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By: Chris Pacifico
Being lauded as the "Best Appalachian Hardcore Band" isn't really a label the Village Voice pins on just any band. It's convenient to say that New York City's O'Death sound like a bunch of backwoods yokels (ala Cletus Spuckler from The Simpsons and Jethro Bodine of The Beverly Hillbillies) who never miss a rerun of Howdy Doody and sip on jugs of moonshine marked "XXX."
"We're more like a punk band that plays folk music," explains drummer David Rodgers-Berry, who plays on the most rickety of drum kits complete with garbage cans, buckets and broken cymbals to give things that true busted ass, down home feel.
O'Death is something new that both salutes folk, bluegrass and mountain music from the first half of the 20th century and manages to stick up a middle finger to how it's been butchered by adult contemporary artists. O'Death is five guys who look like they'd sniff that stinky digit after they use it to scratch where the sun don't shine on their way to flippin' the bird at someone. Their super-hyper kinetic, assiduous live performances bring out everyone from hippies to hicks, granola folkies to rowdy, hardcore punk kids.
Their latest full length, Head Home was recorded towards the end of 2005 and was self-released the following year. Around the time of the 2006 CMJ Music Marathon showcase, Brooklyn label Ernest Jenning started talking to the band but they were already in talks with another label that eventually fell through. Not to worry though because Ernest Jenning was still eager and willing to add them to their roster, which they did this past March at South By Southwest in Austin where O'Death played five shows and did a recording session. Head Home was re-released and headed for shelves this past June.
Head Home is oh so jubilant and crusty. It's a flying tree shredder paced with banjos and fiddles with rabid bluegrass and old timey Appalachian ditties infused with wild, frantic cackles and howls from singer-guitarist Greg Jamie. Having shared stages with Les Savy Fav, Man Man, Deerhunter, Dr. Dog, Art Brut and Battles just to name a few, O'Death provides a binge and booze-soaked hootenanny that leaves listeners slapping their knees until they are all swollen, fueling an irresistible urge to ransack everything in sight. At their shows, Jamie and his band mates get so swept up in their homebrewed cacophony that their eyes roll back into their heads as their faces contort in a hypnosis induced vortex.
"It's really spiritual, man. You feel it on the inside," Jamie elucidates. "It's not stage-y in any self-conscious way. I don't know of any fights breaking out because everyone is so good natured at our shows and dancing. Sometimes people are pushing into each other but everyone is so peaceful."
On the other hand, Rodgers-Berry plays his drums like a hyperactive kid waiting on a shop-till-you-drop spree at a toy store. "It's like channeling energy. You're receiving sometimes and sometimes you're not," he says while sipping on a beer backstage at Philadelphia's Starlight Ballroom in the middle of Man Man's set before one of the roadies comes back in quick need of a guitar pick. "You really have to use the songs to pull out into the place."
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