Oblio Duo | The Flag

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The Flag

by Oblio Duo

While a retro vibe is present, hints of Wilco and Elliott Smith place the band squarely in its own time.-The Onion, October 2006
Genre: Rock: 60's Rock
Release Date: 

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1. Churro
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2. Silence
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3. Dread
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4. Nauru
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5. If You Have to Ask Why
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6. Faces That Is, Aint
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7. The Flag
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8. Noise
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9. Outsides
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10. Doorway Bums
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11. Dog Of the Century
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12. Lovesick Lady
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13. The Mathemetician
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ABOUT THIS ALBUM


Album Notes
“There’s a thin line between trying and trying way to hard. Denver’s Oblio Duo, though, has nothing to worry about : William Duncan and Steven Lee Lawson seem to instinctively avoid the labored affection that makes most of Denver’s singer-songwriters sound like total crap.” Said Jason Heller in the Onion. “Most people will hear more of an Elliott Smith, Neil Young, and Graham Parsons dipped in acid sound.” Said The UCD Advocate. A review of our debut self-titled album in the Westword claimed:

“With an earthy rawness that tethers its cosmic immensity, the disc is a sprawl of soft strums, stray noises, brittle piano, chunks of distortion and the twosome's fluttering, sleep-starved coos. The result is achingly tender -- and unmistakably theirs..”

Oblio Duo was formed about 5 years ago in various incarnations consisting of Steven Lee Lawson- vocals, guitars and Will Duncan- drums. Our first album Oblio Duo received an excellent review in the Westword in 2005. This year, we unveiled The Flag, with a host of guest musicians from other local bands such as Pee Pee The Blue Angels, and Big Timber. We also added our backing band, ‘The Archers’ to play the keys and bass parts we over-dubbed ourselves on The Flag.
Around Denver, we’ve been known to play the Larimer Lounge with growing respect, The Hi-Dive, The 3 Kings Tavern, the 15th St. Tavern, The Carioca Café (commonly known as the BAR BAR) and our CD release show in October at the magnificent Oriental Theater. We would like to play a variety of other venues and if possible, open for national bands coming through town. Please listen to our CD in an intimate setting (preferably headphones) and hear for yourself the disc that is making us known in the great city of Denver.
Chris Kloewer wrote of The Flag in the UCD Advocate, “Simply put, Denver hasn’t been so lucky as to receive an album this good in a very, very long time.”



THE ONION Published: October 19, 2006: There's a thin line between trying and trying way too hard. Denver's Oblio Duo, though, has nothing to worry about: William Duncan and Steven Lee Lawson seem to instinctively avoid the labored affection that makes most of Denver's singer-songwriters sound like total crap. Their self-titled CD came out last year, and while it barely registered on this city's hipster radar, it was one of the best local discs of 2005- a bursting at-the seams mess of melody and heartbreak that celebrated the days when Alex Chilton, Harry Nilsson, and Neil Young ruled (or at least should of ruled) the earth. Oblio Duo's new album, The Flag, sees the twosome enlisting guests from Pee Pee, The Blue Angels, and Big Timber, as well as fleshing out their onstage lineup with a backing band called The Archers. And while a retro vibe is present, hints of Wilco and Elliott Smith place the band squarely in its own time. Oblio Duo's songs might sound loose, unstudied, and even spontaneous, but make no mistake: their genius is not accident. Even if Duncan and Lawson themselves don't quite know how they do it. -a.v. club (j. heller)

Interview from this article:

The A.V. Club: HOW LONG HAVE YOU TWO KNOWN EACH OTHER?

William Duncan: I met Steve during senior year of high school.

Steven Lee Lawson: We were in this psychedelic high school band together called Zubabi.

WD: Back then, I was listening to a lot of Melvins and Pink Floyd and Charles Mingus. Steve had some pretty bad taste. He was into Ben Harper. He used to have really long hair and was burning incense all the time.

SLL: I wanted to cover "All You Need is Love."

WD: We did cover that. (laughs)

SLL: We discovered that Will could play the piano really well, though, and that's kind of where Oblio Duo began. We recorded our first album mostly in this big house where we lived with like, twenty kids. It was on this digital Yamaha 16-track. I pretty much had to teach myself how to use it. I recorded vocals in the bathroom. I thought that was pretty cool, until afterward. It sounded like a tin can.

