In the immortal words of the great JC, Do you remember the first time? Dress Up To Mess Up shared a pot of Earl Grey with Brooklyn-based musician Brad Oberhofer when he was last in London, and discussed hermit crabs named Hubert, a post-Bar Mitzvah Macy Gray performance and his secret dabblings in electronic music.
So Brad, what was the first instrument you picked up?
It was guitar when I was five years old, for about three weeks, and then I didn't touch a guitar again for eleven years. [During those years] I played piano for about two years when I was ten, then clarinet for about two years, and studied percussion for about seven years.
Which bands formed your musical education, and were there any in particular that really struck a chord when you were young?
My dad listened to the B-52s and Weezer in the car, and I loved it. I also thought it was cool that he was into Nirvana, and David Bowie.
Was your dad a musician?
No, not at all. He listened to some classical music as well. And my mum was an opera singer.
Was there a particular frontman/woman that you really admired?
Andre 3000. He's just so cool. He's just this long, skinny dude that wears football pads and talks really weird.
Can you remember the first record you bought?
I went to Paris for about a month and a half when I was a kid and I bought The Marshall Mathers LP. My parents heard it and they made me cut it up.
Snapping it up? That's pretty extreme.
It was pretty violent for an eleven year old kid to be listening to.
Which bands were you into as a teenager?
I was really into Outkast. As a teenager I got into The Unicorns, a lot, that was like my favourite band. Then when I was about 15 I started listening to classical music. When I was just started it out it was like, Tchaikovsky, Chopin, Chostakovitch, Beethoven. Lately I've been really into French Impressionism, like Maurice Ravel.
Were you in bands before, and have you always been writing songs?
I mean, I've always been doing it alone. I never really connected with anyone, writing songs. I'm terrible at articulating musical ideas without simply just playing them. So I just try to learn as many instruments as I can so I can just play my ideas. The first show I ever played I had a foot pedal on a snare drum, and a floor tom, and just played drums with my feet, and acoustic guitar. I had an electronic music project for a while as well, where I played two keyboards and had a vocoder, it was really fun.
Do any recordings exist?
Sort of. Not anywhere except my personal library (laughs).
What was the first show you went to?
I saw Macy Gray at a festival.
Were you a big fan before?
No (laughs). I was just at the festival, I had no idea. I was twelve. I was at a Bar Mitzvah and two of the kids were going to this festival after, so I went with them. I thought it was so cool, it was really exciting to me actually to see all these crazy people, and art everywhere.
Do you have a first memory?
(Thinks). Not sure if this is my first memory, but I think one of the earliest memories I have is crawling underneath the kitchen table in my parents house and they were drinking hot coffee, and I bumped my head on the table and just spilled hot coffee all over myself. I must have been three or so. Before that, I have memories of my parents house being reconstructed. I must've been two or three.
What was your first pet?
I had hermit crabs. I think I had a hermit crab named Hubert. I don't know why I picked that name! I had one named Spike, as well. I went to a science summer camp when I was a kid, and we had hermit crabs that we made observations on. My first real pet was this dog named Juno, who was a Siberian Husky. But he wasn't that affectionate. He tried to bite me once, and he eventually just ran away... Only to return a year later with another dog, like, showing him our property! And then maybe it was a few months after that, he came back with a whole pack of stray dogs, all in the backyard. So weird.
Is there one band that you have gotten really obsessed over?
It's mainly composers that I get obsessed over... I went through an obsessive phase with Chopin, Vladimir Horowitz I was obsessed with for a while. I currently have an obsession with Maurice Ravel though. He apparently had a mum that couldn't let go, y'know, and she was super controlling with him and controlled everything in his life. And it seems based on what I've read and heard about him, that the only time in which he could be free was when writing songs. And you can hear this weird, childish element of his music that also seems as if he's trying to escape from something. It's really weird, it's like the only way he can escape is by painting these really weird pictures with his music. I'm also obsessed with Igor Stravinsky as well. And Andre 3000. I don't know why I'm still obsessed with that dude.
Finally, any music that you've heard recently that you'd recommend others check out?
Yeah, my friend's in a band called Celestial Shore, and I just discovered them and its great. My friends back home from Tacoma, Washington are in a band called Makeup Monsters. They are so good. Oh yeah! I had an obsession with Alden Penner from The Unicorns, and I drove from New York to Montreal to get coffee with him, and then we ended up playing a show with them, in Montreal. He's the sweetest guy and so smart. I'm friends with a band called Widowspeak, and they're really great. And there's a band called Jeane who are fucking amazing. Oh, there's also a band called DIVE, who are really cool. And a band called Friends as well.
The full interview will be posted in Shebang Zine, issue 4 (print date still TBC).
Oberhofer's debut album 'Time Capsules II' will be out April 16th on Glassnote. You can listen to some tracks on the Spotify Sampler.