Sean McCullough says he's sick of listening to his band's new album.
Albuquerque's The Oktober People spent five years writing songs then recording Explore The Sky Too. McCullough produced the album. "I've listened to it so many times that I don't ever want to hear it again," McCullough says with a chuckle. "I'm still really proud of it. I think people will notice that we really just put a lot of time into it."
Singer Nate Santa Maria says the band developed a personal relationship with each track. "I love those songs," he asserts. "They're our little babies."
Every tune was meticulously crafted and tweaked. Keyboards and extra guitar were added to the already enormous mound of sound. McCullough, who's also produced several local groups' albums, says it's a little tougher when he's recording his own band. "You take it so personally and it's hard to be objective," McCullough says. "You have all these tools at your disposal, and you can spend so much time trying different things. That ends up being too many options, in a way."
The Oktober People operates in the outer reaches of the solar system where air is thin, objects are weightless and everything seems slightly beyond your control. Sound walls build slowly, reaching a medium level of intensity before suddenly towering overhead. "The loud-quiet thing is just generally something we like to push on people in a live setting," Santa Maria says. "The element of surprise is always cool and it's just fun to rock out."
A lot has changed since the band's self-titled first release in 2004. Santa Maria says the songwriting has become more straightforward and less cluttered. "I think the last album was more movement-oriented and kind of just parts and parts and parts thrown together," he says. "We've learned as a band to play our parts really simple, instead of trying to play all over each other."
One other major difference is Santa Maria's faith in his voice. Whether he's whispering or belting out his lyrics, he's singing in the pocket and without fear. "I feel more confident with my vocals now," he says. "The last album, I dreaded doing the vocals. Sean's really easy to work with and makes you feel comfortable."
Although he puts more trust in his pipes, Santa Maria still doesn't show them off relentlessly. He’s selective in picking spots for his lyrics. "I believe in minimalism some of the time," Santa Maria says. "I think some bands over-sing. I put the lyrics in when it feels right."
On both records, The Oktober People's lust for delay pedals shines through. "It's kind of true that it would be hard to do what we do without them," McCullough says. "It's a big part of our sound."
In the time between the band's first and second albums, dozens of local outfits have formed and disbanded. Santa Maria says band breakups are far too common in Albuquerque. "There's been a lot of great bands that just didn't last," Santa Maria says. "I get angry. I'm like, You guys were awesome."
After its first release, The Oktober People did some regional touring and played South By Southwest. Santa Maria and McCullough both say they’re open to taking the proverbial next step in the band's career but that getting their new record into people's hands is priority No. 1. In the fall, the band plans to put together a West Coast tour playing as many small towns as possible because, as Santa Maria points out, "lots of kids come to those shows."
There is no ultimate plan written into this band’s design—but its members won't close the door if an opportunity presents itself. "We're all into the idea of being able to quit our jobs and just play music for a living," Santa Maria says. "We want to see where this album can take us."