Rising Star Brad Oberhofer Talks Letterman, Influences, and His Funny German Name
Brad Oberhofer has no patience for small talk. After talking to the Tacoma-born, New York-based up-and-comer on the phone for awhile, I realized the kid might be young (20), but he’s whip-smart, deadpan, and more than likely, he’s f***ing with you.
His band, called Oberhofer for reasons he’s less-than-proud of, has been taking off in the last few months with the group hitting #1 on MTV Music Meter a few weeks ago (a fact Brad didn’t know until our chat), rocking Letterman, and garnering global love for their debut album Time Capsules II. Oberhofer’s sound rocks hard through a lo-fi filter, propelling this wry lead singer/multi-instrumentalist/NYU student skyward.
Here’s what he had to say.
Where are you?
I’m in New York, looking at some clothes. I haven’t gotten the chance to get any clothes in the last 2 and a half months. In about eight hours I’m flying to Holland and having an exciting life.
Are you still at NYU?
No I’m not actually. I’ve been deferring since January 2011 and coming back to it later.
You’re studying music composition right? Have the classes and professors helped influence your music?
Um, well I’m not necessarily certain of specifically influential classes, I did have some interactions with professors that I thought to be pretty inspirational. But I think it’s moreso the environment and the encouragement of doing independent research that is useful at our school. You have resources and you have really knowledgeable people to contact while simultaneously being in New York and having access to tons of performances and tons of really creative people that are probably doing things somewhat related to what you like to do.
I Saw you hit number 1 on the MTV music meter. Did you ever think that would happen in your life ever?
Did that happen?
That’s so exciting! What? Oh my gosh. How long ago?
Like last week.
Dude that’s awesome.
I had no idea. No one told me that. That’s amazing.
Did you ever think that would happen? You’re big time now man!
No of course I never thought that would happen.
So in general do you feel like you’ve sort of broken or reached a certain point in your career where you’re like ‘oh, I’m a name now?’
No I still don’t feel like that. I think there’s a ways to go before I feel like I have any right to feel that way at all.
Do you envision doing this for the rest of your life?
I think so yeah. We’ll see. Maybe not when I’m too old and saggy to run around on stage, but for the time being it sounds like a great idea. Maybe my skin will survive and I’ll maintain my physique and I won’t age too hard and I’ll have a full head of hair in 50 years, due to improvements in medicine, and I’ll just be able to do whatever I want for the rest of my life. That could be cool. Right now it’s looking like the rest of my life under the assumption that the pharmaceutical industry will have a massive boom and scientists will have really amazing breakthroughs.
Is it weird that everybody talks about your age?
Oh that’s whatever. It doesn’t matter at all honestly. People start getting into this in their mid 30s and still have their whole lives to change their style. I think age is just….I don’t really think it’s that significant and people pretend that it is, it’s all part of an aesthetic. It’s kind of like how music reviews are more about the person than they are about the music.
Your debut album Time Capsules II just came out on Glassnote Records, was there a Time Caspule I?
Yeah there is one actually, this is just the second. Each song is its own time capsule.
Time capsules for what era?
For those ten days I start recording the record. It’s a time capsule of those ten days and nothing more. It’s a time capsule how I was feeling in those ten days and the way I was interpreting everything in the ten days i was recording the album.
How quickly did you feel like it was a time capsule instead of how you’re feeling now?
Oh immediately. I’m removed from it now even. It’s a retrospective thing. Pretty shortly thereafter, it’s not like I’m done with it and don’t like it anymore, it’s that you know, I just feel differently all the time. I think that people are afraid of contradiction and hypocrisy and they’re afraid to change their minds. It’s important to embrace the fact that you’re a different person every day when you wake up and you do go through phases in life. Simultaneously it’s okay to change your mind about things as frequently as you’d like to.
What were you going through?
Oh I don’t know, lets see it was October. It was the first time i had ever been in a recording studio. I was spending all day in a recording studio, where people are supposed to make records — there’s something a little less natural about recording in a recording studio as opposed to spontaneously recording in your apartment. I was going through that, while simultaneously going through the idea that there are endless resources and that I can actually do anything that I want musically. If i have an idea, I can find a string player to play it.
Honestly, musical influences are a funny thing. I don’t think that anyone can control their musical influences, and if they are, their music is a little bit contrived. I think that musical influences are things that you pick up subconsciously, so I actually would never say that there’s any direct correlation between any other musician and my music that I’m aware of. There definitely are tons of correlations, but I’m not going to say that there is a direct correlation.
Anyone you really like these days?
How was Letterman?
Letterman was awesome. It was pretty funny the whole thing. You just felt really frantic, and I hit my head on my bassist’s headstock on the guitar really hard, and I got a pretty massive bump afterwards. I ate a ton of cookies, and we talked to The Shins after we played, ’cause they were recording after us. They were really supportive, and it was kind of an honor because That first Shins record is a really amazing album.
Oberhofer, is that German?
Yeah it’s German.
What made you wanna just use your last name?
Well it wasn’t like a real decision, it wasn’t like ‘we have this band and now I wanna be OBERHOFER!’ It’s not like I have this group of people and I’m like ‘it’s gotta be my name!!!’ I was like 17 years old and I kept like changing my name and making a bunch of different MySpace profiles with all these different names and I was just like, ‘all these names suck, I’m juts gonna call it Oberhofer.’ And then when I sent out my music to blogs, that still was the name. That latched people in because that name is so weird. At that point I still had these demos and I didn’t have a band yet, and it kind of just grew and grew until I finally did have a band and until there were people I actually work well with. So that was still the band’s name. I might end up changing my actual name.
Do you remember any of the names you thought up for the band when you were 17?
Yeah that name of the song “o0Oo0Oo,” that was the name of the band for like 30 seconds.
That’s actually sort of the name of a producer in San Fran.
Weird! Then I was also gonna call it Teeth. Then I was gonna call it Hands.
Why didn’t you keep those?
Didn’t feel right.
Now you’re off to Europe?
For three weeks tonight. This will be our second time.
How is it performing there as opposed to in New York?
New York is local. We just drive there and it’s fun and all of our friends are there. We go out to the same spots afterwards. Then I come home and collapse in my apartment. Playing in new York is just kind of a treat in that I get to relax. Playing in Europe is a little bit more stimulating and exciting and it’s more of a mystery, because we’re playing in places where people speak different languages, and you feel like a foreigner, you feel exotic in some ways. Playing in Europe allows me to let loose a little bit more. I can do whatever the fuck I want, because even if I do something a little weird it’s not going to matter because there are cultural differences and if something’s especially weird they can just attribute it to cultural differences.
Any more releases coming up?
Yeah tons, three more.
Tell me about them?
A lot of the songs are written. I’m probably going to write more, and we’re gonna write more together and see what directions to head in, and see what albums they belong on. This is just the album. This is just the beginning. I’m excited for the future.