After fifteen years apart Mike Nicholson and Brian Reeves have reunited to form The O.D’s and release their new album Grand Union Connection.
The album celebrates the West London Blues sound and has been going down well with critics and fans alike.
I caught up with Mike and Brian to talk about the new record, getting back together and what lies ahead.
- Your new album is Grand Union Connection so for anyone who hasn't heard the record yet what can we expect from it?
Brian: Well what we have been trying to do is trying to bring about what we call the next generation or the reincarnation of the Wes London Blues sound.
We are not from the sixties so our influences are wide ranging so it’s a cross between the sixties Blues with a bit of seventies Americana thrown in.
- Well you have touched on my next question really there's some Blues in there and a sixties and seventies feel so I was wondering where you fascination with this genre and this sound came from?
Brian: Ever since I started playing guitar at fifteen there was a guy called Elmore James, an American Blues artist, and he is what made me want to learn guitar.
Mike: I was born on the Tyne in Whitby Bay and so it was bands like The Animals and stuff like, really gritty Blues that did it for me really.
- Who are your major musical influences now?
Brian: For us it’s quite a wide variety but you can pin point it down to The Yardbirds, The Animals, Muddy Waters and in particular Fleetwood Mac have a big influence on us.
When you listen to us it’s not a direct copy because we didn’t want to be another Blues cover band playing dad’s music if you were we wanted to move it on and evolve it to the next stage. So that is really what we tried to do with this album.
Mike: We are trying to make the Blues currently basically.
- Are there any modern bands that you are currently enjoying?
Brian: I am loving the Black Keys at the moment. I saw them in Austin a couple of years ago and they just blew me away with their style and their rhythm.
But there is a song that we have called Huber and that was the song that came out of seeing them played live. But we are also loving what Alabama Shakes are doing at the moment.
- You penned the album with before forming the band so can you tell me how the O.D's came together.
Mike: Basically Brian and I were in a band, more of a rocky band, in the nineties in West London and that is how we first met. We went on tour and did the rock and roll thing and then the band split up a months later (laughs).
After fifteen years apart Brian went and worked on different projects and I worked mainly developing writing and worked for different studio houses and working on some quite interesting stuff from different music genres.
But then my soul was destroyed writing music for everybody else and I had a yearning so it took me three months to track Brian down after fifteen years of not speaking and eighteen months later we are back on the road again and writing great music.
- As you say you were in a band called Chaser in the nineties so when did you decide to get back together? And how have you found working with him again?
Mike: For me personally I was properly in the pop world as I worked on a girl R&B album for Nick Talbot, who is great producer and a good friend of mine new because of it, and it destroyed my soul so I to find that and get it back out of me. I realised that age is not a defining factor in the music industry… Brian: He just missed me.
Mike: There was always an unfinished page. And we are such good writers together I mean we can write all day.
Brian: When we got back together again we just got back together and had a few beers and a laugh. We had a jam and Mike remembered more of the old songs than I did, I couldn’t even remember half of them.
But something just clicked and we just work really well together; I will bring the music and Mike will bring the vocal melody and then we will argue about the lyrics (laughs).
- You have both had your days in Chaser and been working on other projects since that band ended so how has all that prepared you for moving on to the O.D’s?
Brian: For me I managed to explore the outer edges of music as I was working with a dance produce and a DJ doing electronic and that sort of thing and that took me away from the guitar for a while.
I don’t mind telling you but I got into a relationship with my now ex-wife, we met on a video shoot that I was doing, and when we got divorced I went back into a period of self-realisation and rediscovered myself. So there was a lot of getting back to the guitar and I could really be who I was.
At the time I was working any job I could get as I tried to live the regular/ordinary life but that didn’t really suit. For me it built up a lot of anguish and the music just came out - a lot of our music is about relationships and relationships breaking down.
Mike: I believe that everything happens for a reason and so for me everything was coming to this point anyway which will just drive it on further.
- The album is self produced so why did you decide to go down this path?
Brian: I have worked with a few bands before and I have worked for a few producers, Sasha the dance DJ and a guy called Phil Brown, you can work with a producer and your vision of what the sound is is sometimes completely different.
You have to hand over what means a lot to you and what is close to your heart to this person and invariably when it comes back it’s not always what you want to hear.
We wanted to go with a lot of older style recording techniques where we used single recording techniques and we don’t know any producers that we wanted to work with that shared out vision so we created it ourselves.
