Getting the Job Done

Brooklyn's Oxford Collapse hits the road in a van--with a revered label backing them up

A few years ago, the members of the post-punk band Oxford Collapse never would've thought they'd be able to quit their day jobs and tour the country after having recorded two albums for the powerhouse label Sub Pop Records.

But that's where this Brooklyn-based trio is today, and they will visit Tucson to play Friday, Aug. 29, at Solar Culture Gallery. Oxford Collapse will open the show for Love as Laughter.

The conception of Oxford Collapse came before the band actually started playing out, said singer-guitarist Michael Pace in a phone interview the other day.

Pace and drummer Dan Fetherston met while at New York University about seven years ago, and both spent semesters (albeit separately) studying in London. Their dorm was off Oxford Street, giving rise to the name of the band.

"I hadn't had a band since high school--you know how everyone has to have an obligatory high school punk band," Pace said. "And we just decided to go for it.

"I knew Dan from around university. He was initially sort of my nemesis. The rivalry was purely on my end. You see this kid around the cafeteria wearing a Bad Brains T-shirt, and you feel a connection to him, but you also want to sort of challenge him, you know?"

A self-titled EP came out in 2002, followed by a debut album, Some Wilderness, in 2004 for the small independent label Kanine Records.

By this time, there had been a couple of changes in the bass position, and Pace and Fetherston settled on Adam Rizer for the recording of their 2005 album, A Good Ground, also on Kanine. Rizer has been with Oxford Collapse since.

Following Good Ground, the members of Oxford Collapse figured they'd gone as far as they could with Kanine, and they started looking for a new home, Pace said.

"We made a list of labels, and Sub Pop wasn't even on the list," Pace said. "It was not even a long-shot in our minds. They actually sought us out, which was really flattering. When a label like Sub Pop contacts you, a label with such a history and legendary influence, well, we were really thrilled that they got in touch with us.

"And being on a Sub Pop dramatically increases our visibility and potential," Pace added.

Oxford Collapse's third album and Sub Pop debut, Remember the Night Parties, was released two years ago. Now they are on the road promoting their latest album, BITS.

"Yes, the title is all in caps, but it's not an acronym. It doesn't stand for anything. It's just to annoy you," Pace said.

The Oxford Collapse sound will remind many listeners of alternative rock of the 1980s and '90s, without sounding directly like any specific artist: It sounds fresh and familiar at the same time. It's an angular and aggressive music that simultaneously contains pleasant melodies and catchy riffs.

Pace concurs. "We're not looking to create cold, distant music that you really need to listen closely to (in order to) get all these intellectual ideas, but we're not trying to dumb it down or anything."

Oxford Collapse's music is visceral and thoughtful at the same time, not unlike the hip-hop groups or, more important, SST Records bands they grew up listening to in the 1980s.

Although Oxford Collapse sound very little like the great Minutemen, the boys from Brooklyn revere the now-legendary art-punk trio from San Pedro, Calif.

"All of that SST stuff is a huge influence on us, maybe not stylistically, but in an artistic, aesthetic sense. I wouldn't say that we sound like the Minutemen at all, although I love everything they did," Pace said. "I'd say we definitely have more in common with Husker Du in their later period, when their material became more musical, and they were making these shimmering pop songs."

Perhaps the guys in Oxford Collapse emulate their SST idols most in that they are cognizant of pop structure while playing roughhouse songs; that they employ critical thinking, keeping their bullshit detectors on high; and that they have become inveterate road hogs. They take the Minutemen's credo, "We jam econo," to heart.

"We don't even have real homes anymore, well, at least not for the next six or eight months. We're going to be in a van, and the plan is keep taking advantage of where we are and the resources we have, do the appropriate touring and go from town to town, getting the job done."