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Meanstreet interview with Ozma - May 2003

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"We really grew up in terms of our sound and willingness to experiment with different types of songwriting and arrangements."

Working Hard to be the next ... BY RANDY HARWARD Pasadena's Ozma ain't trying to be the next Zeppelin. They're far from it. Perhaps that's not even an aspiration, but it goes to an early truth: some bands got it, some don't.

That's a funny thing about Ozma: they never did seem to have "it" inasmuch as it meant sumpin' special. Their first two albums of fun, frolickin' rock fit snug and solid in the pop-punk column, save their appropriation of the Cars' siren-like keyboard sound (so often copped, nowadays, for quirk). Now comes Spending Time On The Borderline (Kung Fu), Ozma's third album since forming in 1995. It begins expectedly: swirly, happy keys and crunchy chords that spell W-E-E-Z-E-R L-O-V-E ("Spending Time"), until about 60 seconds later, when it werewolves into something more like ELO, a foreshadowing of it all going wrong -- so wrong -- but ... so right.

To allow Ozma a late preface: "It's definitely a breakthrough for us," says co-frontman/bassist Daniel Brummel. "We really grew up in terms of our sound and willingness to experiment with different types of songwriting and arrangements."

Ah, the dreaded new direction, the deviation from the norm, the result of which could potentially suck ass. Ozma's experimentation, however, works to marvelous effect. on Spending Time, they expand their horizons and reveal themselves as talented songwriters and musicians with reference points that skew and span decades.

People like examples: "Your Name" is a slow pop balladry ostensibly informed by Joe Jackson, Todd Rundgren, even Carole King, "Come Home Andrea" starts off Celtic, veers into stomping blues-rock on the verge of Blue Oyster Cultishness, then returns to and finishes at Pogues-ville. Initially, "Utsukushii Shibuya" is sonic art; strings, guitars, keys and flute playing an Eastern-ish melody that segues into another slow, sweet pop gem. "Restart" and "Curve in the Old 1-9" belie a roots rock influence, the later flirting with Farrar-Tweedy songwriting with Jonathan Richman melancholy in the vocal, somehow interfaced with an oddly appropriate, insistent alt-rock break.

"'Restart' and 'Utsukushii Shibuya,'" says Brummel, "were the first songs that showed us we could be happy with a new sound. After that, it broke wide open. 'Come Home Andrea' and 'Your Name' came in a flood after we removed ourselves from our old method of writing.

Slegr furthers: "[We used] strings, sax, a marching band on one track,12-string acoustic guitar, a little flute, lots of synths ... we kinda went crazy orchestrating it. As a result, there are more interesting sounds."

There's something else, though. Through experimentation, Ozma found "it." A new context, one that will see them step over the borderline that separates so-so soundalikes from bands with potentials to make statements and influence others to become not the next Zeppelin, but maybe the next ... Ozma. Then again, maybe that's not even a goal, even if it is a reality.

"I can't even really think about that stuff," says Brummel. "We book tours, play shows and write songs. Anything outside of that, and getting [the songs] to people that wanna hear them, I can't care about that. That's the point, for me."

On the web: www.ozmaonline.com. Upcoming shows: May 17 - The El Rey (Los Angeles)


See also