Interview: Ogbert the Nerd
Posted: by The Editor
Ogbert the Nerd sounds like the cousin to the Captain Underpants series. However, they are the emo quartet out of New Jersey who has been releasing new music like crazy since 2019. We got the pleasure of speaking with the entire band about their latest record, their values as musicians and what it’s been like to release a record in times like these.
The Alternative: All of you have a really impressive amount of singles and an EP over the last year or so. So how did you develop your sound from your first EP to your latest single “Snail”?
Madison: I think for us just playing around for a while. We’ve had “Snail” for a while. So just playing it over and over, ‘shopping different ways of playing it.
Ross: I think it was the realization of what we wanted to do with the EP. Coming into ourselves and getting acquainted with our playing styles. When we wrote the first EP we’d only been playing together for about two weeks or so.
Matt: Each of the songs took different paths. The songs evolved a lot. Even with “Snail” there’s a dance beat on it. I think I played it once just fooling around and we all decided that we liked it and it stuck.
Madison: Then the horns came in at some point.
Building off of that, can you take me through your writing process?
Ross: Oftentimes Madison and I will come in with a riff and we all will expand on it. We compose the songs all together. So I think there’s a good amount of deliberation of not stepping on people’s toes. Making sure that the puzzle pieces come together. In the recording, we did that ourselves. So we spent a lot of time doing multiple takes and making sure that everything sounds the way we want it to be.
Shawn: I played with Ross before in a previous band and I really like his riffs so I try to provide rhythm for them.
Madison: We usually ‘shop out the instruments for a while and once we have a more concrete structure then I will usually come in with the vocals. I usually do most of the lyrics and at some point while we are working on it we will end up with a song that we all like. That’s kind of how “Snail” worked. We had the riff and the breakdown for a while. We had a lot of freeform structure with it. So we experimented, “slow-down,” “do this,” “do that.” Just repeating it over and over again. It’s a long process.
Ross: It’s just going through that evolution. Some songs we almost write them in real-time, in the session we’re in. I think “Rats” took almost an hour.
Shawn: I think “Robot” was less than that.
Ross: The record was kind of a collection of all of these different ideas. Once we were all in the same room together that was pretty much it. “Snail” I think in particular had a lot of different evolutions.
Awesome. I think evidently in your music you have a lot of math rock influences. Can you name some bands or artists that have been staples to you as a musician and then to Ogbert the Nerd as a band?
Madison: I think the one we can all agree on is Snowing.
Ross: Snowing is the big one. That was a band that I found when I was young. They really blew my mind and I never realized music can sound the way Snowing sounds. We get a lot of comparisons to that band. I don’t necessarily see it.
Madison: I think it’s a band we all individually enjoy. Not that we went out of our way to sound like them, but getting the comparison never hurts. I definitely appreciate it. I really like Joyce Manor. Very straightforward kind of music. K-Record type of stuff, I’ve always been a big fan of. That straightforward ramshackle jangly kind of stuff.
Shawn: It also helps that the 4 of us listen to vastly different music.
Ross: We all have pretty eclectic tastes.
Matt: I listen to a lot of jazz and various types of music.
What are some top 5 or top 10 bands or records you’ve been digging in quarantine?
Shawn: I’ve been listening to a lot of things. I’ll go from Delta Sleep’s EP “Younger Years” and then I’ll go back to the past and listen to Closure in Moscow and some other random music.
Ross: Recently I’ve been really into the new Have a Good Season record. I really like their EPs and their new record has been on repeat for me.
Matt: For me probably the new Godcaster record. That’s probably my album of the year honestly. I just love Godcaster so much. I would love to make music like that someday. Really extra and fun dance-rock.
Madison: For me, I’ve listened to 2nd Grade’s new LP at least 100 times. That record came out in May I think, and has been one of my favorite things to come out in a very long time. A lot of Cassiotone for the Painfully Alone. A lot of lo-fi stuff that I’ve been into recently. The Guitar-Fi record for sure.
Matt: Oh! Your Arms Are My Cocoon.
Madison: Yes! They’ve put out one of my fav records this year for sure. It’s a 16 minute EP but it’s a mix of Skramz and Bedroom-Pop which is something I never heard of at the same time. I think that everyone in the band has listened to it and is left perplexed. That and Lobster Fight.
This is giving me so many new things to listen to!
Ross: It’s hard to not get stuck without outside influences. You kind of get stuck in the same pattern of music. Nothing wrong with it but it’s nice to have something to break out with.
Madison: There are a couple of times I’ve found myself going down the easycore hole.
Is that a genre now?
