Interview: Pete Yorn (The Olms)

bill bodkin sits down with a Jersey boy …

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There’s a huge difference between having a ‘retro sound’ and ‘capturing the spirit of a bygone musical era.’

The Olms, the new supergroup formed by New Jersey native Pete Yorn and California kid J.D. King, does the latter … and does it so well.

The two veteran musicians have come together to form an outfit that captures the spirit of those great 1960s, early 1970s bands out of the West Coast — the bands that have a certain beautiful, sun-soaked breeziness to them. This spirit combined with the melodic (and criminally under-appreciated) alt-rock stylings of Yorn, makes for a perfect summertime record. Yes, music fans The Olms will be accompanying you on all your summertime jaunts to the Shore. [Editor’s Note: Pete Yorn himself will sadly not be accompanying as he will be touring the country this summer.]

Pop-Break recently caught up with Pete Yorn as he and J.D. celebrate the release of their self-titled solo record today to talk about the evolution of The Olms in anticipation of their upcoming show on Thursday, June 6th, at The Stone Pony in Asbury Park, N.J. [Purchase tickets here].

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Pop-Break: You guys met through J.D.’s girlfriend about seven years ago and became fast friends. But what drew you to each other, musically, that inspired you to sit down and record a record, form a band and go out on the road?

Pete Yorn: Since we met, I always enjoyed talking to J.D., and I don’t really talk all that much. A couple years ago he started building a studio at his place, and was teaching himself to record music in the old and modern styles. One day, I don’t recall how, we just decided to try and write a song together. A short while later, we had written “Twice As Nice.” We just kept taking steps from there, hooking up every once in a while to try and write a strong song, recording it the same day. Before we knew it, we had accumulated a body of work we were excited about.

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PB: The Olms have this very intoxicating 1960s breezy quality to it. Obviously, that’s just my opinion … but can you talk about why you decided to take the band in the musical direction that you did?

PY: I don’t know if it was a conscious move, it was just where we were drawn at the time. It didn’t hurt that a lot of J.D.’s gear was vintage tube mics and preamps and a ’60s tape machine.

PB: We live in the age of Spotify and iPods, where people seem to want to test bands out by listening to a song or two before deciding to dive into their album. With that being said, if you could pick two songs that define the essence of The Olms, which would it be?

PY: It’s hard to say because we put so much love into each song, as if they were each their own universe. But, being that core of the record is the spirit of our heads and shadows collaborating, perhaps the DNA of the record lives in that first song we wrote together, “Twice As Nice,” and perhaps “On The Line,” as well.

PB: The Olms are comprised of two veteran artists and musicians, with that being said, are there still nerves, butterflies and excitement when it comes to releasing a new record?

PY: Yeah all of it. The whole gamut of emotions. Makes me feel alive.

PB: In terms of live performance … talk about performing with one another … how do you two complement each other onstage and when you were rehearsing for the tour was their a natural onstage chemistry or did you two have to really work to make The Olms sound come together in a live setting?

PY: Theres definitely a natural chemistry between J.D. and I, but we had these songs to work with which was a good start. I enjoy singing these songs with J.D. We had to find the right tone for translating the sound of the record into the live format…it was some trial and error, but mainly picking a good group of band mates who had a passion for the record. From there it was just practice, practice , practice.

PB: Outside of The Olms are there any other projects that you guys are working on that we can look forward to in the coming year?

PY: It’s mainly Olms time right now for myself, however I am going to join a Big Star tribute/supergroup at Central Park Summerstage NY on June 30th to sing an old fave song with some friends.

PB: Pop-Break’s motto is that we’re a “pop culture break in your day.” What do forms of pop culture do you guys immerse yourselves in when you’re not performing or want to decompress from the stresses of life?

PY: Pawn Stars, poker, Tennis Channel, Howard Stern.

Wanna tickets to The Olms at The Stone Pony? Click this link and post your favorite quote from the interview on our Facebook page!

Bill Bodkin is the owner, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Pop Break. Most importantly, however, he is the proud father of a beautiful daughter, Sophie. He can be seen regularly on the site reviewing The Walking Dead, Doctor Who, and is the host of the site's podcast, The BreakCast. He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English. Follow him on Twitter: @BodkinWrites