“Well, a lot of people began to find out about us through the Internet,” explains vocalist Ryen Slegr backstage at the Vans Warped Tour in L.A., referring to their self-designed website ozmaonline.com. “The website definitely helped us out a lot in that we developed a small national fanbase.” Indeed, the Internet played a crucial role in the creation of Ozma, bassist Daniel insisting he wouldn’t have even met the rest of the band if it weren’t for the Internet. (“We were from different sides of the track – these guys went to the private schools and I went to the public school.”)
While still at school, Ozma, completed by Pat Edwards (drums), Jose Galvez (guitar) and the beautifully sweet Star Wick (Keyboards), started playing anywhere they could, which in the conservative LA bible belt town of Pasadena, meant a club-cum-Christian coffee shop. Initial reactions were pretty good, their music was fun, it was loud, it was energetic and the local kids thought of it as the “big party” every time they played. As a result a supportive, loyal fanbase began to form.
“The first time we played the Whisky in Hollywood we practically sold it out because we had all our friends from every school converge there”, enthuses Ryen. “Daniel was only 15, so that’s kinda crazy!” Pretty soon a power-pop scene started to develop at the old Alligator Lounge where they formed a clique with Chopper 1 (ex-Weezer)’s band Rido High, Teen Heroes and Phantom Planet. They began to make a name for themselves and by providing free MP3s via their website their fanbase returned the favour by landing them a support slot on the aforementioned 20-date Weezer tour. Which is particularly apt considering Weezer’s key influence on Ozma’s sound. “We really looked up to their style of music” asserts Ryen.
“My parents got me into Bob Dylan, The Beatles, The Beach Boys and stuff like that,” continues Daniel. “When I discovered Smashing Pumpkins, Nirvana and Weezer they really opened my eyes I think, to a new, harder style and I tried to incorporate it I guess.”
The ever experimental Ozma took a bigger leap on their second full length album ‘The Doubble Donkey Disc’, where wide-ranging influences were adapted to create two different themes which split the album into two EPs.
Daniel: “Well, the first five songs were supposed to be kind of a Russian theme. Ryen and I both went to UCLA together for a while and I was in like Theory & Composition classes so I was getting into these composers that I had never heard about before, like Schostakovich and Provokiev and Tchaikovsky, all these really great Russian composers. That kind of melodic style, that sound just impressed us I think and we wanted to try to incorporate it into rock songs. And so we covered the music from Tetris (Korobeniniki) which is a traditional Russian folk song and stuck that in there.
“The Second half of Doubble Donkey Disc was kind of a lesser formed idea that we all wanted to write a song from the standpoint of our booty alter ego or something, like our dj aliases and it’s kind of a thin theme but it still holds together I think.”
“No good reason,” shrugs Ryen. “We had a demo that we wanted to start giving to people but we had to put a name on it so we sat down and forced ourselves to come up with a name. One day at Patrick’s house we were looking through the bookcase and his parents have a load of Wizard of Oz books that are really old. We took one out and saw the name ‘Ozma, The Princess of Oz’ and we put it on the tape.”
Daniel: “On this tour actually, someone came up to us and showed us a tattoo they have on their back of the Princess Ozma illustration from the books.”
You have all been to college and have an academic background so do you all feel comfortable touring with Ozma full-time or would you rather choose a vocation more suited to your academic backgrounds?
“Well, there’s time for everything I think,” explains Daniel. “I mean, school will always be there. I think we’re all planning to graduate and go to graduate school even, for the things we’re interested in at some point but for now it’s just we’re young and it’s a good opportunity to see different places in the world and play our music.”
As innovative as they are daring Ozma are a band that feeds on far too many divergent influences to be pigeonholed into a neat little scene. However, those with a love for Weezer-esque 'geek rock' melodies curtailed with keyboard effects and crunching guitars will definitely find a place in their heart for them.
Their second full length, 'The Doubble Donkey Disc' is out now on Kung Fu Records.