Local Atlanta band, O’Brother, released their debut rock album, Garden Window, Nov. 15. The Profile caught up with Tanner Merritt, the band’s lead singer, and talked about being heard, missing home, and passing kindness on.
You guys like food a lot!
Oh, yeah! Well Anton runs the twitter and he likes to cook a lot. He’s a really good cook. But yeah, all of us like food for sure.
As a southern California girl I have to ask if you guys have been to Tommy’s and In N’ Out? Because you’re in Anaheim right now, right?
Yeah, yeah we’re in Anaheim right now. Yeah, but we’ve been to In N Out several times now.
So as far as I’m concerned Garden Window has been a really long time coming for O’Brother. What is this album about for you?
I guess it just kind of sums up this year and a half of our lives. Being away from home for long times. Trying to make things work.
As much as this album is ambient, it’s also tender and open and crystal clear—there’s one song that has really knocked me out, which is Cleanse Me. The last time I was this emotionally effected from a piece of new material was probably Civilian—the Civilian record from Wye Oak.
Wye Oak. Have you heard of them?
No, I’ve heard of them, but I haven’t heard them.
It’s a very good record. I recommend it. But can you tell me a little bit more about the background of this song?
On our EP most of the songs are sort of like that. They were really dynamic. We tried not to do that so much in the new record. We decided that we’d just do one song that was over the top. So it ended up being really long, really dynamic emotional stuff. We’ve been working on it on and off for like a year and a half. Then we finished it in a way that we were all happy [with].
In that song also you say—or you sing—“I will be heard”—
It caught my attention. It got me thinking about how everybody has something to say—even when they don’t say anything at all—
Everybody wants to be acknowledged and validated—I think.
As the singer of O’Brother, what do you get out of being heard?
Well, I think, everyone wants to think that what they think, or what they have to say is important to other people somewhere down the line. Especially when you’re trying to reach a broad audience. There’s a frustration of sometimes thinking, “Does what you say have any effect on anyone anywhere?” For me it was just kind of desperate frustration.
What has inspired you most in terms of writing lyrics? And I know the band co-wrote everything [on this album].
Everything! I feel like lyrically it just comes from everywhere. It comes from conversations you have with people. Anything you may have read—[the] newspaper, book[s]—it literally comes from everywhere.
In an interview conducted with Josh Seech from We Out Here Magazine you were quoted as saying “Going into it, I had no idea how much work and what kind of sacrifice there was going to be.” So what sacrifices have been made for you? What sacrifices were you talking about?
For two years straight we’ve played a hundred or more shows each of those years. It’s a lot of time away from home. All of us have family that we’re close to back home, or girlfriends. Our bass player, Anton, is engaged. I guess no one really thought about that—and no one would rather be doing anything else. There are certain sacrifices with each individual’s personal life but I definitely think it’s worth it to live this sort of lifestyle.
And where do you call home? Do you still live in Georgia?
Yes. I live right off of Ponce [de Leon Avenue, a major street in Atlanta, Georgia].
According to O’Brother’s biography on Facebook “Relationships with family, friends, and significant others altered dramatically due to touring”. So how did your own relationships outside of the band change?
Basically everyone we were close to, we just had to get used to being away from each other, you know? Like seeing our families not too often and communicating on the phone all the time is not the most ideal of all circumstances. You just have to reevaluate and restart your relationship with a person.
Has there been anybody in particular that its’ been really hard with? Like your best friend or your girlfriend or parents?
Yeah, actually all of the above.
So Anton and Johnny are brothers. After being together for five years do you feel like O’Brother has become sort of like a band of brothers?
Yeah, definitely. It literally is like family. I have a little brother and a little sister, and it feels like being with them growing up.
Do you feel like music has saved your life?
Yeah. Well, maybe didn’t save my life, but it gave me a purpose. Music was always around. My parents played music growing up. It’s kind of all I ever really wanted to do. I don’t really know what I would be doing had that not been the number one option.
What music have you been listening to lately?
Strangely enough, I guess I kind of go through seasons and stuff. All of my stuff’s been normal lately. I’ve been listening to a lot of Blonde Redhead.
Also, you guys have obviously toured with Thrice and Manchester Orchestra. What do you think about the possibility that you may one day be the headliner, and another band will be the opening act? What do you think about becoming big?
It’s everyone’s dream. I hope it happens. I hope someday that we’re able to do the same things that those bands have done for us. Those bands have kind of taken us under their wing and treated us very kindly.
Yeah, it really seems like your circle is just a big family.
Yeah, it really is. It really is. I hope—truly hope—that we’re able to do that for bands one day.
Tip Top Tracks: Lo, Poison!, Clense Me
Buy Garden Window on itunes.