A quirky, cryptic and compelling chat with lead Oozer Dante White Aliano
On their self-titled debut, Oozelles have distilled the entire history of rock’n’roll, modern jazz and pop music into a bracing blast of melody and rhythm that will leave you gasping.
There is an abundance of familiar sounds in the band’s arrangements. Hints of The Birthday Party, CAN, The Gun Club, Cramps, Gang of Four, Stax/Volt soul, Sun Ra, Steely Dan, Los Lobos, The Clash, surf music and lots more float through the mix, but they’re distilled down into something original. Consider them the first post-genre rock band.
Oozelles’ songs are progressive and danceable, full of surreal lyrics and unexpected changes of tempo that keep listeners guessing, while still remaining true to the primal spirit of rock’n’roll. The band – singer, guitar player, lyricist Dante White Aliano; drummer David Orlando, bass player Jada Wagensomer; guitarist, keyboard player and percussionist Samuel Banuelos; saxophone, flute and electronic wind instrument maestro Gregory Marino and guitarist Phillipp Minnig – come up with the material in a creative free-for-all without limitation.
Oozelles highlights include the shrieking punk dissonance of “Secret Door;” the bouncing, guitar heavy surf beat of “Why Do You Eat People?;” the soul shattering punk/funk of “Cry Blood” and “Arson Dolphin,” a jazzy ballad with kaleidoscopic lyrics full of wild animals and firefighters. The Globe spoke to Oozelles’ ringleader Dante White Aliano to get the story behind the band’s unconventional approach.
What’s the story behind the band’s name? It calls to mind mythical animals, girl groups from the 60s and Sci-fi films.
You pretty much nailed it. I wanted a made up word that embodied a primordial force that contained within itself every form and possibility.
How long did it take to write the songs? How long did it take to record the music?
Some songs were written over the course of months, others took longer. Same with the recording. Since I record and mix everything, as well as writing lyrics and singing, it seems like I’m the one who’s usually holding up the process.
What were the challenges of producing yourself? Is this the first time you’ve produced an album?
I’ve been recording, producing and mixing other bands since 2013. We practice in the recording studio and I record almost every practice as if it were a recording session. One cool thing about this is that I can experiment without worrying that I’ll screw up someone else’s record. I get to use all this experience when I record a band for real, including Oozelles. The challenge for me is that I get so excited by the producing part, I’ll often skip the lyric writing and just go straight to the mixing, but this is ultimately just another way to procrastinate.
There’s a consciously retro/history of early 60s feel to the album. How did you arrive at that approach?
If that exists it’s actually not conscious. Everyone in this band listens to an enormous array of music, across a wide array of genres, and recordings spanning the last 100 or more years.
There seems to be a revival of interest in classic rock, for lack of a better word. Any ideas why?
Nostalgia for the genre’s mythic, so called golden age, is nearly as old as the genre itself. In 1960, the Beatles were already playing 50s rock covers. I don’t think this strange feature has ever gone away. It might even be a defining characteristic. What’s ridiculous is when you watch these documentaries about these musical movements in which the professed goals were to “destroy rock n roll,” while they’re playing just another subtle mutation on the genre. On the other hand, everyone in Oozelles listens to an almost endless variety of stuff, most of which is NOT rock of any type.
Jada Wagensomer, your bass player, is a therapist. Do you know what her clients think of your music?
The whole reason they need therapy is because they are so traumatized by our music.
Is your drummer David Orlando Tony Orlando’s brother?
They’re the exact same person. In fact, I am also David Orlando. So are you. We all are.
Everyone in the band works together to write the songs. What is that process like?
Sometimes someone will bring in parts but, more often, we find ourselves showing up with nothing. We just start playing and suddenly it sounds like a song. I don’t even know where the music is coming from sometimes. Those are my favorite moments.
Do you write music first, words first or some combination? Where do you find inspiration?
I never write lyrics first. I have no idea what I’m going to write about until it’s written. Lyrics are the only thing keeping music from being a universal language. Even when they’re amazing, they’re the weakest link in a song. When I want to learn about a subject, I don’t look for songs that are written about it. I never decide what a song is going to be about. It’s already been decided. I just have to dig until I find out what it is.
Are you the main lyricist? The songs seem to be full of Oedipal sex, bloodthirsty sirens, zombie jamborees and other surrealist nightmares. What’s your lyrical approach?
I’m the only lyricist, so far, and those are accurate observations. My lyrical approach is a lot of trial and error until an idea that I don’t hate comes along. I write and record entire drafts, then decide I hate the whole concept and start from scratch. It’s ugly and painful. I don’t even feel like I’m the lyricist. I feel like something, or someone, is dictating to me and I have to keep trying and failing till I get it right.
Does everyone contribute to the arrangements?
Yes! Since we have six people in the band, the arrangements just offer themselves up. The challenge is maintaining some space in the music, but we’re getting better at that.
Do you write all the time?
I’m turning this interview into a song.
How did the band get together?
I wish I could say something like, “I’ve played with Jada in other bands. Jada had played with Greg before. Sam and Dave (yes, THAT Sam and Dave) and I had tried to start a thing before that only went so far. I’ve known Philipp forever – we’re from the same town – and had been wanting to play together for a long time.” But the truth is, it was more like an arranged marriage. When we were toddlers, our parents decided that we would play together.
Does LA have any influence on your music?
I think everything has an influence on everything. Places have souls. LA has a personality that we’re all immersed in. Even if that personality is at times so vile and repugnant that we want to embody its exact opposite, that’s still an influence.
How has your music evolved since you started playing together?
It’s become more collaborative. We’re just barely beginning to harness the dynamic powers of a six-piece band.
What’s your ultimate direction?