ONEIDA play as part of the Bummer In The Summer Festival at the Tranzac (292 Brunswick), Friday (August 4), 8 pm. $10-$35, available at Soundscapes (572 College) and Rotate This! (620 Queen West). 416-923-8137. Rating: NNNNN
We've all heard the legendary tales of the decadence and debauchery that ensues when the Mtley Cr#252;es and the Poisons of the world head out on the road. Fuck, man, if I had that kind of downtime to kill I'd probably start drinking at 10 in the morning and have a needle in my arm, too.
But y'know what? All that excess actually sounds really, really boring. Thankfully, bands like eclectic Brooklyn-based artsy rockers Oneida have no trouble filling their time with far more constructive and entertaining endeavours.
"There was the time [drummer] Kid Millions pooed in [rock band] Trans Am's car," snorts bassist/guitarist Hanoi Jane, driving through Pennsylvania en route to Pittsburgh. "We're all making jokes, then he gets in fights with other drummers. People touch his stuff and he gives them a pounding. He also does the baloney-on-the-hood-of-a-car thing that strips the paint off as it dries in the sun."
It's hard to find fault with any of the lovable lil' troublemakers' antics, considering that they've managed to pump out a ridiculously prolific eight albums in nine years, including their new fresh and fucked-up Happy New Year (Outside). Clearly, these guys have clocked a lot of road time in support of all those releases, and they've gotta fill it with something. Oneida's other pleasant pastimes include temporary insanity in the form of adopting new names and alter egos. (Unless you're Frank Zappa, you're not legally naming your kid Kid Millions.)
"I think naming is a really fun thing to do," Jane explains. "I'll take any opportunity to name something it's the gift of spoken language. We don't think of it as silly, but more as a natural extension of the music. People think I'm making fun of them when I say my name's Jane, but my own wife refers to me by my band name. It's about half of what I do. I jumped into an empty cop car in Cleveland, and I wouldn't do that as not-Jane."
Perhaps the multiple personalities wraslin' around inside the boys are catalysts for their heady musical concoctions, which can abruptly veer off in any number of directions.
Veer might even be an understatement, since much of their recent work plays like a virtual aural hodgepodge of everything from retro psych to folk to krautrock to dancey, poppy insanity and whatever else they feel like throwing at the fan of boundless creativity. You may have to get used to their musical see-sawing before being able to appreciate their compositional subtlety.
That eclecticism could also be because the three Oneidans have divergent musical tastes. Bobby Matador's a fan of ukulele music, Kid deejays in NYC under the name DJ Gumball Machine, and all of 'em "like a good stern beat that keeps your body moving. And lots of hippy earth stuff, too," adds Jane. "We're all really into Tolkien. Oneida are pretty much the house band for the Shire."
You get the feeling that for this band, music is just one of many, many other points of interest, or maybe it's the glue that holds everything else (including their enthusiasm for Satanism and the occult, forays to geographic locations associated with paranormal phenomena and of course, an ironic appreciation for Scientology's private navy) together.
It's hard to keep up with these guys. Luckily, it seems they're also gourmands, and so we part speaking the universal language that is food.
"We figured out early on that eating well is the key to sanity on the road," Jane begins. "We have some road food reference books that help us home in on stuff, but sometimes we just follow a farm road several miles and see what we can find. One diner in Indiana specializes in cinnamon buns, and they sent us away with this huge package of them. So now I'm fat. Moments like that keep you sane."