Backstage at the Electric Factory, the quintet known as O.A.R., all clad in blue jeans and assorted rock 'n' roll t-shirts, could easily be mistaken for a group of college kids -- the same crowd that makes up the majority of the band's fanbase. A grassroots effort, propelled almost entirely by word-of-mouth, O.A.R. is a jam band phenomenon now steered by Atlantic Records. They're all 24 or 25 years old and down to earth. As Street walks in, they are marveling at the news that saxophonist "Jerry [DePizzo] quit smoking."
Drummer Chris Culos unsuccessfully tries to explain what O.A.R. (Of A Revolution) means, saying, "It comes from a short story that Marc wrote..." But not before Roberge interrupts. Like four of the five band members, frontman Roberge grew up in Rockville, Maryland, yet he -- like his Inuit mother -- was born in Alaska: "Of a Revolution was sort of like my people's struggle." Gesturing back to Culos, he says, "I feel like they've taken it and run with it."
Indeed, Culos' vision of O.A.R.'s significance is personal: "Because we had been a rock band at a time, we had been playing covers. We had other original music, but this music was a revolution for ourselves."
O.A.R. can generate personal epiphanies, but this is not the type of band that will make waves on the air. Although the band's 2003 single "Hey Girl" garnered some radio play, an attempt at MTV exposure was laughable -- especially to the band members themselves -- and it makes sense why: "It didn't get played. It was a video, but it wasn't a video." DePizzo says, "It was basically footage of us on the road being jackasses. [They compiled] that with some live footage and were like, 'Oh hey, we got a video.'" The band is looking to make a "more MTV-esque" video with "Right on Time," which they feel is the strongest track on their latest record.
Vivacious and snarky, Roberge was probably Rockville's class clown. He's happy with the band's success, despite the grueling tour schedule: "It's part of the territory." For him, "the good news is that the shows are getting better and the kids are still excited -- and that's all that matters." Later, after several unsavory comments -- about his hemorrhoids, his personal experiences with drinking urine and a peculiar fascination with Vietnamese boys -- Roberge exclaims, "Take everything I say seriously, I'm the anchor point. It was my story"