Amy O is the nomme de plume of Amy Oelsner, the lo-fi pop writer/performer from Bloomington, Indiana that deserves to sit at the top of your summer playlist. Her new album, Elastic, released via Winspear, is a collection of unassuming earworms that deliver some of the most shrewd, if softly spoken, lyrics that you’ll hear in a long time.
There’s an accessibility to the music of Amy O that sneaks a range of heavier weapons through the gates, passions are deeply felt, emotions tend to run wild before O reins them in, and the drive of instrumentation is disarming. The album delivers it’s very own personality that’s as complex as it is easy to listen to.
Whilst other bigger hitting songwriters – those who straddle the mainstream with unusual endorsements and forced-by-label collaborations will make noise and steal column inches Amy O simply deserves attention – her work is hauntingly good and refreshingly direct.
ARTISTdirect caught up with Amy O to discuss the new album, her song of the moment, and just where we go from here…
Where are you right now?
I’m in my bedroom in Bloomington, Indiana, it’s raining.
Please name your fellow band members and their roles… oh, and who has the best dance moves?
Justin Vollmar is on drums, Madeline Robinson is on bass and backing vocals, Aaron Denton is on keys and backing vocals, Damion Schiralli is on lead guitar, and I am on lead vocals and guitar. Everybody has pretty good dance moves, no clear front-runner here.
Tell us about your new project: Who did you work with? Where was it recorded? What’s it about? Is there candy?
My new album is called Elastic. It was engineered, mixed and mastered in November/December 2016 at Russian Recording in Bloomington, Indiana with Mike Bridavsky (aka Lil Bub’s dude.) It’s coming out August 4th on Winspear.
The title describes the general emotional arc of the album. The concept of elasticity for me is about admiring people’s ability to adapt to and heal from difficult circumstances, as well as discovering the depth of my own emotional resilience when faced with challenges. The songs share stories and experiences I’ve gone through and how I’ve learned to deal.
How do you describe your music to new friends?
I describe my music as basement pop because I aim to write catchy, accessible songs that are executed with a grunge DIY sensibility.
How did you first meet, and where exactly did you become a band?
I’d been playing and recording lo-fi bedroom pop as Amy O for about 10 years before working with my current band. In 2013, I moved to Bloomington from Brooklyn. I was excited about all the excellent opportunities for collaboration and realized I was ready to transition into having a fuller/louder sound. I asked Justin Vollmar and Madeline Robinson to start playing with me.
After about a year of being a 3 piece, we invited Damion Schiralli to join us on guitar and shortly after Aaron Denton started in on keys.
Other than Amy O, what should your hometown be known for?
Bloomington should be known for cultivating a long-running, creatively expansive DIY/punk scene and being surrounded by beautiful stretches of woods, rivers and lakes.
Please look around you right now and please describe the first item or person you see that’s significant to you.
I see a picture of my Grandma Ruthann. (Photo Above) She was a very smart, empowered woman who had a real appreciation for the arts. She used to take me to see plays around Kansas City (where she and my Grandpa lived) and those were some of the happiest times from my childhood.
What first inspired you to pursue music? If it was a musician or a specific piece of music, please tell us all about why you find it so inspirational…
I was inspired to play music by my family. My parents were really musically active when I was growing up. They played in a band with a friend called Naked Brunch and would practice around the house. My mom also led a women’s choir and my dad did solo singer-songwriter stuff. When my brother was a teenager he started playing in bands too. I guess I felt that playing music was just something everyone did in my family. I was interested in writing my own songs so I picked up guitar in order to be able to accompany myself.
What’s the best advice anyone has given you about pursuing a life in music?
I love Patti Smith’s interview on Advice to the Young. She says, regardless of whether you are or are not being embraced by an audience or critics, or whether you’re making money or not making money, that you just keep making the work because it’s what you love and what makes you feel alive.
Not including your current crew, who (alive or dead) would you love to have in your van for an all day drive from gig to gig?
Yoko Ono- she cuts through all the bullshit in the most delightful, nonsensical way.
What song best sums up your life right now?
“Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor.
What is the best reaction to your music you have experienced so far?
The best reaction to my music that I’ve experienced is when a teenage girl came up to me at a music fest and said that my music made her feel less alone. That’s really all I could want.
Take a moment to dream – Where do hope to be a year from now?
I want to be releasing a new album with songs I’m proud of.
What’s your next step towards that dream?
Getting to work on writing new stuff!
For more information visit the Amy O hub on ARTISTdirect