Where many contemporary bands fall short, OMNI succeeds at paying homage to the sounds of ’70s and ’80s garage rock by melding fuzzy instrumentals with lo-fi sensibilities. They alternate between melodic shifts from one second to the next while still remaining accessible and even poppy at times, experimenting with starkly varying instrumental progressions under the veil of lo-fi, jazzy punk. The result is a sound that is reverent but also current and progressive.
The project of Atlanta natives Philip Frobos (vocals), Billy Mitchell (drums), and Frankie Broyles (guitar), OMNI began when a bunch of buds decided to come together and futz around with their instruments. They added some lyrics, and then accidentally realized they had arranged a handful of pretty neat tracks…at least that’s what former Deerhunter member Frankie Broyles will attest to.
Photo by Brock Scott
Though every track sounds deliberately constructed in a gritty, angular sort of way, Broyles pursued the project as more of a passion than an effort to capitalize on Deerhunter’s success or strike it big, and what he achieves with his bandmates straddles the line between experimental and melodic, poppy and discordant.
OMNI’s debut LP, Deluxe, was released in July to extremely favorable reviews, and just a few weeks ago, the group embarked on a cross-country tour. Tonight they’re coming through LA’s own Bootleg Theater, and tickets are still available for the show.
I spoke with Broyles to get his perspective on the origin of OMNI, how they harnessed their sound, and the inspiration behind their debut album.
Tell me about how OMNI formed. When did you guys decide that you wanted to make an album together?
Philip and I met in 2008, and we were both in different bands. Later on we became roommates and casually started writing songs together, just for fun. After a while, our other bands became less active, and we started doing this more. We had all these songs and were like, “Well, I guess we should try to play some shows.”
It all fell into place in a very natural way. We definitely spent a lot of time working on [material], but it didn’t really feel like work because it was just something that we truly enjoyed doing.
Do you think being in Deerhunter helped make the process of writing and recording go quicker this time around?
Not really…those were all things I already enjoyed doing, but any time I spend writing or recording music, I’m hoping there’s some kind of progression, and the way I go about it definitely changes. Any kind of experience probably led to the [outcome of this] project.
What was the timeline like regarding your transition from Deerhunter to OMNI?
I joined Deerhunter when they were working on Monomania. I recorded that with them and did a lot of touring, and then I decided I wanted to focus on my own music — not only OMNI, but my solo projects as well.
It just made sense for me. It would’ve been difficult with the amount of time doing [both projects] would demand, so after the major touring died down, I decided to focus on my own stuff.
How did you get involved with Trouble in Mind Records?
Billy, who plays drums for us when we play live, is from Chicago, so he has a lot of friends there. We would always play Chicago on the short tours we booked, and Bill [Roe], who runs Trouble In Mind, came to see us one night, and I guess he liked it.
We ran into him after the show, and we all got along. It just worked out, which is pretty cool ’cause it all happened so suddenly. We were pretty excited when we found out that he was interested.
We’d also played with other bands on Trouble In Mind, like Dick Diver, and Bill had seen us play in Atlanta once opening for one of his bands.
Did you arrive at OMNI’s stylistic sound deliberately or did the sound come naturally?
Somewhere in between. It was definitely natural because we would just get together, start playing, and figure out what stuck and what sounded interesting to us. We would [keep or omit] whatever worked and whatever didn’t. Once it landed somewhere interesting, we kind of just left it there.
That’s something I was trying to work on because a lot of the time I’ll overthink something. With this project, I was trying to think less and react more to whatever emerged, then stick to that initial feeling.
Are you somebody who listens to your album afterwards and is like, “Fuck, we should’ve had a different instrumental shift there!” or whatever?
Once it’s done, I’m like, “Well that’s done. Let’s move on to the next thing.”
Our friend Nathaniel, who recorded our album, helped a lot with getting me to let go and stop obsessing. A large portion of the recording time was spent with me re-doing drum tracks and Nathan being like, “It’s fine, it’s over, you don’t get to redo it anymore.” Well, if he’s telling me I can’t redo it anymore, then I guess I can’t.
Nathaniel was a member of Carnivores, right?
Yeah, he played guitar and sang in that.
Did he produce the album?
Yeah, we all kind of worked together on it, but he was definitely manning the control.
Was it his first time doing that?
He’d record his own stuff constantly just for himself, and it’s all fantastic. He’s also constantly working on his recording technique and new ways to produce, which is something he loves to do.
Was there a theme behind the songwriting or was each song sort of autonomous?
We’d finish a song and try to start another and do something different or push ourselves to do something that we wouldn’t normally do. The songs were usually written and recorded as a demo in one night. Then maybe two weeks later, we’d do another record, so there would be different gaps between the songs. That led to them sounding a little different, but they also remind me of the times we wrote them. I don’t know if that comes across so much in the album, but it’s how I feel about them.
Do you feel that this was a personal album?
For me, [listening to the album] reminds me of the time periods in which the songs were written. The lyrics might mean something more to Philip since he wrote them. Also, we wrote all these songs and recorded them and were really the only people listening to them, so in that way it’s kind of personal. It feels like something that we just made for ourselves, which is kind of cool.
Did you guys ever have opposing creative visions?
Part of what was fun about writing these songs was that we could put however many ideas together to create something that none of us would have been able to create on our own musically. We could never really anticipate how something would turn out, which is why it was so much fun.
Did you experiment with new instruments or techniques?
We kept to a pretty minimal arrangement for most of it, though I did put a 12-string acoustic guitar on one song, which is something I’d never done before, and I put a piano thing on one of the songs. I think on our next record we’re going to try to branch out a little more instrumentally.
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Lead photo by Coco DeTeau