To see O'Death live is something of a spiritual experience, though not in a traditional Pentecostal sense.To see O'Death live is something of a spiritual experience, though not in a traditional Pentecostal sense. Drummer David Rogers-Berry batters the crap out of an old marching band snare, broken cymbals and dented oil cans with splintered drumsticks and chains; he and bassist Jesse Newman are rarely seen with a shirt on. Fiddler Bob Pycior and banjo player Gabe Darling are fearless and ominously sweaty, both capable of screaming with precise intonation. Guitarist/vocalist Greg Jamie's gnarly snarl sounds like the devil. It's revival music at its meanest, drunkest and most fun.
"Junky, junk-yardy, busted . . . that's always been our thing," Rogers-Berry says. "It's a release from our demons."
While the instruments may be the same, don't confuse the group with some old country band. The New York-based fivesome combine folk, Americana and country with rock, punk and classic metal until a new beast is born, as floor-stomping anthems and hymn-like singalongs transform into two- to three-minute blazes of sweat and noise. "We could've gone down that road, playing exclusively to the rockabilly crowd. But we didn't want to paint ourselves into the country punk corner," Rogers-Berry says. The band's heavy touring schedule, now booked by Windish, has put it on the same stages as such diverse acts as Battles, Dr. Dog, Langhorne Slim, Murder by Death and Old Time Relijun.
The challenge is translating its blistering live show into something recordable. That's where co-producer Alex Newport comes in. The engineer—who has mixed and produced tracks for such acts as At the Drive-In, Death Cab for Cutie and Two Gallants—has a firm grasp on the band's raw aesthetic and is in the midst of finishing "Broken Hymns, Limbs and Skins," a 14-song collection recorded all in one room and with few edits. "We're totally detached from pedals and effects; it's all about the way we play our instruments. Effects and editing can become a crutch," Rogers-Berry says. "Nowadays it's easy to overedit, so we are really big on keeping it spontaneous, keeping all the happy accidents."
"Broken Hymns" comes on the heels of the act's sophomore set, last year's "Head Home," released by Ernest Jenning Record Co. The album has moved 2,000 units in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan, with even more overseas, where the band has set up shop with City Slang for distribution in Europe. The band hopes to move even more copies of the forthcoming set with the help of a new label deal in the States.