Initially formed in early-2019 in Brooklyn, NY as a solo outing for filmmaker Jon Yi, Sik Oheso gradually morphed into a full band (find more specifics in the interview below). After a prolific year's worth of singles and an EP, they decided to compile 10 of their finest tunes onto a 34-minute full-length LP, limited to just 100 copies on random colored vinyl with silkscreened covers—out this Friday, but you can already grab one now!
I hear everything from heartfelt emo to punk- or pop-tinged indie rock with varying degrees of soaring hooks, post-whatever shimmers and pulses, a few rippin' solos... there's certainly no one-size-fits-all bucket for this one. I've seen the material compared to Alkaline Trio (which I disagree with), and the press release cited influences such as Iron Chic and Warm Thoughts (who I've never heard of), so... ummm, once again I find myself quite content to allow the band and the music to speak for themselves!
Stream the full 10-song album below, followed by an interview with the group's founder, Jon Yi:
Sik Oheso was initially a solo project, so talk a little bit about the initial impetus for the band and coming up with the aim of trying to release a song a month throughout 2019, etc.
After the release of my feature documentary, Mad Tiger, I wasn't ready to start another film-based personal project right away. I found out that my status as a professor at NYU allowed me free access to Pro Tools, something I always wanted to learn. I had been in punk bands in high school and was in a couple of joke bands (Kill Fee and Realistic Bodies) as an adult. I wanted to try my hand at home recording and decided to try and challenge myself to write a good and sincere song for once, just for myself. That song ended up being "Bad Tide," where I played all the instruments and initially attempted vocals. Right after that, I wrote "Everyone Will Die." I thought the instrumentation was decent but hated the sound of my voice on the tracks, so I asked my friend Shawn [Mehrens] to sing the songs for me. He was always my favorite punk singer from back in the day, so I was thrilled when he agreed to do it. Shawn's involvement really elevated everything and I thought the songs turned out pretty good. It was such a fun process for me—recording at home—that I decided to try to complete one song every month, with thoughtful accompanying artwork. It was a really great creative outlet for me at a time when I desperately needed it.
One of the band's bios states simply: "Punks that met in San Francisco." This is interesting since Sik Oheso is Brooklyn-based, but also appears to have members spread out in Nashville and Portland. What's the San Francisco story, and how did things end up expanding into the full-band situation?
All of us grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and used to play in punk bands in high school back in the late-'90s/early-2000s. We were part of the 924 Gilman scene. That's how we initially met. Shawn was in Abi Yoyos. I was in Spishak and also The Sidekicks. Lance was in a ska band that he'd rather us not mention. Glen, who plays drums on "Suds" and "Where the Buffalo Sleep," was also my drummer in Spishak.
I live in Brooklyn and have been in NYC since before 9/11. Lance used to live in Brooklyn, where we were in Realistic Bodies together, but he moved out to Nashville with his wife a couple of years ago. Shawn was supposed to move to Brooklyn, but ended up getting stuck in Arkansas for a moment. He's still trying to get to Brooklyn (hopefully this year will be the year he makes it).
We got a really great show offer when the songs got traction on Spotify, so we decided to give it a go with a local NYC drummer that I knew. That drummer bailed on us a week or so before the show when he was offered a national tour playing for a different friend's band, so Shawn asked his old friend Seve Sheldon from Wild Ones to fill in for the show. That's been the lineup ever since.
The press release accompanying the full-length contains multiple mentions of the personal nature of the lyrical content, and cites the subject matter as pertaining to "issues that affect 'aging former punks'." From the Sik Oheso perspective, what would be some examples of those "issues"?
Shawn might have his own opinions about it, but I think "Suds," "All Makes Sense," and "Idiots Can't Fly" are lyrically good examples.
The album represents an almost-discography of Sik Oheso's prior singles and EP, but a couple of tracks like "Knee Deep in Dead Shallows" and "Allergy Season" were omitted. Was there anything in particular about those two tracks that didn't make the cut?
They were both omitted for not really fitting in with the band's sound. "Knee Deep in Dead Shallows" was a song based on a killer guitar riff Lance wrote. I only wrote the chorus and the bridge parts, so it kind of veers off from what I think our sound is. It sounds more like a Realistic Bodies song, which makes sense because Realistic Bodies was really Lance's band, where he wrote all the music.
I love "Allergy Season," but Shawn doesn't want to scream like that live anymore! I think he sounds great on it, so I wanted to release it on our EP so others could also enjoy it, even if we might not end up playing it live. It also features a different guitarist, my friend Michael Haertlein (who co-directed Mad Tiger with me). It's not really a song that will be a live staple for us, though a stranger did yell it out as a request at one of our shows.
When I was listening to the full-length for the first time, I specifically noticed that smack in the middle I perked up and was like, "Oh, shit, yeah, okay... I like this!" The tracks are not presented chronologically, and I'd guess that the sequencing was important for someone such as yourself that's coming from a directorial/filmmaking type of background. If I'm not way off the mark, what did you factor in when arranging the track order?
Wow! I'm so curious to know which song that was! I thought a lot about the sequencing, for sure. Since each song was written at a different time, it was hard to think of what would be a good flow to things. I tried a few different options and finally found what I think is the best track order. I'm really into how it sounds on vinyl, mastered beautifully to sound cohesive with great flow.
Side A begins with my favorite song, "Suds," which I believe captures our band's vibe more accurately than anything else. It also sets the tone of what we ended up sounding like going forward. "Where the Buffalo Sleep" calms things down for track 2 and shows a greater stylistic range. "Animalia" is track 3, though it was originally written as an opener. "All Makes Sense" and "Space Ice" were both written around the same time because I had written both with a new guitar tuning I was trying out, and I wanted "Space Ice" at the end of Side A because I really love that track. Side B is more of an eclectic mix, starting with the two songs that started it all ("Bad Tide" and "Everyone Will Die"), and then continuing on with our popular pop-punk song "Idiots Can't Fly," then ending with our most recent and most complex songs. "Spun" obviously is an album closer and can't really go anywhere else. Overall, I think Side A shows people what we actually sound like, while Side B shows experimentation and how we got there.
I can't seem to find much information about the vinyl pressing of the album online [this interview was conducted back on March 7], other than the fact that it will exist. Is the vinyl also slated to hit the streets later this month, or will physical copies follow at some point later on after the digital release?
Just picked them up from Brooklyn Phono today! They're ready to ship! We'll sell them via Bandcamp and get it set up this weekend. We were able to get them done really quickly by using eco-friendly packaging and pressing methods, all done locally in Brooklyn, NY!
Order Sik Oheso's debut LP direct from the band. Limited to 100 copies on random colored vinyl, the first run of silkscreened covers has already sold out, but another batch will be ready soon. Keep up with Sik Oheso on Instagram and/or Facebook. You can, of course, also stream their work on Spotify.