Pomona, California’s screamo scene might not be in the limelight, but it’s been simmering with a unique energy for years. OTHIEL, a band that’s been on the scene for over five years, recently dropped their debut 12”LP titled ‘We Will Be Our Home’, and it’s nothing short of remarkable. With nine tracks that effortlessly balance between gorgeous melodies and abrasive, pummeling screams, OTHIEL’s music resonates with influences from bands like Crowning, Eyelet, and Gillian Carter.
We’re thrilled to present this interview with the band, offering a glimpse into their journey, their music, and the vibrant underground screamo scene they call home. In this candid conversation, OTHIEL shares anecdotes that encapsulate their journey, discusses the Pomona screamo scene, recommends some hidden gems from the genre, and provides insights into their creative process.
“This album is an expression of our collective struggles and triumphs. It is about the strength that is gained through embracing vulnerability. A display of the beauty, togetherness, and a culmination of all that inspires us. It is our hope that we have done it justice and that it influences others to do the same.”
Could you share a story or a moment that encapsulates the essence of OTHIEL’s journey from Pomona’s underground scene to the visceral tones of ‘We Will Be Our Home’?
I think a key moment in our journey was when we were on tour with Joi Lume, got our van broken into and our pedalboard was stolen. We had been playing with a lot of heavier bands and had to borrow Joi Lumes pedal board. They ran a much heavier and higher gain setup than we did and that was when we realized we wanted to sound heavier while still playing the pretty shoegazey chords that we had been playing.
Pomona’s screamo scene is a bit of an enigma for many. Can you give us a snapshot of what’s bubbling under the surface there? Any bands that have blindsided you with their sound this year?
The scene is very young and the bands are super inspired by the original 90-early 2000s screamo sound. I think it’s really cool to see people paying homage to the music that originally got us into screamo when we were in high school. Knumears particularly really blindsided us with their heavy melodic hardcore sound. We also really like Gxllium with their sassier vocals and gnarly breakdowns.
What are some screamo or hardcore albums from 2023 that you think aren’t getting enough love? Any hidden gems you’d recommend?
I think the new Palefade record might be one of my favorite albums of the year. New Forms, and no heirloom both had great releases as well.
Screamo isn’t exactly the genre you hear in every coffee shop. What’s the allure for you in creating music that doesn’t exactly fit the mainstream mold?
I think there’s something really cathartic and therapeutic about the aggressiveness and raw emotion in screamo music. We all used to play different styles of music, but once we started getting more into screamo it was hard to enjoy playing anything else.
The album artwork for ‘We Will Be Our Home’ is intriguing. Is there a backstory or a hidden message in there that ties into the album’s narrative?
The photo is actually a picture that was taken of our guitarist when he was maybe 5 or 6 years old. We use a lot of old family photos and candids as album art.
There really isn’t much of a story or meaning behind it, we just thought it looked cool.
Have you ever thought about doing a track-by-track rundown of the album, kind of like a director’s commentary but for music? It’d be fascinating to hear the stories behind each song, especially the lyrics.
We’ve never thought about doing something like that. I think a lot of the lyrics are probably a little too personal to really want to explain. I think we all like having things more open to interpretation also. Our hope is that people can find their own connections to the song and make their own meaning.
“Upright” stands out with its unique melodic blends. When you’re piecing together a track like this, what’s your process? Do you start with a concept, a riff, a lyric? What’s the genesis of a song for OTHIEL?
We usually start with a few different riffs in mind. Rhythm guitar and drums come first and everything else comes after until it feels like a complete song.
Your music dances between harsh and harmonious. When you’re creating, do you consciously think about this balance, or does it just happen organically?
We all have a lot of inspirations that pull us in different directions. There’s no reason why two completely different sounding parts shouldn’t be in the same song, as long as all the individual parts are good in their own way. It is our job to take all of those different ideas and inspirations and transition in a way that makes them feel organic.
Where do you see OTHIEL’s threads weaving in? Are you looking to add to the genre’s legacy, or are you more focused on tearing up the rulebook and doing your own thing?
We have a lot of respect and admiration for the musicians that have carved out this genre for us. There are so many special things about screamo that we all love and we hope to always be seen and talked about as a screamo band because it has always been the main inspiration for us.
We also want to be able to do whatever we want, even if it doesn’t fit the mold of what screamo is seen as. At the end of the day we don’t want to try to be anything or create anything that isn’t authentic.
So I guess both lol.
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