Atwood had the opportunity to squeeze in a chat with Philip Frobos of Omni just minutes before their Brooklyn Baby’s All Right set to discuss their new 7 inch, touring Europe for the Summer season, and gain a whole lot more information on a magnitude of music from a true audiophile.
If you had to be locked in a record store for hours, maybe days on end, you’d want it to be with Philip Frobos of Omni. Frobos is much more than a bassist, lyricist, and punk inspired vocalist. The singer and bassist of Omni is something of a sponge for knowledgeability across a slew of styles of music. Name an obscure New Wave performance from the late 70’s and he’ll tell you the venue, the setlist, and some little known fact about the band’s eating habits that day. Ok, maybe not that last bit, but you get the picture. Frobos knows music.
Omni itself is a testament to Frobos’ and guitarist’s, Frankie Broyles, obsession with underground music from decades past. The two had shared the stage for years in separate bands, touring together and living together, before joining forces to create Omni. The trio are completed by the newest addition, drummer Chris Yonker.
Frobos’ partially monotone voice coupled with Broyles’ skilled, wiry guitar create a pit of tension. The sound is hardly ever rounded out, but if you are familiar with Omni, you’re well aware that they aren’t necessarily looking to fall in line with popular music trends. The authenticity of the trio makes the punchy chords and anxiety ridden basslines all the more digestible. Frobos attributes their sound to that of the New Wave genre, and it’s undeniably true, especially up close and in person.
Atlanta’s Omni released a 7-inch on Chunklet Industries this past April. With the continued help of Nathaniel Higgins during the recording process, Omni feverishly captures the depth of their influences in bold tracks that shine more direct than ever before.
As Frobos stood directly above me on stage and sang, “I heard a myth about you / One I wanted to, to be true,” I came to the conclusion that any myth I had heard about Omni they had shattered, and then proceeded to exceed my expectations.
A CONVERSATION WITH OMNI
Atwood Magazine: Hello Philip.
Congrats on your new 7”.
OMNI: Thank you.
That just came out. How has that been going so far?
OMNI: So far so good, we’re on the second pressing of it. We got some pretty cool blue versions of it, so that’s nice.
I saw that. There were like 10 limited editions too that didn’t work out.
OMNI: [laughs] Right, yeah, yeah.
The A side track is “Sunset Preacher” and your B side is “Confessional.” I was pretty much certain that there would be religious undertones to the content of the songs. I didn’t detect any of that.
OMNI: Right, yeah. It’s bizarre. I didn’t even think about it at all and I’m the one that wrote the words, but Frankie pointed it out to me. He was like, you realize that both of these have religious meanings. And I just thought, bizarre, yeah.
Just no relevance whatsoever.
OMNI: I guess, “Sunset Preacher,” if we’re talking about what it’s all about, “Sunset Preacher” was kind of written about at the time that I was kind of unsure whether or not I wanted to be, I was coming out of a really terrible relationship, and I was unsure whether or not I wanted to be seriously involved with somebody. And then this person who I was seeing was very like, “get me to the chapel,” you know?
After the serious relationship?
OMNI: Yes, post serious relationship, so one right to the next. So, it’s kind of this I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing. I can’t step up to the altar just yet, I’m kind of still just getting drunk and hanging out.
“Confessional,” you can totally correct me if I’m wrong, but when I listen to that song there’s this sort of examination of gender roles. Some of your lines like, “She was built to stay the course / meant to please and then displace.” And, “It’s the pattern of your skirt / affects your mood / the way you flirt,” and some other things you say, I get the vibe that you’re addressing something about women and men and how they’re supposed to be. What’s the story behind that song?
OMNI: Yeah, there’s definitely a lot of that. It’s kind of mainly speaking about how people get so into their personal profile version of themselves that they don’t actually say or do anything that’s real and then when they’re caught off guard it’s a confessional if you catch them in that moment. Within that there’s also, like you said, the gender bending and this and that. Sometimes it’s 100% a legitimate and cool thing, and other times it’s for attention and that’s bizarre. It’s a little tongue and cheek, I suppose.
Totally, I absolutely get that. You’re first two records, Deluxe and Multi-Task, you have a pretty chaotic, punk, new wave sound. I associated it immediately with some of the more punk B-52’s stuff.
OMNI: Oh, I love that.
