A soothing indie-alternative band from Ontario, Canada, Oh Geronimo have added another marvelous album to their already impressive discography! The Sled explores the intricacies of companionship, ego, and self-perception in a chilling manner that invites listeners to embrace modesty, but to also strive for better versions of themselves. I recently sat down with front man Ciarán Downes to discuss the talented band’s earliest days, their comforting sound, and the recording process of Oh Geronimo’s new album, The Sled!
Q: Since 2012, Oh Geronimo has played countless shows, and you guys have released three quality EPs and two fantastic albums. Why did you all decide to form a band together? How did the name “Oh Geronimo” come about?
A: I went to college for music production and a lot of my assignments involved recording music, so I tried my hand at recording some original songs. A lot of it turned out nice, and it was very therapeutic to express myself so the whole process quickly became addicting. At the time, I was conveniently living with a few friends I met in high school through playing music so forming Oh Geronimo was fairly effortless and natural.
The band name was inspired by one of my favourite movies, ‘The War Of The Buttons.’ The film is about a rivalry between the youth of two neighboring regions in rural Ireland. The antagonist, Geronimo, undergoes a dynamic transformation when he realizes he’s on the wrong side of the war. There’s something about his arc that inspires me to be honest and true about making music. We strive to write about what we know and we make a conscious effort to stray away from making music that strives to be popular above all. It’s great if you can make music that draws in a very large audience, but I think honesty and [genuineness] trumps all.
Q: You guys cleverly incorporate several distinct elements into your music: raw vocals, piercing guitars, appropriate bass, and even the obscure saxophone. How would you describe Oh Geronimo’s sound? Which musical artists are your most notable influences?
A: We’ve been a band for a few years and we’ve gone through a couple lineup changes. We’ve gotten really good at not giving up, and I think that fight comes out in our music a little bit. That being said, our sound is very dependent on the individual song – we begin writing with lyrics and concepts, then compose music that reflects those ideas. Our main priority with songwriting is having the lyrics and instrumentation complement each other as much as possible. Our sound could be described by the feelings and themes in our lyrics: interpersonal conflict, self-reflection, and motivating ourselves to be better. The artists who have the largest influence on our writing are wide-ranging… Canadiana like the Weakerthans, Hey Rosetta and the Hip, the classics like Tom Petty, The Band and Pink Floyd, and some modern acts like The National and The War On Drugs.
Q: Your new commendable album, The Sled, was released just two weeks ago, and it’s already reached the ears of thousands of listeners worldwide! How do you feel now that the album is complete and accessible to the entire music community?
A: It feels so good to be finally be able to share it. This record is really about persistence and working through various challenges, while remaining patient. Putting it out is inspiring for us in itself; we accomplished what we set out to do, and it seems to be connecting with some people so…. Hell yeah. We can’t wait to make another.
Q: The Sled explores the questionable aspects of companionship, ego, and self-perception in a soothing and welcoming manner. Can you describe the writing and recording process for The Sled and how it differed from Sleep Rhythms (LP 2015)?
A: The Sled was recorded about three months after we underwent a massive lineup change. We had three members leave, and two new ones join. I think we really just let things happen for this one. We booked the studio time and gave [ourselves] a small window to prepare, and we were ready. It’s important to give yourself time to make art, but what’s even more important is giving yourself a deadline. Every artist will always take all the time they’re given to perfect something. This record is more raw and direct than Sleep Rhythms, and I think that’s mainly because of how we went with our gut feeling on most of it. We didn’t allot any time for mental blocks. It was recorded live off the floor for three days at Chalet Studios just outside Uxbridge, ON with Sasha Szlafarski and Justin Meli. We had an overdub sessions for brass and strings, and then I recorded the vocals in the comfort of my bedroom. It was probably a total of five days for recording.
Q: The diverse record challenges listeners to evaluate their past accomplishments, current relationships, and future outlooks on life. Which are your favorite tracks off The Sled? Are any songs more meaningful to you than others?
A: Our favourite tracks are probably ‘Mountains’ and ‘The Sled.’ Both of these songs are introspective and are an affirmation for all of us. ‘Mountains’ is about not giving up while remaining true to who you are, and ‘The Sled’ is about being able to accept where your past has taken you, wherever that may be. Those ones are a lot of fun to perform because of how dynamic they are.
Q: The sketched, black-and-white drawing on the album cover has incredibly intricate hatching details, and it speaks very clearly for what the record represents. Who designed the artwork for The Sled? How did this concept come to be the image for the record?
A: ‘The Sled’ is the song that we felt encompassed the record thematically and musically, and it works as a realization after the rising action of Mountains. The conflict and tension in the record could be compared to a climb up a mountain, looking down in contemplation, followed by the payoff of the Sled. The rush of descending a hill, like the rush of emotion in the music, is expressed through the art, and the immensity of the personal mountain on the back. We approached Evan Wiens, a good friend and visual artist who also plays bass in the Kerouacs, with these concepts and he did an incredible job of bringing them to life.
Q: Along with the special album release night, you guys have been playing intimate shows around Canada to promote the excellent record. If you could pick anywhere in the world to headline a sold-out performance, where would it be? Who would be your ideal supporting acts for this hypothetical occasion?
A: Massey Hall in Toronto for sure. Being in that room is beyond magical. We’ve seen so many great artists come through that venue and it would be amazing to be considered of that caliber. Our ideal support act would be a special performance of medieval times. Knights, horses, chivalry and of course, betrayal.
Q: With the recent release of The Sled and an ongoing Canadian tour, you guys will definitely be keeping yourselves busy for a good while. What else do you have planned for 2018?
A: We plan to keep pace on writing new material. We also have plans to release a song about our love for dogs in cooperation with local dog rescue organization, Save Our Scruff. All this and lots of touring.
Q: Considering the thousands of plays you guys have on SoundCloud and Spotify, your following has reached worldwide audiences who absolutely love what Oh Geronimo encompasses! Do you have any special words for your amazing fans?
A: We’ve had so many people personally reach out to us to tell us how our music affected and connected with them. It feels nothing short of incredible to be able to communicate ideas and feelings through music with people we’ve never met. It’s connections like these that make it all more than worth it.
Oh Geronimo are playing a generous string of intimate shows in Ontario, Canada for the remainder of March, so click here for dates and tickets now! Feel free to leave your thoughts on Oh Geronimo and The Sled in the comments section below, and follow my blog for more music posts!