Oshwa ‘transmits’ independence

By Emily Ornberg

“Having a crush/ Man it’s bliss/ I just feel like ripping my face off.” Combining multi-layered rhythms, looped vocals and punchy lyrics, Alicia Walter, senior music major, performed under the moniker Oshwa in January 2011, and it grew into a band as she recruited drummer and senior music major Jordan Tate; guitarist and junior audio arts and acoustics major Michael Macdonald; and bassist Michael Noonan.

Just before Noonan left the band to move to Peru, Oshwa recorded a three-song extended play titled “transmissions from the midwest: a real-america tribute,” which was released on Bandcamp.com on Aug. 18. With the addition of Michael Byrnes, senior music major, the group is composed entirely of Columbia students.

The Chronicle sat down with the group to talk about creative influences, its fan base and the future of Oshwa.

The Chronicle:  How would you describe Oshwa’s sound?

Michael Macdonald: Pop, I guess.

Alicia Walter: Polyrhythmic…Midwestern? Maybe Midwestern.

Jordan Tate: Well, it’s really in-tune to all the vocals of [Alicia]. She does looping and stuff, so it’s kind of driven around that. I like comparing to other bands, and I think our inspiration is mostly Tune-Yards. There’s a little bit of Animal Collective there, but I don’t want to generalize. Is that a bad thing? [laughs]

Micheal Byrnes: Oshwa sounds like if a rainbow came to life and hit you in the face with a fish.

What was it like opening up your solo work to other people?

AW: Totally nerve-racking. I had never been in a band in high school or anything, so when I played with Jordan…

JT: It was nerve-racking?

AW: To some extent! I was putting myself out there!

The Chronicle: Talk about your new EP. What was it like collaborating with a band this time around?

AW: We recorded it at our Columbia friends’ studio, Space Jam Studios. [Senior music major] Seth Engel and Adam Salsberg recorded us, and they did a killer job. It was a lot of fun.

Your music has a complex do-it-yourself feel to it. What is your take on the current state of the music business, with DIY mixing competing with record labels’ fine-tuned production?

MM: We don’t really actively try to participate in all of that. Things happen, and we do passively participate in it, but we’re not pushing ourselves in that way.

AW: [Playing] house shows, there’s a real camaraderie of people wanting to support each other, and I think that’s really important. At the same time, without Bandcamp, we wouldn’t have the same reach. I think the Internet is a really valuable resource for us.

What influences you creatively and artistically?

AW: It’s interesting because Jordan and I are in the composition program here, so we see a totally different side to writing music that is different from Oshwa, but it still influences the way we do things. The training we’ve had gives us a level of ability not even as players, but just conceptually.

MB: I come from the other end of the spectrum. I go to school for pop music, and I’ve gone through three years of people telling me what music is. And then I heard these guys, and it’s totally free, and it’s totally “zero-cares-given” in the sense of what is supposed to be [on] level with making money, or something like that.

Where do you see Oshwa in five years?

AW: It’s so hard. I can definitely see our goals, though somewhat hazy, like [get our] LP printed, and go on tour. We could have little novelty toys in cereals? It’ll still be Oshwa, and it’ll become what it should.

MB: Just 5 years older.

AW: Yeah. We’ll have degrees!