On the day before the 19th anniversary of the Columbine shooting, OC45 guitarist Derek Rossi was explaining “Keep Your Guns” from their 2017 album “Happy Accidents.”
“It’s really …” he paused before sighing and gathering his thoughts. “It’s depressing. I just realized I guess this song was born from this feeling of numbness to the problem. Obviously there is some sort of issue. Whether that’s guns or mental health, a combination of the two, poverty, racial bias … there’s all sorts of stuff. If we don’t want to address it, and we obviously have problems doing that as country, it’s like what do we do here?”
Bring your glock to the movies/Sit way up in the back/Celebrate open carry unless you’re Muslim or black/Let’s arm all the teachers/Invest in our schools/ ‘cuz when you’re armed to the teeth/you can write your own rules – “Keep Your Guns” by OC45
“If I have to live in a world where I can get shot just so you can keep your Second Amendment rights … you kind of just throw your hands up in the air,” said an exasperated Rossi.
It’s a serious song about a serious subject by a band that hasn’t taken itself too seriously until fairly recently. Even eight years out, the Boston-based punk outfit is still self-effacing ahead of its April 23 show at Nightshop in downtown Bloomington; heck, they even mock themselves with their web domain www.oc45sucks.com.
Rossi said group members are still ambivalent even about the band’s name; a shortened version of Old Crow & the 45’s, a somewhat impulsive choice in 2010 when Rossi and friends were asked to play a gig on the University of New Hampshire campus. A better name never materialized, so they threw it up on their MySpace page.
It wasn’t long before the fledgling quartet received a letter from the attorney representing the folk/bluegrass band Old Crow Medicine Show.
“It was a cease and desist request that we stop using the term ‘Old Crow’ in our name,” said Rossi. “At the time,” he began to chuckle, “we weren’t really serious or doing anything. We didn’t even like the name, it was just kind of a placeholder.”
So they used the abbreviated OC45, though not overly enamored with that either. But they were touring, recording, and making shirts and merchandise, so ...
“We didn’t have much choice but to keep it at that point,” said Rossi. “I mean the whole thing is a joke. We weren’t a serious band and the fact they felt the need to do that was kind of hilarious to us.”
Head shaking enough to write and record the song "G.C.R.P." (read: Geriatric Crow Remedy Performance) about the experience. The lyrics are mostly unprintable. Let’s just say they hope Old Crow Medicine Show one day finds itself in an OC45 mosh pit and subsequently drown in the whisky they’ve been hogging from the band.
Rossi concedes band members are surprised they’re still a unit, as their early years gave little indication longevity was possible. Rossi and bassist Nick Tanzi grew up together in Rhode Island and would jam every day after school. He said they didn’t really know what they were doing, and were hopeful something would pop after meeting guitarist Adam Femino. Hey, he had already played a number of gigs in another local band.
“Turns out Adam had no idea what he was doing either” said Rossi. “I mean we had some friends in D.I.Y. bands that had done some touring, and got the idea to ‘go for it.’ We did our first five-week U.S. tour a year after we formed. It was a bit of a disaster, but in all the right ways. So when we came back there was no hesitation we were going to keep doing it.”
Rossi was speaking via Skype from a hotel in Pittsburgh, just awake from playing a gig the night before at Gooski’s. He was in good spirits after what he had hinted a day earlier might be a long night of revelry. So they’re still having fun, but he said band members have become more serious about their mission.
“For me, it took a few years of doing a band to realize that’s all I wanted to do,” said Rossi. “I have a college degree in business administration with a focus on accounting. For a while that’s where I thought I’d end up, but after a couple years and tours, there was no going back. I was grateful that I could make that independent decision, as I was just going through the motions before that.”
Scared to death of normal life/White-picket prison, I think I’d rather roll the dice/The world is full of 1' and 0's/More than anything/I’m just glad to be a weirdo - "1's & 0's from "Happy Accidents" by OC45
He labeled himself "the prime example of what's wrong with the school system in America."
"I just kind of floated through, I got really great grades without learning much," said Rossi. "I didn't learn how to think independently or pursue my own interests. I just fell in line."
After thinking for a few moments when asked for a catalyst for becoming more serious about OC45 full time, he recalled a scheduled two-month tour nearly sidelined when their drummer bailed.
“Seven or eight days in, we woke up one morning and he had taken a train back to Chicago or Detroit or wherever. He just left us high and dry. We were in Philadelphia at the time, so it wasn’t far from home and we had to figure out what to do,” said Rossi.
So they called their original drummer.
“He was in a real weird place personally at the time, and when I mentioned the idea, Adam (Femino) was just, ‘Are you crazy dude? We can’t ask that of him. We can’t try to get him down here.’ But it turned out to be just what he needed. He just dropped what he was doing and hopped on a train the next day. We picked him up in Baltimore, squeezed in a quick practice and finished the tour,” said Rossi.
You just don’t quit a band on tour, let alone leave your brothers unannounced. It's a rule that doesn't need to be in writing.
“That kind of put a chip on my shoulder and I wanted to prove that was a big mistake and you shouldn’t do that people. I felt motivated after that,” said Rossi.
OC45 plays Nightshop in downtown Bloomington on April 23. Opening bands are Bloomington-based punk/rock & rollers Dirty Rotten Revenge, and Bloomington’s Green Laser, who says they play “music” (that sounds like hard rock to our ears).
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