Headliners: Owl City

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

"Who doesn't love onesies???"

Adam Young's e-mail - and the footed pajamas on sale in his band's online store - revealed that the wide-eyed Minnesotan behind Owl City might not have his finger on the pulse of popular fashion. Popular music, though? Half a million albums and weekly six-figure single sales don't lie.

Last year Owl City transformed from Young's basement synth-pop project into a worldwide sensation thanks to "Fireflies," one of those undeniable hits that gets in your bones whether you like it or not.

And some folks certainly don't like it. Young's formula - breathy emo melodies atop lush electronic pop tunes that sound like an android falling in love - is distinctly familiar for anyone who's heard The Postal Service, the underground hit collaboration between Death Cab for Cutie's Ben Gibbard and Dntel's Jimmy Tamborello.

The resemblance is powerful enough to cause some Postal Service devotees to accuse Young of ripping off the sound, though he said he's not nearly so diabolical.

"It was never the intention to have a sound so similar to them, but it's an honor to be compared to musicians I respect so much," Young wrote.

As much guff as Young has taken in some corners of the internet, he also has the web to thank for his success. He landed his record deal and radio play after building a huge following on MySpace, and "Fireflies" shot to No. 1 thanks in large part to dominant digital sales.

Young has been able to harness the powers of cyberspace better than most, but he said he is no viral marketing svengali. The people just find what they like and go crazy with it.

"I think the credit goes to the internet itself," he wrote. "I think of it as a huge blessing to be able to connect with fans in such a progressive way. Because the internet is the new TV. Or radio. Or something sweet like that."

All the attention demands a tour, of course, which means Young had to learn quickly how to translate breakthrough album Ocean Eyes to the stage. He assembled a full band with drums, violin, cello, piano and percussion backing his synth and guitar work. The hard part, though, was getting as comfortable singing for thousands as in his parents' basement.

"There have been some butterflies along the way," he wrote, "but I've learned to love it."

That's a good thing, because his services are in demand. Owl City will tour basically nonstop across the U.S. and Europe for the next four months. Most of the shows are sold out, including next Thursday's stop at LC Pavilion with Lights and Paper Route.

And yes, the damned onesie will be on sale.

Catching "Fireflies"

Adam Young reveals the story behind Owl City's breakout hit

"I spent a night on a stationary fishing dock in the middle of a rustic lake in leafy northern Minnesota last summer. The kind you have to paddle a canoe to get to. I'd planned the night forever because a meteor shower was to take place that evening.

"I brought my sleeping bag, sprawled out on my back and stared skyward for hours as dusk turned to night, the heavy sun slipped behind the horizon and white burning diamonds began to glimmer and streak across the sky. It was enchanting, dazzling, ethereal. I drove home and wrote 'Fireflies' a few weeks later. I had no idea it would eventually be the No.-1 song in the country."

Owl City

When: 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 28

Where: LC Pavilion, Arena District

Web: owlcitymusic.com