I dropped a mention of The OffRamps when I posted a 7" from Slug Bug (Jeremy Porter from The OffRamps' former band) a couple of months ago, and a couple of the guys from The OffRamps picked up on it and I ended up getting a copy of The OffRamps' new CD out of the deal, which was pretty neat. We ended up swapping one or two e-mails back and forth, which lead to the following interview that Jeremy and I did at the end of August.
I've seen a lot of bands get compared to The Replacements over the years, meaning I'd go out and get their records hoping maybe it was true, without much success. Almost all of them ended up sounding nothing like The Replacements and instead sounded like crap, the one exception being Jay Bennett's miserable Titanic Love Affair, who actually sounded just like The Replacements and sounded like crap. The OffRamps aren't actually interested in being compared to The Replacements, which is a mistake that I won't make again ("The OffRamps sound like a dead ringer for "Don't Tell A Soul"-era Replacements, only a lot less dour" --me, two months ago), so I'll maybe say that if there was ever a straight-up indie rock band that you thought was really good, like The Milwaukees or The Safes something, then The OffRamps are another one.
Since you guys have been a band for a while, I'm sure it's gotten to the point now where you all hate each other.
We actually still get along pretty well. We've been together for 6-1/2 years now, recorded a couple of records and played a lot of shows. You get to know someone pretty well when you spend that much time together for that long! But we've each been doing this for over 20 years and have learned how to get along with and tolerate bandmates. It's not always easy but in the end we're still friends and will be whenever this thing comes to an end.
I'm guessing, then, that after all those years, you guys seem like you're ready to take it to that "next level". I was noticing that The OffRamps haven't really played any shows outside of Michigan and Ohio, but you've got this sharp-looking CD out now, which I think came out really, really good. Is there any plan of doing a tour, or playing some shows a bit further out and giving the CD a real push?
That's a complicated issue. We're doing our best to promote the CD and play some shows, but a full band tour is unlikely at this point. We did manage to get to Chicago and Indiana in the Spring, which was a lot of fun. I hope to get out and do some solo dates over the Fall and Winter to promote record.
The new CD came out really good, though. It has the look and feel of something that a big-time label might've put out, even if you did it all yourselves. Have you been sending it out to any glossy magazines for review and trying to get it into any chain stores, or have you just been selling it on your own?
Thanks! We did do it all ourselves and spent a lot of time and money getting it the way we wanted it. We really labored over the photos and layout. We got a ton of great press on the last record and we're working to do the same here. We are in the process of doing a press blitz, including magazines, radio, newspapapers, blogs, you name it. It'a tough to get attention from the big players, but it hasn't detered us. We'll send it everywhere from Rolling Stone down to a little 100-copy fanzine in Belgium.
Well, don't count on this interview helping your band all that much. Hey, did you hear the song Kid Rock did, where he takes "Werewolves of London" (except he's a hack, so it sounds like Lynyrd Skynyrd) and sings a bunch of stuff about Michigan? It really, really sucks. I hope people in Michigan are ready to kill him for that.
HA! Yeah, I heard part of it. It actually has Sweet Home Alabama in it as well as the Zevon song, so no wonder you heard a Skynyrd sound. People here love that guy and revere him as some kind of god. It's hard to argue with success I guess (diplomatic answer). He's a character and I don't have anything against him, but it's not my thing at all. I used to play in a band with a guy who played guitar for him years ago. Speaking of Detroit music, there's a band from Detroit called HiFi Handgrenades that are amazing. They're in that Naked Raygun/Descendents vein, great songs and musicians. That's more my speed than Kid Rock.
Yeah, I checked out their MySpace just now, they're way better than Kid Rock. Plus the guy was in a band called The Fags! What's the worst band you've ever been compared to?
The Fags were a great band, too. That's a tough question though. We get compared to the same couple bands over and over again, which is frustrating as hell. I can't deny the influences, but I think it often comes down to lazy journalism. Some of the more surprising things I've seen include Buffalo Springfield, The Cure, Richard Lloyd... I certainly wouldn't call any of that stuff terrible, but I don't think we sound like that! We've been fortunate to receive very little bad press.
I guess I should stop comparing you guys to The Replacements, then.
Have you? Sorry! In all honesty it's something that we have to embrace. It's not like we sound nothing like them. On the other hand, don't you think that any midwestern band that plays heart-on-your-sleeve bar rock gets tagged as sounding like The Replacements? Seriously - it could be a hell of a lot worse and we're grateful for the exposure (and any fans it might bring) but we feel like we've got our own thing going and more to offer than a retread of something from 20 years ago.
Yeah, I was just kidding with that. With your sound, you guys are probably pretty adaptable to a lot of different crowds, but have you had any shows recently where things just didn't work out and you felt like you showed up in the wrong place?
That's a good question. This band has always had a bit of an identity crisis. I mean, not internally - we're quite comfortable and confident in our sound - but externally. We're a bit too punk for the older crowd and the americana crowd, and we're a bit too poppy for the punk crowd. It kinda leaves us stuck between genres. We've played with emo bands, outlaw country bands, singer-songwriters... at museums, theaters, corner bars and art fairs. Sometimes we're a bit out of place, but I think that happens to most bands that play out as often as we do. I don't really worry about it much though. I can't write for a specific genre. What comes out is what it is... Sometimes it's fast and angry and sometimes it's mid-tempo twang. I can deal with the fact that people don't always get it as long as I like the songs and think they're as good as they can be - regardless of where they land on the genre map.
I think that's gonna do it! I can't make this too long, or else people will wander off and go click on "Punks Is Hippies" or something. Thanks for your time!
The OffRamps' new CD "Split The Difference" is available on iTunes and at milesofmusic.com, and besides being really good, it features a Nils cover ("Fountains", from "Sell Out Young"), for those of you who are into that sort of thing.
And you can also visit these places while you're at it:
The OffRamps -
"Actual Events (Based On)"
"Everything on a Longshot"
(these files are now listen-only)