Madison: Yes! Like A Day to Remember and some harder pop-punk. Knuckle Puck and Wonder Years are probably easycore. So I’ve been going back through that. I’ve found myself going through a lot of comfort music during quarantine. Especially around April, early May when things were really bad and we were uncertain as to what was going on. I definitely found myself returning to a lot of comfort stuff. I’ve watched Stop Making Sense about 4 times.
It’s an absolute classic.
Madison: Also Vulfpeck at Madison Square Garden.
I will definitely look those bands up. What do you think Ogbert the Nerd brings to the table that differentiates you from other bands in this genre?
Shawn: I don’t think we really need to bring anything to the table. We’re just making music.
Madison: I feel like we are doing some things that a lot of over bands aren’t doing. We’re very hook-focused. I come from a past of writing pop riffs and that definitely reflects in the music. I try to write catchy things. Where a lot of emo doesn’t focus on that. In terms of writing I think a big issue with emo is that it’s very outwardly directed instead of inward. Where there’s that joke of “I’m going to write a pop-punk song about you because you broke up with me.” That kind of thing. That’s been something I’ve been very conscious about in terms of writing. Of course there’s things I write about that have to do with real-life situations, but one of my objectives is to go about it in a way that is vague or is pointed entirely inward. Where it’s more of my reaction to the situation as opposed to how other people treated me or how other people are responsible for the way I feel. Because I feel like what a lot of emo doesn’t focus on is your responsibility with taking care of yourself. I will usually only go inward and be like “This is your problem. This is for you to deal with.” Yeah people suck but, with our songs it’s very much so opposite from what you’d typically see in emo. More self-critique over anything else.
That’s really great to hear and refreshing. So what are some values you hold yourselves to as a band and as an individual in the music community?
Madison: Well we’re very far left. Which is not too out of the ordinary in this sphere. We’re very community-focused. We like involving our friends in projects and subscribe to the idea of doing things together as opposed to D.I.Y. Someone coined D.I.T. which is do it together, which I very much subscribe to the idea of bringing together through art regardless of ability or clout. More making a support group for everyone to feel welcome and to express themselves and feel comfortable. With our record we tried to get as many of our friends involved as possible in various aspects. With COVID that wasn’t entirely possible but with everything else and the way we operate we’ve always just done it through our friends and getting our friends involved and that’s kind of where we stand in terms of our values.
Ross: I think there’s a certain kind of sincerity that we try to uphold in both our music and how we communicate ourselves to the scene.
I like the D.I.T. acronym I am going to start using that. Considering we are still in a pandemic what are some things you do to build community without being able to physically see people and play shows?
Madison: Twitter. A lot of posting on twitter. I always love making someone laugh on twitter. There are some days that have been awful for me through this and seeing some dumb Tik Tok that gets me to laugh is what a lot of people need. We try to do that on our social media. We try to keep things light.
Ross: I think we also really wanted the record to come out this year so we can try to make things a little better for those who have been waiting for it for a while. Keeping it in 2020 was really important for us.
Where do you see Ogbert the Nerd going in the next 5 years?
Shawn: Outer Space.
Madison: Hopefully we will get to play one show in the next 5 years.
Ross: There’s no telling where the future lies, if this will even be a project in 5 years. I think people will be finding Ogbert even if we aren’t making music anymore. I think people will be finding the record. I hope that the music still resonates in 5 years. I hope there’s not a global disaster where people can’t listen to Spotify anymore.
Madison: That’s one of the upsides to this is that the internet has held up.
Ross: It’s the only thing that keeps everything together, honestly.
Would you say that legacy is important to you?
Madison: In some respects.
Ross: When we made this band we had no intentions. It was a studio band and we didn’t have many expectations of anyone finding it. People are resonating with our music now and I think they will resonate with it in the future. I think as far as emo bands go, not a lot of them are sticking around. I think having a kind of legacy is important even if we are a small potatoes type of band.
Madison: I think our game plan is to break up in 3 years then a few years later we come out with a pop album.
Ross: 3 years is generous.
Madison: I’m trying to do the Fall Out Boy thing.
Ross: We’re going to come back with some dubstep.
Madison: Yeah, Shawn is hooking us up with the beat.
What do you hope listeners get from listening to your music?
Shawn: Pure, absolute joy.
Madison: I hope people feel something from it. There’s a lot of things that cut deep on the record especially for me as the person who wrote a lot of the lyrics.
What’s one sentence you would use to describe Ogbert the Nerd?
Madison: One that I’ve used to describe the album is “the album itself begins at a party and ends at a funeral. Ogbert is the in between.”
Ross: I’d say this album is the album that I wanted when I was 16.
Madison: This is the album I needed when I was a teenager.
Shawn: I feel like chaotic minds is a way to describe it. 4 different monster brains here to scream at your face.
Ross: Ogbert is not love, it is the hammer we will use to smash our enemies.
Interview by Sarah Knoll
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