By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Even though he's suffering from an aggravated sciatic nerve that causes him pain when he sits, John Pedigo still has a giddy confidence that's downright contagious. Pedigo, half of the alt-country duo The O's, possesses a self-assurance and humor that stands firm even in the face of wincing pain.
"Perhaps I've hauled around a bit too many amplifiers," Pedigo says with a grin. "Maybe that's why I formed a band where I only play banjo."
Pedigo's partner in The O's is Taylor Young, another affable sort who joins Pedigo at a table in The Blue Goose with prior knowledge of his partner's discomfort.
"You know I would take that pain away if I could," Young sweetly coos to his friend.
"I know you would, my brother," Pedigo responds with a familial tone that speaks to a kinship more closely associated with siblings than bandmates.
Both members of The O's have had plenty of those—bandmates—after having extensively performed in various local bands throughout the years. Pedigo has been involved with Slick 57 and Boys Named Sue and currently plays with Rose County Fair; Young, meanwhile, is the man behind the kit for THe BAcksliders.
"We figured that each of those bands had at least one fan, so maybe we could have a couple," Pedigo says with a laugh.
With many of their bands crossing paths with the other's within the local scene, these two have known each other for nearly a decade. And yet, after becoming close friends three or so years ago, it took a random summer night of drinking (Pedigo calls it "cocktailing") for the pair to finally decide to join musical forces.
"The idea for this band came about in June with us hanging out and getting drunk," Pedigo says.
"We were so good at that, we figured we should start a band," Young adds.
Yet it wasn't simply a matter of forming a band. Pedigo was a guitarist who was switching to banjo. Taylor was a drummer who decided to play guitar.
"Last June, I didn't even know how to string a guitar," Young admits. "Luckily, I think I've figured it out well enough."
So talented was the duo at adapting to new instruments that a plan of action was quickly hatched in order to find the duo a place within the Dallas music scene.
"We started The O's with the intention of things happening quickly for us," Pedigo says. "It's been pretty easy from the start, and we decided there was no reason to fuck around."
With so many connections to bands, promoters and club owners, The O's found gigs fairly simple to book. ("I was calling in a lot of favors," Pedigo admits.) High-profile shows opening for area alt-country legends Old 97's generated some positive word-of-mouth praise that spread quickly.
"Playing with the Old 97's has provided us with a huge opportunity," Young says. "Besides, that Rhett Miller is one beauty of a man." (Pedigo concurs: "One time Rhett came into the Barley House and I nearly passed out.")
Soon, Pedigo and Taylor were playing across the metroplex and booking studio time to record their debut album. And now the band's debut full-length release, We Are The O's, a quick follow-up to its October-released self-titled EP, is due to come out on Tuesday, February 10. The album's a brilliant representation of what crowds have been witnessing onstage for the past six months: Stark and remote in some places and complex when it's called for, the 11 songs run the gambit from traditional country/folk to an interesting Americana-tinged slacker rock. Songs like "Fast As I Can," "One-Way Ticket" and "Finding It Hard" sound like Paul Westerberg's hillbilly cousin who just happens to own a couple of Kinks and Fleetwood Mac albums.
Because Pedigo and Taylor both knew that Dallas had its share of alt-country acts, and they decided it would take a different approach to garner some attention. While certainly not abandoning their country roots, the duo doesn't see itself as a conventional Americana act.
"We didn't write songs thinking that they were going to be country hits," Pedigo says. "We also don't strive to play on the bluegrass circuit."
Having the banjo as one of the primary instruments in the band, however, does create some opportunities for such preconception—opportunities that Pedigo and Taylor seem to relish.
"At many of our shows, people have told us that they saw us pull out the banjo and they went, 'Oh fuck, not that,'" Young explains. "But after we play, they say they never expected us to sound the way we do."
The fact that The O's' live sound was so faithfully transferred to the debut album is a testament to the duo's determined self-reliance (as well as to practical matters like finances and studio time).
"We wanted it to be just the two of us playing on the album so it would be like hearing us live," Young says. "And to have anyone other than us on the record would have meant more time and more money. We wanted to get this thing out there."
With the record hitting the streets this week, Pedigo and Taylor have decided to head out on their first extended tour together, going to the Midwest throughout February and then off to South by Southwest in March.
Young's gig managing the AllGood Cafe and Pedigo's day job selling medical supplies will be put on temporary suspension as the pair attempts to connect with a wider audience. But that's OK, Pedigo says: "Since there are only two of us, we don't have to deal with four dudes that all have part-time jobs that they are constantly losing. We put the guitar and banjo in the car, and we're on the road."
"We don't have any extraneous garbage to deal with," Young adds.
Nope. Just each other.
Listening to Pedigo and Taylor calmly discuss how things have come together so quickly for The O's, it's almost like hearing a couple of MBA grads discuss a successful business venture—that is, until the third beer kicks in and both members start to let words fly without much of a filter.
"This band was inseminated on June 2, and we have a baby coming out February 10," Pedigo crows.
"What are the chances that cocktailing could lead to such positive things?" Young asks.