We did have some help from one of the band members Brian Beaver as he is an absolute wizard at mastering so he helped a lot with shaping the sound after it was recorded.
- As you say you couldn’t find a producer who shared your vision so did you find having the creative freedom to go off and make the kind of music that you wanted?
Brian: We probably worked a lot slower and spent more money on the recording studios but we have quite an open relationship and if Mike doesn’t like it he will tell me.
Mike: Then he will try and persuade me for the next five days.
Brian: I will write a song for three or four weeks and then every time we get into the studio for a writing session I will just continuously play Mike the one song.
Mike: We have the freedom to do whatever he want so we are not restricted in what instruments we want to use of how we want to record it.
- There is quite a vintage sound to the album so how have you found the reaction to the new material from fans?
Brian: It has been really positive.
Mike: Yeah really positive.
Brian: for example when we were going out looking for a PR company we were talking to various contacts that we had but we had never worked with the guys at Quite Great. But their reaction was fantastic.
People like the fact that we are trying to keep the West London Blues sound alive and so it has been fantastic, even from friends we know we are getting comments like ‘love it’ ‘best album yet’. I think a lot of people expect it to be your typical and standard Blues album.
Mike: a lot of people are saying that the album is like a journey because there are different emotions and different music sounds.
- You penned the album along with Mike so what are you major influences from a song-writing perspective?
Brian: Women (Laughs)
Mike: Women and relationships
Brian: Girlfriends and ex-wives. I am in the best relationship I could be in at the moment; in fact I am expecting my first child in October.
Brian: Thank you. I am absolutely over the moon. Going from relationship where my wife and I become strangers, we were just housemates and it became a very strained relationship.
It’s going from that to finding you perfect partner and the person that you want to spend the rest of your life with. So really it’s personal relationships and women who drive most of what we do to be honest (laughs).
- So how did the pair of you get into music and the industry in the first place?
Mike: From a young age I taught myself guitar but I use to love different types of stuff such as Elvis and then I bought a Beatles book and worked on a load of different formulas and lots of different styles of music. For me it was quite easy because I can write in the pop world, I would write four songs s night, so I have got a range of song-writing techniques that I use from brain storming to word scramble.
Brian: Why the music business? It was really the only thing that I was good at to be honest as when I was at school I wasn’t the academic type - if you read my school report it would say ‘if Brian spent less time staring out of the window he would probably do really well’.
For me it is the freedom to be yourself and really be really honest behind the music and the lyrics. Music is one of the most free forms of expression that you can have as you can communicate to so many people and it has given us so many extraordinary experiences as well.
I have known a lot of people who have come into the music industry and then moved out again because for them it didn’t hold that spell binding factor for them.
I on the other hand can go into studio with my guitar at 8pm and before you know it’s one o’clock in the morning - you lose yourself and the rest of the world just disappears and you can create your own world.
Also when you get up on stage that’s just super addictive - when people applaud it’s amazing but when people don’t applaud it’s soul destroying.
- You have both been in the industry for quite some time from your days in Chaser to now so how have you see it change in that time and has it changed for the better?
Brian: Yeah it is much better now.
Mike: It is much freer now.
Brian: When we starting out mangers, agents and record companies wanted to know did you have a perfect set of abs? Can you dance? And can you sing high harmonies? For us…
Mike: It was all about the music.
Brian: Yes it is all about the music and we wanted to go down the tradition route of playing three hour sets on a Sunday afternoon and then another on a Sunday night and doing that week in and week out.
It’s much better now because of the emergence of the internet you can get your stuff out there and it’s great to see guitar band back and us trying to get the West London Blues scene up and running again. I think it’s much healthier now, what do you think Mike?
Mike: People can view you anywhere in the world and there are no limits anymore and record companies don’t have a hold over people anymore.
Brian: I think that the potential of amazing music to come out from your bedroom producers is there now as people have the opportunity - there is more opportunity now than there ever was.
- Finally what's next for you - are we going to be able to see you perform live this summer?
Brian: Yeah we are going to be doing a mini tour up in the north so we will be visiting Manchester, Leeds, and Halifax. And we have some gigs coming up in the West Country as well. We are planning on getting out there and trying to sell the music so we can get busy on the next album.
We were in the studio today writing a new track so it’s promoting what we have got out there at the moment through people like yourselves and focusing on album number two.
The OD’s new album Grand Union Connection is out now
FemaleFirst Helen Earnshaw