Oyo Releases Debut Album on February 8
Throughout the Mid-Ohio Valley, local band Oyo has been making a name for itself playing local festivals and performing lively shows in the back of JustAJar Design Press in Marietta and in the front of the Parkersburg Brewing Co. in Parkersburg. Now, the band is excited to release their self-titled debut album on February 8, followed by a celebratory release party at the Adelphia Music Hall on February 11.
Featuring traditional acoustic instrumentation, driving rhythm, and poignant lyricism, Oyo trades off lead vocals between Aaron Martin (fiddle, mandolin), Cole Adair (guitar) and Michael Bond (guitar, keys, harmonica, spoons), with Bobby Rosenstock (banjo), Drew Tanner (bass), and Joe Ryckebosch (drums, washboard) joining in.
The long-awaited album was recorded in the sanctuary of an abandoned church in Elkins, West Virginia, by Ben Townsend of Questionable Records, and mixed and mastered by Michael Bond at Datawaslost Studios in Marietta. Special guests include Heather Hannah on background vocals, Andrew Gilmer on dobro, Ben Townsend on fiddle, and Read Connolly on pedal steel. Album artwork was created by band members Bobby Rosenstock and Joe Ryckebosch, with photography by Shannon Brown.
Born on the banks of the Ohio
Born on the banks of the Ohio River, Oyo (pronounced OH-yo) is a dynamic six-piece Appalachian roots band that formed from jam sessions in the back of Rosenstock’s shop, JustAJar. Gathered around a single mic, the band’s high-energy performances are equal parts honky-tonk and barn dance, with an indie rock undercurrent that guarantees to bring listeners to their feet.
Oyo take their name from the Iroquois word for the Ohio, meaning “beautiful river.” Like that big muddy river, Oyo is fed by many influences and tributaries upstream: folk, bluegrass, old-school country, and rock & roll.
“On the way to practice, Aaron and I both drive past the West Virginia historic marker by the bridge in Williamstown that references how Ohio’s name is rooted in the Iroquois name for the river, Oyo, or ‘beautiful river,’” said Tanner. “In addition to the local roots and sense of place we try to embody, it’s also emblematic of the various influences and ‘tributaries’ that feed our sound.”
Even throughout the pandemic, the band continued to meet almost weekly for practice, which was only possible because they were an acoustic group and could rehearse outdoors. Tanner attributes their success as a group to their persistence.
It’s been gratifying to see the week-in-week-out work on developing our sound and original songs that people enjoy hearing growing into invitations to play at some of our favorite places and events.Drew Tanner
“Somehow, six working family guys have made near-weekly practices work for over four years,” he said. “It’s been gratifying to see the week-in-week-out work on developing our sound and original songs that people enjoy hearing growing into invitations to play at some of our favorite places and events. But it’s also fun to keep bringing it back to where it all started, at JustAJar, on a First Friday.”
As jam sessions transitioned to paid gigs, the band began booking larger events and growing their local reach. “I think everybody in the band wanted to be part of the bigger, regionally connected music scene,” said Adair. “At some point, we just thought, well, why are we doing this? What’s the goal here? Next thing you know, free lobsters,” he said, referencing the Marietta Morning Rotary’s popular Tails & Ales event.
With so many talented local musicians in the area, the Mid-Ohio Valley’s music scene has blossomed in recent years. “We really enjoy not only performing with other local bands but seeing them trying to put different things together,” said Adair. “We are pretty regionally based, so we’ve played with nearly everybody touching our genre.”
We’d be fools not to do our best to fill these beautiful rooms with fun times.Michael Bond
The range of local venues supporting local musicians has contributed to the thriving MOV music community. “I was talking to a friend this morning, and he told me how jealous he was of the quality of venues here,” said Bond. “From the Adelphia at 200 capacity to the Peoples Bank Theatre at 900 capacity. He’s in a city 30x our size and wishing they had similar options that support local music. We’d be fools not to do our best to fill these beautiful rooms with fun times.”
As an acoustic group, Oyo (or, occasionally “The Free Lobster Boys”) has been able to be a bit more flexible, especially during COVID. “Being an acoustic band gives us a few more options of places to play other than your typical venues,” said Martin. During the pandemic, Oyo hosted free concerts in the gazebo of East Muskingum Park and played outdoor venues, including the Valley Gem Sternwheeler. The band is excited to see their calendar begin to fill up with live performances once again.
