On a typical day back home in Dallas, friends and band-mates, John Pedigo and Taylor Young of the upsurging Country “pop” band, The O’s, meet at Tietze Park that lies in the middle of the two young troubadours’ homes. Some of their songwriting fodder is created right in that park and not too long ago, the cover shot of their wonderful, recent second release, Between the Two, was taken there. The park is a grounding part of their world and it makes sense that the longtime touring musicians would like the association to such a simple thing. It’s one thing that isn’t moving at the speed of light.
Today, The O’s are sharing laughs about some previous gigs backstage at the Mint in Los Angeles. They’ll be taking the stage following the locally popular Whitley Heights with their unconventional two man “band.” Pedigo and Young visit LA frequently, last time having played the Cinema Bar in a show they describe as “total insanity,” due to being stuffed into the small Culver City bar the size of a living room. Tonight, they will play to a really good sized crowd who respond accordingly to the “entertainment” provided by the O’s consisting of great songs, great stage show and cool interplay with the crowd. It is The O’s at their finest: a well crafted performance that they’re happy to present anywhere there’s takers.
And since 2008, there have been many takers, with over 400 shows are under the belts of The O’s. Ballparks, halftime shows, radio stations, bus stops, parks – just about anywhere the two can entertain is a viable place for them to their thing. But anywhere they do that thing, it’s obvious that they can charm the socks (and other bits of clothing too, one imagines) off an audience.
Friends who shared bills for ten to twelve years, one night they just “started drinking together,” Young (the guitar and bass drum playing half of the O’s) offers. “I remember that night very well. We went to this lesbian bar. It was funny… We got drunk one night and made up this idea for a band,” he continued.
“We talked about me getting this banjo. I don’t know if he thought I was gonna get one or not. We were pretty drunk. But I got the banjo and showed up and was like, let’s get this going,” Pegido, the banjo/tambourine and lowebro playing partner of the group fondly recalled.
“We got together and knew within the first five minutes. We got the first song done and went ‘sweet,’ we got a band,” he added.
“I was sitting there with all these songs that no one had heard before. I wasn’t sure that I was quite ready to go down this path, but he bought a banjo so what were we gonna do you know?” laughed Young.
“I kinda kicked him out from behind the drum set,” said Pedigo.
“I wanted to kinda take my time to make sure I could be as good as I could possibly be, but instead, we just started booking shows. And I learned how to sing and play guitar in front of people,” he said.
As new to playing banjo as Young was to playing guitar (he was a drummer and still kicks a mean bass drum), the tongue-in-cheeked Pedigo quipped, “I figured if we booked a show, we couldn’t suck by then.”
They played their first show at a friend’s living room and shortly thereafter, packed a Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas club with people who knew them from years in other bands. The duo figured they’d surprise their friends by not saying what they were up to.
“We didn’t tell anybody what we were doing until we got a show ready and then we kinda dropped the bomb on everybody. They go, what are Taylor and John doing? John doesn’t play the banjo and Taylor surely doesn’t sing and play the guitar!” Young recalled, adding, “We just did it. And they were just like ‘what the heck?’ And we’ve played ever since.”
Along with playing, they write and entertain, woo fans, drink whiskey and love eating good food. Good sturdy Texans who impart an infectious positive mood on those around them. Odd in that some of their songs are what Young describes as “depressing.” But they do consciously write “pop” songs.
“I’m good at writing depressing songs. But in this band, we’re trying to not do that all the time,” Young explained.
“Our songs are essentially pop songs. We know they’re catchy. It’s not like we’re out trying to appease people,” Pedigo clarified.
“We just happen to be writing pop songs. We believe in what we’re doing. We think we’re doing something that matters. Something that has substance. Obviously there are some days you just go, ‘This shit sucks!’ There’s nothing you can do about that. You just hope for the best,” he continued.
The best is on their new album, Between the Two. The title is a double entendre serving a couple purposes: it is inspired by the collaboration between the two musicians as well it is a reference to the physical place, Tietze Park, that lies between the their homes.
“Tietze Park has a special meaning to us both. It’s a park right in between our two houses. That “We’ll Go Walkin” video is literally [Pedigo] walking out of his house and me walking out of mine and we meet there. We shot our album cover there. We wanted that continuation. It made sense to us in the grand scheme of things,” Young said.
For a band that finds themselves on the road for long stretches of time, having something familiar makes sense. Last year The O’s played a stretch of 27 shows in France over 30 days. Some songwriting took place there. And eating. And some gaining weight. Some of what was written there shows up on Between the Two. The rhythm and melody of “In Numbers We Survive,” Pedigo recalled, strumming out there in his hotel room above an Irish bar.
And what of the new songs? The duo believe they are their best ones.
“We thought these songs are better than the first ones. We’re better playing our instruments,” Young offered.
Playing at the Mint this visit to LA and having played the Cinema Bar previously, The O’s are a quick flight away from the town and love, coming in every three to four months. But they aren’t just selling songs, CDs or themselves. They also sell beer, so-to-speak.
“We’re beer salesmen,” states Pedigo. “You’re playing in the bar business. Not the music business. At one point you kinda switch over. There’s a giant gray area before you crossover. It could be one month or 20 year.”
One can only hope hope it’s sooner rather than later. The O’s keep their band lean because they know that’s what they’ve signed up for. They are traveling salesmen. Traveling troubadours. Music and merry makers moving regularly from town to town.
“I just think we’re gonna continuously tour and just do it,” rallies Young, moments before taking the stage.
“I’m 32 and don’t think there’s anything else I can do. I’ve already set this up for myself,” professes Pedigo.
“And he gets to hang with me all the time!” interrupts Young.
“Have you seen how cool this guy is? Look at the hair!” shoots back Pedigo.
Yep. Wooing fans, wooing ladies and wooing each other. That’s the O’s.
The O’s just completed a tour opening for the Old 97′s and are off to
the UK then back to SXSW to play the Sin City Social Club Party at
Maria’s Taco Express.
For more information on The O’s visit: http://www.wearetheos.com