There’s something about being the lead singer of a band that draws people to you, and don’t get me wrong, I get it. They are often the mind behind the lyrics, they have the loudest, clearest microphone, and they’re generally the one filling the “between-song” silences. They have a voice. What we can’t forget, though, is that the other members of the band might also have something to say.
This is certainly the case with the boys of Openside.
George, Harry and PJ bustle into the café, practically bouncing off the walls with excitement, and understandably so since the band’s debut EP – Push Back – has just been released. After a quick phone call from Harry to his mum to ensure that she has purchased a copy (“it’s not forcing, it’s politely asking…”), and checking its placing on the iTunes alternative chart every 5 minutes, it finally reaches number one. I say “finally”, but at this point it has only just gone 11am on release day, meaning that in 11 hours more people have purchased Push Back than any other alternative album available on iTunes. For a band that’s never done a headline tour, it’s an impressive feat.
It’s only been a year and a half since Openside formed in March 2015, but already they’ve opened for the likes of twenty one pilots (twice), Melanie Martinez and Ladyhawke, as well as scoring a slot at the inaugaral Auckland City Limits. They’re on everyone’s radar and, as their charting position has shown, it’s paying off. That doesn’t mean that their journey has been without its bumps though. The ACL slot didn’t exactly go smoothly, leaving the band feelings as though it was “the end of the world as we knew it”, but it did push them to tighten up their set.
“That definitely did rock us and that was an unfortunate thing, but that was almost good in a way, that it happened because we’ve scrupulously gone through all of our, you know, tech stuff, and made sure that there’s no hiccups and stuff so that – touch wood – had its uses.” -George
At this point, they all knock on the wooden table, showing just how in sync they are. The fact that they can spend time practicing and performing together, and then go home and live in the same house without killing each other is really quite impressive. The simple truth, though, is that they just love what they do, as is evident through the enthusiasm with which they speak about their music. Most recently, they performed at the Going Global Music Summit where they were joined by other huge New Zealand acts such as Tami Neilson and Gareth Thomas, and despite the brutal heat, they had a riot.
“It was amazing. It was really cool to see, like, the group of talent there. Everyone we watched was so good. It was a whole different range of like, pretty hard rock to like, indie and electronic. There were so many good acts. Everyone was so professional and they played really good sets. It was really cool to get amongst Kiwi musicians.” -George
The way Openside spoke about other the other Kiwi performers was humbling considering that their set – which was the last of the night – saw a crowd that filled the room. They joke about how people only attended their set because it was late and there was no one left to see, but they know that they have come on leaps and bounds in recent months. With all of the shows that they’ve been able to play lately, George comments on the progress that they’ve seen within themselves:
“You know what’s been really cool? Like, seeing ourselves get better. We’ve been playing live quite a lot recently and it’s seeing… like we go into it and we’re way more slick with getting everything sorted like soundchecking. Not just our set but like, the whole package of what a live performance entails. We’ve gotten a lot better at it.”
As well as being highly complimentary of other musicians, Openside only have kind things to say about their fans, too. After speaking with lead singer, Possum, back in June, I was left with a strong inclination that they are not the kind of band to ever allow themselves to take their fans for granted, and the boys only reiterated this feeling by claiming that the audience, the energy, and making people happy are some of the best things about doing what they do.
It’s unsurprising that this is the case, with many fans knowing every word to their songs before they were even available to download. Most who purchase the new EP will recognise all but one of the songs – Good Boys – from their live performances, but they are excited to debut it on their recently announced upcoming shows in Auckland and Christchurch with Ellie Goulding. They’re hoping to gain a new audience from the shows, since Ellie draws a different crowd to their usual shows, and Harry is hoping to meet her and call her his fiancée by the end of the night… “Hopefully we get to meet Ellie,” he says, entirely straight faced, “she’s the love of my life.”
Marriage proposals aside, I think that Ellie would be just as lucky to meet Openside as they would be to meet her. In an industry where there is so often drama and putting down of other artists, they are a breath of fresh air, only ever having kind things to say about the talent that they have met along the way. They discuss their admiration of the commitment that can be put into turning a standard show into a theatrical performance, mentioning Melanie Martinez in particular.
“We got to the venue and saw the stage like covered in fake glass we thought that was so cool, just a different stage environment, she went real hard out on all the lighting and production” -PJ
While they have been appreciative of all of their support slots, it is the two twenty one pilots shows that really stood out to them, especially their most recent set at Vector Arena, despite not getting to meet them (“Yeah, I think they were just really Stressed Out”). It isn’t every day you get to play your first ever show at the iconic Auckland venue, and, having being introduced to Openside at The Powerstation the previous July, twenty one pilots‘ fans were more than familiar with their music. As someone that was a part of that crowd, I can safely say that there was no indication that anyone was waiting idly by for Openside to finish, there was an indescribable amount of energy that seemed to hit those on stage like a tidal wave. You know, the good kind. The kind that doesn’t drown people and swallow entire villages.
The boys take their music very seriously, but they are far from being serious people, making them incredibly easy and fun to be around. They take a few seconds to laugh at a life sized model horse being clumsily manoeuvred down a narrow staircase, and a cow whose face has been blurred out for privacy on Google Earth. In all honesty, their dry humour often makes it difficult to know whether or not they are messing with you, and the chances are, they probably are. When asked what kind of music that they listen to, Harry immediately jumps in with “jazz” before PJ retorts with “Orjazzm” and they all laugh before shedding light on what the hell they’re going on about.
“We met this guy last night and he was like ‘ahh I was in a jazz band called Orjazzm’”
In reality, their musical tastes of today range from rap to metal. Going back though, they mention pop punk classics such as Yellowcard and All Time Low, the former of which they were able to support alongside Mayday Parade in Christchurch last year. George called it a “full circle moment” after having listened to them for as long as he can remember, deciding that has been his favourite support slot so far in their career. Today, though, they’re more inclined to listen to genres that take them away from the music that they write, but the eclecticism of their music taste can be frustrating, often leading them to wish they could use aspects of other genres that wouldn’t fit with their current sound.
“It’s a bit annoying cause you’ll listen to a Travis Scott song and you’ll be like ahh that’s so cool, I really wanna do something like that and then you’re like oh wait, I can’t do that I’m in a pop punk band.” – PJ
Branching out is something that will come with time though, and Openside already feel as though they are in a transition phase, with Letting It Out being the prime example of what they’re heading for in their next EP. Back in June, Possum mentioned the boys’ high level of professionalism, and the fact that they are even thinking about their next release shows that they’re not a band that just rests on their current successes. Less than 30 minutes after reaching number 1 and they are already talking about how they can improve themselves. Whatever expectations the fans may have, they are bound to be exceeded.
As far as touring goes, the boys are currently remaining tight lipped about any possible plans for a headline tour, but they definitely know more than they’re letting on right now, exchanging cheeky glances, and ominously telling us all to “stay tuned”. I would advise you to do just that.
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