An original sound
While most would describe Oyo’s sound as Americana or Folk, each member of their band brings their own influences and unique perspective into the mix. Martin, whose primary influences include Neil Young, The Band, Paul Simon, and Tony Rice, describes their sound as “folk music with drums.”
Ryckebosch, whose influences include REM, Stone Roses, and the Ramones, said he likes to try to sneak as much punk and indie into the band as he can. “I think the band’s sound is reminiscent of traditional bluegrass and Americana, but with unexpected twist,” he said. “The use of keys and drums gives it an unexpected feel; I think has a more complex and propulsive feel to it. From a drummer’s standpoint, it sort of reminds of a ‘Ramones gone bluegrass.’ I’m not playing punk blast-beats, but it feels pretty damn close to it with the fast-paced country shuffle, which is often employed.”
“We probably fit in the Americana genre but I think we have a pretty unique sound. We all come from different musical backgrounds and we have three songwriters/singers in the band giving us a nice mix of original songs,” said Rosenstock, whose influences include The Boss (Bruce Springsteen), Grateful Dead, John Hardford, Doc Watson, and Louie Armstrong.
Bond says he listens to a lot of different stuff, from noisy garage rock to R&B and reggae. “In the past, I’ve played in bands that leaned more towards indie rock and electronic, beat-heavy sounds – there are even CDs with me rapping out there, if I haven’t successfully destroyed them all,” he said.
Growing up, my older brothers were cranking new wave, 80s rock, and early alternative, while my dad was listening to blues and classic rock, and mom listened to gospel.Drew Tanner
With Oyo, Bond said he tried to focus on the sound of the “gone country” records that his favorite rockers put out in the 60s and 70s. “Stuff like Sweetheart of the Rodeo, Beggars Banquet, Muswell Hillbillies, and Tumbleweed Connection.”
Tanner said it’s fun to hear the wide variety of influences that they bring into their songs. “Growing up, my older brothers were cranking new wave, 80s rock, and early alternative, while my dad was listening to blues and classic rock, and mom listened to gospel,” he said. “Before moving to the MOV, I was managing the Pocahontas County Opera House, in a part of West Virginia where Appalachian traditional music and bluegrass runs deep. As a result, my own tastes and what I seek out are kind of all over the place.”
Lately, Tanner’s playlists have included The Wood Brothers, Lake Street Dive, Pokey LaFarge, Odesza, and Rainbow Kitten Surprise – to name a few. “This is why they keep me in the back corner of the stage,” he joked.
Deep in the West Virginian Mountains
As their list of original songs grew, it was time for Oyo to record its first album. “Michael and Aaron are always cranking out new stuff so if we don’t get it down, we may forget it,” said Adair.
The band decided to work with Ben Townsend of Questionable Records in Elkins, West Virginia. “Ben is a super talented, multi-instrumentalist originally from Hampshire County,” said Martin. “He was also in the well-known West Virginia band, The Fox Hunt.” A few years back, Townsend bought an abandoned church and converted it into a recording studio. “We all thought highly of Ben and knew that the space would be perfect to capture our live sound.”
The entire album was recorded in just three days. “We set up Friday night, got the instruments setup and ready and started early(ish) Saturday,” said Adair. “We recorded all the instruments that day and came back Sunday and did all the vocals as Michael finished writing songs for the album. It didn’t take long for Ben to have a well-mixed cut. Then Michael took over the mixing and mastering (and also decided to release a life enriching app which we aren’t allowed to mention here.) The experience could not have been more fun. The church was perfect for what we were trying to do.”
Bond said it was important to capture the live feel of the band and for the listener to feel like they’re there in the room with them playing. “With the exception of vocals, nearly everything on the album was recorded live as a group. Most everything you hear is a first or second take, and I think that energy comes through in the recordings,” he said.
It was a nice mix of songs we’d refined for months with fresher songs that we were still figuring out.Michael Bond
Oyo’s self-titled debut album features twelve original songs by Aaron Martin and Michael Bond that take the listener on a sonic road trip through the West Virginia mountains to the Deep South, the American West, and points beyond. Along the way, they encounter the heartache of complicated relationships and the ecstasy of connection, all while capturing the raucous energy of their live performances and distinctive sound.
