Artist Spotlight: Oberhofer @ LollaAugust 10, 2012 —
In between interviews with Rolling Stone and MTV I was lucky enough to sit down with the dudes of the indie band Oberhofer on Friday afternoon of Lollapalooza 2012. Though they are one of my favorite new groups, it was far from a star-striking experience; Brad Oberhofer and the rest of the gang are a supremely chill, humble bunch, despite rising from near-obscurity to a world tour and a Samsung commercial less than two years later. And while that day the media area was in full-scale festival freak-out mode, the band (front man/guitarist Brad, drummer Pete Sustarsic, bassist Ben Roth, and guitarist Matt Schneir) lounged about with an almost bored anticipation of the weekend to come. Thus I imagined that their Sunday afternoon set would a rather chill affair, a la the style of oft-compared bands like the Drums and Miniature Tigers. But by the end of “Gold,” their last song—after my mind had already been completely blown by the band’s wild, wonderful stage antics—my jaw dropped as Brad climbed up the twelve-foot-or-so speaker stack on stage left and leapt off, guitar in hand, to nail the last chord upon touchdown.
Brad is the founding and primary member of Oberhofer, and also the youngest. He is soft-spoken yet confident with a serious hipster swagger, seemingly making him the perfect Green Dragon barista candidate. He was a mere 18 years of age when the angsty “Away Frm U,” his first single, nabbed coverage on a number of popular music blogs, and it’s been all uphill from there. As a relative youngin’ in a very young scene, Brad says that, as he was first trying to make his way, everyone was “really sweet. [Other bands] treated me like a younger sibling.” But Oberhofer’s rapid ascension to indie stardom has to be mainly chalked up to Brad’s talent and work ethic. Though he wanted to be a famous rapper when he was in middle school, the dream of playing at huge music festivals like Lolla was a latent goal of Brad’s ever since he began noodling around with his guitar and writing songs in Tacoma, Washington. His development as a songwriter seems to parallel his development as a young adult; like many college kids, it seems as though girls, relationships, and perhaps a bit of social anxiety weighs on his mind, as reflected in emotive songs like “I Could Go” and “Landline.”
Though the release of his first EP, Time Capsules II, garnered reviews across the board, Brad says he doesn’t read them anymore—to him and the rest of the band it is all about the live show. “[Reviews are] not really relevant,” Brad proclaims, “it’s important for us to focus on the live show, and become better musicians—all of us.” If there is room to improve in their live set I couldn’t tell. For all their antics—Matt was wearing bright orange booty shorts, Brad was sprinting all over the place (at one point all the way out to the sound tent in the middle of the crowd), and each band member had plenty of quirky dance moves to fill their 45-minute set—they seemed to get their disheveled selves together just enough to hit every chord and solo.
Oberhofer’s live show certainly displayed the talent and personality of a full-fledged “coincidence pop” band (how they describe their genre of music on their Facebook page.) But playing at Lolla seemed to mean more to Oberhofer than just another festival appearance, but more like a validation of all the hard work they have been putting in all year. “It’s like the first time you ollie up a curb,” “the first time you ride a wave,” “the first time you perfect an eggs benedict,” various band members quipped about the opportunity to play at Lollapalooza, perhaps their biggest crowd yet. Given Brad’s immense accomplishments at such a young age (he’s now 21), I asked him what advice he had for other young people, like Cornell students, trying to garner their own personal Lollapalooza invite. Said Brad: “Be nice to everyone. If you’re ever trying to get anywhere in a field, it’s important to be nice to everyone even if they’re mean to you. And do something to improve every day…You never know who’s watching.”