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Arts and Culture

Pandemic Vacation Fodder For New Osmium House Album

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Osmium House
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Denver-based Osmium House plays Nightshop in Bloomington on Wednesday night.

Former Bloomington-Normal residents and Gay Neighbors bandmates Aesop Adams and Aaron Dooley return to their hometown from Denver sporting a new psych-rock outfit they named Osmium House. 

Ahead of their show at Nightshop in Bloomington on Wednesday night, they stopped by the WGLT studios for a chat with Jon Norton about their new album “Mendocino County” and about their affinity for psychedelic rock.

WGLT: John Anderson of Reverberation Vinyl in Bloomington is a friend of yours and one of the biggest fan/proponents of psychedelic rock in the Twin Cities. Is he someone who turned you on to this music, or did it come from somewhere else?

ADAMS: He's our mentor. He's a supporter. I've got to give him a lot of credit.

DOOLEY: He's turned us on to heady stuff for lack of a better word. So, John always has some hand in it spiritually In some way or another, Yeah,

He's your godfather It sounds like.

DOOLEY: A psychedelic stepdad as it were, yeah.

ADAMS: You know, it's a musical journey that I think started in adolescence. We were young kids, trying to expand our minds and expand our musical tastes, but we didn't really know where to start sometimes. And you get muddled with your past influences and things that are, you know, feel good lessons that are hard to give up. And sometimes people's ears, they stay the same age, they don't really evolve with their brain and shy away from weird sounds and unconventional musical ideas. And John was someone who opened our eyes up to that and just sort of helped, I guess, explain it in a way that we could understand as younger people.

That's very cool.

DOOLEY: He said something to me that I always think of. One time he mentioned he could always tell which of his friends stopped listening to new music in high school or college. You definitely tend to know people who it seems like they stopped their musical exploration around like 20, 21 years old and personally, I feel as far as being a musician … beyond playing … consuming and introducing yourself to all kinds of new music will help you expand beyond just learning scales and chords and song playing techniques.

This new album you're going to be introducing at Nightshop on Wednesday night is called “Mendocino County.” You say it was conceived during COVID while you were on vacation in I'm assuming Mendocino County, California?

ADAMS: Yeah. It was a sort of an unfortunate set of events that unfolded. We work at this job at a thrift store out in Denver. And we had gotten all this really gratuitous time off because we had to close due to the protocols back in March. I have a friend in Mendocino, and he was also he was a high school teacher and they had closed everything. So, he had a bunch of time off, and he offered to come pick me up and drive me back to Cali and hang with him for a few weeks … and It coincided with everything getting shut down and closing. So, it was a very abysmal kind of trip because we got out there and there's no one on the beaches. There are signs everywhere that say everything's closed. But you know, we're in “Mendo.” So, it's a very interesting place. It's not what you picture when you think of California. It's kind of like redneck California.

Really?

ADAMS: Yeah.

It's a beautiful area, right?

ADAMS: Beautiful area. But Mendocino itself … it's one little coastal town with the whole county. It consists of quite a gamut of interesting feelings and people and some of it's scary. Some of it is really cool. A lot of people go missing in that area.

DOOLEY: Some people have exotic animals.

ADAMS: There are zebras across the way from where my buddy lived. And it was like, every morning, you'd wake up and look out his window, and it looked like his backyard, but there was a road in the bottom of the hill that separated the yards.

Aaron, you've got six songs on this EP. Does each one of the songs represent a different aspect of what happened when you were on vacation in Mendocino?

DOOLEY: That's definitely Aesop’s one to answer.

ADAMS: Yeah, it wasn't necessarily things that I did. It was more like things that we experienced. I had experienced the loss of a close friend, Trace Peiffer. And some of this stuff came after where I was processing what had happened out there, but the original songs … it was sort of just a feeling of going to a new place, experiencing sort of like the tranquility of the water, this sort of feeling of you can really get lost and … you know, the horizon contrasting with the extreme sort of peaks of the land. The coast is really rocky and there's all kinds of crazy hills and mountains and stuff, too. And the whole landscape really, I guess … I was doing some sort of musical LIDAR trying to scan it and sonically recreate it.

Aaron, I will turn to you on this one now. Last time we talked at WGLT It was for (the band) Gay Neighbors when you lived in Bloomington-Normal. Now you're both in Denver … Osmium House is your instrumental, psychedelic rock band. Just seeing you guys just a little bit … even when we talked before you came in here. This is like a way of life for you. This isn't just you playing music.

DOOLEY: Yeah, you know, I think I got into psychedelic music when I was really into psychology. And really … just the whole idea of the psyche. And the mind has always been fascinating to me. So, I think playing a very introspective music plays well to my lifestyle and my way of thinking.

ADAMS: It's such a broad term. It’s a blanket term we put over a lot of different types of music. You can say bands like Grateful Dead or psychedelic bands, like … Neil Young does some psychedelic things. You can say more hokey stuff like Strawberry Alarm Clock, that's true and blue 60s psych, but really, I think psychedelic jazz, spiritual stuff, New Age stuff, electronica, there's all kinds of … I think it's the way that the music and the tones enter your ears. Hopefully it's elating or whatever. Sort of, I guess, an artificial trip, but a safe one.

DOOLEY: Yes.

ADAMS: You don't have to alter your chemical state.

DOOLEY: A friend said you shouldn't have to take psychedelic drugs to enjoy psychedelic music. It should stimulate a psychedelic experience.

ADAMS: I agree with that.

Osmium House. Where does the name come from?

ADAMS: There was a house that I had frequented out in Colorado when I first moved there. And somebody had a box of all these wasted records in a basement. I would go over there and I was helping this girl move out of this place. It was just like some weird, frat house type thing. And I found a copy of “Osmium” by Parliament, but the record wasn't in its (sleeve).

DOOLEY: It’s the first Parliament record. It's the rarest one.

ADAMS: I was talking to these guys. I don't think Aaron was out there yet. And I was like, man, I got to go back to that osmium house. I got to get that record from the osmium house and then eventually John was like, “Damn, dude, you should just call a band 'Osmium House.' That's a cool word.” And it worked out. Because before that, man, it was always a struggle. I mean, you remember … Gay Neighbors. I mean, come on. (laughter)

DOOLEY: We got a lot of push back on that.

ADAMS: Push back Bloomington-Normal. Come on.

DOOLEY: It was serendipitous and another influence of (Reverberation Vinyl owner) John Anderson,

ADAMS: Props to all the record stores in town really, it's been very formative. And WGLT, and 88.1. I'm proud to come from this place. I know that nothing's perfect, but I love Bloomington-Normal and I'm proud to call it the place that I lived 24 years of my life. My formative years.

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