement?
Definitely. I think the song is the most radio friendly and pop sensible things that we have written. It was a huge breakthrough for us a band to know that we are capable of writing a song like this. We definitely want to continue to experiment writing songs like this. It seems like every show we play it is the song that people are talking about.
You guys seem to take a strong stand on the disconnect that “screens” or electronics have on our daily lives, how do you battle that with this modern day?Especially considering how necessary they are in the music business?
It is such a battle. I want to use it as a tool, like a hammer or a shovel. However I don’t want to feel like I need to be on the thing all the time. I like to experience the moment, I don’t need to document every meal I eat, every outfit I wear, every show that I go to. I think that if I am truly in the moment that I will remember the event vividly. The tough part about that mindset is that people want to know so much of who we are, what we do, our personal lives, so that you have to document to an extent, we can’t afford to not make connections with people at this stage of our career. What I ask of our fans is that when they come to shows, don’t worry about taking pictures or video during our set, that is what we pay people to do, so that they can sit back and enjoy. We will post those moments later for you. We just want people to get lost in our music, to escape from their lives. You can’t do that tethered to a phone.
Do you think that your online presence is important for fans to find you and critics to find your music to write about?
It is the name of the game these days. It is the easiest ways to get information out and to share music with new listeners. I mean I do think that it is amazing that in today’s technology that we have the capability of having anyone in the world stumble upon us. To be able to have the potential of building a fan base in another country with never going there is huge for an up and coming band like ourselves. However with so much out there, the only reliable source of communication to drive people to our youtube videos, our music, our merch, these interviews that we are doing, is by a newsletter. That is why we need people to send and provide their email addresses, that way we truly can control our communication. So much get’s lost on facebook and twitter and every other site. So while it is great to have content, we need a means to drive our audience there.
What drives you to release new music in such a declining market?
We continue to create and release music because we still think it is something of value. Music is such a powerful thing in a majority of people’s lives that it is our duty as musicians to continue to put it out there, we can’t control trends, spending, etc. If you try to do that you will drive yourself crazy. We still believe there are people that still believe in supporting bands, that feel the way we do. I mean just this week we are seeing people pay more money than what we are asking for our EP. So there are people that realize what we put into our music, what it takes, the sacrifices we make to get it out there. It is nice to see that people realize that this is our dream, our potential full time careers. However I think with so much music out there, we have flooded the market with tons of sub par music as a music community. If we want to revive the music industry we need to continue as musicians to provide music that is worth listening to, music that is worth seeing live, if we can’t do that the trend will continue.
What kind of team do you have working around you?
Currently we have a PR company that we are working with and that is it. We would love to find a booking agent to start making touring a more regular part of our lives more than anything. We have secured some pretty big stages in the past year, from the House of Blues to the Metro, Bottom Lounge and Cobra Lounge in Chicago. We have felt comfortable every time we have played on these stages, none of these stages seem “Too Big” for us at this point in our careers, instead the feel like the venues that we should be playing on a nightly basis. We are just searching for our moment, that break.
Is there anyone you can credit as a mentor or a big believer in you guys as a band?
Unfortunately we seem to have to figure things out quite a bit by ourselves over the years, however that has made us who we are as band, very self-reliant. As of recent, we have a friend Kasey Gandham, who is working with as an adviser. He has been great in keeping us focused, helping us set long and short term goals, etc. We have some things we would like to accomplish this coming year and we hope that with guidance we can make some big strides. Also Jeff’s dad, Jeff Popka, over the course of his first year around the band, has been a huge supporter for the group. He has always been big into music, he actually runs a showcase at SXSW, TEXAS INDIE FEST and his own internet radio show, INDIE ON AIR!, We can’t thank him enough for his advice and the promotion he has given our band as of late.
What do you hope your next steps are, both as a band and as a business?
As we stated before our biggest concern is getting in front of audiences. We hope that we can find a booking agent that believes in our music and believes that it needs to be heard. Hopefully we can also find a band or two that would like to take us out with them. We are also looking to get our music out there for the film, TV and gaming world. Hopefully we can find some placement for our music in the upcoming year.
Any final words?
First thank you for the opportunity and for believing in our music.
We hope that people that read this article enjoy the YOUNG NIGHTS EP and go and download it right away. Also we encourage you to share our music with your friends. Please feel free to contact us, we want to get to know our supporters. We want to know what you think of the songs, how/if they have effected your life, etc.
We also want to wish everyone happy holidays and we hope you get to share them with family, friends, a loved one.
Your support will make our Holidays.
Finally we plan on having new music out again in the Spring of 2016, so please stay in touch and send us your email address, it is the best way that we can keep you posted in the future.