Oneida: Loudness and Longevity Brooklyn-based Oneida is a decade-long staple of the New York rock scene. Critics call Happy New Year the band's most complete CD yet, an "unhinged plunge into 60s psych-rock."
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Oneida: Loudness and Longevity

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Oneida: Loudness and Longevity

Oneida: Loudness and Longevity

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There's a Brooklyn band that's been getting a lot of attention recently for what The New York Times calls their psychedelic drone-rock, classical minimalism, dance music, art-punk sound. How often do you see that in The New York Times, or anywhere else, for that matter?

The band is Oneida. Their performers are Kid Millions, Fat Bobby and Hanoi Jane. And they've stopped by our Studio 4A, joined by their newest member, guitarist Double Rainbow, also Shahin Motiya of the Ex-Models.

Gentlemen, welcome to all of you. Thanks for being with us.

KID MILLIONS: Thanks very much for having us here.

SIMON: Now, Kid Millions.


SIMON: You guys have been playing music for some time?

MILLIONS: Yes. We've been a band for about nine years now...

HANOI JANE: Kid and I...

SIMON: You...

JANE: ...went to high school together. We've been playing music together half our lives.

JANE: Yeah. I think - Hanoi Jane here. I think that I've been playing with Kid Millions - I met up with Kid in college and that's how I ended up meeting up with Bobby as well. So it's been like...

SIMON: Where was this?

JANE: In Vermont, at Middlebury. So it's been 12 years now or so since Kid and I started playing and...

MILLIONS: We also have just kept in touch. We have this similar taste in music. And on a whim moved to Brooklyn together.

SIMON: Now, when you say we kind of like the same kind of music, you mean psychedelic drone-rock, classical minimalism, dance music, art-punk music?

MILLIONS: And I'd have to throw in sentimental oldies, show tunes...

SIMON: If you guys break into South Pacific now, I've got to tell you, it's going to shatter a lot of, a lot of preconceptions we have.

MILLIONS: Let's just say the world is safe right now.


JANE: Yeah. We're a beautiful bunch of dudes. I mean, emotionally speaking, like kitty cats.

SIMON: Okay. Now that we've set it up, let's not delay and listen to a song. History's Great Navigators, if we could.

MILLIONS: Absolutely.

JANE: Here it is.


SIMON: Thank you. Some people listening to your music for the first time are going to note - I want to be careful with my language here - but a certain repetitive quality that is used creatively.


SIMON: It builds and it drives.

MILLIONS: Yeah. And I mean the repetition is, for me at least, it's one of the really fundamental elements of powerful music.

SIMON: Well, go with that a little.

MILLIONS: African music. Funk music. German music from the '70s, you know, that people call Kraut Rock? There's a whole world of musics built on repetition. I mean, you're heartbeats you're whole life.

SIMON: Yeah.

JANE: And like I think a constant invitation or re-visit the music as it goes too, because it's this one repeated moment. So this...

SIMON: This is Hanoi Jane.

JANE: Oh, Hanoi Jane pontificating. It's this opportunity for an individual who may or may not be familiar with the music to have multiple relationships with it, even though in the course of one song, which...

MILLIONS: Definitively.

JANE: ...I think for us is essential too. It's access for people listening.

SIMON: How important is loudness to your music?

MILLIONS: This is Kid Millions. Very, very important. You know, 60 percent, 70 percent.

FAT BOBBY: Yeah. To put a number on it...


BOBBY: ...we're into numbers.


BOBBY: No, I agree. This is Fat Bobby talking. I agree. I think that the experience, the kind of sensory - I don't know, synesthesia might be the wrong word, but the way you experience sound, to be able to experience sound through your other senses, through your sense of touch...

SIMON: Mm-hmm.

BOBBY: ...I think is a really powerful experience. It's not that that's the only way to listen to music. I mean, we all listen to gentle music. We listen to things quietly at times. But for us, for what we're doing, volume and the ability to create a sound that can completely overwhelm us playing it and the audience experiencing it is really important to me. I feel...

SIMON: So if you feel your bones begin to throb, that's a good sign?

BOBBY: Sure. Bones and you know, soft tissue...


BOBBY: ...internal organs, connective tissues, collapsed lungs...


BOBBY: ...dura mater.

SIMON: Let me just, let me just pump my left lung back up here, as a matter of fact.


SIMON: I'd like to hear the title track, if we could, Happy New Year.

BOBBY: Definitely.


