John Pedigo and Taylor Young make up the O’s, perhaps Dallas’ best — and best known — roots group. Both of them are veterans of the North Texas music scene, as they’ve both been in a number of bands over the years and continue to be active with non-O’s projects. Those are the main things most of us know about these two funny guys. With Honeycomb, the duo’s fourth and finest album to date, seeing its local release this weekend with a show at The Kessler, it would seem as though there aren’t many surprises to come from Pedigo and Young.
But as it turns out, not only does the new record showcase a growth in both sonic style and lyrical content, but the guys also had to get a bit crazy when recording it. With Frenchie Smith returning to producing duties after he produced the band’s previous album, Thunderdog, and with time scheduled in the hill country studio of Greg Rolie (Santana, Journey), whose son Sean worked as engineer on the record, things seemed to be set. But the sessions were scheduled for this past May, and the historic levels of flooding which devastated much of central Texas also took that studio option off the table for the O’s. Thanks to a new contact Pedigo and Young have made in recent years, however, an unlikely studio along the Guadalupe River in New Braunfels was cobbled together.
“It was really as luck would have it how the album came to be recorded at the River Road Ice House,” explains Pedigo. “We had just recently played at the River Road and thought, ‘Shit, let’s rent the cabins there, bring some gear and see how it goes.’ Frenchie and Sean brought a U47, an ELA 251, a BAE 1073, an API lunchbox with a compressor or two and we went to town.” Pedigo continues with a mix of sarcasm and amazement, “There was seriously heavy sound treatment. A thin blanket taped to a wall. That was it.”
“For two weeks, we recorded, slept, showered and ate, all in a tiny room together,” recalls Young. “It was wild. We’d take breaks whenever bands were playing and too loud down the hill, or sometimes not. You can probably hear Jason Eady or Stoney Larue in the background. Not really, but maybe. And Frenchie was willing to bring in gear worth more than the structure it was to be used in was. That a big deal.”
While one might be able to hear the rumbling of the nearby river or the drunken hollers of concertgoers just a short jump from the trailer the album was recorded in (we didn’t, but maybe you will?), the record’s sound is forward-thinking and pulls off all it attempts to admirably. It’s obvious how Pedigo and Young have bent their somewhat limited arsenal of instruments to their respective wills, and not the other way around, as was primarily the case in 2009, when the O’s released their debut record, We Are the O’s.
“Hell man, we’d only been playing the guitar and banjo for three months when we recorded We Are The O’s,” Young says. “We literally learned how to play in front of everyone that came out to see us at the Barley House on Wednesdays. However, I think the songs would have worked then like they do now, we just would’ve crafted them a little differently. I think the sound of this new album is a mixture of what we’ve grown into from 150 shows a year for six years and what that cabin made us do.“
“We did use more delay on the banjo, tried to sing more together and really worked to push the songs more than we had before,” says Pedigo. “It’s only natural, we think. There’s something for everybody. We started out playing rock ‘n’ roll, but at the root of it we’re songwriters trying to tell stories.”
Another change in the life of the O’s is significant, but will not be heard on a record — not directly, anyway. A new booking agent has put the O’s on the Texas country and red dirt circuit, which has already led them to tour with Cody Canada, Jason Boland and other big names. Thanks to a number of overseas tours and positive receptions to strings of shows in other parts of the U.S., the O’s have been more than a “local act” for some time now. Notable festivals, gigs in storied venues such as Gruene Hall and Cheatham Street Warehouse, and a rotating sea of new faces at each stop have the O’s delivering their quirky, plucky message to a different type of music lover than ever before.
“Honestly, we were worried at first when we signed with Red 11 to take over booking,” Young admits. “And we didn’t know how the Texas country scene would take us, but it’s been awesome. The Steamboat Music Fest really put us on the map. Seriously, every single show we play from here to Minneapolis to New York has people from that festival come out.”
In the end, Honeycomb is a killer record that offers a glimpse into one of our area’s most beloved groups. The album sounds and feels like an O’s record while still being fresh, new and tremendously fun. Pedigo and Young think it’s a pretty sweet set of tunes, as well.
“To us, it sounds exactly like it should sound,” says Young. “Some dudes up on a hill in a single wide. We absolutely love this thing, and it’s the coolest album we’ve done by far.” And Pedigo agrees they are a unique entity in the world of roots and Texas country. “Just because there’s a banjo and an acoustic doesn’t mean we have to sit on stools all glum; we’re standing up there trying to kick some ass.”