BY ALISSA ARUNARSIRAKUL
New Jersey-based indie band OWEL are comprised of Jay Sakong (lead vocals, guitar, keys), Seamus O’Connor (vocals, guitar, keys), Jane Park (vocals, violin, viola, keys), Nunzio Moudatsos (vocals, bass), and Ryan Vargas (percussion). The outfit formed in 2013 with the debut of their self-titled album, and they have been on a remarkable journey since. As a follow-up to Every Good Boy (EP, 2015), the band’s sophomore full-length album dear me was first streamed exclusively on Alternative Press on November 11th. One of the singles released off of dear me, “Too Young to Fall in Love” has garnered the band considerable attention from the indie scene. OWEL have recently embarked on a US tour supporting the Soil & the Sun, with their last show in early December. Their new album is now available for download on Spotify, iTunes, Amazon Music, Google Play, Apple Music, and Amazon MP3.
First off, congratulations on your second full-length album, dear me! You guys have been absolutely killing the music scene lately with the releases of singles off the new record like “Too Young to Fall in Love” and “Paper Hands.” What should fans expect of the new music? Does it have the same overall sound that we heard in Every Good Boy and of course, your self-titled album?
JAY SAKONG: Thank you very much. The songs on this record branch out a lot more. Not just in terms of sonics (loud and soft), but also in terms of instrumentation. Some of the songs go deeper into the synth and digital world, while others feel much more orchestral and organic.
A lot of music junkies, including myself, enjoy analyzing album cover artworks. The cover of dear me depicts almost a silhouette of a young child in a skirt walking through a hallway of some sort. The black-and-white artwork itself is very saturated in dark colors with blinding, bright light shining at the end of the hallway opposite to the perspective of the camera. Can you elaborate on the message behind the album cover? Is it a reference to lyrics on the record in any way?
JAY SAKONG: The little girl in the photograph is actually my niece. It was taken by my brother and I've always just really loved it. I like how it's hard to tell which way she's looking. Is she looking ahead while walking towards the light? Or is she looking back at the camera waiting for some sign that it's ok to keep walking?
Kevin Dye, lead singer of gates, who just so happens to be a co-producer of dear me, obviously had a lot to do with the production of the new record. He’s worked with bands like Bottomfeeder and Athletics—bands that are labeled hardcore and post-hardcore, respectively--in the past, and they sound arguably different than OWEL’s indie style. Tell us about what it was like working with Kevin, and why you chose him to engineer this album.
JAY SAKONG: I was pretty optimistic about Kevin's ability to make this great. We've all known him for a while and knew that we shared similar tastes. Initially he came on the project as an engineer, but with his great ideas and crazy work ethic, it became clear that he was doing more than just engineering.
A few well-known bands, like Yellowcard and Arcade Fire, have included violins in their repertoire. What made you guys decide to incorporate similar instruments, like the viola, in your music style? How does the composition process work with a violin added to the mix? Have there been any instances during production when a violin part that originally existed was removed from a song?
JAY SAKONG: I've always been a fan of songs that had string arrangements. There's just something timeless about the sound of it. It becomes interesting when you incorporate that into the writing, because it's almost like writing another vocal melody. Since it's mainly a melodic instrument it can feel like a duet sometimes.
You guys have recently embarked on a US tour supporting the Soil & the Sun. What has it been like so far touring with this band in particular? How is it different from previous tours you’ve been on?
JAY SAKONG: It's been such a pleasure to watch those guys perform night after night. There is so much for us to learn from them as musicians. Also they really couldn't be a nicer group of people.
The last stop of the tour with the Soil & the Sun is December 3rd in your home state of New Jersey. How has the band evolved since playing in your hometown for the first time? Does playing a venue in New Jersey have any special meaning to you? Do you have any special plans or announcements for your hometown show?
JAY SAKONG: Yeah, it's always a special treat for us to play our hometown. Because we're not playing to just our fans, but our family and friends get to be there as well. Our album release show was filled with our loved ones sending us off on the road. It seems fitting to be playing a show when we get back and have them welcome us home.
Going through your “Current favorites” Spotify playlist, I noticed that most of the included artists are relatively indie. (I love The Front Bottoms!) Are there any musical artists or bands that fans would be surprised to know that you listen to? Of your favorite artists, who would you most want to tour with?
JAY SAKONG: That list is compiled by everyone in the band. And since we all can have pretty different tastes, I can only speak for myself. It might surprising to know that my first ever musical group as a kid was Boyz II Men.
Since The Postal Service seems to be a recurring theme in your Spotify playlists, specifically what about them influences you? Ambiguous music style? Beautiful lyrics? Incredible live energy? Would you ever consider collaborating with them, whether it be on a song or even a tour?
JAY SAKONG: Of course it would be a dream to one day share the stage with them. I'm a huge fan of the production on that album. Jimmy Tamborello has such a brilliant way of using minimal lofi elements to create a intensity.
The remaining two months or so of 2016 will be very eventful and exciting for OWEL, with the release of your new album dear me and the US tour with the Soil & the Sun. What are your plans for 2017? Any goals you want to accomplish throughout the year?
JAY SAKONG: I'm always the worst with answering these types of questions, but I'm pretty sure we're looking to potentially do another tour in the spring. I know it's a cliche, but really we just want to get as many ears on this record as we can.