SIMON: Thank you. You gentlemen are in your early 30s, as a generalization.

BOBBY: Yes. Accurate as a generalization.

SIMON: How has your music changed? How has your approach to it changed over, you know, it's getting on to 15 years now.

BOBBY: I mean, I don't know how the music has changed. I know it has. As Fat Bobby. It's like feeling a marriage develop, or an intimate relationship develop, where all of a sudden you realize, okay, I have to do this for the rest of my life now. I mean I enjoy playing music with other people too, but this is just different and much more fundamental to who I am.

SIMON: Now, you're a seventh grade teacher too. Aren't you?

BOBBY: Seventh and eighth. Yeah.

SIMON: And in Boston, not Brooklyn.

BOBBY: Yeah. Right outside of Boston. Yeah.

SIMON: Where do you teach? May we ask you? Your students might enjoy hearing this.

BOBBY: You may ask. Yeah. Yeah. I teach at Dedham Country Day School in Dedham, Massachusetts. And I also...

SIMON: Oh, this sounds like a place with blazers and ties and...

BOBBY: I have to wear a tie.

SIMON: If I overheard any of you're students say, oh, my teacher like is so cool, man, he plays in this Brooklyn group called Oneida, you can't believe him.

BOBBY: Some of the kids on my hockey team - I'm also the hockey coach. Some of the kids on my hockey team are into it.


BOBBY: But you know, generally - I mean they're eighth graders and seventh graders in the year 2006. They've gotten more important Beyonce things going on.

SIMON: Yeah.

BOBBY: And frankly, I stand behind them 100 percent in that.

SIMON: Hanoi Jane, do you have a day job, too?

JANE: I actually just completed a Masters program in social work.

BOBBY: Sell out.


JANE: I'm in - yeah.

SIMON: Congratulations.

JANE: I basically went for the gold. So I'm in transition right now.


JANE: But you know, I intend to be doing social work as a clinical - and a practitioner, and doing some policy work as well.

SIMON: Good bless. And Kid Millions, despite the name?


MILLIONS: Yeah. I do - I work in IT. I support small business computer networks.

SIMON: Could you come downstairs and help me out with an issue that I have?


MILLIONS: With pleasure. With pleasure.

BOBBY: It'll cost you a console.

SIMON: What would it represent - would you like to - would you like Oneida to be your full time occupation?

BOBBY: Personally speaking, Fat Bobby here, no. I need other things. It wouldn't be sustainable on, I think, a psychological or emotional level, at least for me.

SIMON: Mm-hmm.

MILLIONS: Yeah. I'm in agreement with that. This is Kid Millions.

JANE: And as Hanoi Jane, I too feel the same way. It's essential to have other parts of our lives. It keeps the O what it is. And I don't know, it makes me love this. And it makes me love the rest of my life, too. So why not all...

BOBBY: Yeah. It's like...

JANE: ...there's no partial. It's all. I like all. Everything, please.

BOBBY: Definitely.

JANE: You know, that's why we have other friends in the room here. We have Shahin from the Ex-Models. And we have Double Rainbow, who plays in several other bands, TransAm, the Champs. It's, you know, important to us to have an open process that includes other people as well, because they're part of our music as well.

SIMON: The song you're going to play in a few minutes to take us out on is - well, it's Up With People. It's eight minutes long, right?

BOBBY: Somewhere around there.


BOBBY: It's on the long side.

SIMON: I know we're going to get emails from out listeners who say this is not what I listen to public radio for.


SIMON: Now, on your behalf, I'll just say, hey, come on, give it a chance. Anything you want to tell them in advance?

BOBBY: Yeah. Enjoy it. Enjoy it while you can.

MILLIONS: You're welcome.


BOBBY: Yeah, exactly.

MILLIONS: Yes. It's like getting a rack of ribs at a barbecue place. You probably - you don't think you can finish it. And you don't think you'll enjoy it. But give it a shot and you might.

JANE: And the pain is all worth it.


BOBBY: Exactly.

SIMON: Well, gentlemen, it's been wonderful talking to you. Kid Millions, Fat Bobby, Hanoi Jane, Double Rainbow and Shahin Motia; all of them together, Oneida. Their latest album is called Happy New Year. Up With People.

BOBBY: All right. Thanks very much for having us.


SIMON: To hear this song in its entirety and a few more, come to our Web site,

This is WEEKEND EDITION. I'm Scott Simon.

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