Inspired by the likes of Neil Young, Elliott Smith and Dinosaur Jr among others, Oscar Albis Rodriguez, going by his band name Albis, is a composer, song-writer and producer who looks set to well and truly make his mark on the music world with the release of his EP Animals next month. With dreams of sharing a stage with Ryan Adams and a growing social media following, he kindly agreed to this interview to chat song-writing inspiration and upcoming shows.
PW: Please introduce yourself.
Albis: Hello! I’m Oscar Albis Rodriguez. The name of my band is Albis, I live in Brooklyn, and I’m a vegan that loves cats.
PW: How would you describe your music in a few words?
A: My songs toe the line between Crazy Horse and Sufjan Stevens.
PW: How and when did you first realize you wanted to be a performer? Was there an album you bought or concert you attended that inspired you?
A: I was 9 years old and bought the Beatles “Rock N Roll Music Volume 1” and it just clicked. I could hear how much fun the 4 of them were having and how much they were connecting with each other and I wanted that for myself. It only got reinforced at the first show I ever attended which was Screaming Trees, Poster Children, and Pond at the University of Rhode Island in 1994. That show was a cathartic experience and I wanted to experience it more, both on and offstage.
PW: Which bands or artists influenced you growing up and have those influences changed over the years?
A: Growing up I was really into the Beatles and Stones and Zeppelin, and by high school I was into Nirvana and from there started exploring punk and hardcore like Minor Threat. I was a jazz guitar major in college so that had a huge effect on me, maybe not so much on my actual writing but more how I hear music and play with others. Before I started Albis, I was on a huge Elliott Smith and Neil Young kick. And since then I’ve really gotten into finger-picked acoustic guitar and have started studying the banjo. I’m pretty all over the place musically but it somehow makes sense to me.
PW: Is there a band or artist you might say you're similar to?
A: I would compare the louder rock songs to Nada Surf and Dinosaur Jr and the quieter stuff to Elliott Smith and Neutral Milk Hotel.
PW: You've just released your new track "Runners." Is there a story behind it?
A: I wrote that at a time that my wife and I were struggling with our marriage. I wasn’t so much trying to convey a story, but more of a feeling. It’s that feeling when you know something isn’t working but you’re not quite ready to call it quits yet.
PW: The track is taken from your upcoming EP Animals. What can you tell me about it?
A: Lyrically the whole EP is about the difficulties of marriage and relationships and having to navigate polyamory and jealousy. The songs were written over a pretty angry, depressed, and suicidal period for me. My wife and I were taking a serious stab at monogamy - she had been poly leading up to our marriage - and we just weren’t happy and I knew she missed her old life. We actually co-wrote some of the lyrics together and I think that was a therapeutic experience for us both.
The EP was produced by me mostly at my Greenpoint, Brooklyn studio Russell Street Recording, though some recording was done remotely at people’s homes and at Acme Hall Studios in Park Slope. I’m really excited about the band line-up on this record - me, Hannah Winkler, Billy Libby, Dave Moose Sherman, Mike Chiavaro, and Zach Jones - and excited for us to play shows this Fall!
PW: Do you have a favourite track on the collection?
A: It’s “Runners”. I’m just very happy with the writing, playing, and production. I’m very proud of the guitar solo on that one too.
PW: Who or what most inspires your song-writing?
A: As of late it’s been my marriage but to be more specific it’s been polyamory, jealousy, sex, love, honestly, etc.
PW: How easy or hard do you find the song-writing process?
A: If I’m inspired I can be pretty prolific in a short amount of time. In those moments it’s almost like I’m not even writing but just transcribing something that already exists in my heart.
PW: In your opinion, which is the greatest song ever written and why?
A: This is a tough one, but I’ll say “Here There and Everywhere” by The Beatles. It’s such a pretty song but I’m positive it is sung from the perspective of a creepy stalker. Capturing that kind of dichotomy isn’t easy!
PW: If you could share a stage with three other bands or artists who can be living or dead, who would they be and where would you play?
A: I’d love to share a bill with Ryan Adams and The Shining, Chvrches, and Julien Baker at the Music Hall of Williamsburg. That would be a fun night!
PW: What are your upcoming performance plans?
A: We’re still figuring out this Fall and Winter but we do have a show on Mon Sept 12 at Mercury Lounge with Narc Twain, Fort Gorgeous, and Lea Thomas.
PW: What are your thoughts on social media and to what extent has it helped boost your career?
A: In some ways I wish we had this in the late 90s and early 00s to help connect with more folks but in other ways there was something special about all of us having to work hard to find unknown and independent artists to check out. Like looking at an album cover in a record store and wondering what the music sounded like. Now we just type something into a search bar and bam, we have it. The access is cool, but I think it has desensitized us a little.
PW: What else does the rest of the year have in store for you?
A: The plan is to play shows around the release of the Animals EP and to make another record at RSR, perhaps around December.
PW: Finally then, what's your ultimate ambition as an artist and what would you have to achieve in order to be 100% happy in your career?
A: I’m a freelance musician besides doing Albis. I tour with the grammy-award winning A Great Big World and freelance regularly in NYC as a producer, songwriter, and a side-musician. I’m pretty happy with my music freelance career! In terms of Albis, I’d like to get my songs in front of more people to see if we can connect and I’d like us to play live more often than we do. I don’t know, in some ways I’m 100% happy. But it’s the ways in that I’m not that drive me to make a good situation even better.