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    O.A.R. (short for Of a Revolution) is the high school fantasy.  They are the reason that young men pick up guitars, write songs, and sing them to their crushes at parties…because hopefully one day it will pay off.  The members of O.A.R., hailing from Rockville, Maryland, were all in high school when they formed the band in 1996 and began gigging around town.  After graduation, the four friends and bandmates managed to all attended the same college (Ohio State University), just so O.A.R. wouldn’t have to break up or be relegated to Christmas, spring break, and summer jamming.  And here we are now in 2015, where somehow the old friends have managed to keep it all together for almost twenty years and eight albums now.  This week O.A.R. will be performing in Louisville at Churchill Downs, and the band’s guitarist Richard On took a few minutes to chat with us about the band’s new album and nearly twenty years Of a Revolution.  You all have been to Louisville many times before…
    Richard On:  We have played Louisville many times, this is our first time at The Downs, it’s going to be amazing.  But playing Churchill Downs, that’s going to be interesting.
    RO:  It is, but it doesn’t really matter to us – we’re going to show up and have a party no matter what, it’s going to be a blast.  Do you prefer the creativity in the writing process or the creativity required in playing those songs live?
    RO:  It’s totally different worlds with both of them.  There are pros and cons to each; well, I wouldn’t say cons – there’s definitely pros to each.  Playing live is something that we’ve always wanted to be, that’s how we started.  We didn’t start by recording and making records.  But as we grew in the art of songwriting and crafting music we fell in love with that, too.  I think you get the best of both worlds no matter what you’re doing.  When you all wrote “Crazy Game of Poker” which musically makes almost no sense, but as a completed piece is absolutely amazing, did you all know people would respond to it the way they did?
    RO:  Ya’ know we wrote that song when we were sixteen years old.  Like I said, we didn’t know how to make a record or record.  So we went into the studio and started jamming.  We didn’t even know how the song was going to end, which is probably why it’s 7 minutes or whatever on the record.  There is an innocence to that recording that you can’t really replicate.  The fact that we didn’t know what we were doing struck a chord.  There’s something beautiful about doing something you don’t know how to do, and I think that resonated with a lot of people.  How have you seen the music industry change since you all have been around?
    RO:  We all grew up listening to cassettes – it was a big deal for us to get our album put out as a CD, that was making it for us.  And then we started to notice that people didn’t always wanna buy the whole album, they just wanted certain songs and the Napster thing happened.  Everyone suddenly had access to what we were doing – so we’d play a city we’d never been to before and the show was sold-out with everyone in the audience singing the lyrics to all of our songs.  That was an amazing gift for us.  And then iTunes managed to allow the same principal and still earn money as artists.  Now people don’t even care to own music anymore everyone is streaming now, so it really has changed a great deal.  Is it better or worse?
    RO:  It’s changing with technology.  You have to evolve – if you’re a dinosaur you die.  What would O.A.R. from 1996 think of O.A.R. from 2015?
    RO:  In 1996, O.A.R. was just four guys in a basement, and I think they would be amazed at the fact that we still get to tour on the scale that we do.  And that’s why we’re thankful for that every day.  Considering the members of the band now live all over the country when you’re not on the road, what made you all decide to title your last album “Rockville” after your hometown?
    RO:  I don’t know, maybe that is the reason.  None of us live there and we kinda miss it.   It was funny, when we started thinking and looking for inspiration for writing the record, we really found it when we came home for the holidays.  It was kinda this nostalgic thing, ya’ know?  You come home and see people you haven’t seen for years, and no one asks you any questions about, “Where have you been?” or “Why haven’t you called?”  You just pick up right where you left off.  And that’s when we realized we should draw inspiration from where we came from.  Right now Ryan Adams is covering an entire Taylor Swift album, if you could get the guys onboard, what album from another artist would you like to see O.A.R. cover?
    RO:  Me personally?  Maybe Pearl Jam’s “Ten” record.  But that’s not even selfish, we were all huge Pearl Jam fans growing up, still are.  That’s a band that really made us want to be a band.  Musically, I don’t know that we picked up a lot of their musical influence, but as far as their energy and their passion, I think we took that.  And man, if we were ever able to have a career like they have, I would be forever grateful.  So yeah, “Ten” for sure.  When the book on O.A.R. is written what will the title be?
    RO:  Oh man, how am I supposed to answer that?  It takes years to write a book!  I think it would be called “Pipe Dream” because when we were in high school, we never thought this was going to happen.

    O.A.R. will be performing at Churchill Downs on Wednesday September 9th.  The show begins at 7 p.m. – and tickets are available for $29.50.  Allen Stone and Brynn Elliot will be opening the show.

    Photo courtesy of O.A.R.'s management.

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    About Brent Owen

    Born and raised in Louisville, I have lived here most of my life (except during a short furlough, when I, lovelorn and naive, followed a girl to Baton Rouge). My roots are here, my family, my friends, and my life are all here. I work primarily as a free-lance writer for a few local and regional publications. I have also written two books (one a memoir, the other a novel) that barring some divine intervention, will probably never see the light of day. I find myself deeply ingrained in the local bar scene, or perhaps better said, I often indulge in the local drinking culture. I love music, movies, comedy, and really just about any other live performance art.

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