Everyone at RootMusic is a huge OONA fan – she’s got an amazing live show, kick ass vocals and some totally dance-y tunes to top it off. You’ve probably heard her music in some of our videos, and you probably saw her play at our launch party in November and at our SXSW showcase. So we thought, ‘Who better to kick off our new blog series, BandTalk?’ We’ll be talking to some of our favorite musicians about what it’s like to be a musician, touring, recording and more. So check it out!
RootMusic: Tell us about your band. Who are your fans?
OONA: My band is called OONA, like me. It’s music I make with Dave Tweedie, who plays drums with us in our 5-piece live band. We write the music we want to hear, put on the show we want to see, and maybe it’s something you want too. Our fans are creative, passionate, inspiring, and very good-looking.
RM: Tell us an amazing show/tour story.
OONA: It was a RootMusic show we played at SXSW last month. We’d come off a beast of a show on some rickety stage the night before, crammed into the corner of a patio, half a blown out community PA system, backlined gear wasn’t in place, no lights, just messy. We did our best, then got trashed and woke up the next day hating life. Didn’t think we had a show, but lo and behold at 7PM we get word we’ve been invited to play a RootMusic showcase in half an hour. No time to promote it, so we start playing with 3 people in the audience. And that includes the bartender. It’s the kind of situation you feel sorry for the band. I decided to use the extra space as an opportunity to practice my more spacious dance moves, which lightened the mood for all of us. By the time we were halfway through, the room was respectably full, and we’d been having an infectious good time. Alex had the worst hangover, and played some of his finest solos. We gave it up to the pleasure of this music we’ve worked so hard to make.
And it worked. Everyone in the audience had the same smile on their face that we did, it was a special show, one I will never forget. We finished playing, someone calls out “Are you signed?” and we say “No” and they say “Why not?” like we must have a good reason or something. So, from a pitfall patio gig to a few Brits’ favorite SXSW show, in 24 hours. The pendulum swings.
RM: Tell us about your 1st show ever, best show ever, worst show ever?
OONA: Awww, I love them all. Gimme a crowd, a mic, make sure we can all hear ourselves, and we will play our sultry hearts out for you. A kind club staff and a bathroom backstage also help.
RM: What’s the best way to book a show?
OONA: Be good, be great! Make friends! Always put on your very best show, no matter how dinky the sound system or rude the audience, building your reputation as a musician, a performer, and a person is happening all the time.
RM: What’s your creative process like? How do you write music? What inspires you?
OONA: I’ve found that my best work comes from working all the time. Since I write the words, I try to always be working on song ideas, short phrases I like, take the time to write down those ideas that come in the middle of the night. I study phrasing – I’ll listen to Adele, MGMT and Ludacris’ phrasing, they all have something for me. As far as writing the music goes, I can’t take credit for that. Dave’s playing almost all the instruments on almost all the songs. Some of it comes out of us just jamming, other times he or i will have a pretty good idea of what kind of song we want to make, and sometimes he’s made a whole song he invites me to sing on and write words for. He sets quite a high bar! I’ve found that playing multiple instruments helps me listen to music in different ways, not to mention, more appreciation for what my boys are doing onstage.
RM: What do you love about being in the recording studio? What do you hate about it?
OONA: Recording is more honest than anyone you’ve ever met. Any time you’re in front of a microphone, you’re facing the possibility of sucking, of finding out you need to go spend some time with a metronome, honest. That brings up roadblocks – voices in my head that stop my hands, the doubter. The doubter sucks, the doubter has had too much sway in my life. So, I LOVE the studio for challenging me to tell that voice to piss off, and make something that makes people sing, and dance, something very human, and much greater than me or my fears.
RM: How do you use the Internet to get the word out about your music, shows and new releases?
OONA: I would rather do a few things well than a lot of things poorly, I think it’s more important to be consistent than ubiquitous, it invites communication.
RM: What are your tips for musicians trying to navigate all the new music tools on the Internet?
OONA: Someone told me this, I think it’s so on point: the same person who can get your music onto a site or into a store, is the same person who has the power over how visible your product is, once it’s in the store. Is it featured or buried? So still important to cultivate personal relationships, even if it’s just on the phone or via email exchanges. Find a real person behind the curtain.
Also – there are a boatload of companies who exist only to make money off your dream. If someone wants to make money off your work, that’s one thing – you can benefit, too. But off your dream? You can’t make money off your dream! Know the difference, and don’t fall for it. It’s not a new business model, but it’s an ugly one.
RM: What’s on the horizon for your band?
OONA: Presently: A Big Show April 16 at Bottom of the Hill! With Dogcatcher and Super Adventure Club. We’re headlining, so we get to play a long set. Lately we’ve been doing a lot of 30 minute wonders. So i’m looking forward to it, please come!
Beyond that, we are looking to tour. We are working on a Pacific coast tour! Also, our music seems to be doing quite well in Brazil and Australia. So fellas, make sure your passports are up to date. If you are a band who wants to put our madness and magic together, please get in touch via our BandPage.
In the meantime, I will edit your music video for cheap.
Sounds like: Music with TEETH!!
Genre: pop / indie rock / soul rock
Hometown: Oakland, CA
Playing since: forever. This band since 2007.
Albums released: 1 – Shhhhout! and various online free-p EPs along the way. New EP this Summer :)
Band members: Music by Dave Tweedie & Oona Garthwaite, additional production by Stephen Bradley. Live band members include Alex Doty (guitar), Andrew Lion (bass), Matt Berkeley (keys). Dave plays drums live.
Favorite musicians: Paul McCartney, Meshell Ndegeocello, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Pharrell Williams,
Other inspirations: art / books / sex / fights / seasons / concrete / hands / not being homeless / dreams / trees / subways / more
Photos by Tamarind Free Jones
And check out OONA in our commercial, too: