Seven-piece Chicago group, Otis plays Alma’s Only Bar tonight
Ryan Summerlin October 11, 2012
The aspiring “new soul” Chicago band, Otis, takes the stage at Alma’s Only Bar for a free show this evening. Here, drummer and tour car-driver Collin O’Brien breaks down who they are and where they’re headed:
We’re a seven-piece mix of soul, funk, blues and jazz, but dabble in other genres as well, [playing] mostly original songs with some new takes on songs that we love. We’ve got a killer vocalist, Jessica Ott, a banging horn section of Tyler Gasek and Parris Flemming. Drew Smithers plays guitar and slide guitar; Taylor Streiff holds it down on keys and our bass player Parker Grogan has a great ear and style. All together we are Otis.
Our influences range from soul to rock and roll and everywhere in between: Sly Stone, Miles Davis, Allman Brothers, RH Factor, D’angelo [and] Soulive, to name a few.
Our live shows are tight, but we keep improvisation present in a lot of the tunes, so they’re never exactly the same night to night. We write mostly original music, but you’ll hear some covers thrown in the set. You can definitely expect a dynamic show; we’ll hit funky energetic exciting highs and counter it with a warm, soulful tune. All of our song lyrics are written by our singer, Jessica Ott, about real life experiences that are relevant in any walk of life. We love what we do, and have so much fun traveling to new places to share our music.
Chicago is a breeding ground for awesome musicians, and it’s a great place to have multiple projects going. While Otis is my all-time main focus, when we can’t get together during the week I play in a couple other groups. Taylor and I have a side project called Low Spark, which is an expressive instrumental piano-driven jazz-rock group. Parker and I also have another group starting up called Mano, which is more psychedelic gypsy rock, involving electric violin, flute, guitar bass and drums. Other than that we will occasionally fill in for our friends’ bands as alternates if someone can’t make it, or just go jam around with other people in between Otis rehearsals.
We played a gig in Chicago once at this bar and one of the bartenders double-booked the night. Our bill had four funk-and-soul kind of groups on it, but the other bill … was a “necro-furry dance party,” which essentially was death metal bands with fans who liked to dress up in animal costumes (most were going for the road kill look). Instead of canning one of the events, the manager had both go on, with shortened set times. It was pretty hilarious looking out and seeing a bunch of animals dancing next to surprised fans.
We all have our own things that keep us going – whether it’s playing music, listening or learning, the quest for musical knowledge and ability affects all of our lives. From morning to night and anywhere in between, music is our fuel. It is the thread that keeps weaving this quilted network of experiences together.
We’re so freaking stoked to be out in Colorado. We have toured through the south the past couple years but it’s going to be fun to see a lot of friends and family out there, and more fun to get the whole band up to the mountains. Sometimes you gotta get out of the city, and what better place to do so.