He Is Not Reading Your Write-Up: An Interview With Brad Oberhofer

Brad Oberhofer and I have history. I interviewed the principal songwriter and front man behind Oberhofer last February, catching him right before his first major North American tour and the release of the much-anticipated full-length record, Time Capsules II (An Interview with Brad Oberhofer: Talented, Earnest, and Straight from the Dentist). Since then I’ve been an avid fan; spinning the record countless times, spreading the word of his infectious bedroom-pop to friends near and far,  and checking out his live show twice in Chicago (including Lollapalooza). At the Lincoln Hall Show my ex-girlfriend and I both touched a bump on Brad’s head, a bump–it is of note–he received as the result of a collision with his bassist during his first ever appearance on Letterman. What is the point of all this information? The point is that this is not an interview steeped in objectivity.

A few weeks ago I had the unique opportunity to speak with Brad again—a status check of sorts—midway through what has undoubtedly been a whirlwind year for the young artist. We discuss dealing with criticism (or not dealing with it), why he loves the latest tour with Matt & Kim, and how he spends his time when he has a few hours to kill on tour.

Check out Brad’s performance of “Away Frm U” on Letterman last spring


The Silver Tongue: Hey Brad. How are you? This is John Beringer with The Silver Tongue.

Brad Oberhofer: I’m good. How are you doing?

TST: Good. I’m not sure if you recall but we actually spoke on the phone around 8 months ago, just before your début full length came out, and we met at your Lincoln Hall show in Chicago. So let me start by saying that I’m personally a big fan of your début Time Capsules II; I think it’s a real pop gem. But I read a Pitchfork review that wasn’t terribly flattering.  How do you handle negative criticism? Did you read that particular review? Do you read them at all?

[Brad and I are briefly disconnected due to a bad signal]

Oberhofer: Sounds like we got disconnected, but I think I can repeat my exact answer to that question: I don’t give a shit what other people’s opinions are about the music that I put out. I have my own opinions and criticisms about the things that I make; I care about those much more.

TST: Okay.  So, it sounds like what you are saying is that you believe you are your harshest critic and your feelings are all that matters to you? Is that correct?

Oberhofer: That is very true.

TST: Now does your response take on a different tone if that opinion is coming from a fan versus a writer or professional critic? Does good feedback from a fan resonate with you (or at all) more than let’s say Pitchfork or whomever?

Oberhofer: Yeah. Well I guess the only time that I really pay any attention to criticism or feedback is if it’s something that a fan has to say…but that is really the only time. I do not look at reviews and I do not look at write-ups. I used to years ago, but I don’t really care about that stuff anymore. If a fan has a criticism or has something nice to say, I will at least hear it. I think that’s the only time when I care enough to listen.

TST: That might sound brash to some people, but I think that’s the way it should be. Otherwise, what are we talking about? We’re not talking about an art form anymore.

TST: Our last interview was on the brink of your first major tour in support of the record, but since then you played Lollapalooza and ACL, and more recently embarked on a big tour with Matt & Kim. Would you rather play smaller clubs as a headliner where everyone is there to see Oberhofer? Or would you prefer to play larger, more classic venues as an opener for a “bigger” band where there might be potential to convert new fans, though the vibe potentially isn’t as good?

Oberhofer: I really prefer tours like the one with Matt and Kim. The truth is our fans still know about the show and they come out even if we are only opening. But when we play with a big name band, it’s just more people overall. It’s more people who I don’t already know, so it’s a chance to not only meet new people personally but also to spread our music to new fans.

TST: Is the key being on a bill with a band that plays similar music, whose fans might also enjoy the kind of music that you play?

Oberhofer: No, no, no. It’s mostly just playing with a band that has a lot of fans. I don’t really care about pulling in a fan base from a band that may sound like us or whatever. A lot of times people are just there to hear live music of any kind anyways, and I actually like playing to people who don’t already like the kind of music that we play.

TST: Got it. So it’s more about the opportunity to reach the most people?

Oberhofer: Yeah.

TST: I’ve seen your live show twice, once at Lincoln Hall and once at Lollapalooza. One thing I didn’t necessarily expect from speaking with you, and even from listening to the music, is that you were very wild on stage, jumping off speaker stacks and spinning around like a madman. It was like watching Eddie Vedder when Pearl Jam played small clubs. Have you ever been injured at a show? Is it hard to keep up that energy level every night or does it happen naturally?

Oberhofer: Well, one time at South By Southwest last year, I fell and hurt myself when I jumped off a second floor balcony and banged up the bridge of my foot. It hurt pretty badly at the show but I tried my best to ignore it, and thankfully it didn’t have any impact afterward.  In terms of my general energy level, I just feel however I feel that day like most people. But when I’m playing music, I get so excited—uncontrollably so at times. And I’m sorry if I sound a bit groggy. I was just sleeping.

TST: No worries. I know you’re on the West Coast, right? So it’s still relatively early.

Oberhofer: I think we are still in Idaho, on our way to Utah.

TST: Cool. I’ve never been to Idaho. You must visit all kinds of cities that are new and different on this tour. When you get in town do you have time to get into the places and experience them? Do you have any favorites?

Oberhofer: Most of the times we get to see cities on the days that we are playing, but sometimes we don’t. We’ll also randomly have days off. I go running in every city or at least walk around and look for a park. I’ll look up the nearest park, waterfront or forest and it always turns out to be a crazy adventure every time I seek that out.

TST: When we spoke before you mentioned that nature is something you draw inspiration from. Is that something you think about as your running or walking? Or does that inspire you later?

Oberhofer: I mean I’m never thinking about musical inspiration when I go running or am out in the world; but I am always seeking adventure—I’ll look up hiking trails and nature walks and that kind of thing. I do seek things out, but never for the sole purpose of finding musical inspiration. That’s something you can’t deliberately find. At least I can’t.

TST: Well, once you start looking for it. Doesn’t that make it kind of contrived?

Oberhofer: Yeah.

TST: In our last interview, you said you didn’t have a problem writing music on the road, because these days you can record anywhere with a computer. Have you been writing any new music in the last few months? Do you see an album developing or do you have any releases planned for the future?

Oberhofer: Well, I’ve written a few songs over the last couple of months and we will have a new record coming out soon. We’ve got 4 songs and I think they are pretty cool. We recorded and mixed them already.

TST: Does it help being on tour with your band now, in terms of them helping to flesh out some of the parts in person? Previously you wrote all the songs, but do you see them becoming a part of the songwriting process now or do you handle that on your own and bring it to the band?

Oberhofer: I still record the demo on my own, and do all the writing, and then bring it to everyone afterward.

TST: Great. Well we are definitely looking forward to your next record, whether it’s an EP, a full-length, or whatever you have planned.

Oberhofer: Yeah man. Are you going to come out to the Chicago show?

TST:  I can’t actually. We’ll have someone out at your Indianapolis show, but I’m actually leaving for South Africa next Friday.

[Check out our TST review of Matt & Kim w/ Oberhofer HERE]

Oberhofer: Whoah. Awesome. Why? I mean, what are you doing there?

TST: You know, well, honestly last year I was having a tough time and I took off to Southeast Asia. It was amazing. I kind of decided that every year I need to look for an adventure, especially abroad, and I should do it for myself. 

Oberhofer:  Dude, that rules.

TST: Thanks. People say things like, “Why would you do that?”

Oberhofer: You don’t need a reason, man. Have fun in South Africa. I’ve never been but I’m sure it’ll be really great. Just be safe.

TST: Have a great rest of the tour, Brad.

Check out Oberhofer’s recent Daytrotter Session


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