Owl Interview

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Owl photo

Photographer: Carl Mahoney

Owl recently put out their sophomore full length The Right Thing, and I found it to be an enjoyable rock album that had a surprising amount of variety (check out the review here). I had the chance to conduct an email interview with lead singer/bassist Chris Wyse and asked about the new album and more.

The Right Thing begins with a cover of “Destroyer” by The Kinks. I’ve always felt that when a band chooses to do a cover song, they’re not only honoring that particular group but making the track their own. How do you feel you were able to take this classic track and make it your own?

The idea was our drummer Dan Dinsmore’s to cover “Destroyer,” as The Kinks are a special band to him. We were hesitant to do it and thought it wouldn’t make the record, but Dan persisted and we were all really surprised how well it turned out. It just popped and naturally took its shape. It feels like an Owl song to us.

I was impressed with the sheer amount of variety on the album. How were you able to pull together all of these different styles?

Thank you. It is part of what we do. We are into so many different styles and being musical. I really feel the world needs an injection of real art and not the generic heartless hit-chasing that gives us shallow music. Originally rock broke boundaries. The weakened state of artistic music is a result of us fans buying into the machine. Owl is fearless when it comes to this and I feel an obligation to crack it open. The visual of the upright bass is always an eye catcher but it is no gimmick. I work that thing pretty hard.

In addition to the instrumental variety, your vocal work hits a lot of different pitches as well. How have you developed your style over the years and do you feel more comfortable this time around when compared to the first Owl release?

It is a natural thing to me the way I write and play bass. The first record Dan, guitarist Jason Mezilis and I felt very comfortable but I think we all grew and developed and that is what people hear on “The Right Thing”.

The Right Thing was recorded in Matt Sorum’s Los Angeles studio as well as Dan Dinsmore’s studio in upstate New York. Sometimes recordings are influenced by the location they are made in. How do you think the release was shaped by recording on opposite sides of the U.S.?

The experience in Los Angeles was the first phase of our album getting done and set the tone for how we work. Matt has a great studio and it inspired to some degree how Dan developed his studio. We did four songs at Matt’s and the rest at Dan’s studio in New York. I think LA brings to mind all the flash and NY brings the down-to-earth part.

“Rover” explores your Irish roots. Were there any artists in particular that have inspired you, and can listeners look forward to further exploration of Celtic and Irish traditions in the future?

I will definitely keep learning and adding to my Irish roots and understanding of music. Since I play upright bass (and sometimes with a bow) I was influenced by the Celtic phrasing and timing. There is a playfulness in Irish music that feeds on the other musicians, which is what Owl does. I always thought The Chieftans rocked.

You have a lot of touring experience and I’m sure there are plenty of great stories to go with it. With this in mind, what has been your most memorable experience with the shows Owl has performed on? Is it a completely different experience performing as a lead singer?

Well there have been many. One that sticks out is the show we played with In This Moment last month in New York. It was a new crowd for us and we knew we had to win them over. It was a heavy metal crowd and we are not so metal. We have heavy banshee screaming and riffs but we kind of skip the metal and go hard-core. We also have lots of melodic songs so we didn’t know what to expect, but it was awesome because at first the audience just stared and that was good because they were all watching. Then they started getting into it and singing our songs they never heard! We are explosive and dynamic and the heavy music fans related as well as many others. I don’t believe we need to fit in any box. We offer too much to hide it. Playing in The Cult I sing harmony all night and have in many bands like Jerry Cantrell etc… Of course in OWL I sing lead and feature different bass sounds and tricks with my bow and this is what makes us unique. Most people don’t even realize what they are hearing until they see a show.

Owl will be performing in New York soon, and I have seen you mention that you’re interested in doing some longer touring runs. Are there any bands in particular you would be interested in playing with?

I’d love for Owl to tour with Alice In Chains , Queens of the Stone Age, Vintage Trouble…

Based on the information I was able to find, it looks like your record label Overit Records is run by drummer Dan Dinsmore. How has it helped the group to be working with a label that one of your musicians is involved with?

It is great to be so “in-house”. We have ultimate control over our product. We have success standing out from a crowd of homogenized music and don’t have anyone nagging at us or telling us what to do. All our songs would probably have been beat down into some generic shit if we had a label geek telling us what to do. This shit is real. Those uneducated label guys will ask “Hey Chris why are you playing a cello”? To which I’d say, “It’s an upright bass. You know, what Elvis used in the dawn of Rock and Roll.” I am not here to conform or be told what to do and none of my heroes did either. I am here to awaken your soul to a new style and create fearless music.

With two records under your belt, what do you think are the defining characteristics of Owl and how do you hope to be remembered by listeners?

Owl takes chances and we are proud of that. We have great, catchy songs from the heart. The sound and style of how I play bass colors the music to be unique, which works so well with Dan and Jason’s amazing talent. We offer something with spirit and magic that is different.

Since we also cover video games and other media, if you were to take one of your band’s songs and use it in a video game or movie, what song would you choose and what would the game or movie be about?

Our album “The Right Thing” would be a great video game theme. An owl avatar would fight off the bad guys as you do the “right thing” to earn “life” points and get to the next level. Owls are mystical creatures who can offer magic and insight so they’d be the perfect character to lead the way. In the “Pusher” video from our first album we actually had one of the “Batman” illustrators create characters, and it looks killer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vxCek1OMz-c. There are limitless possibilities with the Owl stuff!


For more information on Owl, visit their official website at http://www.owltheband.net.

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