After putting together a better-than-average home demo and receiving a spectacular response to their set at their own annual Ohmstead music festival, the Reggae/Rock quartet — guitarist/vocalist David Danforth, bassist Psycho D, drummer Chet Johnson and percussionist Jeff Waters — started casting its net farther from shore.
“I e-mailed four or five producers — it was a real basic e-mail,” Psycho D says. “I found contacts for 311’s, Matisyahu’s and No Doubt’s producers, because I figured we sounded like that style. Two people actually got back with me that night.”
The two responses were from heavy hitters: 311’s boardsman Scotch Ralston wanted to write and record from scratch, which was beyond The Ohms’ limited time/money situation. No Doubt producer Dito Godwin offered a slightly more realistic scenario.
“Dito came with an equally unaffordable option, but it was in a shorter time period,” D says with a laugh. “He painted the right picture for us, we went out (to L.A.) and it was awesome. We wanted this to be our calling card to the world.”
Godwin’s first pre-production order was getting the band to tighten up the songs by shortening them, no mean feat for a Reggae band with Jam band roots.
“We restructured everything,” Waters says. “We had songs that were seven minutes long. We got them down to 4, 4:30, then it was the final push.”
“Don’t bore us, get us to the chorus,” Johnson says. “That’s what our engineer told us.”
“We amazed the hell out of the engineer and our producer,” Danforth says.
The Ohms’ self-titled debut bristles with local energy but shines with major label luster. From the mellow groove of “Everything” and the rock steady toast of “Here I Come” to the Spin Doctors island thunder of “Rosemary Tea” and the infectious Dancehall snap of the album’s first single, “Pipe Down,” The Ohms boast a sonic verve and musical command to rival 311 or Pepper.
Technically, this is The Ohms’ debut in this form. The band actually began when Danforth was in high school; he and Johnson formed an improv Jam band called The Four Ohms, garnering a decent local following and a measure of respect, including a write-up in Relix magazine.
“You get to that weird point where you play cool parties and people’s backyards,” Johnson says. “It was fun.”
After losing their keyboardist and bassist five years ago, Danforth, Johnson and Waters edited the name to The Ohms and, at the conclusion of the last Four Ohms show, asked Psycho D to join. Known to the band through his work with Noctaluca, Black and Tan Carpet Band and several other local outfits, D topped the candidate list.
“Psycho D was definitely our first choice for bass player,” Danforth says. “We knew he liked taking on multiple projects, so he wouldn’t mind joining another band.”
The change to The Ohms also marked the band’s move toward a more Reggae-influenced sound, based largely on Danforth’s passion for the genre.
“At a young age I was into the Jam scene, so what I was listening to (was) what I was writing,” Danforth says. “When I turned 17, 18, I got to know myself a little better and realized what kind of music I really liked and it changed my writing style. My vocals, everything, comes from the heart. There was nothing I could do. I had to write these songs.”
Danforth’s heartfelt songs are the physical expression of the passion that each member of The Ohms feels for the band and every aspect of its existence, from rehearsing and performing to writing and recording. That passion was put to the test when Waters developed a serious case of cellulitis, caused when his dog punctured his foot with a toenail days before the band was headed to L.A. to begin recording.
“My leg started to itch, then my foot started to swell up real bad,” Waters says. “I didn’t even tell these guys because I didn‘t want them to freak out. I told my father-in-law and mother-in-law, and she’s on the phone with a pharmacist and they’re telling me I could die if I get on the plane. I said, ‘Well, I’m getting on the plane. I’ll go to urgent care when we land.’ When we got through security, I said, ‘Uh, guys, look…’ ”
Not many bands risk death for their first album, but that’s the only way The Ohms know how to roll.
THE OHMS (ohmsmusic.com) host a CD release party Friday at Play By Play Café in Silverton with guests The Pinstripes. Buy tickets, check out performance times and get venue details here.