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Open Air Stereo’s second beginning

Open Air Stereo
Open Air Stereo
Jonathan Weiner

For Open Air Stereo’s Nick Gross, the positive reception to his band’s debut album Primates has been nice, but the way he sees it, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

“We don’t even view Primates as our debut album,” said the drummer, who is joined by Chase Johnson, Scott Pounds, and Evan Smith in the Southern California group that makes a stop at the Bowery Electric in New York City on Thursday. “We look at it in our own heads as like a first EP to get people acclimated with Open Air Stereo. It was a matter of gaining some credibility, putting some stuff out, and we’re really looking at this next record that we’re gonna start making later this year as our debut album.”

Work is already underway on that next album, and you can hear the quartet playing new material at their Big Apple stop, and while you may wonder what the rush is, there really isn’t any. In fact, if you look at what they’ve been through so far, consider it making up for lost time right on time.

In the Reader’s Digest version of the OAS story, the band was signed to a major record deal with Sony Epic and then featured on MTV’s Laguna Beach show in 2006. What should have followed next was an album, tour, superstardom, and all that fun stuff. But instead, the band separated until 2011, when they finally got down to the business of being a band again. To put this in perspective, consider that when they were initially signed, Gross was getting ready to become a freshman in college.

“We got a record deal two weeks before I was supposed to start at USC,” he laughs. “I’ve got my parents bringing me up to college and checking me into the dorm room, and then we get this record deal from Sony Epic, and they put us in a three-bedroom apartment in the center of Hollywood where we could do whatever we want and write music all the time, so I’m like ‘okay, I’m obviously going to Hollywood to do stuff with my band.’”

USC got put on hold, and the OAS boys embraced their new life. But they just weren’t ready for it.

“The school thing obviously didn’t work out, and there was a lot of immaturity at the time,” Gross admits. “When you’re 18 and have a big record deal, a TV show, and stuff like that going on, we didn’t have a strong focus, and we really didn’t understand a lot about the music business. What is music publishing, why are we writing with all these different writers? There was no, ‘We need to finish a record, why is this taking a year and a half?’ We didn’t ask those questions, and it was all over the place. We were young, and everyone was having a good time in LA, and we were not focused. It was amazing at the time, but looking back on it now, we realize what a mess we all were during that time.”

Years, maturity, and the realization that they didn’t want to make music with anyone else but each other brought the four back together, something Gross always knew would happen.

“I always knew we would reunite,” he said. “It was about taking a breather from what we were doing, saying let’s grow as people and focus on some other things so we can come back as a stronger band, and that’s what I feel like we did.”

And with a listen to Primates, you can safely say ‘better late than never’ for the hook-heavy rock band, who are now doing things the old-fashioned way, with touring, touring, and more touring.

“We’ve been a band for a long time, and I feel the intensity of everything picking up this year,” said Gross. “It started last year when we went on our first national tour, but we’re yet to become a full workhorse of a band, 24 hours a day all the time. We’re growing into that more and more.”

As for Primates, it’s a work the band is proud of, not just as a solid collection of songs, but a souvenir of days gone by.

“It was great that we got to write those songs,” during the band’s first run. “Some of them made the Primates album, and we got to put out what we worked on when we were 18 years old, which was nice. And then we got some time to grow as people when the band split. Everything was meant to be – that’s the way I look at it.”

Open Air Stereo plays the Bowery Electric in New York City on Thursday, April 3. For tickets, click here