Interview with vocalist/guitarist John Dwyer | By Tim Anderl
Ever-evolving Los Angeles-based songwriter, singer, and guitarist John Dwyer is one of the most prolific musicians of the last two decades. In addition to his work with celebrated punk, indie, and electronic acts Coachwhips, Pink And Brown, Yikes, It’s Alive, Damaged Bug, and Sword & Sandals, he is perhaps best known for his rock-pop-psych outfit, Oh Sees—formerly OCS and Thee Oh Sees—and as one of the minds behind the Castle Face Records label.
“Really, all I do is make art,” Dwyer reflects. “From a young age, I knew this is what I wanted to do, and I enjoy it. I make music and have for over 20 years now, and this is the vehicle I’m using to create and tour—and it works, so I guess I’ll just do it ‘til I don’t want to anymore.”
“I work always; if I stop, I get anxious,” he adds. “I can relax long enough to go on the occasional camping trip or mellow trip, but when I get back, I’m always ready to work.”
Following hot on the heels of 2016’s A Weird Exits, Oh Sees—whose current incarnation includes bassist Tim Hellman and drummers Dan Rincon and Paul Quattrone—raced into their menacing latest LP, Orc. Dwyer’s 19th album with the project, Orc was released via Castle Face on Aug. 25 and finds the band adequately tour-greased, launching themselves headlong into an even heavier batch of the kind of bruisers and brooders their fans have come to expect. Simply, the result is a boogieing, screeching roar likely to ring the bell of even the most fleet-footed rockers.
While the album shows marked progression for the nimble and seasoned bunch, Dwyer isn’t willing to commit to any favorite moments. “While I’m making it, [I love] every single thing; after it’s over, none of them [are favorites],” he says. “I move onto the next thing, and hopefully, the songs grow into something new live.”
Rather than offer suggestions on surviving a round with Orc, Dwyer simply shares, “It’s heavy and some of the songs work well live. I have no idea what people take from our records. It’s really up to each individual to harvest their personal message or feelings from it.”
For some, after 20 years of prolific output, road weariness might start to set in. Dwyer’s experience is the contrary; his drive is self-imposed and relentless. “Some things have to change slowly to accommodate the lifestyle, but I was cut out for this,” he asserts.
He also credits maintaining a sense of humor as a tool that leads to longevity. “Shit, if you can’t have a sense of humor in the world right now, then you are fucked,” he states. “There are a whole lot of really horrid and bleak things going on. So, I think to laugh sometimes is a great coping mechanism.”
As to where Dwyer would like to end up in another 20 years, his goals are simple. “To still be alive would be OK,” he says. “[And] I’d like to be able to relax a bit.”
Photo By Joe Calixito