From their casual early days at a Maryland high school through an increasing buzz of activity as a college band in Ohio and well beyond, groove-rock band O.A.R. (a.k.a. Of a Revolution) has groomed itself as a polite, subtly cocky, totally non-offensive, slightly-sensitive, well-polished music machine. Well before landing a major record label deal, they aimed for major commercial success, worked hard on the road and on the web, and eventually earned it.
Now, signed to Lava/Atlantic, they coast on the success of two recent smash-hot albums — 2005's Stories of a Stranger, which contained a pair of Hot AC hits in "Love and Memories" and "Heard the World," and 2008's All Sides, featuring the chart-toppers "This Town" and "Shattered."
Of course, they stay well-rehearsed for any festival, stadium gig, video, or interview.
This Saturday, O.A.R. plays a summer concert on Daniel Island for the fourth year in a row. Still touring in support of All Sides and a track titled "Love Is Worth the Fall" (from the original motion picture soundtrack for the film Twilight), lead singer Marc Roberge and his mates — bassist Benj Gershman, guitarist Richard On, drummer Chris Culos, and sax player Jerry DePizzo — aren't interested in slowing down at all.
"We started touring right before we released the album in the summer of '08, and we've had all sorts of tours through the seasons," says Gershman, speaking to City Paper from a sound check in Boston last week. "Keeping things fresh and interesting is something we always try to do even after touring for a year-straight. We want the audiences to come back out to see a different show from the year before. So we've changed our production up since we started promoting the album."
This leg of the "This Town Tour" started off earlier this month. The band wanted to return to several key venues, including Madison Square Garden (last week), where the band sold out shows in 2006 and '07.
"We now have three different acts to the show," Gershman says of the current live show. "Our middle set is an all-acoustic set, and the final set includes a bunch of video production that adds a lot of visuals while we're performing. We're happy with it because it allows us to have different musical set-ups from what we and our audience are used to."
The band first kicked off under the name Of a Revolution around the mid-1990s in Rockville, Md., but they officially went pro and aimed for the big time while attending college at Ohio State University in Columbus. "The band, as we are, now started while we were in college," says Gershman. "But there was another era of O.A.R. that started while we were in high school. It was just Marc, Richard, Chris, and me. When we met Jerry in college, it became something different."
The video for "This Town" debuted on VH1's Top 20 Countdown and landed in regular rotation on VH1 last year. "Shattered" spent 15 weeks on VH1's Top 20 Countdown.
"Before 2004 or so, it was just a grassroots/independent thing we had going," says Gershman. "We didn't really know how to be a major label band; we were learning as we went, making our own decisions. There hasn't been that much intra-band drama with us. We're all good friends, and we basically live together on the road. We share a common goal that we love working on. We want this to grow. We want this to be successful. We're all driven to make this continue."