O’Brother, a five-piece from Atlanta, has three guitarists and a huge sound. I ask Johnny Dang how O’Brother manages to sound like a big stack of amps crammed into a small bag. “We don’t try to make it sound huge, but we leave a lot of room for textures and layers for things that we want to do with other instruments.” Otherwise, he says they favor simplicity. And guitar-heavy as they may be, O’Brother is not into the unmitigated soloing that usually comes with multiple guitarists. “That’s a true thing. We’re trying not to overdo the three-guitar thing like other bands have.”
Do they produce with big volume in mind? Dang, one of the three guitarists, thinks yes, but he jumps around in conversation before he comes up with a better word: “spacious.” Okay, but spacious does not describe the feeling of melancholic dread that’s going on within O’Brother. “A lot of people say they get scared when they listen to us at first,” Dang says. “It’s the meaning behind what we’re singing about. It’s not always a happy-type thing. It’s kind of anger-based.”
The band is in Pittsburgh the night we talk, readying for a tour stop in support of their first full-length release, Garden Window. Dang’s brother Anton is on bass, Michael Martin on drums, and Aaron Wamack plays guitar. The darkness, says Dang, comes from the third guitarist, Tanner Merritt, who also writes much of the band’s material, both hard and acoustic. Why didn’t O’Brother drink the industry Kool-Aid and Journey-up their sound in the manner of their peers, meaning big-dollar acts such as Linkin Park and Incubus? “That type of music is something we joke about.”
Thrice, La Dispute, and Moving Mountains also perform.
O’BROTHER: House of Blues, Friday, November 11, 6 p.m. 619-299-2583. $20, $35.