It was time to grow up, or so Jonah Oryszak thought.
At the age of 20, Oryszak, a college drop out from Canton, Ohio, had found himself couch surfing from crusty musician house to crusty musician house for the greater part of his early adulthood, working two days a week and partying seven. “It got old fast,” he says.
In 1998, Oryszak had decided to move out of his parents’ house in Canton, where he’d learned to love everything from Nick Drake to Roxy Music to old soul 45s, and move to Cleveland to pursue his own sounds. Still, he always looks back on his parents being his true rock and roll masters. “My mom would always make mix tapes for my dad,” he says. “So, when I was like five, I would try to do it myself. I had this little tape recorder and I’d put it up to a speaker and make comps like that.”
Once in Cleveland, Oryszak soaked himself in the local underground scene, filling his time with house shows and record collecting. He also met Jay Tousley, a kid from West Park whose attention was too short to listen to albums, but just right to create the perfect pop hooks on guitar a la Johnny Marr. It was a perfect fit – Oryszak, a well-versed songsmith, who’d lay down the structure upon which Tousley could, simply, get weird. “Jay is strange because he doesn’t listen to music at all,” Oryszak says. “It’s something that everyone makes fun of him for…but that’s it. That’s why Jay and I played so well together – I always liked pop, strong hooks, and that’s what Jay just writes these off the wall quirky pop parts. He plays guitar like someone who has never played before.”
For the next few years, Tousley and Oryszak played in bands while they drifted from flop house to flop house. “There were a lot of party houses,” Tousley says. “We’d get nine or ten people living in a three bedroom. Everyone would work two days a week, party every night. I figured that from the time I was 18 until I was 23, I moved 13 times. Everything smelled like a locker room. I lived in a house with absolutely no electric for three months.”
But the life of squatters, sustained on little more than beer and local bands, lost its charm. Tousley soon started working full-time as a carpenter. He got married and had a kid. Oryszak decided to give school one more try and moved to Pittsburgh to pursue an art degree. It was time to live the lives of men.
In the five years that Oryszak was away, he stuck to creating ambient electro music on his own, missing the vibrance of the Cleveland scene, where it’s easier to start a band than get a job. Tousley, however, didn’t so much as pick up his guitar, which seemed to have no place in the life of a full-time worker with kids. It was life full force, until Tousley realized that playing music is what a musician must do.
He started playing music with Dave Wincek, a drummer barely old enough to buy beer and whose playing was well fed by the off-kilter pop beats of early-90s indie rock and Alternative Press sanctified emo. “It was just horrible,” Tousley remembers. “But it was fun, just to pick up our instruments again.”
Oryszak, homesick and weary after a bad break-up, decided to move back home to Cleveland. As soon as he returned, he started playing music with Wincek and Tousley. They quickly formed The Other Girls, writing no nonsense, pop tinged rock. They were not interested in impressing the esoteric, underground scene from whence they came, but rather went to work building sturdy songs reminiscent of AC Newman, Modest Mouse, and Band of Horses. “We figured it would be the last band that I’d play in and if it didn’t work, then I’d be done,” Oryszak says.
As they balanced the responsibilities of their freshly adult lives with the ecstatic dreaming of a new project, The Other Girls began writing with a newfound maturity. Their editing process was so rigorous that they’d often spend up to three months on one song and still decide to throw it away. “We didn’t even play out for the first year and a half,” Oryszak says. “Our editing process is just ridiculous. Everyone has to absolutely love it for it to leave the room.”
Their pop perfectionism seemed to pay off. After rounding out with the band with bassist Corey Lanigan, The Other Girls’ concise 5-song set of tight power pop quickly earned a local following. Among them was Ben Vehorn, owner of Tangerine Studios in Akron, who invited them to come and record for whatever cash they could collect.
The band spent a weekend at Vehorn’s studio, recording what would become much of Perfect Cities – referring to the band’s collective love for not only Cleveland, but the postindustrial, grayish yellow landscapes of all great Midwestern towns.
On songs like “Sleep A Year” and “The Facility,” The Other Girls have managed to fuse the real life practicality and bottled romanticism of all great pop rock bands, from The Replacements to The Smiths – bands from cold, matter of fact places where romanticism is a valuable commodity, that when accessed, is more beautiful, poignant, and rarified than any other. It’s on songs like “Hey Fella You Fell,” the drifter, couch surfing nostalgia of young fathers who both accept and resist the everydayness of their lives translates into a danceable pop song that makes you want to scream at your fate and embrace your ugly world all at the same time.
As the band prepares for the release of their first record on Audio Eagle Records, owned by The Black Keys’ Patrick Carney, they are still busy with real life: Wincek is currently expecting a child, Lanigan is working full-time as a plumber, and Tousley has another baby on the way as he balances 50-hours a week as a carpenter. “This was sort of our last chance to not grow up,” Oryszak says.
Edited by Diminuendo_ on 10 Jun 2009, 17:53
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