Thee Oh Sees have a lo-fi electric-acoustic sound that’s usually soaked in reverb, making it as if you can hear and see the exact room they recorded in. It creates a very distinct mood that seems to fit their style, lyrics, and melodies.
What most people focus on is that John Dwyer is in the band. While it’s certainly a notable quality, the recent band members bring so much more to the table. Keyboardist, vocalist and tambourine-shaker Brigid Dawson was recruited by Thee Oh Sees’ founder when she was working at a coffee shop in the Lower Haight in San Francisco. TDOA writer, Amy took a few minutes to talk to Brigid about their newest record, Purtifiers II and the development of the band.
TDOA: How do you think Putrifiers II is an evolution of the previous Thee Oh Sees albums? Do you consider it your best work?
BD: Putrifiers II is mostly a John album, with some of our friends sitting in on different songs; Mikal Cronin, Dylan Edrich, Heidi Alexander, Me and Chris Woodhouse. I’m very proud of John. It’s just such a beautiful album, and it seems to me that he really got to stretch out his wings, be a bit of a composer with a wider and richer array of sounds to play around with.
TDOA: You guys are pretty damn prolific for a group that’s not been around for all that long. What do you attribute that to?
BD: Well, we don’t have too much of a complicated recording process, and we also have John Dwyer in the band, so that ups the ante a little bit.
TDOA: What’s it like to work with John Dwyer? What have you learned from working with one of indie-punk’s “elder statesmen?”
BD: John has one of the best work ethics that I’ve ever witnessed, constantly working on something, with such immense energy. And he’s completely generous and so willing to help with the bands that he loves. I suppose these would be the lessons that I’ll remember.
TDOA: Not gonna lie, my first introduction to Thee Oh Sees was furiously ‘Googling’ the song from Breaking Bad. Did you notice a big bump after that episode?
BD: Hard to tell. I don’t often pay attention to that stuff. However, I did watch that scene though. What a great, great, scene to get to have your song playing in!
TDOA: Brigid…those harmonies. Some would say that you should be featured more prominently in the vocal tracks. What say you?
BD: I think they are right where they should be, any more and it’d be a different band.
TDOA: I find the comparisons to The Velvet Underground to be a little superficial and not necessarily indicative of the “style” that Thee Oh Sees brings to indie/punk. What do you think about comparisons with The Velvet Underground? Who would you compare yourselves to?
BD: I love the Velvet Underground so much, and although some part of all the music you love probably seeps through into the music you make, I don’t really think we sound like them.
TDOA: What’s it like to play very California music coming from the UK? How do you think the music of the UK influences Thee Oh Sees?
BD: I think music is one of the few areas that crosses over all of the cultural differences that exist between England and the States. I remember Patrick Mullins (our first drummer) meeting my dad, and just watching them get deep into talking about music, and being amazed and kind of gratified that they knew all of the same bands. It was a lovely moment.
TDOA: Completely unrelated: In my research, I read that Thee Oh Sees has been through several different incarnations of their current band name – how did you guys land on Thee Oh Sees?
BD: It’s true, when I first joined the band it was called OCS, and the name kind of changed as each new member joined: Oh Sees, The Oh Sees and Thee Oh Sees. The music would change a little as each person joined, or as a person left, and the name change kind of naturally marked that.
TDOA: Back to the harmonies. Where do those come from? Does Dwyer write the melodies and then you come back with those rich harmonies? Or is it collaborative?
Mostly John will bring in a song to us, melody and lyrics, and we will all write our parts around that, and sometimes the song will change and evolve again after playing it live and just trying new things on stage.
For more information, visit the band’s website!