Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound Engineering by Patrick Stolley
Serious incisions are made by Austin band Oh No! Oh My! every time you blink or even before you've had the chance to, though they're performed with such steadily ice cold hands, with a baby's touch, light and hardly noticeable, that you just think a door was opened somewhere, letting in a poof of urgent, sprinting new air. They make these exploratory cuts without your even knowing it, finding the target on the side or right there in front, on the belly or up a little near the heart chamber and just scoping it out for a few imperceptible moments. They get DNA samples or whatever they're looking for, but more often than not, what they get isn't what they thought they were going to find and as a truly bizarre twist to the story, they didn't know they were looking for anything in the first place.
If there was a real scalpel, not just one made of air and accusation, when it was pointed out, they'd look down, horrified to see the blade and the splattered wash of red blood across their knuckles. Where'd that come from? What was I doing, they'd plead. But what Greg Barkley, Daniel Hoxmeier, Joel Calvin and Tim Regan do has no purport of such gruesome or deviant giving. It's more of the average, everyday acquisition and retention of the surveillance that goes on constantly when we're not sleeping. During those waking hours, Oh No! Oh My! are those oil paintings on the walls with eyes that following you like phantom voyeurs, peeping and never letting you out of their sight, burning holes into your back. Again, they make their observations in a way that's never unnerving, just a way that serves them with all kinds of valuable dressing for their musical essays of the people in their neighborhood, their circle of friends, the people that they know little about and then build them out into full-bodied and interestingly enough, full-minded characters that may, but likely do not bear much of a resemblance to the person who provided the original dough for the modeling.
It might be the greatest compliment that can be paid to any writer, commending them on developing a person down to the minute and most unseen layers, down into the small details, sitting in what appear to be the cheap seats, but which are in actuality the thrones. The details that have to be combed for, the ambitions that are left doing slow backstrokes and the feelings that will never be admitted with too strong of voice are the ones that this band of quirky pop, bulleted by unorthodox melodies and presentation delves into frequently. These are not the acts of straight forward fiction writers or obvious observationalists, casing people and recording what's seen. A fiction writer can just whip up any old thing and claim it as a dependent. They can make up characters when the need arises. Barkley doesn't seem to do that. The versions of those peopling Oh No! Oh My! songs are hybrids of what you do see and what only the omnipotent could infer. They are x-rays that expose the intangibles in all of their various forms. There's the girl who's plopping down into some leather seats and creating fun wherever it may be in kicking up some heels. There's the other girl in "Be A Star" who loves high school musical theater and always takes on the male roles. She had her first kiss as Romeo. She is loved by all of the boys when she plays males, but they feel weird about it, and she's loved by all of the girls when she does the same because she's the perfect boy in their eyes. The characters are set up for the circus - but a circus for the masses, for those we wouldn't normally put a tent over. It's putting a bowtie and a bowler hat on a bear then getting small amounts of amusement from the sight. The largest amounts of what you end up feeling are of compassion for the bear when you understand the difficulties it faces on a day-to-day basis. The people that Barkley writes about can't help but be real people. They're you, most certainly, and I, the same, and they are those inner monologues - when we KNOW no one else could be listening - that have come to life and told us all something new. These conversations are startling in that they're so vibrant and they're also telegraphed somehow because there's never any surefire way to hide everything. There are tells and there are magnifying glasses, not to mention scalpels, oh my.
Oh No Oh My Official Site