HAVE A BEER WITH THE OLMS
Pete Yorn and J.D. King are “Twice As Nice” with New Band The Olms
Nestled in Los Angeles is a small home studio built by musician, artist and photographer J.D. King. It was here that King and singer-songwriter Pete Yorn [most well-known for his critically-acclaimed 2001 release Musicforthemorningafter] sparked a creative energy that eventually led to the recording of a ten-track album and the formation of a retro-minded duo called The Olms. Their debut record blends folk, rock, country-rock and Brit pop, making the eclectic, ‘60s-driven sounds of Pete and J.D. a unique departure from their previous singer-songwriter sounds.
We sat down with J.D. and Pete in the greenroom at Martyrs’ before their June 13 show to discuss the beauty of collaboration, their vintage gear collection and what’s next for this up-and-coming duo.
The Show: 93XRT Presents The Olms at Martyrs’ // June 13, 2013
Drink of Choice: Bloody Marys and Maker’s Mark
Kristen from A Beer with the Band: So, drinks of choice. It’s always our conversation starter.
J.D. King: We tend to do Bloody Marys…
Pete Yorn: Yeah, especially when we’re traveling or flying...Bloody Marys in the morning…
J.D.: Bloody Marys in the afternoon…
Kristen: Bloody Marys in the evening…?
Pete: Usually my drink of choice before a show is Maker’s Mark whiskey. It smoothes out the voice, smoothes out something…
J.D.: I’ll have a little Maker’s as well. They tend to call it the “Boilermaker,” since the late 1800s I presume, which is where you drink Maker’s Mark with a beer chaser. I like that pre-show, just to get a little something going before the actual event takes place.
Kristen: I’ve done many of those in my day.
Pete: The music is kind of party music to me. It’s whiskey-drinking music, so drinking it helps me get in that place before we play.
J.D.: We don’t rely too heavily on anything. It’s just for fun…just for kicks.
Kristen: What’s The Olms' story?
J.D.: Pete and I met through a friend of ours about eight years ago and we’ve been friends ever since. I opened for Pete in 2009 and he's always been a really cool guy to hang out with. He just came over one day, we were having lunch or something and we said, “Let’s write a song together,” so that we did. It ended up being “Twice As Nice,” which is the third song on the record and it came out sounding really good. We just kind of kept doing it and came up with what it [the record] is now. I was building a studio at the time and it just came together all at once.
Kristen: So, it was sort of a happy accident.
Pete: There was never a plan to make a record. We were old friends and like J.D. said, writing that song together was a catalyst, but we weren’t even talking about recording really. J.D. had been developing a studio at his house, collecting old mics and tape machines and stuff. He was getting into recording-- recording his own stuff-- and it was sounding great. He was having a really great learning curve with that. Simultaneously, one day, we were like, “Wanna try and write a song?” And from him having that studio we were able to go from writing it to recording it twenty minutes later right in his room there... Who knows if we didn’t have the studio set up whether or not we would have written another song or not…I don’t know. The main thing was the writing exercise. Two different songwriters getting together and joining forces. It was a "try-it-out-for-fun" thing. We liked the result we got the first time, so we hooked up and did it again and did it again and again. Eventually, we had a body of work that we liked and everything started happening from there.
Kristen: What’s it like going from individually writing and recording to collaborating with someone?
J.D.: I think it depends on who you’re with. I’ve written with other people and it wasn’t as easy and as fluid as it is with Pete. I could honestly say that he’s probably the best person I’ve ever written with. For some reason we just really click. I don’t know why, but it’s kind of just magic whenever we get together and create. We shared the load of work, and also bounced creative ideas off of one another. Things can definitely flow easier and faster and be quite a bit more productive with each other than in our individual realms.
Pete: One cool thing about it was that we were able to help each other finish ideas and also form completely new ones. He'd have a phrase and it would inspire me and I’d be able to finish the sentence for him or the other way around...I’d have a couple of lyrics and he would come up with something that I wouldn’t have thought of. That was always a cool moment—as we would be writing, we would start to reveal what the character was that we were singing about and where they were coming from. Even in a song like “Someone Else’s Girl,” I feel like J.D. had a bunch of phrases and really cool ideas, and as we were writing it would turn into…Well, maybe he gets the girl in the end because everybody breaks up anyway, so he just waits around. It was this fun little moment where we would have the reveal as writers of where the creative process was taking us. A lot of times, I would walk into a room and say, “We’re gonna write a song about this or about that,” and then we’d go in, feel our vibe, have some ideas and then meld it into something new.
