Following the re-release of their Brain EP on Castle Face Records, Once & Future Band – the Oakland-based psych pop collective expertly comprised of Eli Eckert (bass, vocals), Joel Robinow (keyboards, vocals), Raj Ojha (drums), and Raze Regal (guitar) – sat down briefly with us for a quick interview. The EP is pieced together with four enigmatic, moody tracks that will make your tastebuds water with excitement as you stumble along the quirky and wonderful soundscape that the four piece provides. Check out everything they had to divulge to us about their musical lives below!
What was your first musical memory, and did it have an impact on the way you create now?
(Joel Robinow) My first musical memory was actually seeing les miserables on its first run when it came to San Francisco. It was with the ideal cast, Michael ball, the incomparable colm Wilkinson, lea salonga, and Tim Curry as Javier. I was electrified. I didn’t know that music was capable of making you feel emotions…I had butterflies in my stomach the entire time, the intricate arrangements, the opulence…it’s all still very clear in my mind. Dunno. That and the video for “steppin out” by joe Jackson.
Your Brain EP was just re-released, and we’re super super smitten. Any fun anecdotes from that original production process that you can share with us – or any new details in getting the re-release out?
(Raj Ojha) We do most of the production / recording ourselves, recording wherever our home studio is at the time. For some songs that need a larger space, we’ll record basics (drums, bass, some keyboards) at our buddy Phil Manley’s studio(s). For the Brain EP, we recorded two songs entirely (basics, overdubs) in Joel’s bedroom at the time. I remember shag carpet everywhere and low ceilings which really aided in the vibe and dry / tight sound we got for the bass and drums on those tracks. The drums, bass and keyboard for the other two EP songs were recorded in San Francisco, at Lucky Cat Studios (which is also where we mixed the EP). The room there was the literal antithesis of what we had at Joel’s.
While we did have a clear vision of what we wanted to achieve sonically, there was a lot of experimentation, a lot of trial and error. There were many long nights spent trying layered vocal harmonies, scrapping them, replacing them with synths, then guitars, and sometimes going back to mix all of them together just for a chorus or outro. It’s those parts of the recording process we enjoy the most, where we sculpt the song’s arrangement and sounds beyond what we initially had in mind. Deadlines really help us from going off the deep end when we go down those paths, usually because we never want to stop. Since then (about 5 years ago), we’ve gotten a lot better at knowing when a song is done, and when its final voice is apparent.
How does it feel knowing that your creation is finally out in the world – with wider distribution this go’round?
(RO) It feels great! We’ve been playing these songs for so long now, and they’ve changed over time in a live setting. It’s nice to show some our newer fans a little piece of our history. Hopefully it also helps tide over people while we work on a few other releases, including our next LP.
Do you have a favorite track from the EP, or one that you prefer to perform over others?
(RO) The song “Brain (Watching Your Eyes)” has been a mainstay in our live set since the beginning. It’s one of the first songs we started playing as a band and over the years has morphed into something that the EP couldn’t contain (we’ve been known to extend this song to over 15 minutes live). One reason for it’s longevity in our live show is because it really lets us stretch out, improvise and add new twists and turns that aren’t featured on other tracks of ours. Improvisation is an important aspect to our group, especially in a live setting and even though “Brain” has a tight arrangement, it allows us the freedom to do something new every night in the second half of the song. It’s nice to take chances in front of an audience, it keeps things fresh and allows us to communicate musically in new ways between each other.
How do you imagine people listening to your new EP?
(RO) I imagine it right now, probably because you suggested it…let’s see….there’s a guy, wait actually it might be a girl…hard to say, their back is turned. They’re holding something in their right hand, I can almost see it, it glints…a knife? No, that’s unlikely….oh…it’s a pen. Phew!!! They are bobbing their head in time with the music.
(EE) My dream scenario of someone hearing our EP is that it just feels to them like something they’ve been waiting to hear. It fits like a glove and they’re as stoked on what we created as we were to create it. They’re just all “Hell yes”.
If you could be any superhero – “real” or made up – who would you be and why?
(RO) I’m not a comic book head but great musicians usually fall under the category of superheroes for me personally. Wayne Shorter-For his stunning composition ability and otherworldly playing(Check out any of his work with Miles,Weather Report and any recordings where he’s the leader ie, JuJu, Adam’s Apple, Speak No Evil, Night Dreamer et al for the proof)
(JR) Yea Wayne is an inspiration…I dunno. Being a superhero seems like too much responsibility, I’d prefer to be one of those people pointing at the superhero when they are doing something cool
(EE) I know Wayne Shorter used to love to read comics (maybe he still does???) so this makes sense!
Now that the EP is out, what’s next? What are you most looking forward to? Tell us all the crazy details!
(RO) We’re about to embark on a North American tour in April, supporting Chris Robinson’s “As The Crow Flies” band, hopefully we’ll also get back to the UK and Europe (we just finished out first major tour of the UK) before the end of the year. We’ve also been working on a lot of new material which we’ve started recording ourselves. We have a lot of ideas for releases, videos, collaborations right now but it’s best that we keep a lid on those plans until the moment is right. We’ve also been playing out a lot recently which is our next favorite thing to being in the studio!
Keep up with Once & Future Band here, and catch them out on tour at the performances below!
2018 “AS THE CROW FLIES TOUR” – With Chris Robinson
Apr 17 Capitol Theatre, Port Chester, NY
Apr 18 Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA
Apr 22 Iron City, Birmingham, AL
Apr 24 Thalia Hall, Chicago, IL
Apr 25 Manchester Music Hall, Lexington, KY
Apr 26 The Signal, Chattanooga, TN
Apr 28 Joy Theatre, New Orleans, LA
Apr 29 Ryman Auditorium, Nashville, TN
May 01 The Pageant, St. Louis, MO
May 02 The Truman, Kansas City, MO
May 06 Ogden Theatre, Denver, CO
May 08 Brooklyn Bowl Las Vegas, Las Vegas, NV
May 09 The Wiltern, Los Angeles, CA
May 11 The Fox Theatre, Oakland, CA
May 12 Montbleau Resort & Casino, Tahoe Village, NV
May 13 Crystal Ballroom, Portland, OR