Back in 1996, four high school friends — lead vocalist and guitarist Marc Roberge, lead guitarist and backing vocalist Richard On, bassist Benj Gershman, and drummer Chris Culos — got together and formed a band called O.A.R. (Of A Revolution) and the rest, is history! Now, nearly 20 years later, the five-piece (they picked up their saxophonist/guitarist Jerry DePizzo while they were all in college at Ohio State University) has just released their eighth album, “The Rockville LP” (named for the Maryland town where they all grew up) and will be coming back to Maine on Tuesday, Nov. 25, at the State Theatre in Portland. To that end, Culos called to chat about said CD, the history of his band and the fact that they’re heading back to our neck of the woods to treat their fans to some new music.

Q: Have you played in Maine much over the years?

Culos: Oh, yeah! I mean, we’ve been playing colleges and venues in towns and cities since 2001. We probably get up your way one or two times a year … all through New England and upstate New York and the East Coast, that’s more of our stomping ground. We love to get up there.

Q: You guys are touring in support of your newest album, “The Rockville LP” — it’s a very strong release, Chris, that I’ve really been enjoying since Vanguard Records sent over a copy.

Culos: Well, we love to hear that! A lot of fun went into making it and we hope people are checking out the stories we were trying to tell about where we’re from, where we grew up and how we saw the world when we were 16 or 7 years old and started the band in my mom’s basement.

Q: Did you have any idea back then where you’d be nowadays?

Culos: No! I mean, you can’t say it like that, I don’t think. We all had dreams, that was the whole point especially at that age, I think it amplified it even more. I think there was something there enough that really made us go for it and that’s when we decided to go to the same college together so we could keep at it there. Our families were totally cool with it as long as when we were first doing that, we made school the first priority.

Q: One thing that I wanted to comment on — and compliment you on, as well — is the diversity present in this album … there is variety in styles and sounds, even rhythmically. All that makes for a very good listening experience.

Culos: Thank you, that’s a huge compliment. I think it’s a reflection of the fact that everyone in the band likes different styles of music — on our own, separately and individually — and then what we bring back to the band as a whole allows those influences to come out and we try to find a pulse, find a sound and then tell a story…we gravitate more, I think, towards story-telling songs. And the other side of why it has all those different flavors is because we worked on the album in different cities and I really think it all came through.

Q: I think story-telling is the way to go because lyrically it captures the attention and that will be what makes songs last and stay relevant to people.

Culos: Yes…it’s a great point — I hear you on that.

Q: Are you calling from out on the road?

Culos: No, I’m at home. I live in Nashville and we have a lot of our crew guys in town today preparing for the tour that kicks off tomorrow (November 6th) in Chattanooga and then it’s up the East Coast to Portland and New York and a bunch of places. It’s going to be a really fun tour.

Q: Is there anything you’d like to pass on to the folks reading this article?

Culos: Yeah, I’d love it if you’d maybe mention how a big part of what we do in out live show is kind of make it unique each night so you are going to get a great mix of both new and old songs. We don’t like to necessarily jam all the new stuff down people’s throats — we want to put on the best show that the crowd wants and see, we change our set list every night. Also you’re never really going to get the same version of the same song … what I mean by that is we have moments in each song that are going to be made up — it’s fun to keep us on our toes and push each other as a band and see how the audience reacts to it. Our audience has been so loyal over the years in not only spreading out music to their friends but also coming back out to support us every time we’re in town or even traveling multiple times to see us in a given tour because they know how different the shows are night after night. I think our live show is really our bread-and-butter…we’re sort of known for being a live band.

Lucky Clark has spent 45 years writing about good music and the people who make it. He can be reached at [email protected] if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.


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