Oneida create a lot of music. Since 1997 the Brooklyn outfit have recorded a double album, six full-lengths, and a handful of EPs. But recently the band shelved their most ambitious project yet: a sweeping triple album titled Thank You Parents. "We all just kind of decided that it wasn't something we could do sanely," says Oneida drummer Kid Millions.
The admission isn't surprising considering all the projects on which the three long-time members have been working recently. Despite each member holding down regular jobs and being involved in various side projects, the trio managed to release last year's lightheaded, string-laden opus The Wedding. Currently, Millions, guitarist/bassist Baby Jane, and keyboardist Fat Bobby are finishing Happy New Year, a full-length made up of material from the postponed triple album, and starting a label in partnership with Secretly Canadian/Jagjaguwar called Brah.
Millions explains the new label's creation: "In the early days of Jagjaguwar, it was sort of a wimpy, folky label. We started working with them when our New York label folded. They're awesome; we love them, but we always kind of gave them shit because they didn't have any other rock bands that we were into. So one night we were drinking in a bar for hours and we called [the owner] of Secretly Canadian/Jagjaguwar. We left him a drunken message saying that he should give us his label. The next day they e-mailed me with the proposal for Brah—they were like: 'Yeah, let's do this.' Then we were like: 'Oh fuck, we better put something together.'"
And so they did. To date, Brah has released records from Pittsburgh freak-rockers Dirty Faces and folk-punk outfit Company, as well as an Oneida/Plastic Crimewave Sound split 12-inch, and Millions says they've got several releases slated for the near future. "Now we can help people that fall outside of the mainstream, trend-driven world," Millions enthuses. He says with small budgets and modest goals, it's possible to make the venture succeed. Brah's first few records are already in the black.
"I think, though, when we do a Wolf Eyes comedy CD, we might not make back our money on that," Millions jokes. He's serious about the CD, though. "We've known [Wolf Eyes] for a really long time, and my favorite thing about hanging out with them is how fucking funny they are. So I talked to John [Olson] about it and he said, 'Fuck yeah.' So now there's this Wolf Eyes comedy record coming out on Brah."
Millions has a surprisingly subdued manner considering he's part of such a productive group. The personality jibes, though, when you listen to Oneida's subtle but forceful sound as it progresses through the basement hallucinations of the first full-length A Place Called El Shaddai's, and into the more cogent rumblings of albums like Come on Everybody Let's Rock, Each One Teach One, and Secret Wars. Their sound is always pushing forward with a hushed but powerful weight. Add their undaunted work ethic, and the culmination is an increasingly lengthy discography and a modestly sized set of ardent fans.
For The Wedding, a lighter affair than 2004's Secret Wars, the band employed new compositional techniques. "We knew we wanted some orchestration in it," Millions says. So they sent song demos and rough mixes to Brian Coughlin, leader of the New York City new-music group Fireworks Ensemble. Coughlin gathered string players and arranged the parts. "So we just went in there and had the string players play over what we had already recorded."
Of course, for Happy New Year, the trio had to change it up all over again. "This one's gonna have more of a mellower vibe," Millions says, noting that it will mix older, reassessed and re-recorded songs with borrowed material from the Thank You Parents sessions. Despite the Frankenstein approach, Millions says there's a method to the madness. "It's definitely the most coherent thing we've ever done. This one was sort of like putting together a watch."
Trans Am's Phil Manley, who recently became a permanent fourth member of Oneida, will be on the tour this time to help execute Oneida's increasingly varied sound. "He's sort of now a fourth adjunct member," Millions says. "He adds a crazy new element. I think for anyone who hasn't seen us recently, it's gonna be an even more wicked and heavy sound."firstname.lastname@example.org