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Wanderers No More 

After 15 years in the business, O.A.R. has finally arrived at a comfortable place.

Chris Culos almost can’t believe how long his band, O.A.R., has been in the music business.

“It’s crazy, right. I mean, honestly?” the drummer says over the phone from Chicago.

They’ve been together since 1996, but he says it has taken the roots-rock quintet their entire career to feel comfortable in their own skin.

Short for “Of A Revolution,” the band formed in Rockville, Md., when Culos, singer Marc Roberge, guitarist Richard On and bassist Benj Gershman were all attending Wootton High School. The foursome graduated and attended the same college, where they met saxophonist Jerry DePizzo and added him to the lineup.

Their first album, The Wanderer, came in 1997. The album’s title character, the Wanderer, and many of its songs were based on a short story of the same name that Roberge wrote as a teen.

Over the years, O.A.R. released several more albums, gaining a large fan base on college campuses. The band signed to Lava Records before the release of their fourth album, In Between Now and Then. Another album and a sold-out show at Madison Square Garden followed.

Mainstream radio got hooked on O.A.R. in 2008 after the release of their sixth studio album, All Sides, which spawned the mega-hit “Shattered (Turn the Car Around).”

“I think we’ve never stayed on the same course. We always challenged ourselves and tried to reinvent ourselves in certain ways,” Culos says of the band’s past releases.

Releasing their latest album, King, on New York City-based Windup Records, Culos feels that this is the album the band was born to make. Finally, they were able to do things their own way.

Culos says the band wanted to balance the time they spent on the road with the time they spent with their families so they recorded parts of the album in each of the band member’s hometowns: Chicago (Culos), Columbus (DePizzo), Washington, D.C. (On) and New York City (Roberge and Gershman).

“Just the vibe and energy of each different city kinda creeped into the song-writing process so it was really cool,” Culos says.

Since the band is more comfortable performing live, they decided to make King as live of a studio album as they could, performing as an entire band rather than recording one instrument at a time.

“I think that’s one of the things that people are reacting to the most, even if they don’t know it exactly because it doesn’t sound like a live album,” Culos says. “It sounds like a studio record, but it feels like a live album.”

O.A.R. spent a year and a half recording King. Culos believes taking the time to completely learn the songs before entering the recording studio benefited the album’s overall sound.

“If you just know the song, you’re not actually thinking about it,” he says. “You can actually perform them.”

Now on their seventh album, O.A.R. has grown considerably during their time in the industry. So, too, has the Wanderer, which is why the band decided to revisit his story on King.

“We felt like we were at a place where we kinda wanted to revisit the Wanderer story, see where that character was at,” Culos says. “It was really kind of like coming full circle and saying, ‘Hey, there’s this voyage, this journey you’ve been on, and that thing you were looking for has been inside of you the entire time.’ And it’s really about being comfortable with who you are and not letting anyone say anything otherwise. … “It’s like this king, being king of your thing, being proud of who you are.”

O.A.R. with Parachute • Tues, Jan. 31 at 7 pm • $27-30 • All-ages • Knitting Factory • 919 W. Sprague Ave. • 244-3279

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