Oneida needs no introduction.
Actually, that’s probably not true. Over the past decade, the Brooklyn trio has developed a style all its own, incorporating innumerable influences (classic rock, psych, kraut-rock, pop, noise) into a massive, shape-shifting sound. Eschewing the tenets of any particular scene, band members Fat Bobby, Baby Jane and Kid Millions (none of whom, obviously, use their real names) keep their blinders on and keep rolling, oblivious to the wreckage they leave behind. Dudes like Oneida. Other bands do too.
I recently visited the band’s practice space to talk with drummer Kid Millions and bassist/guitarist Baby Jane about Oneida’s upcoming releases, dog piss and appearing in an Onion article.
Oneida’s music is sometimes called genre-defying. What do you think of that?
Baby Jane: I’d agree. I don’t know how to tell my aunts and uncles what we play. That’s what counts. That’s the litmus test for me.
Kid Millions: We do genre experiments.
Baby Jane: We have a filter. Once we’ve done our thing to it, it doesn’t sound like where it began at all. That’s not incompetence. That’s our style. We really crunch it down. We fall out of genres a lot.
Kid Millions: If you look at genre as “the boss,” then we’re defying the boss.
Baby Jane: We’re in charge. Accidentally.
In the process of defying genre, have you defined a genre? A new style?
Kid Millions: We are the genre of Oneida. See, the first few records we were trying to do a certain thing. Come on Everybody Let’s Rock was classic rock; Anthem of the Moon was psych. It all gradually became Oneida. The newest one, Happy New Year, it’s just an Oneida album.
Baby Jane: There’s no genre left. If we were in a genre at some point, we fucked it up pretty severely. I think early on, even with our first record, we all knew that our interests and sounds were scattered enough that it would take releasing many albums for anyone to make sense of us at all. And it just kind of played out that way.
Kid Millions: We knew it would take a while before people would really get it.
Baby Jane: “Heads ain’t ready,” is what we used to say. And they really weren’t. Heads usually left the club.
But now that it’s 2006, are heads finally ready?
Baby Jane: There are lines out the door. Somewhere.
Kid Millions: We just haven’t found them.
Baby Jane: We’re playing at places with bigger doors and more of them.
Happy New Year is slated to be released in June. But then you’ve also mentioned Thank Your Parents, which is going to be a triple-LP. Are these separate projects?
Kid Millions: A lot of stuff on Happy New Year was part of the process of building Thank Your Parents.
Baby Jane: The connection between those two albums is similar to that of Anthem of the Moon and Each One Teach One. They were all overlapping in the same time period. The tracks on Happy New Year and Thank Your Parents span almost five years now. There’s a ton of new stuff, which is why Happy New Year came to be.
So, the idea to do a triple album came first? That’s an ambitious goal.
Kid Millions: We were just like, “Let’s do this.” It was like, “Let’s really fucking blow the doors out with this one.”
Baby Jane: No, it was like, “Let’s open the doors, but on their hinges.” What we realized was that we were in an insanely prolific phase. The idea to do [what] we call a “try-ple” record was inspired by the fact that we were generating a lot of material. Once we decided to do it, we had to decide if the material made sense together.
Kid Millions: We actually needed to construct the album once we had the idea.
Baby Jane: It’s a cruel process. It hurts.
So can you sum up this triple —
Baby Jane: “Try-ple.”
Can you sum up this “try-ple” record?
Kid Millions: To me, it was like a basket to fuckin’ throw shit into. We were trying to define all the boundaries of Oneida. Everything went into it, which sounds like a garbage can, too. But it wasn’t that. It was like, “This is what we are. Let’s not limit the material.”
Baby Jane: It’s an album that just came into itself — something that’s big enough to allow us to do all the things we can do. Which is insane, because, really, that’s so much bigger than a “try-ple” record. It’s gonna be tough for some people, but some people are gonna take that pill.
Kid Millions: But we were trying to make a “try-ple” in less time than it takes to make a single record. In retrospect, it was an insane process. But we’ve done crazy shit, so it was like, “Let’s give it a shot, man.”
Baby Jane: The process was emotionally intense. It’s a powerful time for us, and it’s turning into something great.
And, yet, one of Oneida’s core members (keyboardist Fat Bobby) doesn’t even live in New York City. How do you structure your lives so you can keep Oneida functioning?
Kid Millions: We’ve created something that has its own life, that can sustain itself. We have commitments that we create and want to do, like tours and albums. We just plan ahead.
Baby Jane: We’ve never had one process for writing and recording. Often it’s been recording and then writing. There are so many ways that bands can be set up in terms of logistics. I think Oneida is always ready to adapt. It’s been such an open process all along, and it’s so fun. It’s its own being, and we just have to follow it and feed it and make sure it doesn’t hurt anybody. At least one of us will always be able to deal, and that means all of us will deal.
Do you think Oneida will ever be a full-time gig?