“It was a nice mix of songs we’d refined for months with fresher songs that we were still figuring out,” said Bond. “That was probably the third time we’d played ‘Back Here Again’ together, and it sounds great. There’s also tracks like ‘Old Friend,’ where Ben’s fiddle brought a whole new dimension to a song that we’ve been playing for years.”
Music that feels like home
For long-time fans and first time listeners alike, the album feels familiar and sounds like home. Maybe it’s because the music feels close – as though you are in the room watching the group squeeze in around the mic, or because you remember the last time you heard ‘My Kind’ you were dancing on a riverboat with friends.
“This was my first time recording an album, so the whole experience was pretty exciting,” said Rosenstock. “I enjoyed watching Michael write the lyrics to Waste Your Time an hour before we recorded it. We wanted to capture some of the energy and spontaneity of our live shows and I think we did that on this record.”
The group’s energy certainly comes through, especially in tracks like ‘Roads,’ ‘Jones Avenue’, and ‘Don’t Be Gone.’ It’s so infectious you’ll find your feet tapping along, itching to get up and dance. “Jones Avenue was one that was fun because it was still relatively new to the group,” said Martin. “On ‘Old Friend,’ it was cool to watch Ben Townsend improvise on this jam, he is an excellent West Virginia fiddle player.”
Tanner agreed. “Jones Avenue and Waste Your Time were fun. They were new and fresh while we were in the studio, and there was a lot of energy going into figuring them out as a band in the moment. While the lyrics pack a lot of longing, Jones Avenue feels like a party when we’re playing it. And Waste Your Time has a great break in the middle where we kind of stretch out the time for a moment in a way that doesn’t usually happen in our other songs.”
Oyo’s debut album earns top marks in storytelling, but it’s the loose, ‘gather-round-now-y’all’ energy that sets it apart.
Heading into the third year of a global pandemic, tracks like ‘Light in You’ and ‘Old Friend’ take the edge off the loneliness of winter with lyrical optimism, while ‘Santa Fe’ hooks you in gut and takes you back in time, much in the spirit of Josh Ritter’s haunting song stories. Oyo’s debut album earns top marks in storytelling, but it’s the loose, ‘gather-round-now-y’all’ energy that sets it apart.
Ryckebosch said his favorite song to record was ‘Rambler’ due to the changes they made to is just weeks prior to recording. “I feel it dramatically improved the song, and it was fun to come up with an entirely different rhythmic structure,” he said. “Stuff like that is cool, because it is still fresh in your head and you are excited to see how it translates into a recording situation.”
In the age of information and endless streaming access, it’s all the more important to support our local musicians and live music venues. “It’s important to support all art, not just live music. But live music has a way of bringing people together,” said Martin. “I feel like that is so needed right now. People are feeling this anxiety and depression from the past couple of years. Live music is beautiful and everyone could use a bit of that right now.”
If you show up to one of our shows looking for a good time, you’re going to find it, whether it’s here where we live or in front of strangers hundreds of miles away.Michael Bond
The diversity of music available here in the Mid-Ohio Valley is wide and bands like Oyo contribute to an ever-evolving community of local music dotting the shores of the Ohio River. “There’s so much music and so many sounds that are being made, you’d be surprised how good local music feels,” said Adair.
Local music doesn’t need to stay local, though. “It’s kind of nice to be in a band that’s never had to explain itself much,” said Bond. “If you show up to one of our shows looking for a good time, you’re going to find it, whether it’s here where we live or in front of strangers hundreds of miles away.”
“There’s a connection and energy that happens at a live show that you just don’t get when streaming music on your phone or in your car,” said Tanner. “And there are so many talented musicians in the MOV creating new, original music that’s worth seeking out and discovering.”
Oyo’s debut self-titled album will be available to stream in full on February 8th on Spotify and Bandcamp and available for purchase on CD in JustAJar and Clutch Collective in downtown Marietta. Join Oyo for their album release party at The Adelphia Music Hall on February 11 with special guest Drift Mouth!