Quit Your Day Job

Quit Your Day Job: Oneida

For the past decade, Oneida’s existed outside local trends, even their own; their ninth album Happy Near Year was trim and invigorated in its gurgling, scruffy, pastoral, psychy, Krauty concision. (“Concision” being relative and all…) Befitting the band’s longtime productivity, Oneida are also dedicated members of the worker-bee realm. They’ve discussed work before, but as far as we can tell, have never made cheeky references to Tony Danza and Gangsta’s Paradise while doing it. Maybe acknowledging this moment, the band was cool enough to pass along the unreleased “Hippy Hippy Take.” (Please note the references to “Hippy Hippy Shake,” work, and getting paid; never has a Quit Your Day Job been so conceptually tight.)

Recorded as the trio of Hanoi Jane, Kid Millions, Fat Bobby (prior to additional guitarist Double Rainbow), the song was slated to exist on one side of a split single with Canadian rockers, The Constantines. It never happened, so here’s your chance to catch half of it. Heck, if the Constantines are ready to talk — I know those guys work — maybe we can bring you the rest sometime…

Hanoi Jane (bass, guitar)

STEREOGUM: What’s your day job?

HANOI JANE: I am a family therapist.

STEREOGUM: Can you explain it a bit. What are the hours like?

HANOI JANE: I work until 8 PM a few days a week and until 5 PM the other two days. There is a lot of paperwork since the work involves kids and our funding comes from the state so I spend most mornings doing paperwork. Afternoons and evenings are usually spent in back-to-back sessions with families.

STEREOGUM: Did you go to school for it?

HANOI JANE: I went to two years of grad school to get my Masters in Social Work but this field is more like an apprenticeship process than a degree thing.

STEREOGUM: Has being a family therapist influenced your listening habits or your approach to sound?

HANOI JANE: I think my relationship with sound and working in free form within a tightly knit group (band) has heavily influenced my job. I don’t exactly throw notebooks behind my head and shred interpretations during sessions but I think that Oneida, and my relationship with music in general, makes me a better listener, and a better observer.

STEREOGUM: A standard question of mine: Are co-workers aware of Oneida?

HANOI JANE: A couple of them know of my band. One fella has heard our last CD. He doesn’t like it, though. He prefers Animal Collective. I’m going to try and get his license revoked.

STEREOGUM: Is it tough working, as a musician, in a profession in which people are encouraged to be honest? I imagine if you were a car salesman, folks might politely nod rather than tell you they don’t like your stuff…

HANOI JANE: I have not yet found a conflict between music and honesty… except when I am selling merch after a show and someone asks me which album is my favorite and I realize that we are out of that one so I have to point to the most expensive item on the table and say, “nothing holds a candle to this one. I’d just go ahead and buy two if I was you ’cause you’re gonna wear this out pretty fast.”

STEREOGUM: Any plans to quit the job?

HANOI JANE: Why would I quit a job that I just worked so hard to get? That would be like quitting Oneida except I would lose money if I quit my job.

STEREOGUM: There’s an interesting division between bands working to get out of the 9-5, and those who see it as a natural aspect of their everyday life. It has to shift the sort of music someone makes.

HANOI JANE: Well, I’m gonna take a risk here and say that the bands with the day jobs make the best music. Yep, for certain. I mean the other type of musicians are still working, but their job is music and they are trying ask you to pay for and rock out to their work. I mean, I wouldn’t go and try to charge you for therapy…


Fat Bobby a/k/a Bobby Matador (guitar, organ, vocals)

STEREOGUM: Job, please…

FAT BOBBY: I teach middle school — 7th grade history and 8th grade English. I’m teaching Romeo and Juliet right now.

STEREOGUM: How are the kids responding to it?

