UCLA Daily Bruin interview with Daniel Brummel and Ryen Slegr - April 2000
Band brings honesty through musical chaos
MUSIC: Ozma recruits following through Internet, attains global popularity with low-key attitude
By Laura Loh
Daily Bruin Contributor
There are at least two guys at UCLA with music in their heads that sounds a bit like Weezer, but which is really, as they describe it themselves, a "unique brand of orderly, guitar-based, synth-driven chaos."
They are Daniel Brummel, a first-year music student, and Ryen Slegr, a third-year undeclared student, the singers and primary songwriters in the rock band Ozma.
For the past five years, Ozma has been steadily gathering a loyal following with the help of the Internet. First reaching out to listeners by posting their songs on the Web site mp3.com, the group gradually began to sell copies of its music and to form a strong relationship with music lovers all over the globe.
"We have fans in Sweden, even Russia," said Slegr "In faraway places, little people that like strange things from distant lands like America."
Their second album, "Rock and Roll Part Three," was released earlier this year by their own label, Tornado Recordings The last song on the album, "In Search of 1988," is a tribute to the '80s influences that the band grew up with: Mario and Luigi, ouija boards, the "Back to the Future" movies. Many of the tracks deal with looking back at the past or longing for the unattainable.
The status of the band, however, isn't one of these objects of wishing and longing. Because all of the members, including guitarist Jose Galvez. drummer Patrick Edwards and keyboardist Star Wick, are attending college, their low-key musical presence doesn't bother them. The pressure to succeed and to make money has yet to catch up with them.
They are happy with the Internet medium because it allows them a more personal relationship with their listeners that they wouldn't get with a wider radio audience.
"People will write us from places we've never heard of and say, I really, really, really like your record,'" said Brummel, "which I don't think we'd gel if we were a one-hit wonder on KROQ."
This low-key attitude extends to their live performances. Although Ozma has played large shows in the LA area alongside other bands, performing at private gatherings is what the group enjoys the most.
"Parties are cool because there's so much less pressure," said Brummel. "And after you play you can go hang out and smoke cigarettes with the people instead of trying to sell them your album. Not that any of us smoke cigarettes."
"We don't smoke cigarettes," Slegr added. "Or anything. Not really. Not on a regular basis."
Ozma is an odd mixture of youth and maturity. Its music conveys a sense of searching and urgency that is absent in more mature bands like Weezer. There's also an element of chaos that reflects the musicians' youthful and fun-loving approach to music.
Concerning the band's earlier songs, Brummel jokingly said, "You can kind of tell these were kids in a bedroom, practicing every weekend."
But the band is constantly reordering this musical chaos in order to craft a unique voice, all while continuing to absorb outside influences such as fusion jazz, reggae and classical.
Confident in terms of technical skill and group dynamics, Ozma has now reached a self-conscious stage. "We're at the point now where we have to decide on what we want to say," Brummel said. And we're not going to be satisfied until we have something that's honestly us."
This self-consciousness makes Ozma's members seem older than they are. Slegr, an avid history student, sees the band as an individual moment in the history of rock. "If you don't like certain music, or you think your genre could be better," he said, "then you have to actually make it and put your opinion in it. And take part in the conversation of your type of music."
As for the kinds of people they want to reach with their music, that includes just about everyone. They like seasoned fans who can recognize Ozma's indebtedness to artists of past decades such as the Smiths, the Ramones, and KISS. But they are also glad for the younger fans who enjoy the music without necessarily understanding its musical background. These listeners prove that Ozma is filling in a void and keeping a tradition alive.
In the end, it's probably best to put the analysis away when it comes to the simple enjoyment of music.
"Really good rock music, you can play it for 4-year-olds and they'll jump up and down," Brummel said, "There's something visceral, something human, that makes people like it."
MUSIC: Ozma's next performance is at 7:00 pm April 19 at Occidental College in Highland Park, Calif For more information, visit www.ozmaonline.com.