Anyone from this area already knows the local-dudes-done-good story of O.A.R. Hailing from Rockville, they have made an international name for themselves through their occasionally reggae-influenced textures, jam band aesthetics and catchy pop hooks. The band will be performing at the Event Center at the Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races in Charles Town, West Virginia, on both Friday and Saturday, and we caught up with the band’s guitar player, Richard On, for 13 questions, including why they went to Ohio State University, their recent work with WWE and a new album they plan to release in 2019.
1. First, let’s start with you, and a little background. From what I understand, you came to the band not too long after Marc and Chris had already founded the project. Can you recall what brought you into O.A.R. and how everything came about?
Our musical roots together actually predates O.A.R. In eighth grade (1993), Marc and Chris approached me to play guitar in their band for the talent show. Under the name “Exposed Youth,” with a different bass player, we performed together for the first time playing a series of Pearl Jam and Eric Clapton covers. That’s when we first caught the rock-n-roll bug. As we entered high school, we disbanded and played in a bunch of different bands. Fast forward to 11th grade, Marc and Chris approached me again to come jam with a new bass player they found (Benj Gershman). When we got together, everything just clicked. The sound we made was fresh and exciting to me. I felt like I finally found something musical that I wanted to be a part of.
2. When did you initially pick up the guitar and why?
I picked up the guitar around 11 years old. Up until then, my aunt was teaching me piano lessons along with my older brother. He discovered Zeppelin, quit and started playing guitar. One day, he put headphones on me with the riff from “Black Dog” playing. He told me that you can’t sound like that on piano. The rest is history.
3. Who are some of your favorite guitar players? Was there anyone you tried to model yourself after as a player and why?
Of course the legends — Clapton, Hendrix, Page, Beck. Anything Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks play is always transcendent to me. There are also young guys like Mark Lettieri and Cory Wong who are doing unbelievable stuff in the funk world. Everything they play puts a smile on my face. As far as true influences on my playing, The Edge, John Fruciante and Robert Smith from The Cure really shaped my taste in melody and songwriting.
4. From what I understand, you attended Ohio State University. Why Ohio State and not, say, the University of Maryland?
Being one of the largest schools in the country with tons of bars and places to play, we simply saw more opportunity at OSU.
5. You guys have been together for more than 20 years now, and for the most part, the original lineup is in tact. What’s the secret to staying together for so long?
The original lineup has always been in tact, except that we’ve added Mikel Paris (keys, percussion, vocals) and Jon Lampley (trumpet, vocals) to our live show and studio recordings. The key to our longevity has always been based off of love, friendship and respect for each other.
6. You also have eight studio albums to your credit. Do you have a personal favorite and why?
“All Sides” is my personal favorite. We recorded it at the legendary Sound City Studios in Van Nuys with producer Matt Wallace. We were staying in Los Angeles, driving to the studio every morning and leaving well past midnight. We had three different recording rigs going at the same time so everyone was always writing, creating and recording. The whole process and environment was so inspiring. And to top it off, Metallica was recording across the parking lot with Rick Rubin!
7. You guys were recently part of a WWE event. How did that come about and can you talk a little about that experience as a whole?
They invited us down to Monday Night Raw to discuss and promote our partnership to raise funds and awareness for Connor’s Cure, which was created by Stephanie McMahon and Paul “Triple H” Levesque to support pediatric brain and spinal chord cancer research. Through our Heard The World Fund, a portion of every ticket sold on our Just Like Paradise tour will benefit Connor’s Cure, so know if you come to a show, you’re also supporting pediatric cancer research.
8. You guys are famously from Maryland. For you, personally, what’s the most Maryland thing about you?
I am a professional blue crab eater.
9.Being from the D.C. area, we know the Caps just won the Stanley Cup. Which title would mean the most to you for the next area champion — a Super Bowl from the Redskins, an NBA title from the Wizards or the World Series from the Nats?
I don’t really root for teams. I root for friends and the teams they happen to play on. Zim is a great guy and great player. I would love to see him win a World Series with the Nationals.
10. What are the three things you couldn’t tour without?
FaceTime, pictures that my kids draw me, and green tea.
11. From your travels, what’s the best meal you’ve encountered and from where is it?
We could probably do an entire interview strictly based on the best meals I’ve had in my travels. One that’s fresh in my head from a recent day off in Little Rock, Arkansas, is a Chinese noodle and dumpling place called Three Fold Noodles + Dumpling Co. I would have never thought “Little Rock” and “good Chinese food,” but their flavors were on point. Get the pork half and half bowl, which comes with noodles and dumplings, poison chili sauce and fried sesame balls if you have room for dessert.
12. You guys are playing the Hollywood Casino in Charles Town — what’s your favorite casino game?
You’d think me being in a band that has a song about poker, I’d be an avid gambler, but I don’t gamble out all. I lost $100 in a slot machine over 10 years ago and I’m still salty about it.
13. Finally, what’s next for O.A.R.? I know you guys released a new song earlier this year — is a new LP in the works after this tour is over?
We are currently writing and recording new music for a full length album to release next year. It is tentatively called “The Mighty.”