That was something I really correlated it with, and obviously Devo and Television and stuff like that. The two singles, the 7”, stay the course, but I get some more Andrew Savage Parquet Courts vibes in there and a little Tim Presley from White Fence. Was there a big change, or was there something that you guys really wanted to do differently this time around?
OMNI: These two singles are kind of on the back of Multi-Task, so they were songs that we were working on that we just hadn’t quite gotten there with them yet and then we finally finished them. I would say they are probably amongst the same family of that record, but you know how timing things goes. I don’t think that there was any modern influence. I do like what Tim Presley does a lot. We think that those guys are cool. I was really wanting to do something that was PiL [Public Image Ltd] meets Talking Heads for “Sunset Preacher.” It kind of came out however it is. The chorus of that song is basically my attempt to do a PiL chorus. Take it for what it is.
You recorded Multi-Task with Nathaniel Higgins and then you went in the studio with him again for the 7”. What about him in particular is productive to your creative process?
OMNI: Nathaniel knows Frankie and I better than pretty much anyone. He was in my old band Carnivores. We toured with Frankie many times. We met Frankie when we were like 18. We’ve all just been in the same room together for a long time. Even though he has moved out of the musical aspect of it, he understands our tastes and our intentions so when we deliver demos to him, he’s got it. He knows what we’re going for with it. He gives the song what it needs. Whereas, sometimes when you go to a studio, people want to put you in their box and their scenario. He is just all about making it as awesome as it can be.
Does he have his own studio?
OMNI: No, no [laughs]. It’s just where ever we want it to be. It’s just a TASCAM digital 8 track and a computer and some speakers and we just put it in the van and go where ever.
It came out awesome, so whatever you did worked.
OMNI: [he actually giggles here, it’s so cute] Thanks!
You watched the entire Bond collection on mute while recording Deluxe. Any quirky recording rituals this time around?
OMNI: Well, we’ve still been doing a lot of films. The last single we watched Beetlejuice and Bladerunner, the original director’s cut. Frankie was playing some really cool dream vignettes by, I think, a Japanese film director. Someone who’s better with film would know what I’m talking about.
That’s not me. The only thing that I really got into for awhile was Vincent Price films. He’s like an old 60’s/70’s actor that did all horror films. He did House On Haunted Hill, the original.
OMNI: Yeah! I’ve seen the original.
You would recognize him, he’s iconic. But next time you go into the studio put on the Vincent Price film, I don’t know what it’s called, but it’s about a series of murders modeled after all the murders in Shakespeare plays. That’s how all of the murders play out and everyone murdered is a movie critic who critiqued this actor poorly.
OMNI: Cool. That’s sounds really good! [Starts typing in his notes] Vincent Price, Shakespeare murders, okay, that’s what I’m putting in. That sounds right up our alley, really. Frankie has a great projector, old screen, so it’s makes it really fun.
Where were you this last time that you recorded?
OMNI: We went down to Vienna, Georgia again. I think that might be our thing now. We’re in the works of some new stuff, kind of in the demo process, planning it out, and we’re definitely going to go back to Vienna.
Is it in the middle of nowhere? I don’t know anything about Georgia.
OMNI: It’s about two hours South of Atlanta. Frank’s family has a cool little family country house. It’s great. You can be loud at all hours of the day and night and won’t disturb anybody. And there’s a liquor store less than a mile away, so perfect.
That sounds so nice, you can just hang out and drink beer - or what do you drink? What’s your drink of choice when you’re recording?
OMNI: This last time we drank a lot of Tecate and Espolon. I brought some Oloroso Sherry this time. That’s a nice little something to get you in the mood. I had that while I was doing my vocals.
It’s soothing since it’s so warm.
Do you guys still find time to DJ in Atlanta or is that pretty much out the window?
OMNI: Every now and again. Frankie and I haven’t had one together in awhile. I’ve DJ’d a little bit over the last couple of months when we’re in town. Sometimes the last thing you want to do is spend all night at a bar again. But it is nice. It’s fun to play your records and make a little money.
Do you envision your future selves something like Shoes, rejecting popular shifts in music to play what you love, even three decades later?
OMNI: I think we already can check the box of rejecting popular trends in music. I guess it just depends on what you think. With where we’re going now, I don’t think that there’s anything that’s going to be all that popular about it. So yeah, I guess so.
For three decades though?
OMNI: For three decades? If people have us for three decades, then why not. We’ll do it.
Obviously we’re seeing a resurgence of a lot of revival bands. Where do you think you fit genre wise in today’s musical climate?
