Arguably Atlanta’s biggest breakout band of the summer, Omni is currently finishing up a month-long national tour. The band balances an understated cool with artsy tendencies, all while creating razor-sharp post-punk built on shameless hooks. The trio is comprised of past members of Deerhunter and Carnivores, but they forge a completely new sound with Omni, leaving behind the atmospheric layers of the former and the dirty psychedelia of the latter. Their debut album, Deluxe, was picked up by Chicago label Trouble in Mind and has caught on like wildfire across the country, but the trio’s only intention was to create a bold, catchy record they could enjoy as much as the listener.
I spoke with bassist and vocalist Philip Frobos as the band drove from Philly to Durham. Between paying tolls he talked about life on the road, the formation of the band, the Atlanta music scene, and what’s next for Omni.
You’re almost done with this tour, do you have any keys to surviving tour life?
Tour has been fantastic; we’ve been gone for a month and a day now. I haven’t toured this long in a few years, but it’s really good to be on the road. You really just have to get enough sleep and drink water. Those are the two things you just can’t forget, everything else is just a luxury. This tour I did learn about oregano oil, though. It’s good for your throat and my voice has been a little rough.
Are there any moments from this tour that stand out?
PF: Too many to choose from, to be honest. We’ve been really surprised at the response from everyone, even in Canada. So many good talks at the merch table. If I have to give credit to one, I would say Montreal. They were so psyched and energetic; they were awesome.
Omni caught a lot of people off guard, where did the idea for the band come from?
PF: It was kind of an accident. Frankie and I were living together a while ago and we started casually writing songs together when we were hanging around the house, just not going one night and working on this or that idea. After doing that for a while we wrote some stuff that really struck a chord. We followed that impulse and ended up with what is Deluxe.
The writing process for Omni has been described as very collaborative. Did that enable songs to come together very quickly or was there a lot of rewriting involved?
They did all came together pretty quickly; Frankie and I just wrote it all together in the same room. There were very few cases where we were not both there for the first stuff. Revision wise, there may have been little tiny ideas we had in production, but ultimately they were pretty true to the demos.
So it’s not like you were in the studio coming up with a bunch of new ideas?
No, that does exist on the record, but very little. If it does, it’s like a little guitar overdub or one lyric that I thought maybe wasn’t working. Mostly it’s all what was captured in the day we wrote each song.
You were the main lyricist on this record. Were there any particular themes you were trying to capture on Deluxe?
I wanted there to be an immediacy to the lyrics and melodies, like a flash in the pan. Something to think about, but also very casual, like pictures of everyday life, things that happened to me.
IA: This album is incredibly sparse. Was the minimalism intentional?
Yeah definitely. But I don’t really think we were trying to limit ourselves. I guess, maybe not exactly. With old bands, at least for me, there was so much stuff going on. Now, the idea of doing more with less is very appealing to me. Also, the older I get as a bass player and a vocalist, the idea that less is more makes much more sense to me now. Doing what’s best for the song with your instrument and voice rather than doing what’s best for your instrument and voice.
IA: This is a pretty big departure from your work with Carnivores, and some musicians tend to stick with the same sound once they’ve reached a certain point in their career.
Yeah, especially towards the end of Carnivores, the music I wanted to make was more of this type of vibe. Everyone else in Carnivores wanted to go in more of a dark, psychedelic direction. I was playing ball, being part of the team, but personally that’s where I was at.
Speaking of minimal, the album art style really fits the sound of the record. Is there any connection between the art and your songs?
The connection would be Frankie since he was involved in both. He designed the cover by himself, which I really like. It can be tough outsourcing or choosing art that’s not done by the musicians. He would show me what he was working on and we would talk about it. I was really on board with what he was making, and we actually have a few things that were really cool, but you’ll have to wait for the box set to see that.
What are you looking forward to most about being back in ATL?
I’m really just excited to be able to wake up in Cabbagetown and go for a walk. Probably get a double espresso somewhere. I’m definitely going to need one of those vegan noodle bowls at Ticonderoga Club. I’m like a Ticonderoga poster boy. Oh, and I just remembered I’m really excited about Elmyr. I can’t wait to see everybody that works there and everything about it.
What else is happening in the Atlanta music scene that you like right now?
We really like Art School Jocks. I saw them before we left so I’m looking forward to [them] playing some shows with us down the road. I’m also pretty excited for Lois Righteous. It’s one of our friend’s new projects and it’s still in the demo stage, but it’s the first time she’s done something more like in the vein of girl-punk like Slits or Raincoats.
What’s next for Omni?
We’ve got quite a few new songs, so we’re going to try to start working on a second record, and we’ve got a few tour dates coming up in October, so we’ll be going back on the road. We’re pretty excited about the new tracks.
Should we be expecting a similar sound for the new material?
I think you can expect another cohesive record, sharp and grooving, like we do. Oh, and one more thing before I go: we are almost out of records, so if anybody wants a copy of Deluxe make sure you don’t wait until the end of the show!
Omni will celebrate the release of Deluxe tomorrow, August 26, at the the Earl. Supporting them are Illegal Drugs, Meat, and DiCaprio. Doors open at 9 p.m. Admission is $8 in advance or $10 at the door.