Blue Robot

An Interview with Benj Gershman of OAR

Posted by Alexandra Voigt on 05/12 at 10:39 AM

This spring, Penn State students polled for a popular, stimulating, and interactive band to headline the annual music festival, Movin’ On. They got just that with the five talented musicians who make up Of A Revolution, aka OAR.  Being a significant upgrade from past years’ performing acts, I was obviously excited about the booking decision, and felt the urge to speak to one of the band members. Who better than OAR’s fine bassist, Benj Gershman?!

Gershman very willingly and politely answered several of my questions. They ranged from playing at Movin’ On, to the band’s upcoming album release. We also talked about the band’s charitable work with Heard the World, which supports youth and educational programs in the U.S. and overseas. Also, Gershman himself founded the organization called Look At Life, a global arts community in New York City.  Last August through September, Gershman opened the art exhibit, “Rock, Cause (OAR)” to celebrate the band’s 15th anniversary. His own photographs of the band were on display for sale.  All purchases were then directed to Heard the World.

Here is my interview with Benj Gershman:

Voigt:  What made you and the rest of the band decide to headline Penn State’s Movin’ On festival?

Gershman:  Well, we really just love playing music, you know.  We love that people are interested in listening, and what better opportunity than playing a really fun, big festival at Penn State?  So, it was kind of an easy choice.  We were just like, ‘Will this be an easy time?’ And we all said yes, and now we’re playing the show. People are open to different kinds of music and sounds and vibes… That’s [a music festival] where we feel like we should be, as a band.

Voigt:  Do you have a preference for what type of setting you play at, whether it be a festival or a concert, specifically for OAR? 

Gershman:  For us, we just welcome all these opportunities.  We’re fortunate to be a band that gets a call to play at different shows, you know.  We’re just happy about it. We’re excited to always have the opportunity to play music for people and do what we do.

Voigt:  When you go out on tour, how do you prepare for the show? How do you know what that specific audience wants to hear?  Is there any improvising involved or “jamming out?” 

Gershman:  For us as a band, what we try to do is play music that will resonate with the audience at hand.  And, every show is inherently different because there’s a different audience in every single concert, and so we never have the same set list.  We never play things exactly the same.  There’s a very set structure to each song.   I don’t think that we jam out; I think there are musical solo sections and there are parts that are meant to be musical, but I don’t see us really as a jam band.  I think we’re a musical rock and roll band.  That’s just what we do.

Voigt:  So, you’re preparing to release another studio album in the summer; is there any different element or anything specific that you’ve added on to this next one, or is it like your latest All Sides album?

Gershman:  This is the evolution of OAR.  This album has sounds from our first record all the way to our last release. I think that our audience will appreciate that, and I think that people in general will be able to appreciate that.  I think it’s an album full of good music, and we’re just really excited for our people to have an opportunity to listen to it.

Voigt:  I hear the Art Exhibit in NYC last year (Rock, Cause (OAR)) was a success. How did it turn out for you and the band?

Gershman:  I thought it went really well.  The gallery was really happy, and the whole band supported me and was there for the opening; and we had a really nice reception event.  It was fun, and it was very meaningful to me to be to be able to share my photography of the band through Morrison Hotel.  They’re an extremely, extremely cool photography gallery.  I like going to their exhibitions regardless of being involved with them now.  I always have pleasure seeing the music industry from the inside-out through their images.  You know, it’s just exciting to have pictures of OAR alongside of Zeppelin, the Beatles, and Johnny Cash, as much as it was cool to have my own photographs alongside all these artists that I’ve respected and photographers I respected. So that was extremely cool.

Voigt:  What made you and the band choose to participate in so much humanitarian work?

Gershman:  As far as my efforts of humanitarian nature, I’m just trying to deal with the circumstance that myself and my band is in respectably.  We are in a position of responsibility as far as the environmental impact of our business, and we are in a position of responsibility as far as what kind of leadership role we can take in the eyes of our audience.  And for me, I see a few very important angles to this, and I feel that we’re never in a position of going too far. We’re never trying to do something that isn’t meaningful and close to heart — for each of us as individuals, as much as all of us as a band.  We just really try to do our part with what resources we have to make the world a healthier, better place.  And, you know, everybody should do that in their own way, and we just do it in ours.

Voigt:  I saw that ‘Love is worth the fall’ is on the Twilight soundtrack.  What did you think about promoting yourself on such a massive Hollywood film?

Gershman:  Our singer, Marc, took down the challenge, and he wrote something very beautiful.  We just kind of knew it was going to be huge and a blockbuster type thing, and why wouldn’t we just give it a shot?  I think with the music business as it is now, the distribution model has changed, and there’s a lot of new ways to get your music out there to people. This way was totally, I think, a good thing for us to do.  It was just cool. It was good that we got our music out there that way.

Voigt:  When you were growing up, was there a certain artist or genre that you really connected with and inspired you to become the bassist that you are today?

Gershman:  I listened to a lot of music growing up, and I was influenced by, probably my teacher the most. But I would say somewhere between just classic rock in general and listening to Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers were two of the bigger kinds of influences that were out there for me.

Voigt:  Last question!  Do you have a favorite song of OAR that you personally delve into?

Gershman:  You know, I like this one song of ours called “52/50” because it’s a really cool song to play.  It’s really fun because it’s kind of like a musical journey — there’s so many parts to it that I feel like I’m on a musical hike or something like that.  I have to get through the whole thing and in the middle of it there are some hard bass parts to play and I get really tired, and I have to just push through it and get all the way through the song.  There’s a part at the end of the song where everything calms down and I’m always so ready to just take everything down a few notches and relax.

{name} Author: Alexandra Voigt
Bio: [Alex] is currently a senior double majoring in Print Journalism and International Studies with a double minor in Music Technology and French. As random as all that may seem, Alex’s true passion lies within the art of music and the countless characteristics of rock and roll. Growing up to everything classic rock, she indulges in Led Zeppelin, The Doors, CCR, The Animals, Neil Young up through 90s grunge and today’s indie/folk rock and electro beats like: Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Spoon, The Black Keys, TV on the Radio and Bassnectar!, (don’t turn away, that is only a taste of the list). Alex also loves using music programs like Logic Pro to mix, modulate and place different effects on songs, which is why electronic/techno and dubstep play an essential factor in her everyday life.

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