Interview by Alan Corcoran.
If you are looking for pop punk that is more bittersweet than saccharine, then California’s Odd Robot are the guys for you! Their latest album Amnesiatic was released earlier this month and I had a chat with guitarist/vocalist Andy Burris about their progression as a band, the recording process and his own history with pop punk.
Before our deep dive into pop punk nerdery, Andy caught me up on how the band started:
Mike and I played in a band called Longfellow years ago. I quit the band to start a family and left the OC area. I came back to OC with a bunch of songs I’d been working on and asked Mike to give them a listen. He was into it, so we found a drummer and started recording A Late Night Panic straight away. When I write a song, I demo it out fully with guitar, bass, drums—the whole shebang. I think Damian had two or three practices to learn the record before we hit the studio. The band name comes from my pseudonym from another band: Android. I wanted to stick with a robot theme without sounding like a google app. My wife came up with the name. The name gets instant recognition, thanks to the similarity to JJ Abram’s Bad Robot company. We didn’t plan that, but we’re also not mad at it.
You’ve recently added a fourth member – adding a second guitarist in a very Bad Religion type move – how is that going for you guys?
It’s super rad. The only thing better than playing music with two of your best friends is doing it with three of them. It sounds bigger, fuller. The first two albums—ALNP and the forthcoming Amnesiatic—were sort of written in a vacuum by yours truly. Going forward, I want to collaborate more with the guys on structuring and embellishing the songs. With more voices that’ll be even better.
What was it like working with Paul Miner on this album?
Paul is the man! He works so fast. He’s decisive, unlike me. I labor over every little decision. Paul makes you commit.
Did it change your recording or writing process?
The writing process didn’t change for us, but the recording and mixing process did. It was really, really fast. With the rough mixes, it felt like Paul was reading my mind—there was very little that needed to be changed.
West Coast Girls is a little slower and more layered than some of your previous stuff, there’s almost a Misfits-esque 50s crooner vibe at times…
This record has an identity crisis. It’s lyrically and stylistically much more diverse than ALNP. It’s still us, though. There absolutely are two or three tracks that are slower and more intentional, along the lines of Tired of Waking Up off the first record.
You’re relatively dark compared to some of the more sugary pop punk of California, at least lyrically. What drew you guys to that type of music in an area that’s known for sun and surf over goths and gloom?
It all comes down to influences, and what parts of certain bands hits you hardest. I grew up on my mom’s record collection—Beatles, CCR, Stones, etc. Our chords and melodies are heavily influenced by Smoking Popes and Green Day—pop all the way. Lyrically, though, I’m more inspired by Jawbreaker, darker and poetic.
You’re open about the influence of Green Day and Alkaline Trio on your music – if you had to choose a favourite who would it be and why?
Green Day 100%. I love nearly every Green Day record. I’ve only listened to two Alkaline Trio records: Agony & Irony and My Shame is True. Agony & Irony, in particular, influenced me a lot. I think it’s their best record (most would probably disagree).
What was your own introduction to punk music? Do you remember a specific band or album?
I remember hearing The Ramones and Sex Pistols when I was a kid. That shit was fun and all, but didn’t make we want to go out and buy the records. What really hit me hard was hearing Bad Religion’s Against the Grain for the first time. That band is untouchable, no one does it better. After that, I got into Minor Threat, Fugazi, Green Day. Dabbled in Revelation Records stuff and hardcore for a minute. Then it was Jawbreaker and Face to Face. The records that have had the most rotation in my life are Against the Grain, Steady Diet of Nothing, 24 Hour Revenge Therapy and 1039 Smoothed Out Slappy Hours. I’m a poser punk! In the last 15 years, Dead to Me and The Menzingers are the best bands out there.
Who are you listening to lately?
I’ve been listening to John K Samson, The Menzingers, Wicked Bears, Decent Criminal, and World’s Greatest Dad, and Tiny Stills.
Your lyrical themes, as I’ve alluded to, are on the darker side of pop punk..but I know you obviously have a thing for robots, so any chance of a Wall-E themed concept E.P. in the future?
Haha! He’s certainly one of my favorite robots. I still randomly shout “Eva!” at inappropriate times. I definitely have to rewatch that movie soon.
What are the long term goals for the band? More tours? Eventually quitting your jobs? Complete world domination?
Put out a third record in 2019 and call it quits. Do a mediocre solo project where two drunk guys keep shouting to play the old shit. Reunite in 15 or 20 years and sell out the Palladium because people suddenly care about the band.
I just want to keep making music with my friends. Whatever form that takes, so be it. We will keep doing it so long as we are able to!
Interview by Alan Corcoran.