AVC: THAT WORKS SOMETIMES, THOUGH.

SLL: Yeah, depends on the bathroom. (Laughs.) That first record was a transformation. My songs are kind of simpler, and Will's are more elaborate. We keep each other in check.

AVC: WEREN'T YOU DOING THE BAND LONG-DISTANCE FOR A WHILE?

WD: After the first record was done, I moved to Portland, and I was playing with myself. Steve left Denver and joined me out there. A lot of the new album (The Flag) came from the four months that we were both in Portland.

SLL: I had all these grandiose ideas. I had always wanted to go to Greenwich Village or someplace, be like Bob Dylan. Portland is such a great city, but there are so many kids out there our age trying to do the same thing.

WD: We didn't have any work for a long time. We were broke. I had rented a piano from a place down the street for 60 bucks a month, and we just wrote songs all day. That's all we did.

AVC: What made you move back to Denver?

SLL: Denver is a bigger city than Portland, but it's more tight-knit. It's hard to break into the scene out there. We were outsiders. We didn't know the right people. The only place we could get a gig was Voodoo Doughuts. We had to play on this little loft on top of the bathroom. I got electrocuted a few times, but I got free donuts.

WD: They had, like, bacon-and-maple donuts.

SLL: And cereal toppings. My favorite was the dirt doughnut. It had Oreo crumbs with white frosting, and you could get it vegan. It was awesome.

WD: They opened at 10 p.m., and they'd stay open till 7 a.m. They had this really crappy organ on the loft, so we could barely fit our drum set up there. We would just go in and play for 3 or 4 hours and make up tunes.

AVC: BESIDES ROCKING DOUGHNUT SHOPS IN PORTLAND, WHAT INSPIRED THE NEW ALBUM?

SLL: We've been listening to a lot of old, not-poppy country music like Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson and stuff. We've been really into the new Bonnie 'Prince' Billy album too. (The Letting Go)

WD: It's got weird strings and weird drums.

SLL: Very Nick Drake-y

WD: It's very baroque.

SLL: Yeah. (Laughs.) I don't even know what that means.

-Jason Heller


Reviews


to write a review

The Westword

Westword Review
Oblio Duo
The Flag
Self-released
By Tom Murphy
Published: March 8, 2007

For creative people, being lonely can be a boon or a curse; they tend to either dwell on their isolation or channel their feelings into art. Oblio Duo's latest effort continues down the trail blazed on its debut release. The Flag is filled with the kind of music you imagine being written by people bonding through melancholic reflection of the good times and bad that have slipped through their fingers. On the title track and "Outsides," you can hear an underlying fondness and longing for experiences capable of touching the heart. Painting the world with sepia tones, the Duo projects grand vistas through a hazy lens that takes the edge off a little, allowing you to endure even the most sharply painful slings and arrows life has to throw your way. Fans of Sparklehorse and Wilco will surely pledge allegiance to The Flag's less-traditional brand of Americana.

Fifi

Just when I thought it was safe...
Just when I thought it was safe to date stockbrokers… Oblio Duo reminds me why some women are destined to be attracted to musicians. Turning life into poetry and poetry into song. We're doomed. Great music! I'm especially partial to Will Duncan (remember those Galveston nights).
f. larue, Houston.

KLOEWER

Kloewer Loves Oblio Duo!
Will Duncan and Steven Lawson have worn many guises over the years, from the time they spent long ago in their ever-name-changing trio - The Dead Beat Dads, Green Tea, Fell off a Tall Bike and Shimashamshazam are just a few of their tossed-aside monikers - to Will's tenure in Treblekicker and the amazing psych-rock outfit Zübabi, a group who would make short work of a Can or Miles Davis tune without so much as blinking an eye. Now the two have happily fallen upon Oblio Duo, a seemingly permanent name and working relationship which includes shared songwriting credits and multi-instrumental duties.

