It starts with a bang, or rather with a hell of an uppercut. Oil Boom's latest album, Red Metal, launches you into jangly jubilation with "45 Revolutions Per Minute," the band's highly praised single from last year. The New York Times singled it out as a highlight in the often-cluttered blues-rock genre that rules radio waves around the country right now. It's a good place to start, too: "45" immediately catches the listener's attention with its jagged guitar work, exploding cymbals and dancey pulse.
That ear worm is immediately followed by "Mid-Range Jumper," a slow boil of a song with "a one-two punch" that perfectly encapsulates what's going on with Red Metal. Oil Boom catches you with a thunderous cross with "45," then works you over with well-placed jabs like "Mid-Range" and rocks you with live-wire hooks like "The Sneak Tip." All of that sets you up for the knockout eight-minute-long finale, "Slow Going Down."
It's an absolutely impactful output from one of the Dallas music scene's current lead banner wavers, and it shows a lot of growth from a group that started making noise just three years ago with their first release Black Waxy in 2011. The question is how did we get here -- a place where the group is debuting videos on Pop Matters, getting The NYT review and earning a place on NPR's Music Heavy Rotation series?
Ryan Taylor, Oil Boom's guitarist and vocalist, doesn't hesitate to respond with almost shocking honesty about the band's recent run of good press: "It's interesting how you start out with one set of goals at the beginning (play a show, make an album, win your parents' approval, etc.) and things evolve as time goes on, and your priorities shift. There is always a new goal on the horizon," he says. "We've gotten some really lucky breaks with a couple of national things, but we also do our damnedest to work hard and push our music. Getting our songs in the hands/ears of people not just in DFW, but all over, has been an ambition for a while now."
That's a modest answer in some ways, but the reality of the situation is both complex and pretty simple. One important ingredient is that Oil Boom has a very close relationship with Grammy winner and producer extraordinaire Jordan Richardson of Son of Stan. They work with him on collaborations, often appear on the same bill, tour together and even keep to the same aesthetic when it comes to promoting shows. It's a mutually beneficial relationship: Oil Boom gets a proven producer, and Richardson gets another project to flex his considerable musical muscle on. What's fascinating is how the pairing happened.
"Our bass player, Steve Steward, and Jordan have been super best friends dating back to their TCU college days, so when Steve joined the band, working with Jordan seemed like a no-brainer," Taylor explains. Yet Richardson's link to the band isn't exclusive to Steward. "Jordan was actually at our first Fort Worth show, before we even knew Steve, and he made a point to come up and talk to us even then, which was real cool of him, so we've known him for a while now."
That type of relationship with a producer is vital when making a record, and the band decamped to Justin, north of Fort Worth, to work with Richardson at the Electric Barryland studios to record Red Metal. "Even though we'd already recorded a couple of songs together, I think when you do a full album, you definitely get to hone in more on what it is you want to say musically, Taylor says. "Jordan's great at that and being an enthusiastic sounding board for our ideas or frustrations or whatever. He basically went with us wherever we wanted to go."
So it's as simple as friendship, but it's the complex relationship that's built through being on the road that translates into a shared outlook that makes it all work in the studio.
"I think we both have a really similar sense of humor/world view and that manifests itself in a lot of ways," Taylor says. "We've definitely tried to keep our social media on the humorous side, with varying results. Ninety-five percent of that tour run we did last month was sitting in a van/sitting on a couch/sitting in a Waffle House, trying to make each other laugh."
While working on the record, the band couldn't help but let that sense of humor slip in. "At one point we even tried to record an impromptu theme song for the Chili's restaurant chain. Sample lyrics included, 'Lettuce/tomato/ketchup and buns/Chili's is my favorite place to have fun.' Not sure why we didn't put it on the album to be honest," Taylor muses.
These guys might honestly be the funniest band in Texas, and it's these type of comments that make you appreciate just how fun Red Metal is. It's not just the bouncy feel to the production that makes it a joy to listen to; it's also the fact that it sounds like these guys are having a blast making their music. Thanks to the band's foresight the album is readily available on streaming sites and for purchase online, something that has to be playing into the media boost they're seeing.
Another reason might be the video that Pop Matters debuted. The group worked with videologist Sara Mosier, whom they had previously worked with on the video for "45 Revolutions Per Minute." Mosier edited some footage of an '80s dance club that drummer Dugan Connors found online. With its aggressively mulletted youths in cutoff shorts and wildly bad dance moves, it makes the video edit of Taylor Swift's "Shake It Off" set to '80s aerobics dancers look quaint.
"She definitely made it sync perfectly with the vibe of the lyrics, which was cool," Taylor says. "We actually just finished doing another video with her that we're real excited about. It's a completely different animal though. All I can say is that it goes deep into the nuances of cassette addiction and the destructive force it can have on society. Stay tuned."
When asked what the band has planned for the future, the guys don't hold back; after all, they're seeing the hype train gather steam after a slow, three-year build. Taylor's response perfectly sums up the band's outlook: "We'll definitely try and do more out-of-town runs if we can this year. The last tour definitely motivated us to do more of that. We would also like to get back in the studio sooner rather than later and get another album out. Also, we'd like to start a street team. Also, what's a street team?"
All jokes aside (if that's possible), Oil Boom isn't about to let any degree of success go to their heads. As though on cue, Taylor manages to make light of even the positive press they've received. "If we can get more national recognition along the way, that would be great. I need something to point to for my next high school reunion," he jokes. "Ah, who am I kidding? I'm not going to my next high school reunion."
Red Metal Album Release Party With Otis the Destroyer and Goodnight Ned, 8 p.m. Friday, November 21, at Prophet Bar, 2548 Elm St., www.theprophetbar.com
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