Q&A with Steve Lawson and Will Duncan of Oblio Duo + The Archers
In 2006, Oblio Duo + The Archers established itself as a pillar of Denver's hipster-country scene with The Flag, striking a just-right balance between mellow steel guitars and experimental weirdness. After a long wait, the partners are finally prepping to release a seven-inch split EP with Reno's Flags on Fire in advance of their upcoming, as-yet-to-be-titled full-length. We had coffee with Steven Lee Lawson and Will Duncan, who make up the Oblio part, to talk about the new EP.
Westword (Jef Otte): I like the cover art.
Steven Lawson: Yeah, Flags on Fire took care of the art, but it's cool. State birds: Colorado's Lark Bunting and Nevada's...something. Bird.
Will Duncan: The Nevada something bird.
SL: And neither of them have feet. Just floating.
WD: Floating birds. Very ethereal, you know.
SL: I put up a Facebook invite for the release show, and Flags on Fire said, "Wish we were there." And I was like, "Aw, yeah, me too."
WW: How did you meet them?
SL: On tour. And it was just kind of like one of those love affairs, like, "hey, I really like your band." "I really like your band. Let's do a split."
WD: Good kids. Really genuine, talented people.
SL: I like Reno.
WD: I like Reno, too. It's a hell of a town.
SL: I thought it was going to be like a shitty Vegas.
WD: It is like a shitty Vegas, but, you know, in a good way. In the best of ways.
SL: I mean, if it's a shitty Vegas, that's like a double-negative or something, so then it's good.
WD: That's precisely it.
WD: Yeah, that'd be awesome.
WW: How did the idea for the split come about? Who proposed it?
WD: I did.
SL: Then it took us forever to get it together. We weren't even sure what was going to be on there.
WD: We're kind of flaky. No one has any money.
SL: And these damn things are expensive. Like how much was it? $1,300 total? Something like that. That might not even be including the mixing. I can't remember.
WW: Was that per band?
WD: No, that was the whole thing. Because we got discounts on art and help... as DIY as possible as far as recording goes. We didn't pay anybody to do the recording. We did one of the songs at this warehouse that a friend owned. And then the other one we did in my parents' living room. Nice vaulted ceilings.
SL: We cut a demo at that warehouse. We called it the "Western Woodcarving Sessions," and one of those tracks is from there. It's an alternate version of what's going to be on the full-length, of "See You, Space Cowboy." It's a little more--it's less weird and more echoey than the other version is.
WW: What attracted you to the idea of releasing a split seven-inch? It's kind of an impractical medium, it seems like.
WD: I think they're cool. And it seemed like a really good idea to do it with a band that we liked from someplace else. And just sort of trying to play music and make music and do interesting things with it is what makes it fun. It seems like spending too much money on something that's impractical is just kind of the way we've done it a lot of the time.
SL: The really nice thing about doing a split with a band from somewhere else is I feel like you have a wider reach, if you know what I mean. And then it's kind of like they're on your team. So hopefully we'll conquer all the area between here and Reno.
WD: Close in on it.
SL: Like Ghengis Khan.
WD: It wasn't really supposed to happen. I mean, we were recording a full-length record, and we had been doing it for a while --
SL: Like five years.
WD: And we were talking about spending all our money on that. And then we realized that this was actually going to happen. So we did this.
SL: And now the plan is, hopefully, at this release, we'll sell a bunch to fund the full-length.
WW: Have you guys released anything on vinyl before?
SL: No, this is the first one, which really made me dork out about it, just being on vinyl. Getting the test pressing was really exciting for me.
WD: [Laughs] I know, right?
SL: But hopefully, it won't be the last. I just love the way it looks.
WD: Looks, feels, smells. Sort of cuts into your skin, if you put it on your lap just right.
SL: Plus, I think vinyl has a little more staying power -- with audiophiles. That's the word, right? Audiophile?
WD: I don't know.
SL: Someone who's obsessed, like that Mr. Show skit: [Doing the voice] "I only listen to things on victrola."
WW: I love that show.
SL: I've kind of been having a little revival with it. That and Pink Floyd. I saw Live at Pompeii, and I used to think they were kind of uptight, serious, British people, but--well, they still are British people.
WD: They still are.
SL: So I got to know David Gilmour a little bit better... And I always thought Roger Waters did everything, but I guess that wasn't true, either.
WD: Dark Side of the Moon reminds me of cocaine. Just being driven around by one of my buddy's scary coked-out dad, like driving us around after soccer practice and shit. He'd be really drunk listening to Dark Side of the Moon, getting into almost-accidents pretty much constantly.
SL: Yeah, Will comes from a family of musicians, born and bred. I'm more of a black sheep. I don't think anybody in my family plays anything. My mom would sing out of key at church; that's about it.
WD: My mom's on our full-length record, singing some backups.
SL: And she sounds remarkably young.
WD: She's always sounded probably 20 years old. It's weird.
WW: Is she in bands?
WD: She does a lot of choir type of things, a lot of choral music. She's sort of a hired gun; she'll do recordings here and there. Sadly, she works a desk job, but she's a very talented woman.
WW: That's a fate so many musicians suffer, working a desk job.
WD: Doing any job besides music.
SL: Yeah, Will started a painting company, and I scored a job at a hot-sauce factory.
WW: Is that true?
SL: Yeah! I know, it doesn't sound true; it sounds like something I'd tell some girl at some party -- well, I do do that, but it doesn't work.
WW: What hot sauce?
SL: This guy Danny Cash. He just was obsessed with hot sauce, and he was eating some Tabasco one day and he was like "This tastes like shit. I'm gonna make my own." So he started making it in his church's kitchen, and then the business just grew and grew. Actually, Oblio Duo had a hot sauce release party.
WD: Which we will do again. We will have another one.
SL: 'Cause, they have like a printer there, so I just put our band on a label. One side, going up, it has the ingredients, and then the other side it says "See You Space Cowboy" or something.
WD: It's garlic Serrano.
WW: So you guys actually have an official hot sauce?
SL: Yup. I think we're the only band in town. How about that?
WW: Nice. So when's the LP coming out?
SL: Well, as soon as we can get the money, pretty much. It's all done, it's all recorded, it took us a ridiculously long time to do, but we did it all ourselves. Ian, our bass player, was our engineer. We took him out for Sushi, to kind of pay him. So we've got to get it mastered, which will probably be $400, and then we've got to figure out CD replication. In the past, we would screen print -- I taught myself how to screen print, so we could make our albums, kind of punk-rock style. But it just is such a pain to cut and glue... and it looks cool, and it's endearing, but I just want to reach into a box next time and grab a fistful of CDs, and be like, "Okay, I'm done."
WD: February, probably. Probably middle to end of February it'll be ready to put in people's hands.
SL: Assuming we got the cash flow, because, you know, I think like a lot of bands, we're broke. There's never any money in the band fund.
WD: It'll get done.
SL: Git 'er done.