Kristen: It seems like there’s a big storytelling component to this record. Where do you find inspiration for that—aside from each other?
J.D.: We find inspiration in just living out every day PY and J.D. lives—as normal or as abnormal as they are. You let things happen, you play a chord, and all of the sudden it comes to you in this kind of magic waterfall. Then sometimes you really have to mill the ground and dig to get any kind of inspiration. At that point usually I’ll just go wander out on a walk, hum a tune…but I think our studio is really inspiring. It has a garden outside that was actually an inspiration for “Another Daydream,” which is a song on the record. I think musically you get inspiration, you inspire yourself, Pete inspires me…there are multiple ways it happens.
Kristen: You mentioned that you have a lot of vintage equipment in your studio. What’s your favorite piece?
J.D.: I don’t know if there’s any one favorite piece, but one of my favorite instruments would have to be my custom organ that’s all naugahyde shimmering silver. It’s giant, and it’s on quite a bit of the record. It’s this really crazy sounding organ that’s really rare and takes quite a lot of upkeep to play. Also, another good piece of gear would have to be our 440 trusty Ampex tape machine which gives the whole record its really unique sound. It gives it that depth and quality that you’re going to hear when you play it on an LP. You’ll really hear the difference between the digitally recorded version and a player. It definitely makes a difference. Another one is probably our U 47 microphone…which a lot of our vocals were tracked with…
Pete: And our E-V [electro-voice] 666.
J.D.: Yes, the E-V 666 that Gold Star would use quite a lot with Phil Spector.
Kristen: You guys are lucky that you have that space and all that equipment. What’s the most rock-‘n’-roll thing you’ve done in the past year?
J.D.: This tour itself is bold and cool and interesting.
Pete: Playing rock shows with The Olms is definitely the most rock-‘n’-roll thing we’re doing.
J.D.: Putting this band together and just going for it…going out on-stage with people being really receptive and singing along and having a good time…it’s exciting.
Pete: It’s cool now that the record has been out about a week [released June 4, 2013] and people finally have it in their hands. We were always playing shows where no one knew the record yet. It was always people hearing it for the first time, which was cool, too. But it’s fun that people come knowing the songs and are singing along. It’s fun to see that this little creation has grown and gone beyond us.
J.D.: Right now it’s just a baby dragon peeking out of its little egg.
Kristen: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
J.D.: Never give a sucker an even break—W.C. Fields.
Pete: I’ve gotten a lot of good advice over the years…I don’t know…
Kristen: For me, for example, this producer and sound engineer once told me, “If you want to be successful at something, have nothing else to fall back on.”
Pete: I always heard the opposite. My grandma would be like, “You have to have a trade, Pete! You have to know a trade!”
Pete: But I like this one…everything in moderation, including moderation. I take it as…take it all in, moderate, but there are times where you got to go a little crazy and you have to have a little excess as well.
Kristen: What’s your favorite thing about home?
J.D.: Yeah, the hummingbirds that we take care of. We feed them out our house, at the studio. There are so many of them that it’s like a swarm. We have a real hummingbird feeder that all these other types of birds feed out of, too. So, in my backyard is a hummingbird tree and a regular bird tree, and there are just constantly birds in my backyard.
Pete: And the squirrels are always hanging from the feeder upside down.
J.D.: We’ll be swimming in the pool and a squirrel will try and come and drink from it.
Kristen: Squirrels are bold, man. Especially in Chicago.
J.D.: I like bold squirrels. You’ve gotta give them something for trying. I like bold birds, too.
Kristen: A lot of people hate birds. It’s weird. I love them.
Pete: What’s there to hate about birds? Even our tour labels have hummingbirds on them. J.D. drew it.
Kristen: What’s next for you guys?
J.D.: I think we’re taking this tour day-by-day, but we’ve got probably half of the next record completed. We’re a productive duo in those terms as far as writing and recording. We try to get all of the inspiration out when it strikes. And I actually have quite a lot more ideas to put down as well. I feel like we only scratched the surface with this particular record. I feel like we can get ten times more creative, put everything out there that we can and enhance the songwriting even more. Good things ahead.