Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Interview with Oppenheimer's Shaun Robinson

IT IS hard not to feel like a bad omen when two days after On the Beat interviews Shaun Robinson - singer and drummer with Belfast indie-electropop duo Oppenheimer - the band announce they are to “take to the stage together for the last time” next weekend.
This is after a very pleasant half hour interview with the amenable Robinson, during which he makes no mention of the band splitting up, except for a number of pointed allusions - at least they look that way now - to the fact that they will have to “see what happens in the future” with regard to touring and recording in 2010.
So, Oppenheimer - also made up of guitar/synth player Rocky O’Reilly - are to split, but at least are to play one of their final gigs in Baker Place this Thursday night, giving the gig an extra edge for those who attend.
The band formed over five years ago as a result of a mutual love for ‘Moog’ synthesizers, and have released two albums, their 2006 self-titled debut and their Choice Music Prize nominated follow-up, Take the Whole Midrange and Boost It, one of the albums of 2008 in our opinion. Their music was/is beguiling; an exuberant and sweet concoction of synths, guitars, backing tracks and drums - a high-energy sugar rush of electro, indie and pop music.
The strange thing is, the band are calling it a day after a national tour with Bell X1 and two American tours that saw them open for the Presidents of the United States of America and OK Go, while their music has featured on shows such as Ugly Betty and Gossip Girl.
They also toured for five months with They Might Be Giants in 2007 and 2008, but it now seems the strain of touring was too much for Robinson, as a message on the band’s website says “the level of commitment, passion and drive” he can give to the band has changed.
“Shaun has realized that in order to fulfil his hopes and dreams he needs to take a new and different path in his life,” reads the statement.
Speaking to On the Beat last week, an upbeat Robinson said the band had had “another good year”, despite the announcement that was to come just days later.
“Yeah we have. We had quite a busy and a bit of a strange year,” he explained. “We toured with the Presidents for about a month - they are a bunch of really nice people. I got married in April, I married an American girl and Rocky and our sound-man came over for the wedding and we hit the road straight after that - literally I had a two day honeymoon and then it was into the back of the van to drive up to Rhode Island,” he added.
Although the ramifications of this trip might be clearer now, Robinson said that his new wife quite enjoyed this novel honeymoon experience.
“She didn't mind, she actually joined us for the first couple of nights and then went back to New York while I stayed on the road. That was a fantastic tour and we got to play places that we never have before. We ticked another state off the list - so we have now travelled through 46 of the 48 continental states. We've kept ourselves busy.”
Looking back to their formation, Oppenheimer started off as a simple set up; two musicians and one computer, plus loads of backing tracks.
“We started off in a spare room in Rocky’s house with an old vintage synth, playing along to a crappy drum beat that we programmed,” laughed Shaun.
“We were both interested in making wacky noises, but over the years it has moved away from that; Rocky is a big fan of heavier rock music, so it has a harder edge now that we have gone out and toured so much. There is a lot more stomping on distortion pedals than there was in the beginning.”
Looking to the future, Robinson is less effusive, understandably so given the announcement that the duo are to go their separate ways.
“You know what, it is all in the future, we are just going to have to see what happens,” he said. “Who knows what tomorrow holds? Walt Disney might ring up and say we are going to use your song for the theme tune to our new movie - and Rocky and I will have a money fight on a Caribbean island,” he laughed.
Whatever about Walt Disney and the future for this twosome; Limerick audiences have a chance to see Oppenheimer in Baker Place this Thursday night, probably and unfortunately for the last time.
For more see here. Doors at 9pm this Thursday in Baker Place.

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