Catch up with indie-alternative singer-songwriter Oscar Albis Rodriguez and listen to his latest single, "Broken Man", off Albis' forthcoming EP, ANIMALS, set to be released this September.
What got you interested in music and in songwriting?
I hate to have a generic answer for this but it was The Beatles. They’re the reason I started playing guitar when I was 10 years old (I had also been studying piano since age 5 but did not take it seriously until age 10). I tried to write songs right away but it wasn’t until Nirvana’s Nevermind came out that I realized that I could write a simple song with 3 chords and a melody and it could just be that. I also started learning a bunch of cover songs around that time and that also greatly informed a lot of my writing (and still does actually).
Which musicians have you been influenced by?
In terms of bands: The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Queen, Nirvana, Big Star, Nada Surf
In terms of guitarists: Eddie Van Halen, Roy Buchanan, J Mascis
In terms of writers: Elliott Smith, Neil Young
I mean, there are so many I could list but those are the ones that quickly come to mind.
How would you describe your sound to someone who had never heard your music?
Sad songs played by a 90s byproduct of punk and emo who also loves classic rock and has just come to appreciate Appalachian music later on in life.
What were your inspirations behind your latest single, "Broken Man”?
Lyrically speaking, I was going through a really tough time where I was bedridden with a mysterious ankle injury, isolated in Philadelphia away from my New York social scene and work, and just utterly depressed and suicidal. It’s very much in the same vein as the film It’s A Wonderful Life.
Musically I wanted to do something along the lines of the faster but folky Elliott Smith songs mixed with Neutral Milk Hotel and just a little bit of punk rock.
Could you tell us more about your upcoming EP, ANIMALS?
The entire record was written in that tough time in Philadelphia that I mentioned before. Besides my physical ailments, my wife and I were going through a rough patch and fighting a lot. She had been in open relationships before we met, and at the time we were monogamous and having a very hard time with it. Despite the monogamy I was still super jealous and she was angry at me and missed her old life. We did actually co-write some of the lyrics together, which I think was therapeutic for both of us. I remember when she read the first draft of another song on the EP, "Redwoods", I could tell she was feeling both love and sadness.
When I was somewhat back on my feet a few months later I started producing the record at my own Russell Street Recording studio in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. The band and I built the arrangements as we went along which was super fun (and different from the recording process of my last album, Smoke & Ghosts, which was mostly recorded live). I played guitar and sang on the record, Zach Jones is on drums, Mike Chiavaro played bass (and actually did his tracking remotely - something I still find amazing because the technology has just come so far and it can help make the process more efficient), Dave Moose Sherman is on keyboards, Billy Libby played ambient guitar, Kristine Kruta played all the cellos on "Redwoods", and Hannah Winkler sang some pretty beautiful backing vocals. I’m really excited about this lineup of Albis; the hang is really great and everyone is super talented.
Is there a track off the EP you're most excited to share?
I'm really excited about the song "Runners". I'm just happy with all aspects of that one; the writing, playing, production. And the guitar solo, hahaha.
If you had to, how would you sum up your ANIMALS EP in one sentence?
Acknowledge your thoughts and desires and be honest with everyone in your life.
What do you hope listeners are able to take away from your music?
I play and write songs in the hopes to make a connection with others. I felt a connection to The Beatles when I started listening to them and it really changed my life in that it gave me a purpose. I met some of my closest friends through touring and at shows. In terms of Albis and the ANIMALS EP specifically, I hope it can connect with people that are going through a tough time in their own relationships, whether they’re polyamorous or monogamous or something in between. Relationships are hard, especially when you factor in sex and jealousy and love.
Is there anything you want to add?
Thanks so much for talking to me!