The CultureMap Interview
Dallas band The O's talk touring, hometown songs and sweating at Double Wide
Local duo The O’s thrives on an air of mystery, blending bluegrass sounds with indie vocals and pop-song structures. There may only be two of them — Taylor Young and John Pedigo — but they play all the instruments heard on their records.
Formed in 2008, the band has released three albums (including the latest, Thunderdog, on April 16) and toured around the world. They are very connected to all things Dallas, from the music scene to charity events to appearances on local sports radio station the Ticket. Clearly they love the city and feel the city’s love in return.
The O’s continue developing their sound on Thunderdog, which they celebrate April 19 at the Granada Theater. Unfamiliar listeners should check out “Outlaw” and “Dallas” off the new album and “We’ll Go Walkin” and “Tennessee Coalminer” from their second album, Between the Two.
Recently we spoke with Young and Pedigo about their third album, touring the country and the world, and songs about Dallas.
CultureMap: What kind of music would you say y’all play? Would you call it bluegrass?
The O’s: It’s technically not bluegrass; technically we play pop songs. We play pop songs with an acoustic guitar and a banjo. And some other instruments, like drums, so that’s not bluegrass.
CM: How did you get into the bluegrass sound or instruments?
John Pedigo: I’ve been playing rockabilly country forever, and I was heading in that way, anyway. At the time I wanted to go a little quieter, and it all seemed to kinda fall together.
Taylor Young: I was a drummer for 15 years prior and was just learning guitar. We were drinking beers, and John threatened to buy a banjo. We started throwing songs at each other.
CM: What’s it like playing bluegrass-sounding pop music in Texas?
The O’s: There's a broad section of music that melds together in Dallas. One second we can be at Adair's, and we'll know the band. Then we'll go to Double Wide, and it'll be a punk band. We like that.
We still don't really know what kind of music we play. Sometimes we are an indie band with fiddles; sometimes we are the bluegrass band at a country show. We are from Dallas, Texas, so we have all the Texan tendencies, but for indie rock shows, we are just the twangy band. At a country show we're the emo band.
CM: Where did your name come from?
The O’s: We were out cocktailing one night, and we decided to start this band since [Pedigo] had ordered a banjo. We needed a band name, and we sat at Vickery Park until a band name came to us. That was from 6 pm to 2 am. Then we enjoyed some to-go tacos.
The best part is that everyone has their own idea of where that name comes from. We like to keep some mystery in it. Lots of people try to guess what it means. We are both type O blood; that's the only logical guess. One guess was that it was short for potatoes, and that the "potate" was silent.
CM: What’s your favorite venue to play?
The O’s: Outside of Dallas, it’s Pappy and Harriet's in Pioneer Town, California, near Joshua Tree. It’s a movie set city that Gene Autry used to use. It’s an Old West town slash façade, but there's a bowling alley and shops. It has one of those long old sand main streets. Right around the corner there's this great club with awesome food and great people. A lot of bands play that place.
As far as locally, for a smaller venue, we like Double Wide. It you want to get drunk, sweaty and loud, then it’s for you. For a larger venue, it would be the Granada, specifically on April 19, for our record release party.
CM: Why do you play so many shows in Europe?
The O’s: At the beginning of the band we realized the importance of festivals and getting in front of a lot of enthusiastic music fans at one time and how big a part of the culture that is in Europe and the UK. So that was a big goal of ours. In 2009, we got on the Internet and started booking shows and met a lot of people. Now we have the most amazing friends over there who help book that stuff now. We are going back over in June, to play a couple of festivals.
CM: Why do you list Oak Cliff and Dallas separately on the tour schedule?
The O’s: Oak Cliff is its own thing, not bad or good. The Kessler isn't part of Dallas; it's in Oak Cliff. We have the mighty river separating us and Oak Cliff. It also houses the greatest hamburger around: Wingfield's.
CM: What was it like to fund an album via Kickstarter?
The O’s: Humbling. We did want to do right by the Kickstarter backers. It gave us an edge to writing. If we had that many people that believed in us making this third album, then that was hundreds of people we didn't want to let down. Kickstarter was so new to us that through the process we learned about Kickstarter [laughs].
We don't do everything for everyone else, but we did want to do a good job. It was better than a label that's going to recoup money from us.
CM: On the new album you have a song about Dallas. There aren’t that many songs about Dallas. Was that important for you to write?
The O’s: A really awesome blues guitarist listened to it. He was going on with songs about Dallas, and this was the first positive one he'd heard. That song is definitely a positive song about Dallas.
From all our traveling around the world and around Texas and around the nation, people have opinions about the cities of Texas and where the music comes from. People have a lot of opinions about Dallas, and we want to let them know how we feel about Dallas. We consider ourselves the ambassadors of Dallas. We try to get free stuff from that.
CM: What influences do you have, in your beginning or more recently?
TY: I’m listening to Cat Stevens for the first time in my life, and he's kind of blowing my mind.
JP: My first real influence was the Pixies. The first album I got myself was Bossanova, and that inspired me to play music. And then I got into unusual stuff, then grunge, then rockabilly, and then it led to this.
TY: My go-to album is Rendezvous by Luna. And the first two The O's albums.
CM: Is there anything else you wanted to cover or wanted fans to know?
JP: I wear a 32 waist jeans. And a 10.5 EE size boot.
TY: I'm 9.5 EE in boots, if any sponsors are reading this. I like movies, and I like badass Oreo cake balls. We’ll have those at the show. And we'll also have brand-new T-shirts for sale.
We’ve been doing this interview from our parked car. I've never sat at the corner of Greenville and Lovers this long. Lotta hots. This is the corner of hot.