If listeners perceive a previously unheard gravitas beneath the bouncy grooves and anthemic choruses of the new O.A.R. album, that’s because while working on “King,” the band went through dark times. Singer and guitarist Marc Roberge says that his wife’s diagnosis with cancer and her subsequent successful treatment gave new meaning to soul-searching verses he had already been working on. Not only did the hardship serve as a lyrical litmus test of sorts, but the experience also made him realize how important the band he started with his friends in high school really is to him.
“I went into the album with every intention of writing about somebody who has come to this realization, you know, somebody who has realized that you can’t live your life constantly out there searching for something — at some point you’ve got to just look right around you at everything that’s within arm’s reach,” he says. “In the middle of the record-making process, when everything started to happen on the home front, it really solidified it — but at the same time it made me realize how full of it I was. It’s really good to talk about that — it’s kind of cool to put out positive quotes — but until you really have to, it’s all just words.”
The music on “King” certainly does put out the positive vibes, and there is a palpable sting of sincerity as Roberge sings lines like, “I know you’ve got my back,” against a reggae rhythm in “Fire,” and “everything we got is everything we need” in “Heaven.”
“You have this dream when you’re 15 that you want to be on the road,” says Roberge. “Then life goes on, and you’re in a band for 15 years, you have kids and all these brothers in the band. It becomes very difficult to balance the world of travel and home. You get tested every single tour, and you
really have to love it. … And it turned out, when it got hard, everyone still wanted to get the music out there.”
Of a revelation
This upcoming string of shows marks the first headlining dates in NYC since selling out Madison Square Garden in 2009 for O.A.R., whose name stands for Of A Revolution. Instead of playing bigger venues, the members of O.A.R. decided that they wanted to play multiple nights at smaller venues.
“We’ll go in there and play almost every song we’ve ever had,” says Roberge. “We’re going to try to write songs onstage. It’s going to be completely loose. We’re going to bring in some special guests. … We really want to connect with our very close fan-base.”