Cleveland-based band Ottawa has exploded onto the Indie Rock scene hard with the release of their punchy new single “Strangers”. The spirited track is the first release out of 6 brand new, upcoming songs set to trickle out throughout the rest of the summer. Ottawa features the collective talents of Dale DeLong [Lead Vocals], Tim Czajka [Guitar], Jeremy Barnes [Bass] and Will Hooper [Guitars & Backup Vocals]. More Manchester than Midwest, Ottawa creates ambitious Indie Rock that’s equal parts steel-town grit and new wave gloss. Their energetic performances and captivating hooks have helped them generate a buzz far beyond their hometown. After writing and recording for the past twelve months, the band is taking their passion to an elevated level as they set out to promote the releases this summer. Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Dale DeLong to discuss his musical roots, the formation of the band and everything they have in store for music fans in the months to come!
Going all the way back to your humble beginnings, both as an artist and as a band. What went into finding your creative voice early on?
That answer is going to be very different for all of us, but for me, I always had this sense that I was meant to front a band, from singing along with New Kids On the Block as a kid to actually looking for guys to start a band with, it always felt very natural. Melody always has come very easy to me, I don’t really know how to explain it; it just comes out. As a band, you’re essentially trying to impress each other, early on. It’s like, “you have a guitar, and you aren’t 50?” Let’s do this.
There is no doubt that music is your true love, so let’s start at the beginning. What are your first memories of music?
I remember my mom blaring ‘Conga’ by Gloria Estefan and I didn’t really care for that too much, but one day I remember her playing “I Can’t Tell You Why” by Eagles. I was maybe 6 or 7 and it just made so much sense to me, like it was made just for me to hear.
Dedicating yourself fully to your art is a big step. Did you ever have any reservations about taking the plunge?
It’s scary. We all still have jobs but, fingers crossed, hopefully for not much longer. The band is taking up more and more time the further we get into it. There’s no reservation in the plunge, it’s just about taking it at the right time, so it sticks.
Who were some of the performers and people behind the scenes who helped to shape the artist we see today?
The Strokes, The Cure, Oasis, The Beatles, Cranberries, Smashing Pumpkins…I’ll toss Jeremy, our bass player, a bone and say Rush (not my thing but it helped shape him). Don Henley, 2Pac- Any new wave band, loads of producers /Engineers, Jimmy Lovine, Matt Goldman, Mark Needham (who mixed two songs for us), Brandon Flowers, Tom Petty, Wilco…it’s endless really.
You are clearly very driven when it comes to your career. Where do you find yourself looking for inspiration to fuel your creative fire?
When you know you’re working toward making your dreams come true, drive just happens and you don’t think twice about it. I’m not consciously driven, its just reality for us at this point; no looking back. The buzz of writing something new that’s so fucking good, and hasn’t been done yet NEVER gets old.
How did you all initially cross paths and form Ottawa?
Tim and I went to high school together. It took me so long to try and convince him to play with me because he never took me seriously- I think because I was a class clown in school. I met Will through a Craigslist ad I posted when I gave up on college and moved home to start a band, like, 10 years ago. That’s when Tim started to come around as well. Needless to say, this band had a couple other iterations along the way, which is pretty typical. Jeremy joined the band two years ago; we kind of needed a new bass player/drummer situation and posted another craigslist ad, assuming nothing would come of it. Jeremy had apparently heard our song “Roman Candle” somehow so he responded right away. He was very good and grounded- he and Tim had an immediate bond over some type of handy work discussion, Will and I ignored, now here are. The 4 of us are Ottawa. Anyone playing drums with us will be a friend or someone hired- we just like being a 4-piece, it works for us.
For those who may be reading this before hearing your work — How would you describe the sound you have created?
We are guitar driven with big choruses; the type of music that you’d clap along with the kick drum to and scream the chorus at a festival. It’s kind of British/ new wave-ish.
What do you bring out in each another creatively?
We aren’t competitive with each other; we only want what’s best for the songs. That being said, we do really push each other. I tend to be the most vocal when we’re writing all together, mostly because I’m the only one with a microphone. There’s a constant push and pull when we’re writing, but when everything finally clicks, there’s a collective like looking at each other like “this is it”.