Baby Jane: Honestly, I think we could make it that. We wouldn’t get rich off it. The band could do it; I’m not sure if the individuals could. At some point, we’re different people, and we don’t always want to do the same thing at the same time. Not doing it full-time allows us to be fresh and creative when we get together and allows us to have fun. We still do pretty well. It certainly supplements my life. I always thought we’d be successful when we got to a point where the band paid for itself, which it does, and where we got to travel when and where we wanted to, which we almost do.
Kid Millions: We could tour in Europe for a very long time, but we don’t have the time in terms of jobs. And, for sanity’s sake, we wouldn’t want to do that.
Do you look at touring as part of the “job” of being Oneida?
Kid Millions: Before every tour I want to be on top of my shit. There are expectations.
Baby Jane: I love touring. We’ve never been a touring band where we spend, you know, eight to nine months a year out on the road. I’ve always had the fantasy of doing that one year. It would destroy me, but I would love to be fucked up in that way.
You’d probably have stories for a lifetime, just based on —
Baby Jane: What would happen in my mind! It’s fucked up what happens in just a week. We hop in a van and immediately part of my humanity just drops off and goes. Within a few minutes you can get away with so much more physical abuse of my body. Like, you could piss on my arm, and it’d just be like, “Aw, dude.” But if you piss on my arm now, I’ll kill you.
Kid Millions: There’s a great story about Jane getting pissed on by a dog.
Baby Jane: This was the lowest point in my life, as a human. We were in Bloomington, Indiana. I haven’t showered; I can’t smell how bad I smell anymore. We’ve been drinking every night, so my tolerance is a billion beers. I can’t even get fucked up. That’s how deep we are into touring. I’m no longer calling home. It gets weird on the road. I start to get that feeling of being outside of my body, that feeling of being so much less than human — a lump of shit.
So, we go to a dance party after we play. I’m sitting on a futon. People are dancing; half of them have their shirts on. And there’s this small dog with a crunched face, and it’s so fucking freaked out by all these people. It’s running around and around in this one-bedroom apartment. I feel so terrible for it. I want to ground it and help it chill out. I mean, we were torturing it just by being there. And the owner, she didn’t give a fuck. So I grab it and hold on to it, and it’s freaking out, and I’m so focused on chilling it out. But then I’m like “What the fuck?” It’s pissing all over me. My arms, my legs. All over the bed — which was cool, because the owner owns the bed — all over my lap and my chest. And I hold it for a while then let it go. I freaked it out more, probably. But I just go, “Oh, dude. I’m covered in piss, and I don’t care. I didn’t change my clothes for three more days or shower. I spent days in this dog piss and didn’t care.
Maybe, as opposed to a low point, that was a transcendent experience.
Baby Jane: It was the lowest point as a corporeal human being and the highest point consciously. You feel so alienated that it’s disembodying.
Oneida now has its own label, Brah records . What’s the story behind that?
Kid Millions: We were always frustrated with our label, Jagjaguwar, and the choices they made in signing people. We weren’t feeling the jams. There weren’t any rock bands.
Baby Jane: There was a lot of poetry. It might have been only poetry.
Kid Millions: So we were like, “You gotta sign some rock!” So one night we were drinking and Bobby grabbed a cell phone and we called [Chris Swanson, head of Jagjaguwar]. Bobby left a drunken message about how lame Jagjaguwar was. So I go into work the next day, check my e-mail, and there’s an e-mail from the owners of Jagjaguwar, giving us a business proposal. It was like, “Okay dudes, let’s do this.”
So, since those drunken beginnings, what has Brah put out?
Kid Millions: There’s a twelve-inch split record with us and Plastic Crimewave. There’s Superamerican by the Dirty Faces. We just put out a local band, called Company — their record is called Parallel Time. Also, Home’s new record, Sexteen, as well as Oakley Hall.
Baby Jane: When it comes down to it, Brah Records is an unstoppable juggernaut.
Is that going to be the label’s slogan?
Baby Jane: It could be. We’ve got a lot of slogans. Brah has more slogans than releases or personnel.
All right, let’s change the subject. A couple of years ago, you guys were the focus of an Onion article (“Concert Ruined by Guy Enjoying Himself, January 28, 2004). To me, that would be the ultimate indicator of success.
Baby Jane: We were all really psyched.
Kid Millions: That made our month.
Baby Jane: It was double-stacked beautiful, because that same issue we were also the focus of a genuine review. And the Onion was always the publication we wanted to be in.
Kid Millions: Why isn’t that article front and center on our press sheets? I mean, that article got the most response of any article written about us, ever.
Baby Jane: Yeah. You want a gauge of our fans? So many people got back to me about that article. I mean, we’ve been in the New York Times twice. Nobody noticed. We were in the Onion once and it was like, “Dude! You were in an Onion article!”
Kid Millions: Being in a band that they made a joke about, that’s just amazing.