FAT BOBBY: 14-year old kids love Romeo and Juliet; they’re scared of the difficulty at first, and they struggle with the language, but every one of them can come through on the other side, and figure out how to relate to the story and the characters. By Act 5, they’re so much more comfortable with Elizabethan English — it’s remarkable. Adolescent minds are so flexible that they can roll with whatever they’re given, as long as you get them to buy in; and it’s so easy to buy into Romeo and Juliet: adolescent anger, control issues, wrestling with free will, attraction vs. love, all that stuff is so immediate for them. And for me too, so that’s all good.

STEREOGUM: Any texts that have flopped?

FAT BOBBY: There are definitely some short stories that aren’t universally loved — Dorothy Parker’s A Telephone Call, and James Thurber’s The Catbird Seat come to my mind right away — but I wrote the curriculum (yep, I have complete control!), and so I’ve tried to build with texts that kids can get into. I mean, sometimes they find things obscure or challenging at first, but I can usually pull them in — I take it as a personal challenge, if I can find value in a text, to get kids to see why it’s worth reading.

STEREOGUM: Do you try to overlap your two courses? Maybe talk a bit about the history class…

FAT BOBBY: I teach history to 7th graders — I do American history from the Stone Age migrations onto the North American continent up through the American Revolution. Right now (March), we’re looking at Jamestown and Plymouth, and how the first English settlements and settlers interacted with the folks who already lived here. There’s no explicit overlap with the eighth grade English curriculum, but I try to build informed skepticism and the organization of analytical thought into both curricula. I focus heavily on writing in both courses.

STEREOGUM: What’s your own school/background? Did you “always” know you wanted to be a teacher?

FAT BOBBY: No, I had no inkling at all — however, my background is fairly telling: growing up, my mom was a teacher and my dad was a school head. So was his dad. I guess I was just in denial about my destiny…

STEREOGUM: Feel any sort of camaraderie with Robert Pollard?

FAT BOBBY: Ha ha — he’s definitely an inspiration, although I think he and I went at the teaching/rock divide in opposite directions, if you think about it.

STEREOGUM: Does being around the kids influence your listening habits?

FAT BOBBY: The job doesn’t influence my listening habits, precisely, but it’s intensely inspirational in that I spend so much time around adolescents. Their imagination and energy is profound; their outlook on life is simultaneously cynical, innocent and confused; and when their enthusiasm is sparked, it’s monomaniacal. All of this is huge to me, and clearly affects how I approach music.

STEREOGUM: Since you spent so much time around adolescents, do you feel like you have an especial finger on the pulse of youth culture, popular radio, the lingo, etc.? I wonder if this has, maybe subtly, snuck its way into Oneida’s sound.

FAT BOBBY: Ha — not really, as far as youth culture goes. I mean, I hear the slang and I see what’s in favor in a particular subculture, but it kind of bounces off of me. A bunch of the eighth grade boys in the current class are serious classic rock heads, just discovering stuff like Dinosaur and the Pixies, and jam bands too, and all that stuff is one and the same to them, along with Zeppelin and Hendrix and Floyd — as it should be! — which is great for perspective. What’s much more powerful for me, though, is spending time around voraciously open-minded people; at that age, any conversation can be profound, any idea goes, and so much is new, intellectually and emotionally, that the energy is unbelievable — it totally keeps me engaged with the world, idealistic, omnivorous. I really like kids, and there’s a huge part of me that’s childlike in what I consider positive ways. Working with kids reminds me that cynicism is the most naïve thing in the world.

STEREOGUM: Does it make you feel like, well, a Dinosaur to see Dinosaur and the Pixies linked with classic rock?

FAT BOBBY: No. That stuff was always going to be classic rock, and it was always related to it, and I always liked Zeppelin and Hendrix and Neil Young, too. I feel like music is a continuum — everything is linked in some ways we can’t even see yet, and it takes new minds to see how they’re linked. That’s why the great myth of punk rock is so fucked up and ultimately laughable. You know, ELO and Abba were always just as cool as the Ramones and the Buzzcocks, and it takes kids who couldn’t give a flying fuck what some old beard-stroker has to say about it to point out what really should be obvious to everyone.