Ottawa recently wrapped up a long studio session in Atlanta with producer Matt Goldman (Glow in the Dark Studios). What were the highlights of the experience and what have you been cooking up for us?
It was probably the best two weeks of my entire life. The accommodations weren’t the best, lol, but that made it even more fun. We were all sleeping on children’s bunk beds at night, then we’d wake up, drink coffee and make magic. Anything felt possible with Matt, he was steps ahead in his head and he totally got what we were after. Before meeting him we didn’t really know what he was like or what music he liked, because a lot of the records he’s made were kind of metal or whatever. It turns out his favorite music was more along the lines of what we do, so it was just amazing.
What can you tell us about the songwriting process for your music?
Typically, it’ll start with some random melody I have, or a just a title even. I’ll bring the guys some slow ballad-type thing and before you now it, its some Indie Rock banger. Will was playing an acoustic guitar in the studio and we wrote a new song in like 20 min called “Plan of Attack”- it’ll definitely see the light of day.
Did you have any goals, aspirations or a specific vision when hitting the studio for this batch of songs?
Our only goal was that the recordings do the song’s justice; we knew the songs were awesome because we worked our asses off writing them. We’re very proud of this batch of songs!
You’ve been able to live with the songs for a little while now. Which ones resonate with you the most and have you excited to bring to the fans?
Our favorite collectively is a song called “Friends” which we almost scrapped because we couldn’t quite figure it out, then one day, we just did. We’re pumped about all of them but it seems like “No More Love Songs” is the one people are reacting to the most, so we’re really excited to get that one into the world.
I think a lot of people might take for granted what you do to keep things moving forward. Can you talk a little bit about what goes into keeping a band like Ottawa on the rails and moving in the right direction?
I could go on for hours about this — It’s all about the songs! Every new song is a jolt of lightning. The truth is, if we we’re going to quit, we would’ve already. Trying to get this going can be exhausting but when it’s what you’re meant to do, you don’t question it, you just do it.
What were the biggest challenges you faced as a young band?
It would have to be finding the right people to work with, both in and out of the band.
What stands out as your creative milestones?
I can’t pinpoint one thing but finishing a song you started on a random night where you pick up your guitar because you’re lonely, or need to feel like you’re working when others aren’t, is a great feeling.
You have a lot of productive years ahead of you. Where do you see yourself headed musically in the future — with short and long term?
Short-term: releasing these songs and praying to God people like them so we can quit our day jobs, lol. Long-term: festivals all over the world, playing MSG, The Tonight Show, SNL- the whole gamut. I know this may sound farfetched or too ambitious but other bands have done it, right?
As an artist, so many things can be said about the current state of music. What excites about the music today?
The amount of truly talented people being able to put their music into the world is pretty great.
What are you currently listening to for inspiration and what songs are your guilty pleasures?
The War on Drugs, The Killers, Ryan Adams, Old U2… I personally don’t really believe in guilty pleasures because even if something is super lame, there’s usually a team of fantastic songwriters behind it (which I think is awesome), but for the sake of it I think that yoddle kid’s song ‘Famous’ is a pretty good tune. The whole situation is bizarre, but it’s a nice little song.
What do you think people would be most surprised to find out about Ottawa?
We aren’t really the type of people going out partying all the time although we aren’t boring by any means. Personally, I put sleep before most things. You also won’t be seeing us out at swanky night clubs or anything, not that anyone would assume that about us, lol. Tim is a relatively quiet guy but when he get a little toasty that’s when I get texts and voicemails saying how proud he is of what we’re doing and “we’re going to make it”, lol. I look forward to those.
What’s the best way for fans to help support your band in this day and age?
Listen to our music and tell everyone you know and have ever met to do the same!
You have certainly faced your own challenges and learned some things from your time with this project. What’s the best lesson we can take from your journey so far?
When things get really, really hard, that’s right when you’re about to be great- so keep going!
Jason Price founded the mighty Icon Vs. Icon more than a decade ago. Along the way, he’s assembled an amazing group of like-minded individuals to spread the word on some of the most unique people and projects on the pop culture landscape.