Two years ago, A B & The Sea frontman/guitarist Koley O’Brien moved to California from the Midwest, only to find a suitable place in the sun for his band’s bright, happy-go-lucky tunes that wouldn’t be out of place in a Beach Boys/Beatles super group. We chatted with him about George Harrison, the perfect three-minute pop song, and the band’s new EP, Run Run Run. Check the band’s Noise Pop festival gig with Ted Leo on February 24th at Bottom of the Hill.
(Editor’s Note: In anticipation of Noise Pop 2011, Feb. 22-27, we’re interviewing several local bands on the lineup.)
SF Station (SFS): Who were some of your favorite bands growing up? How did you get to this Beach Boys/Beatles/Herman’s Hermits sound?
Koley O’Brien (KO): The first band I ever liked — aside from maybe Vanilla Ice when I was 5 — was Elvis Presley, probably because of how he dressed. As I got older, I started listening to The Clash and The Ramones, and high school brought out a lot of emo bands, which is embarrassin. But around junior year I rekindled my love for the Beach Boys and the Beatles records that had been lying around my house since I was a kid. I decided I wanted to start a band that was sort of doing our own new thing, but I wanted those influences to really shine through the music. It’s incredible how many people are doing that now. There’s definitely a lot more bands lately with the Beach Boys as a main influence.
SFS: So you guys are all from Wisconsin, or just a couple of you?
KO: Just me and [guitarist] Joe. Originally, there were three of us that moved out here from Wisconsin, but that bassist left the band about a year ago.
SFS: Go Packers?
KO: Oh hell yeah — I mean none of us are really football fans, but at least me and Joe grew up with football in our blood, just because it’s Wisconsin. We went to the bar, got drunk, had a good time.
SFS: What brought you to San Francisco?
KO: We wanted to head West, and we became friends with The Morning Benders when we were living in Wisconsin. They introduced us to a bunch of people, like our current manager. We started looking into the Bay Area music scene because that’s where they were from, and it wasn’t over-saturated with musicians like the LA scene, where we’d go unseen starting out. So we chose San Francisco to try to make a bigger name for ourselves a little more easily.
SFS: Do you have a favorite venue to play in SF?
KO: Bottom of the Hill — everybody there is super sweet and the sound guys are really good guys.
SFS: That’s a cool place. I’ve been here four months and I think that’s the only place I’ve seen a show so far, and it’s been pretty good.
KO: The first year we played Noise Pop was at Bottom of the Hill, and then last year we played at Bimbo’s with Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros.
SFS: Speaking of which, any good stories from previous years of Noise Pop?
KO: I just remember [the Ed Sharpe show] being so crazy. It was really really amazing for them; it sold out so fast our fanscouldn’t even get tickets! This violin player crowdsurfed up on stage from the audience, and now he’s in the band. It was a wild night.
SFS: What’s your take on the West Coast scene so far?
KO: I love the music scene in California just in general. Moving from the Midwest, man, there’s just no music scene at all.
KO: No, definitely not. [Laughs]
SFS: A few shorter questions. Do you guys surf?
KO: We have, and we suck.
SFS: Favorite summer song?
KO: “Don’t Worry Baby.”
SFS: Favorite Beatle?
KO: George Harrison. He’s a good man.
SFS: Name a song that you wish you had written?
KO: “Pumped Up Kicks.”
SFS: Foster the People!
KO: Been listening to that jam a lot in the last month and a half. We caught them in LA about a week ago. It was awesome.
SFS: Who’s playing that sweet sax solo on “Baby You”?
KO: One of our studio musicians. We hired a horn section to come in and record a couple tracks, but we haven’t released any of those songs yet. We paid the musicians with two 12-packs of beer!
SFS: Nice, that’s the way to go. So your new EP, Run Run Run, came out last month. What’s your favorite track?
KO: I’m really into “Take It Easy.” But we all really like a lot of the stuff on that EP. We were pretty stoked to get it out. There’s not necessarily a really huge hit on there. The “Pumped Up Kicks” of AB & The Sea is not on that EP.
SFS: I think “Baby You” is the hit.
KO: Definitely. It’s really happy and feel-good, but I still think we got some bangers up our sleeves that we’re gonna release.
SFS: Do you have an album in the works?
KO: We’re going into the studio within the next month or two to hammer one out; try and get that shit out as soon as we can.
SFS: Are you excited for any specific Noise Pop shows this year?
KO: Hell yeah, we’re going to the Best Coast show, for sure. We played with Best Coast and Wavves in Davis a couple weeks ago.
SFS: Should be good. I don’t know much about Wavves, but I talked to Best Coast last year.
KO: She probably smoked you out or something, right?
SFS: She sounded really calm during the interview.
KO: Petting her cat, smoking a bowl. [Laughs]
SFS: One last question – do you have a favorite three-minute pop song?
KO: I would love to write a perfect pop song. “I’m Into Something Good” by Herman’s Hermits.[audio:/files/2011/02/02-Baby-You.mp3] AB & The Sea, “Baby You”