OMNI: That’s a tough thing to say because I was kind of talking to our friend Sasami about this the other day. She used to play in Cherry Glazerr.
Sasami Ashworth, yeah! Cherry Glazerr was my first ever interview.
OMNI: Wow. That’s cool! Well, here we are. But I was talking to her about it because she was talking about how people say guitar music is coming back. So, I guess that’s beneficial for us. But really, we get thrown into post-punk a lot. I always say that we’re a New Wave, rock and roll band. There’s something that is usually kind of dark and unhappy about post punk.
Well, New Wave was punk music. It wasn’t marketable, so they kind of stuck on a different label. Talking Heads was the original CBGB’s. People don’t realize how punk B52’s were.
OMNI: Yeah, B-52’s are a perfect example! Those first three albums are out of control good.
Yeah, there was a live performance that somebody must’ve sent me on Youtube or something, and as soon as I was diving into this I thought, Omni reminds me of this B-52’s performance.
OMNI: Did it happen to be the 1978 Atlanta, Georgia City Cafe performance?
That sounds really familiar. Is that your inspiration?
OMNI: That is amazing! That’s actually from before their first album. I’ve been to the place that that show took place. It’s now a classic prime rib Atlanta staple in Virginia Highlands. It’s just a cool spot. It’s a great place to get a martini, as well.
I haven’t had one of those in a long time - move to New York, get broke, drink beer.
OMNI: You probably just have to make them at home and at the end of the day you’re just too tired.
A lot of people associate Frankie’s past with Deerhunter, but his old band Balkans’ track “Flowers Everywhere” popped up on my Discover Weekly playlist once upon a time. Ever since, I’ve been hooked.
OMNI: Balkans was the band that Carnivores, my old band, used to tour with. We lived together back then, too. We spent a lot of time hanging around.
Is there something about living in Atlanta or the South that inspires your music? I mean, I think your music is much more loud and fast than when I think of the South, because I think of that as slower paced.
OMNI: We all grew up there in that way. It’s definitely there in one way or another. That B52’s single was released by a label in Atlanta, just down the street from where we lived. We like all that stuff. We even listen to Allman Brothers sometimes. It’s not Atlanta, but it’s the South. Every now and again.
There’s lots of roots in the South. Recently, I started really trying to tap into Patsy Cline and Kitty Wells and Townes Van Zandt, because I don’t know a lot about it. You don’t realize that that original country music really paved the way for a lot of what we listen to today.
OMNI: Have you explored any of the early Dolly Parton stuff? It’s insane. There’s this one album that my fiance is really into as well, I think it’s called Hello, I’m Dolly. The whole album is great, it’s spiteful and clever. There’s a song that says, “I don’t want to throw ice at you, I want to throw rocks at you.”
The titles of those songs are the best! Like, “Will Your Lawyer Talk To God.”
OMNI: Yeah [laughs], so cool! A lot of good stuff. Also, if you ever get into it, they were playing some of her stuff earlier, it’s not country but a little more bluesy, but Bobby Gentry. Have you ever heard of or listened to her stuff? She’s really great. She’s has some more country-ish stuff early on. Then she does a bunch of Dusty Springfield covers on a record called Fancy. It’s really great, and then she just disappears. She might’ve been from Georgia. I’m not sure. I might be wrong though.
You just want her to be from Georgia. (laughs)
OMNI: Probably! Don’t quote me on that.
Are you guys feeling pressure to get moving on a third full length or do you have other pursuits in the works?
OMNI: We’re going to be in Europe all summer, so that’s our big time commitment. We’re going to play Primavera and we’re basically going to be in Europe from the beginning of June all the way until the end of August. Ideally, we’d like to start recording our third record over the fall and winter.
How is it when you’re touring overseas for that long?
OMNI: It’s cool. The longest we’ve done over there was five and a half weeks. It’s going to be definitely interesting this time, because it’s a little more of a beast, between nine and ten weeks. It’ll be great, everyone’s so welcoming and nurturing. There’s obscene amounts of culture.
It’s Mother’s Day, did you call your mom?
OMNI: Oh yeah, I called all my moms. I got moms, I got grandmas, I got friend’s moms, gotta make sure.
Are you guys ready to play Baby’s?
OMNI: We are so ready.
Thank you so much, enjoy your set!
OMNI: Thanks for having me!
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📸 © Sebastian Weiss