Oneida - In the eye of fear
Oneida's Fat Bobby cooks up a batch of Albõndigas
There can never be too much musical mind expansion, so if you dig clamping the headphones on and letting music take you on a little trip after a good blast from the bong then you must check out Oneida’s The Wedding. With psychedelic bands constantly re-inventing the word, Oneida proves to be one of the trippiest bands out there. Heads talked to singer/organist/guitarist Fat Bobby while he was cooking up a batch of Albõndigas.
Heads Lifestyle: Do you think it’s short-sighted when people describe Oneida as a psychedelic band?
Fat Bobby: My take on that is this: Oneida as individuals and as a band don’t condone drug use nor do we despise those who chose to explore their consciousness through drugs. When people describe us as psychedelic it depends on how people mean it and how they use it. We’re making music that is supposed to give you a slightly different version of things with a different outlook. We like to pry into the thing that you want to write music about, lever it apart and see what it feels like to be in there and then replicating that feeling and make music. In the broad sense that is psychedelic in the sense that it requires a translocation of your consciousness. If people call us psychedelic in the right spirit because we embrace what a lot of people may consider insanity then that’s okay. To me the psychedelic approach to making music is about going into a song without any scripture.
HL: On The Wedding you seem to have songs that are very specifically written while others seem to develop organically. Do you have different approaches to the writing?
FB: Some songs I will just write like August Morning Haze and just go in and record it, while others I will ask the other guys to help out and contribute. On songs like The Beginning Is Nigh we were just playing and it all came together after a lunch break in the studio. There is really a wide array of approaches that includes radically changing things right up until we record it.
HL: You guys seem to be really prolific, producing a remarkable catalogue of work.
FB: We move pretty fast. Sometimes we will be touring for a record and only play three songs off of it, and even they don’t sound anything like they do on the record anymore.
HL: Is it hard to keep up the discipline of releasing so much stuff?
FB: Well it’s a particular kind of discipline we have. You have to be in a band with people who want to get together and want to play as much as possible. Because we have such a collective creation process, we always have something to work on, as there is no primary songwriter in the band. We also don’t like to tour more than two months a year and that really frees us up to keep being creative. I think it’s a real albatross for a band to tour like eight months a year so they can pay their bills and when we got together we just said, Fuck that, we’ll choose day jobs to pay our bills and that way we can keep ourselves inspired.
HL: With such a psychedelic edge, are people surprised to see what you look like in real life? Not your typical psych band?
FB: Oh yeah, and when they see us, people are just freaked out about us being these clean-cut, glasses-wearing nerdy guys. We’re absurdly square looking guys, which I guess makes sense because we’re pretty square guys.
HL: Tell me about your most mind-altering drug experience?
FB: Okay when I was in high school I had what some would say is the misfortune of a bad trip, the likes of which I am really not capable of accurately describing. I had taken a bunch of acid that I thought was not as powerful as it turned out to be. In an ill-advised decision about an hour after taking the acid, I was convinced it was really weak and took a bunch more. I ended up breaking my personality down to being just a nub of consciousness. I was just utterly insane and unable to deal. When I do hallucinogenic drugs I accept the fact that I am a fucking weird person with crazy hang-ups that will be difficult to get through, which I don’t really want to translate as bad—it’s just my consciousness. I was about 17 at the time and was with another person who made the same decision but stuck around so nothing really regrettable would happen. I wish to fucking God that never happens again but it was the most powerful enlightening experience of my life. I felt like I tasted life. I said it was a “bad trip” but it wasn’t just fear, it was way beyond that. It was like I was completely taken apart and I had to re-assemble myself and it’s not like you get a lot of opportunities in life to do that. I still would never want to go through that again but that would probably be one of my most positive drug experiences I have ever had. I don’t think acid is the only way to achieve that either. I would think, with a lot of emotional and psychological discipline, there are a lot of approaches through meditative or religious ways to get to that level.
HL: So you still carry around that experience?
FB: Oh my God, I would say that it allowed me to be who I am.
HL: After listening to the record The Wedding I have to ask if you’re smoking the cheeba?
FB: (laughs) Well, if I wasn’t a touring musician who crosses international borders I might say I occasionally do (wink! wink!). You Canadians have the best pot in the world. I have spent time in Amsterdam and Gronigen but I think the pot from Canada far exceeds anything they have over there.
HL: So you don’t get “the fear” or anything from Canadian pot?
FB: Well, I never get put into the mythological wheelchair. I get really energetic but maybe that’s because I’m in Canada. It’s okay to get the fear as long as you have the energy. I live to dive into the eye of the fear because that’s when you start a band that sounds like Oneida. We live for the fear.
Gettin’ Fat With Fat Bobby
While talking to Oneida’s Fat Bobby, each sentence was punctuated with a chop. In between the chopping of celery and cilantro, Bobby eschews on the virtues of plunging into the eye of fear, and the brilliance of Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours and their self-titled record. Bobby seems almost as passionate about cooking as he does about making music and has kindly shared his recipe for Albõndigas.
Fat Bobby’s Albõndigas
1 pound ground beef (lean)
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 red onion, finely chopped
1 cup crushed tortilla chips
1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon oregano
2 X 1/2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
A whole bunch of aromatic vegetables (2 to 3 carrots, 2 to 3 celery stalks, a fennel bulb, an onion or whatever you’re into)
6-8 cups of stock or broth (chicken stock works well)
1 can peeled whole tomatoes
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 bay leaves
Step 1. Combine beef, eggs, red onion, tortilla chips, cilantro, oregano, 1/2 teaspoon cumin, salt and pepper. Cover bowl and refrigerate for an hour or more.
Step 2. In a big pot or Dutch oven, sauté aromatic vegetables in olive oil. After 3-4 minutes, add 1 teaspoon sugar, remaining 1/2 teaspoon cumin and red pepper. Continue to cook, stirring continually, for a minute or two until you can smell the sugar start to caramelize.
Step 3. Add stock/broth, tomatoes, remaining teaspoon of sugar, and bay leaves. Crush tomatoes a little bit with a wooden spoon or whatever implements you happen to be brandishing.
Step 4. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to a simmer.
Step 5. Grab the meat mixture out of the refrigerator and start forming balls about 1 inch in diameter (or bigger is fine if that’s your pleasure). As you form each one, slip it into the simmering soup.
Step 6. Cover and simmer until the meatballs are cooked, approximately 15 to 20 minutes, maybe a little longer. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve with corn tortillas and a little cilantro sprinkled on top of each bowl of soup.
Listen on Spotify
Oneida's 2005 album "The Wedding"
This interview was originally published in Heads Magazine Vol.5 Issue 7, 2005