Revolving sounds

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Some fans thought O.A.R. did a little too much reinvention on the 2005 album Stories of a Stranger, but saxophone player Jerry DePizzo assures there should be no cases of mistaken musical identity on the group's new All Sides.

"I don't want to knock anything we've ever done because I'm proud of it all," DePizzo said in a recent phone interview. "But I think ... this is the record that sounds most like our band."

Of a Revolution formed in 1997 in Rockville, Maryland, and by the time they'd moved their home base to Ohio State in the early 2000s, the group had gained a reputation as a jam band whose music wasn't mainstream enough for mass appeal. It was a label spurred by the group's free-wheeling concerts and rootsy, island groove-inflected pop sound.

For Stories of a Stranger, though, Marc Roberge (the band's vocalist and chief songwriter) teamed up with ace songwriters Glen Ballard (known for his work with Alanis Morissette and Dave Matthews), Jeff Trott and Peter Zizzo, among others. The result was a concisely crafted collection of songs that leaned more toward pop-rock than the group's earlier records.

Though the album was clearly an attempt to adapt to pop radio's demands, the CD didn't trigger a commercial breakthrough. Single "Love and Memories" became only a modest modern-rock hit.

So for All Sides, O.A.R. tried to strike a different balance - one that would allow the band's more adventurous side to shine through.

"We kind of felt like we left our audience in the lurch a little bit on the last record, where we stepped away from what O.A.R. truly is, or was, a little too much. So we wanted to bring that back," DePizzo said.

"We wanted to make the album tracks really great album tracks and not just failed attempts at singles. So the arrangements are weirder. They're not as conventional. Obviously they're longer. There's more depth and texture to them, and just little bits and elements that we feel that our audience really connects with and enjoys."

Some of O.A.R.'s defining stylistic signatures found their way back onto All Sides, too, like the island grooves on "What is Mine." The group's idiosyncratic tendencies resurface on "Whatever Happened," and there's a return to including an epic track with "War Song."

"We certainly played on the All Sides moniker," DePizzo said. "It covers pretty much everything we do stylistically. It's really a complete representation of what O.A.R. is in the studio."

One key lesson learned by the members of O.A.R. - DePizzo, Roberge, bassist Benj Gershman, guitarist Richard On and drummer Chris Culos - was the importance of being fully prepared to record before they entered the studio. This meant putting more time into writing, rehearsing and refining the arrangements.

"We realized that it really wasn't exactly about what you did in the studio, but how prepared you were ahead of time," DePizzo said. "We certainly took that to heart and we did a lot of work before we even stepped, day one, in the recording studio."

Now that O.A.R. has been debuting some All Sides tracks on tour, DePizzo expects the songs to continue evolving to suit the band's live-performance capabilities and tastes.

"We just wanted to make sure that when we finally debuted these songs, they'd feel like we've been playing them for years," he said. "And we'd feel like our comfort level is at an all-time high with them, instead of just kind of throwing them out there for people to hear."

What: O.A.R.

When: Friday, Nov. 21

Where: Newport Music Hall, Campus