O’Death is not a jam band. But just to fuck with them a bit, I suggest they might be. “There were people twirling and shit the other night!” I point out.
Violinist Bob Pycior is not amused. “No, we’re not,” he retorts matter-of-factly, shooting me an ice-cold stare. But vocalist/guitarist Greg Jamie seems to realize that I’m just being a prick; through his thick, black beard, he laughs at the absurdity of the question. O’Death, like the song from which they took their name, do not tell tales of flowers or rainbows or the notion of One Love. Instead, fables of burials, sour women, and the perils of sin are familiar subjects.”But, I do love it when people dance at our shows,” Jaime confesses. “It’s a great feeling to see that.”
Indeed, last month, a sizable crowd was dancing, moshing, convulsing
in the Williamsburg art space/music hole Glasslands as the quintet raged. O’Death’s fans generally don shit-eating grins and know all (or at least most of) the lyrics, screaming them back at the band for the set’s duration. And yet this is Appalachian-inspired hoedown music with gothic undertones galore. The guys are sort of mean onstage, best exemplified by Jamie’s stoic, gruff demeanor—he stares almost through the audience with a detached gaze, ignoring all the people going apeshit in his peripheral vision.
Honoring the hand-me-down folk/bluegrass tradition wherein words are changed or forgotten over time, O’Death avoid relying on set lyrics—a very weird notion in this day. “Some have more sounds than actual words,” Jamie tells me. Indeed, at Glasslands, he did a fair amount of growling and howling. His voice is nasally at times, cloaking annunciation and further adding to his stature as a dark, scary guy who’s nonetheless nonchalantly adept at commanding an audience.
O’Death have built a loyal following with Head Home, initially self-released, but remastered in the spring once labels here and abroad started showing interest, with Brooklyn indie Ernest Jenning grabbing them an hour before their SXSW showcase. Jamie says the album was recorded in a single weekend. “We rushed the process initially,” he explains. But now, “with the prospect of having it sent out to even more people, we wanted to get it right—the chaos we’re trying to build with our sound.”
O’Death throw their record re-release party June 15 at Luna Lounge, overalls (ironic or not) are optional, lunalounge.com