MUSIC Ohio-born O.A.R. returns for concert in Cleveland

The band has poured its heart into its new album, 'Stories of a Stranger.'
CLEVELAND -- The learning curve is over, the training wheels are off and the time is now for jam-band/adult rock act O.A.R. (a k a Of a Revolution), which is currently finishing up its seventh studio album "Stories of a Stranger" in time for an Oct. 4 release date.
A product of its own grass-roots success, O.A.R. formed while its members attended Ohio State. From there, the band toured incessantly, sold thousands upon thousands of CDs, grew its audience one concert at a time and eventually -- after it needed the promotional support only a major label could provide -- signed with Lava Records for its 2003 major label debut "In Between Now and Then." Now, however, things are different.
"We've accomplished a lot but I think this record is something special," said bassist Benj Gershman, calling from a tour stop in Boston. "It's not like a lot of the crap that is out there. It's music that appeals to a lot of different kinds of people, not only age groups but musical backgrounds. And for people who don't think we write songs of any substance or meaning, I think if they can listen to this record and say that, then they have no idea what a good song is. Because I think this album is full of them, I really think that. I'm not trying to be cocky. It is what it is."
Album energy
In case you missed it, there's a chip on the band member's shoulder the size of a small radio. Critics and radio programmers have suggested O.A.R. is more of a touring college band than a source of radio-friendly hits. Sure, there are plenty of groups who have succeeded without radio, but the members of O.A.R. have taken this critique, whether legitimate or not, to heart on "Stories of a Stranger."
Teaming up with former Talking Heads musician and current producer Jerry Harrison (Live), the five-piece immersed itself into this album like no other.
Songwriting was dissected, studio performances were scrutinized and nothing was taken for granted. Gershman believes songs such as its lead single "The Stranger," "Wonderful Day" and "One Shot" bode well for the album's success.
"It's knowing what needs to be accomplished in the studio and knowing how to do that," Gershman said. "It's also having people who bring certain elements to the table and know how to bring certain things out of you.
I'm not bashing anybody previously. We did great things, I just think the representation of our music is captured just phenomenally on this record."
Not snubbing Cleveland
A firm believer that everything happens for a reason, Gershman said he views the band's earlier albums as steppingstones toward their eventual success.
One area where the band continues to succeed is touring, which includes a show Wednesday at the Tower City Amphitheater.
One difference this time for its return engagement to Northeast Ohio is the band's popular one-off Feeling Better Than Everfine Festival is being staged in Chicago this summer, not Cleveland as it had been for the last two years.
"We grew up in Ohio and we had great things happen there and we love it but birds have to fly out of their nest," Gershman said.
"It's not a knock on Cleveland. We're coming there to play, we're just not having the festival there."
He added, "You guys have the Hall of Fame. Calm down."

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