Uprooted from their early days as an Ohio State University rock band to become a Billboard-smashing, arena-headlining colossus, it is no surprise that O.A.R. stands for Of A Revolution. The band, formed by front man Marc Roberge and drummer Chris Culos, enjoyed backdoor status with an intimate yet loyal fanbase that spread the word of their roots-rock, reggae-flavored quintet. Now, following the success of singles “Love and Memories,” “Heard the World” and “Lay Down” off 2005’s “Stories of a Stranger,” and hot on the heels of the June 5 release of “Live From Madison Square Garden,” O.A.R. will take the stage in Milwaukee June 29, at the Miller Lite Oasis during Summerfest. Marc Roberge recently talked to Maximum Ink about O.A.R.’s newfound success, regaining lost youth, and the method behind Kelly Clarkson’s hits…
MAXIMUM INK: You guys have had an exciting last few months. How did you wake up the morning that you sold out Madison Square Garden?
MARC ROBERGE: Gosh, I woke up at five in the morning on my way home from Washington, D.C., so it was just crazy. I listened to “Elvis Live from Madison Square Garden” right before, so I was pretty pumped up about it. That was my inspiration. It was so surreal, just crazy. I wish I could describe it.
MAX INK: What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen looking into the audience?
ROBERGE: Oh, God. I’ll take it from the worst to best: The worst things I’ve seen are the fights, and the best is a daughter on her dad’s shoulders watching the show. There’s nothing better than that.
MAX INK: You’ve said that in your earlier material, you wrote about things that hadn’t necessarily happened to you. Now you’re writing from experience. What caused the change?
ROBERGE: You take the imagination that you have when you’re young for granted, I think. When you’re 15, 17, you take for granted that you can think up all these great things, and then fast forward ten years, and it becomes very difficult to imagine other worlds or other things and your forced really to just face what you know. That’s the whole thing about getting out of college or whatever it may be. You have to face the world, for better or worse. So it’s all about just realizing what’s important, because that’s what you know, and then writing about it. Right now, I’m trying to tap back into that young mind and see what I can come up with. You watch a movie, like “Memento,” and you think, “Wow, I can come up with something like that…” I’m inspired by movies all the time.
MAX INK: What movies recently inspired you?
ROBERGE: Gosh, “The Departed” is really good, and “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” is one of my favorites. Plus, I like comedies more than anyone I know. Like, “Caddyshack,” great movie. And now, these Will Farrell movies are really funny. “Anchorman” is a classic.
MAX INK: Which of your songs do you wish had been a radio hit?
ROBERGE: Great question. I would say “Lay Down,” because I just always thought that song was kinda cool. I guess I don’t really wish... I like a lot of other people’s songs, though. There are tons of other people’s songs that I wish were on the radio that aren’t. Like I wish Ryan Adams was on the radio everyday. As a musician, you’ll hear something and go, “Wow, that’s really good.” Like Kelly Clarkson. If you listen to the music and the melodies, they’re just really well-crafted songs. No matter who you like or dislike, you have to say, “Hey, they’ve got some good stuff.” There’s a lot of crap that I just don’t think is good and shouldn’t be played, but I try to have respect for most of it. There’s a band right now that are just going on their first tour behind a major platinum-selling record, and have never toured before. That makes me appreciate what I’ve done, because no matter how many records they’ve sold, they never got to experience touring with the band and sharing a room with seven people because you have to. That shit was the best shit. If you haven’t paid your dues, you’re never going to be in the club… And that’s the one and only club we’re members of! [Laughing]
MAX INK: You seem to ask a lot of rhetorical questions in your lyrics. Like in “Tragedy in Waiting,” when you say, “Could it be I’m the one with hands tied behind my back?”
ROBERGE: You know, no one has ever, ever brought that up! That’s a really good question. It was completely unintentional, which now makes me even more curious about it. I never really thought about it. A lot of that shit is like dialogue, and looking into a mirror. You can blame everyone else for every fucking problem, but sometimes you have to accept the fact that you are not right.
MAX INK: What do you question in your life?
ROBERGE: I question the next five years, in terms of being able to maintain a balance in my life. Going back and forth from home; it’s hard to live two lives and I don’t want it to be like that. I want it to be one. So I question how long I can make that work, just because so many people fall apart trying. You don’t want to complain because it’s so arrogant. People say, “What are you complaining about, you go out and play music, you’re like a kid.” But at the same time, it’s like any job.
MAX INK: O.A.R. stands for Of A Revolution. What revolution are you a part of?
ROBERGE: That is what I like to call a personal revolution. We were maybe 16, 17, and wanted a band name. We literally had no shows, no fans, it was just us in a basement… So we stuck with the name because we weren’t trying to be anything but ourselves. To this day, we try to maintain that same spirit. That’s what the revolution is about.