Earlier this month, we caught up with the four young lads from Oddity Road, while on tour with The Sherlocks. Following their sell-out shows in Sheffield, there has been a certain buzz about this band. We wanted to find out more about what makes these up-and-comers draw large crowds of fans after only playing together for about a year. The last time that I spoke to Oddity Road was at The Leadmill in Sheffield in November 2016 and a lot has happened to the A-level students since then. 2017 has seen them headlining shows and supporting legendary indie art-rock group Space. The four-piece are comprised of Dan Brennan (lead guitar & vocals), Jack Heath (vocals & guitar), Ethan Lambert (drums), and Joel Gilbourne (bass guitar).
Oddity Road have only been going since mid 2016, but Ethan, Jack, and Joel attended the same secondary school before lead guitarist Dan joined them for A-levels. When asked about the formation of the band “we all did A-level music and music-tech, so it all came together there. Me [Ethan] and Jack have always been in a band together, on and off with Joel. When we were playing together, we decided to do another band and Joel and Dan joined, which was a good decision.” With a firm background in music theory and understanding of the theoretical as well as technical side of making music, Dan confidently proclaimed “[we] know what we’re doing… at least we think we do.” Three of the four were initially drummers, which might be what brings the thumping, rhythmic element to their sound that gets crowds excited.
Emphasising their youth, while talking about their show supporting Space, the four musicians unanimously joked about “Our dads went mental. The Space?! We didn’t know that it was going to be such a big deal and just took it more like a warm up for the Albert Hall [Manchester] show the following day.” It was a new experience playing to “people sitting down and there was a greater focus on the performance.” As opposed to the audience jumping around to their pumping songs, “people really listened to [our] music”.
It takes special dedication and good coordination to balance school work, going on tour and actively writing new material. With stories of driving for a couple of hours to a gig straight from school only to head back the same night to be ready for school again the next day, Oddity Road have an equally dedicated support team, mainly made up of their parents, behind the band. Jokingly stating “Oh well, we like to think of school as a hobby”, the four confess that it is obviously more difficult than they would like “but next year it is going to be a lot easier from our point of view. We can put more time and effort into the band and take it even further”. The things that never fail to impress when talking to young bands is the maturity and lack of innocence that they seem to possess, “I think that if you’re this committed to be doing it during your A-levels, to be doing it this far, like going on tour, it’s just something that you want to do and love it. Otherwise you wouldn’t bother”. Still being in school, the support and pressures from teachers has been a mixed bag with some telling them to go for it and to follow their dream, while others try to hit home the valuable lesson “stay in school!”.
After finishing school next year, Oddity Road plan on taking a gap year before heading off to university in order to focus entirely on writing new songs and pushing their music on to the next level: “We’re constantly writing new songs and hopefully [we’ll] get into a studio at some point. But the main focus is constantly gigging and constantly writing new songs.” While on tour with The Sherlocks, the two bands gelled with Oddity Road now falling under the same management team. One thing that transpires from the interview is Oddity Road’s thirst for creating music and expressing themselves artistically. They appear to have found their purpose in life and are taking every opportunity to make the most of it. Without illusions, the realities of making it in the music industry are very clear to the four, “It’s going to be very hard, but should be worth it. It is what we all want to do.”
In their short time together, Oddity Road have built up a large arsenal of original material, reflecting their desire to write new songs and to make it in the industry. “We just write all the time. We’re probably sat on about fifteen to twenty songs, but we’re keeping most of them under wraps, just working on them and grafting; waiting for that next big single.” They do not seem to have a clear formula for writing songs, but in many cases start out with Dan and Jack putting together acoustic, singer-songwriter version of songs, which then get fleshed out, cannibalising bits and pieces from their other songs, “[we] try and put a few details in and cut bits out from other songs we’ve written and see how that works in there. Will this bit from that song work with that bit from this song? And kind of piece it together and get a flow to it.” However, the song-writing process has changed over time and the four admit to working a lot harder at it now that they are taking their music more seriously, “[…] the songs are becoming a lot more grafted and a lot more thought out and hopefully it shows.”
Gaining experience touring and performing has clearly had an impact on the band’s attitude towards making music, which translates into a more refined sound. Attributing it to having gained experience, Ethan describes their attitude: “having become more than just a hobby to us now, it’s become something we work on, it’s like a job to us. Yes, that’s the best way of putting it.” It seems that music is something that runs through Oddity Road’s veins and the four “can’t imagine doing anything else.” This is the kind of driven attitude that you need as a foundation to making it in the industry.
Dedicating all of their time outside of school to their music, there is little time for anything else. Jesting, the four agree that they do draw outside creative inspiration from being “virtual footballers playing FIFA” and “loving a good sunrise”, though none “of [their] songs are about FIFA or sunrises”. Instead, the main focus of their songs are always about girls or past and current relationships, “we write about everything that’s happened to us”. When listening to Oddity Road perform, the honesty of their lyrics becomes clear, something reflected in singer Jack’s attitude “always imagine yourself in a situation, because if you are writing about something that you can’t picture, it’s likely that no-one else can picture it either. Things that are really relatable to us are also relatable for other people.”
There are several well known four-piece bands that came out of Steel City. I asked the four how coming from a city with such vast musical and industrial heritage as Sheffield has influenced their music and how they see themselves fitting in. Ethan was quick to respond: “we say we’re from Sheffield, but we’re not.” Oddity Road are in fact made up of musicians from Hope Valley, Sheffield, and Chapel, united in their love for music coupled with “lots of miles in the little Aygo”. Dan points out that in the beginning their sound was definitely influenced by the cultural background of their surroundings with a much rawer sound. It is fair to say that it is not obvious from their sound that Oddity Road are a ‘Sheffield band’, as their sound resonates with fans all over the country and their lyrics talk about teenage exploration and angst that is felt by most of their peers across the UK.
Wrapping up my chat with Oddity Road, I ask about any stand out experiences and concerts. All four respond with a resounding “Albert Hall, easily, 100% – the crowd was mental and we didn’t expect any of it.” before pausing for a moment and talking about their first ever Sheffield show at the O2 Academy. “We walked on, and we didn’t expect it but people were shouting our name. It was a taste of what it can be like”. Like a first love, the four reminisce that “that first ever feeling is something that you can’t forget”. That small taste of fame and success was a pivotal moment in Oddity Road’s development and something to spur them on, “that’s when we realised that this is something that we want to do!”
On a final note, the band wanted to thank their parents for their unwavering support and “anyone who has ever come to a gig, anyone who has ever criticised us or complemented us, because it all goes into our heads as a point to improve or something that we need to do more of.” It was now time for the four to get ready for their performance at the Sheffield University Foundry that evening and we parted ways with a united “stay tuned – there are big things to come. It’s crazy and we want everyone to be involved with it. It’s going to be fantastic!” With such passion for music and unbound desire to succeed, I am left to wonder what the future holds for these four young musicians…
Feature on Oddity Road by Gunnar Mallon