Volume 92, Issue 99
Wednesday, April 7, 1999
|ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
OTC breeds American pop
Photo by Amy Hairston
TELL ME THE TRUTH, IS MY FACE TOO WAXY FOR THIS SHIRT? Athens, Georgia's Olivia Tremor Control chats it up with music beat reporter, Mark Pytlik.
By Mark Pytlik
Bill Doss has just come home from work and he sounds vaguely worn down. The frontman and primary songwriter for Olivia Tremor Control seems slightly fatigued by the demands of his job and he eagerly expresses a desire to get away from it all.
But Bill is about to embark on a North American tour to support his band's critically acclaimed second effort, the pop/psychedelic masterpiece Black Foliage. Isn't it a bad sign he's sick of the rigours of working even before he really started?
Doss laughs amusedly to himself. "I'm a prep cook at a New Orleans cafe," he clarifies. "I started out as a dishwasher but then they promoted me."
Surely he's kidding. Bill Doss, of Olivia Tremor Control, has a day job?
"Sure don't make a living doing [music]," he smirks. And there it is. Not two minutes into the interview and the legend surrounding America's most critically lauded psychedelic popsters has already been shattered into a thousand pieces. Granted, they may not be household names quite yet, but after only one proper album, Olivia Tremor Control has managed to firmly assert its presence on the American college rock circuit.
Renowned for their kaleidoscopic, layered sound, the Athens, Georgia based collective have come a very long way in a relatively short period of time.
Their first album, the widely praised Dusk At Cubist Castle, was a schizophrenic melange of fuzzed out guitars, spacey drones and wistful melodies. It provided them with a substantial cult following and helped re-establish Athens as one of America's most fruitful musical breeding grounds.
"There are a lot of really neat bands here," Doss enthuses. "People just keep coming here. Over the last 20 years it's kinda grown into this thing that feeds on itself. More people keep moving here and it just gets cooler and cooler as a result."
Something which likely has a lot to do with Elephant 6, a slightly mysterious Athens-based collective Doss helped create. "[Elephant 6] is a totally ambiguous family of painters, musicians, writers and filmmakers," Doss muses.
"[After] playing with other [local] bands and meeting more people, it just sorta grew."
The result is an artist-friendly recording company which is currently affiliated with some of America's finest college music acts, including Athens-based Neutral Milk Hotel and Denver-based Apples In Stereo.
When he's not tending to the industry aspect of the music, Doss is fervently writing and experimenting with a vast range of home recording equipment. But don't let the "lo-fi" tag fool you, Black Foliage is anything but a simple pop record. Recording the album took over two years and often required the band to completely revise and rework their increasingly intricate compositions.
"The fact is that it's kinda good that it took so long because sometimes things started changing and taking on a life of their own and ended up becoming whatever it was that they were supposed to be in the first place," Doss says, in a seemingly unruffled air.
He pauses thoughtfully before adding the next bit. "A lot of it's like cooking. You put the potatoes in and the crawfish and it might take half an hour or three hours to cook, but you can't rush it."
He stops hesitantly again and laughs, recognizing what he's done. "I really can't get away from my work."
With any luck, one day he's gonna have to.
Copyright © The Gazette 1999