It's always nice to see individuals or groups giving the their input towards a relief effort and Omotai are no exception. Having provided a track for the Hurricane Harvey Benefit Compilation, this Texas unit are committed to bringing charity to those affected by the hurricane in late August / early September.
GMA had to catch up with the guys to talk about this sensational venture, their origins and the extreme weather Texas has to deal with, that being tornadoes as well as hurricanes.
Vocalist / Guitarist Jamie Ross gave the honours.
"Just the sheer number of people that lost everything is hard to wrap one's head around [from Hurricane Harvey]"
Hi guys, firstly could you give us a brief history of how Omotai came about as a band? What does the name mean?
"It all started back in 2010, when Sam Waters (vocals / guitars) enlisted the help of Melissa Lonchambon Ryan (vocals / bassist) and then-drummer Anthony Vallejo to record the debut EP, Peace Through Fear. That line-up remained unchanged through the next two releases, 2012's Terrestrial Grief (the debut full-length) and 2014's Fresh Hell--both released on local label The Treaty Oak Collective. I joined the line-up as a second guitarist in 2013, pretty soon following the recording of Fresh Hell, but prior to its release.
Anthony left soon after, his final show being at a 2014 SXSW appearance. Danny Mee took over drumming duties in time to complete some touring in support of Fresh Hell in 2014 and 2015. We've been hard at work ever since, writing and recording our latest double LP, A Ruined Oak, which is set to debut on October 6th on Tofu Carnage Records. A West Coast excursion is planned to promote the record. The name Omotai is the Japanese word for "heavy," which Sam felt was an apt designation given the artistic direction of the band. Credit for the idea goes to our friend Evan Jones, who taught English in Japan for a spell."
Would you say that the 2017 hurricane season has been one of the worst in recent years?
"Most definitely. Sam's family tragically lost their home in the Bellaire section of Houston, which was hit especially hard. The season would have been horrific enough if Harvey and its aftermath were the extent of it. But Irma came along and devastated much of the Eastern Caribbean and Florida, then Maria recently ravaged Puerto Rico (which is in the midst of a humanitarian crisis). Houston's had its share of weather-related disasters--especially in the last few years. But here we are a month out from the date that Harvey made landfall, and many areas are still impassable. Also, the waste from homes being gutted has built up into a logistical nightmare for removal companies that are still struggling to make inroads."
As you're from Texas, a state within tornado alley, have you ever seen a tornado? Has there been any notable ones hit Texas?
"We're a bit close to the Gulf of Mexico to be in the heart of tornado alley, but there were several in the area while Harvey was stalled over Houston. One hit the neighbourhood next to mine on that first Friday night--I could hear, but not see it. North Texas is the unlucky recipient of most of Texas' tornadoes."
Tell us about you getting involved in the Hurricane Harvey benefit compilation, where are the participating bands located? How can people donate?
"We were approached by Miss Champagne Records about contributing a track to the benefit record, Making Waves, the week following the Harvey disaster. It was the brainchild of the MCR staff and Mercy Harper from Football, etc. All of the bands are local to Houston, so the cause is obviously very meaningful to us all. We think it turned out wonderfully and we're honoured to be in the company of so many stellar Houston bands included on the compilation. All proceeds from the benefit comp go straight to Harvey relief, so it's a perfect way to donate AND listen to some rad music."
Did you sit out the hurricane or did you evacuate further inland? What were your thoughts at the time of Harvey's landfall?
"Danny was safely in Austin for the storm, but everyone else toughed it out here. When the storm finally hit, we knew that we were going to be in for an extended confinement at our homes (fully anticipated by the Houston masses, as evidenced by the the local grocery and liquor stores being completely fleeced), but no one anticipated how crippled the city would become. Just the sheer number of people that lost everything is hard to wrap one's head around. "
Would you agree that extreme weather events such as hurricanes and tornadoes are a staple part of Mid-West and Southern American life?
"For sure. And, to make matters worse, the events are becoming more frequent and increasingly destructive."
Given the damage caused by Harvey, I can't imagine there being much band activity this year - please correct me if I'm assuming wrong and inform what you will be getting up to?
"There are several benefit shows sprouting up in the area, so the music community has been surprisingly resilient. As for Omotai, we've been concentrating on getting A Ruined Oak released, and we'll be embarking on a Western U.S. tour starting this Friday, September 29th. All of the dates are posted to our social media for those that would like to come out and hang."
Finally are there any hellos, thank you's you wish to send out?
"Firstly, our thoughts are with the Waters clan and all of our other Houston friends and family that are dealing with the loss of so much property, and coping with the resulting emotional challenges. Special thanks to Sean Mehl and Tofu Carnage Records for helping us put out the LP. And, finally, thanks to all who have supported us over the years--it truly means a lot."