Brooklyn stalwarts Oneida have been mowing down the NYC music strip for years with their scrapheap of trippy psychedelia, acoustic pluckin’ and pickin’, organ-splattered rock histrionics and apeshit improvisational forays. In 2006, they capped off their monumental LP Happy New Year with a seven-minute epic they called “Thank Your Parents.” That provided the spark for a triptych of albums that will be celebrated with a three-day fest, beginning tonight, at Secret Project Robot in Williamsburg.
Tonight Oneida will perform the trilogy’s first two installments, the Motorik groovage of Preteen Weaponry and the damaged dubscape fuckery of Rated O; Saturday they’ll wake up and improvise for ten hours straight; and then, at 4-fucking-45 on Sunday morning, they will complete the triptych by performing the spanking new, all-instrumental, drumless gurgle drone Absolute II in its entirety. We spoke to Oneida drummer Kid Millions about the band closing the book on Thank Your Parents.
The Thank Your Parents trilogy has covered three years. Are you relieved it’s coming to a close?
[Laughs] I don’t know if that (relieved) is my feeling… I’m happy. Not because it was some kind of millstone or something. It’s cool, it’s done and it’s great. “Relief” doesn’t really come into it.
Was the lack of drums on Absolute II intentional?
We had a bunch of material that adhered to that minimal aesthetic. We pieced it together and it didn’t have drums. It wasn’t something explicit like, “We need to do something with no drums.” When we stepped back and saw what it was we were like “Shit, alright. Cool. There’s no drums.”
“Thank Your Parents” was the last song off Happy New Year. Was it planned that you ended that album with that song then started the triptych under the same name?
Thank Your Parents was supposed to be the name of the triple album that Happy New Year became. We knew what Rated O and Preteen Weaponry were gonna be already and had a lot of the stuff recorded. We didn’t know what the third one was going to be but we figured we had time to get there. We wanted the follow up to Happy New Year to be a triple, but we didn’t think we could finish it in time to release it in that order. It made more sense to finish Preteen Weaponry, focus on that and get it done. It all worked out.
Does the music of the trilogy actually relate to parents and thanking them?
Ummmm… no. It’s more like a creative framework. It’s like everything that Oneida is and could be, would be contained within those albums. It’s the Moby Dick—not the song, but the book—of our creative process up to that point.
So the three-day event wasn’t purposefully scheduled on the weekend of Father’s Day?
I think that it’s a nice thing that happened but it wasn’t purposeful. But it’s pretty fuckin’ awesome it fell that way.
Are any of your parents going to be there?
[Laughs] No. We’re thanking them by not having them endure it.
Are any of you guys fathers?
Bobby [Matador] and [Hanoi] Jane both have children.
Your website says to “bring the kids.”
Oh yeah, definitely. It’s a matinee show on Saturday to midnight. It’ll be intense and there’s no guarantee the kids will be into it. But it is meant to be a good time vibe.
I have a six year-old kid, but I am not sure she’d make it through.
[Laughs] It’ll be loud. My niece doesn’t like loud things.
Pitchfork’s review of Absolute II likened it to Suicide, Steve Reich, Philip Glass, Scott Walker and Brian Eno. Did they nail it?
I think those are cool reference points. I love those artists. “Did they nail it?” I would say no, but it doesn’t matter. Those are just other artists. I don’t think [Absolute II] sounds like [those artists], but that’s cool.
So you are going to perform Absolute II at 4:45 Sunday morning? That’s pretty insane.
[Laughing] Bring your daughter to that…wake her up.
There’s also going to be catering and visuals?
Yeah, we’ll have food. We’ve worked with Secret Project Robot and they’ve been doing visuals for Oneida since fuckin’ 2000. They’ve done the two Ocroplis performances with us, which are the ten-hour improv things. They really know our music intimately.
In terms of an event, it’s the first we’ve done in New York City. There’s so many elements going into it: the endurance element and the guest elements, what people bring to the table. This is a whole other side to the band; nothing has been captured on record what we do for these things.
I saw YouTube clips of Mike Watt playing with at you at The Ocropolis when it was staged at All Tomorrows Parties in the U.K.
That was awesome but those [clips] are ten minutes. We played for ten hours straight.
How mentally and physically exhausting is playing these marathon jams?
It’s more of a battle of will. It’s not exhausting mentally. But physically, it’s tough. You have to be conditioned (as a drummer). I’m working on it.
What collaborators will drop in this weekend?
It’s not finalized but members of Sightings will join us—Richard [Hoffman] and Mark [Morgan]. I don’t know who else, actually.
Do you prefer improvising to playing actual songs?
Yeah I do and that’s going to probably marginalize it even further. We’ll be doing a lot of songs we’ve never played from Rated O and then do Absolute II stuff that will be fun to work out and play live finally.
It’ll encompass everything we are doing. The weekend is more like ‘this is what we can do—this is our range.’ It’s actually kind of like what our next record will be like probably—the improv stuff.
I think I read that. You talked about his sessions stuff and Skunk. It’s awesome Matt plays with Soldiers. There’s also People of the North, the other thing I do with Bobby from Oneida.
Do you see Oneida ending at some point? It’s been going since 1998.
As long as we can keep the creative side alive, I don’t see it ending. Every album is kind of a miracle, in my opinion. We get along and there’s no problems. It’s weird, I feel like there’s so much going against longevity and the ability as a band in New York and keeping going according to being interested in what we are doing. We still are… we’re still here.
Are you surprised it’s lasted this long?
Uhhh… I’m not surprised. I figured we weren’t going to get any kind of recognition at all until we released like six albums and that was pretty much the case. When I say “recognition,” I mean I can call somebody and book a show. I don’t even mean anything big because we’re not big; we’re not even medium [laughs].
We’re not doing it for mercurial rewards and that can’t be factored in because we just released Absolute II [laughs]. Nobody’s delusional, but we’re probably delusional but in ways we’re not aware of.
Each Oneida album sounds way different from the other.
It’s not really willful… it just what happens to us in a studio. We’re just following our inspirations and trusting it and it take us to different places. It also happens to take us places that aren’t very commercial. We’re just trying to capture feelings and emotions through playing.
When do you anticipate a post-Thank Your Parents record coming out and what will it sound like? Will you return to singing and lyrics?
We have to edit the stuff we have and get into to something coherent. Maybe a year? It depends on [Oneida’s label] Jagjaguwar and what their schedule can accommodate for us. The drumming is more impressionistic and we’re gonna do singing. It’s different, for sure. The stuff on the trilogy is pretty far-ranging. But in terms of the drumming, it is going to sound different on the new one, for sure. It’s going to be a new approach.
The Thank Your Parents events take place at Secret Project Robot tonight through June 19.