Conversations with an Android: Featuring Andy Burris from Odd Robot.
Andy Burris of Odd Robot bringing it @ Tiki Bar. Photo courtesy: Myself
Hello and Happy New Year to all of you out there on the interwebs. I’ve got a lot of good things planned for myself on this platform for this year so please stay tuned.
Alright. Brass tacks time.
Ever since I first saw them play at the inaugural OC Sellout Fest, their songs and albums always seem to find a way into my auditory canals for long spans of time. Their songs are contagious and rarely go beyond three minutes…..
Truth be told, I was going to review their debut album (A Late Night Panic) but after a couple of hours, I decided what I had written so far was absolute trash. I’ve been writing long enough to know when to quit. And it was well past that time.
Doubt engulfed me. I didn’t like it. Could come up with anything worthy of your time? This ran its course for a few days until I realized that I followed Odd Robot on Instagram. Would Andy consent to be interviewed by me? I’ve interacted with Andy a few times. He’s very approachable when I’ve stopped by to say hello before or after their set. I nervously gulped as I typed out a short DM asking if he would be available for an interview. He agreed without a pause.
The following is what went down…,.
Key- GSH: Me. The Interviewer. AB: Andy Burris.
GSH: How did Odd Robot get its name?
AB: My stage name in a former band was Android. So the name sort of plays off of that theme. And I always thought vintage toy robots were cool, so there’s lots we can do with artwork and merchandise.
(Author’s Note- No reason as to why he goes third person here. It’s Meta.)
Mike (Mike Doherty) and Andy played together in a band called Longfellow. Longfellow played a reunion show a few years back. Andy showed Mike some demo songs that he had been sitting on. Mike and Andy jammed songs with a temporary drummer. The (rehearsal) space was a block away from a strip club. We saw some stripper drop some dudes motorcycle once. Andy helped her pick it up. The dude was really mad about his bike. Andy asked Dave (Member of The Maxies/ Undercover Monsters) for any drummers who could play well and weren’t annoying. We went to a New Way On show and stole Damian from them. Did our first and second records as a 3-piece. Mike started touring with The Ataris a lot so Logan started filling in on bass. Logan puts the U in FUN so Andy asked him to join the band and Mike moved to guitar.
Nate Phung played glockenspiel on a song (I’m pretty sure it’s Take Me Away.) and keys on another. So we invited him to jam for a livestream and he joined the band because out upcoming record is gonna have a lot of organ and keys on it.
GSH: What artists/songs/albums got you thinking that you could be in a band?
AB: First song I heard that made me want to play guitar was Money for Nothing by Dire Straits. I built a fake guitar out of plywood, nails and string when I was 9 years old. When I was 13 my friend got a guitar. I learned how to play Proud Mary very badly and with terrible form. I got my own guitar a year later and learned Zeppelin, Metallica, Scorpions, etc.
GSH: Could you describe your creative process when it comes to songwriting.
AB: A lyric and melody will pop into my head. Sometimes I’m playing a guitar, but usually I’m driving or in the shower, The I record the little snippet in my phone. I’ve got tons of these. Eventually I sit down and go through them, putting chords to it. Then I match parts together for verses and chorus parts.
GSH: Do you prefer how word or phrase sounds? Like how Kurt Cobain wrote lyrics?
AB: I’m big on phrasing and counting syllables for sure. I figure out the melody of the vocals and then start playing with words that fit the phrasing. I’m always counting off the syllables in the first verse on my fingers and then make sure they second verse nails the same phrasing if I can.
I try and have each song tell a story. Or at least be about some sort of interesting metaphor and keep that going through the song, Especially on the songs I’m working on for the new record.
GSH: I’ve totally noticed that. And honestly, that was what sucked me in. What would you consider your most indispensable piece of gear?
AB: My guitar for sure. I’ve owned so many over the years but, this Les Paul is something special. I’m a Les Paul guy but one thing I hate about them is the painted necks. I always sand the finish off the back of the neck to make it feel smoother. Sweaty hands and painted surfaces don’t mix. Haha. I play the Epiphione Les Pauls’ because the American ones are awfully expensive.
GSH: So pragmatism is a key element in selecting your gear?
AB: Absolutely. I used to beat the shit out of guitars so I played $200 ones with a $150 pickup in it. Haha. I only play decent tube amps. Solid state amps sound like garbage. Vintage gear rules. I have a Marshall amp from the 80’s. That is the best sounding amp I’ve ever played or heard.
GSH: But you played a full-on Orange rig at Fest last year.
AB: I did. Not a fan. They’re overrated and sound lousy to me. No definition on the low end and they’re mostly dark and noisy.
GSH: Reckon that’s why all the doom guys adore them.
AB: Logan said: “These amps sound so…Orange.” (So totally Logan.) I talked crap and someone shouted “They’re a sponsor!”
AB: But whatever. They weren’t sponsoring my band. Just the festival. You can talk shit when you’ve got nothing to lose. We just do this for grins.
GSH: What’s on your pedalboard?
AB: Not much going on down there at the moment. My RAT pedal broke and I got tired of my octave pedal. So right now, it’s in transition. Just a cheap Amazon boost pedal and a boss tuner. I’m itching to get a delay pedal, a reverb and a vibrato soon. More than likely the next record will use some of those sounds.
GSH: How hard is it to be in a punk rock band in this day and age?
AB: It’s very tough these days. Especially in Southern California. Because popular music rarely features overdriven guitars anymore. Among rap, pop and alternative genres, guitar driven rock is all but dead. Which is kind of cool, actually. Punk has fallen back into obscurity, right where it belongs. The mid-90’s punk explosion was a fluke.
GSH: What is your gig day routine?
AB: On gig days, I wake up with a stomach ache and spend way too much time getting my gear together and cleaning up my guitar. Arrive at the venue just late enough to miss any decent parking. Crack a couple cold ones with the boys to calm the nerves. By the time we get halfway through the first song, I finally chill out and ask myself: “What was I all worked up about?”
We keep saying that we’re going to do espresso shots right before we play-like the Descendants do. And we always forget to do that.
GSH: Who’s floating you boat musically these days?
AB: Honestly, I’ve been super lazy about scouting new music lately. Honey Revenge are really good. Incredible pop songs. I’ve been digging into modern bluegrass and country a tiny bit. Artists like Jesse Daniel and Sturgill Simpson. Which I believe might have an impact on our next record. It’s going to be a bit more diverse than the first two.
GSH: That’s cool. Weezer had a bit of C&W influence. But not where anybody could pick it out. Has social media hindered or helped local musicians/scenes?
AB: I think it’s a blessing and a curse. On one hand, it’s made it possible to reach more people. That has helped us gain fans across the globe. On the other hand, we’re guilty of being lazy and robotic about social media. Meaning we don’t do enough with the tools we have. And it has become more difficult to get one’s attention on social media. This has made attention spans much worse for live shows!
GSH: Alright! I think we've got it. What are we going to see from Odd Robot this year?
AB: We're working on a new record: Deathmates. We've been playing that track live. With any luck, lots of new merch and a couple of new videos.
END OF INTERVIEW
I just want to personally thank Andy for taking the time to let me interview him. Go listen to Odd Robot on Spotify/Apple Music/Pandora. Better yet, go see them live. Just watch out for Logan. LOL. And if you do see them live, buy some merch.