Earlier this year the two packed into Andy Wild's loose-fit yet hard-working studio (yet to be named regardless of the work he's done there with Planes Mistaken for Stars, Big Timber, Machine Gun Blues and plenty more) armed with a number of songs, some very lofty ideas and a powerful desire to avoid mistakes made on their eponymous debut album released last year. Oblio Duo was self-recorded over an excruciatingly long period of time and suffered from a lack of experience, an even more lacking work ethic and songs that barely shine through its shortcomings. Thankfully Andy is practically a magician when it comes to motivating people and bringing out the best in them, not to mention his skills as an audio engineer.

The results are The Flag, an inviting, soulful and brilliant record. Simply put, Denver hasn't been so lucky as to receive an album this good in a very, very long time. "We've had a lot of happy accidents," Steve told me from the control room of Andy's studio the first time I heard any of the material. I was sitting on the couch more than a little impressed with what I was hearing, trying not to be too anxious to hear the rest of it. What The Flag manages to create is a wash of country, rock, folk and a heavy dose of psychedelia in a way that's almost reminiscent of the short-lived Tropicalia movement in Brazil. The comparison is a stretch - for starters, Oblio Duo sings in English, not Portuguese - but valid nonetheless. For one thing, the recording is loose, free flowing and riddled with a myriad of sounds. It maintains all the blunt atmosphere of live music without the typically horrible live recording quality. Furthermore, the honesty and aching desire is so blatant as to knock you senseless - the first voice you hear on the record is Steve singing "I don't want to take you for granted," who later croons "please be careful please be kind" and "hit me like a train." And of course, there is the multi-instrumental psych touch added by a host of guest musicians. However, most people will hear more of an Elliott Smith, Neil Young and Graham Parsons dipped in acid sound.

A few things simply have to be said, however, of the actual songs themselves. Will's skillful drumming and percussion playing are no surprise, but he also proves himself to be a beautiful pianist. His polyrhythmic melodies and impeccable sense of dynamics hold this record together superbly. Steve too, for his part, couples a country twang with frustrated sonic bliss, and his songwriting just gets better and better. The arrangements, too, show a careful consideration lacking from the first record. Changes in density and texture reflect the meanings of the lyrics, and a small army of guest musicians are skillfully deployed to create a lush sonic landscape. But most impressive are the vocal harmonies, the coalescing of Steve's honey-dipped drawl and Will's loose, Randy Newman-esque ramble. As singers, the two are incredible, whether they're making a (sorta) tongue-in-check nod to the Sons of the Pioneers or barreling through something a little more gruff. Simply put, Steve and Will sing songs that welcome listeners and embrace them.

The Flag avoids the typical trappings of a Colorado-folk-alt-country-goth

-dime-a-dozen-nothing record that is all too common in these parts. There's no preachy

melodrama (ala 16 Horsepower) or oh-so-unbelievably-tortured-warbling (ala Munly), yet this album will appeal to those same senses, the strange sounds, twangy guitars and the feeling of our rolling prairie. Not once does Oblio Duo insult the listener with a tried-and-true trick or a copped-out arrangement. It most certainly is some sort of strange Americana flipped over and re-birthed into a new and singular self.

The duo will unveil their masterpiece with a CD release concert this Friday at the Oriental Theater with the help of the Archers, another "happy accident." While recording The Flag Steve and Will became good friends with Andy Wild and one of his roommates, Vaughn McPherson, who now handle bass guitar and Fender Rhodes respectively live. What the two add, Oblio Duo has been in dire want of for a long time - an incredible live show. Simply put, these tunes are far too big to be handled by two musicians and three instruments. Now, with the Archers at their side, Oblio Duo is not only capable of playing all of their songs live, but playing them with a new ferocity and excitement. Now the loose charm of Steve and Will's hilarious onstage banter - half-truths about the island of Nauru, their mutual hatred for Portland, the donning of a certain hat so as to properly play a country tune, some strange and horribly awkward comment tripping from Will's mouth followed by his wild laughter and rolling eyes, to name a few examples - is an accent to their blistering live set.

This Friday at the Oriental is exciting too because the quartet will be joined by most of the guest musicians who provided additional color on The Flag, including an assortment of cello, fiddle, banjo, musical saw and guitar players to name a few. Other bands include Pee Pee, Everything Absent or Distorted and Bluebook. Come on down and find a rare genius - one that puts on no airs, is willing to laugh at itself and is so drunk on its own hubris so as to be unbeknownst to its inhabitants.