STEREOGUM: I imagine it’s tough balancing the band and the job, though I guess being a teacher at least ensures some free months in the summer and weekends.

FAT BOBBY: Yep, it’s tough — but everything worthwhile is tough in its way, so we just stay determined and figure out how all our lives can fit together. It’s like a puzzle where the pieces are changing all the time. But you know, boo hoo, poor us — we do lots of stuff we like…

STEREOGUM: I always have to ask this … Are the kids or co-workers aware of the band?

FAT BOBBY: My coworkers and students are aware of what I do, but it’s only a small subsection (a few kids and a teacher or two) who are really aware of what the music is like, what my life might be like, etc. — but they know enough to be jealous when I fly to Greece for a Saturday night show over a long weekend, ho ho ho.

STEREOGUM: Would you ever quit the job?

FAT BOBBY: I have no interest whatsoever in quitting this job; in fact, I took it specifically because it’s important to me.

STEREOGUM: I asked Hanoi Jane this, too: There’s an interesting division between bands working to get out of the 9-5 and those who see it as a natural aspect of their everyday life. Do you have any thoughts about these differences?

FAT BOBBY: Well, I don’t really think I can speak for others in this case — this is a really personal situation. But for me, and for Oneida as a unit, it’s crucial to keep a life going, to keep things that matter on your plate. Music is so fundamentally important to me that I can’t see myself being happy in a situation where I might have to use it in some way that I’m not psyched about. Also, I want to be able to think and talk about things other than whether the load-in at Gabe’s Oasis in Iowa City is worse than the load-in at Ft. Thunder was. Although that’s also a conversation I enjoy….

STEREOGUM: Ever watch those inspirational teacher/student movies? Like the tough kid finds a way. The rugged teacher wins over the school, etc. You know the type: They often involve a scene of slow clapping or a number of hands raised to the swells of a moving soundtrack. Do you ever feel like that teacher?

FAT BOBBY: No, I don’t watch those movies, unless Coolio is in them. You know, that album with “Gangsta’s Paradise” is actually pretty fun. I own that shit.

STEREOGUM: Or, have you ever tried any grandiose conceptual pedagogical things like, say, Jack Black in School of Rock? You know, showing the kids teamwork by making a band. I’m obviously fixated on film right now…

FAT BOBBY: Well, I helped a band here at my school organize a benefit concert from which they donated the proceeds to Music Rising, a charity that benefits New Orleans musicians who lost instruments in Katrina. It was their choice of charity; I just took care of logistics. Of course, this wasn’t a curricular project — I like to keep rock and roll away from the curriculum, although it’s damn hard to keep eighth graders from analyzing Fall Out Boy lyrics during a poetry unit…

STEREOGUM: How do you think your students view you? I mean, the hip guy, the taskmaster, that Dead Poet’s Society guy…

FAT BOBBY: Thanks god I never saw Dead Poet’s Society. I think that if my students view me as any Robin Williams character, I’m probably more the dude from Moscow on the Hudson. Maybe a little Mork in there, too. I’m not really an easy teacher; it’s hard to get an A in my class. Other than that, we get along pretty well, I think. As long as they know who’s the boss. It ain’t me, it’s Tony Danza.

STEREOGUM: After students graduate do they come back to see you?

FAT BOBBY: If they know what’s good for them, they’ll never look back. Things that looked huge in your early years always look a little smaller later on, you know?

STEREOGUM: Who was your favorite high-school instructor?

FAT BOBBY: I’d rather go further back and shout out to Mr. Garrison, my 7th grade history and English teacher. A great guy, sort of tough on me, and a tremendous mixture of challenging and interesting. Also, he played the drums in my first band.

Oneida – “Hippy Hippy Take” (MP3)
Oneida – “Up With People” (MP3)

Happy New Year is available on Jagjaguwar.

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Tags: Oneida