The revolution is here

Oct 262005
Authors: Jenny Ivy

As time goes by in the music world, the lyrics of the albums often eventually reflect the life experiences and persona of the artists who created them.

Since debuting in 1997, the discography of O.A.R. has reflected the growth of five men, passionate about music, and the continual evolution of what first started as a band with a limited grassroots fan base.

Saxophonist Jerry DePizzo and the four other members of O.A.R., recently released their eighth album, 2005's "Stories of a Stranger."

"I think the music's reflected how we've grown in our own lives," said DePizzo who became the fifth and final member of O.A.R. in 1998, which was the year the band was recording their second album, "Soul's Aflame." "You become a little wiser; you learn from your mistakes. You grow as a person…you grow as a band."

The evolution of O.A.R. began in drummer Chris Culos' Rockville, Md. basement.

Culos, along with lead singer Marc Roberge and lead guitarist Richard On joined forces playing in a band they called "Exposed Youth." The trio was junior high school students who, as On described to fans on the O.A.R. fan Web site, "rocked the 8th grade talent show along with various daytime weekend gigs."

After the 1997 addition of bass player, Benj Gershman, the four began to play locally around Maryland, taking on the name "Of a Revolution."

Once the band switched gears as an Ohio State frat band gaining underground success with its first album "The Wanderer," O.A.R. looked to Youngstown, Ohio saxophonist DePizzo to complete the band.

DePizzo collaborated with the group to release "Souls Aflame." Since then, the group has acquired a sound all their own: a combination of rock, reggae and ska emphasized by a jazzy soulful saxophone, creating a melodic fusion inspired by innovative artists like Dave Matthews Band.

"I think we have our own sound," DePizzo said. "We've developed our own style and we have this chemistry; we have this ability to get in a room together and write music that is only O.A.R. and nothing else. We've been at it a long time. We've built an audience from the ground up."

After a string of albums that quickly gained notoriety, the "Of a Revolution," title has reflected just that: the band has mastered changing lyrics from album to album that are revolutionary and truthful.

"We're honest people. You get what you see when you come to an O.A.R. show or when you listen to an O.A.R. record," DePizzo said. "In order to do that, the music has to reflect how you feel in your life. So I think the music has definitely changed, has definitely evolved. We've perfected our craft, we've gotten better at what we do."

Simultaneously, with the growth of the band's success, the members grow in life experience as well; gone are the days of a teenage Marc Roberge lyrically reminiscing about playing drinking games and that awkward first date.

"Marc doesn't write about anything he doesn't know about. When he was 16, it was wondering, it was wander lust; it was searching for something," DePizzo said. "It went from a song like 'Hey Girl' that he wrote when he was 16 to discuss a one night stand that he never had to, more recently, a song like 'The Stranger' dealing with the fact that real issues of leaving loved ones. We write about issues that we know and what we've experienced and I think most of the time, people share those experiences and relate to our songs."

With the rising fan base came the pressure to switch to a major label, leaving grassroots founded O.A.R. hoping to add more appeal to radio listeners.

Although DePizzo had fears of losing the grounded initial fan base the group had during its time with independent record company, Everfine Records, the switch to

Lava Records, a major label company which holds contracts with nationally recognized artists such as "Simple Plan" and "Kid Rock," was considered a move in the right direction.

"We were afraid we would sign to a major label and our hardcore audience would desert us," DePizzo said. "So we took it upon ourselves to take steps to ensure that the audience felt that they grew with us. We've taken it upon ourselves to join a major label and in doing that, there's a big responsibility in selling records and being in business with somebody. But also, we have this large, dedicated, loyal fan base that we have to be true to as well. And most importantly we have to be true to ourselves as artists and musicians and find a balance between all of that."

A look into the future holds no sign of the band slowing down. Despite the fun and adrenaline that comes with touring from city to city with his best friends, DePizzo said the hardest part is leaving his wife and daughter behind.

It's the simple things DePizzo said he takes for granted – like being able to sleep in the same bed with his spouse.

"We're not 20 years old and in college anymore. We've kind of grown up and matured in our lives," DePizzo said. "I have a wife and I have a daughter; I have a lot of responsibility. It's not a band of five leaders. It doesn't work that way. Everybody has their role to make it work well. There's a different dynamic to the whole thing and you play a specific part in it. Growing as a band and growing as a man, you become more successful at that."

O.A.R. will conclude 2005's tour with a stop in Chicago on Dec. 16.

"We always want to get better at what we do," DePizzo said. "Because you want to write better songs; you want to grow as musicians, but you also want to be successful at the business aspect of what we do. This is what we do for a living. This is our lives. This could end tomorrow."

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