Brooklyn's Oberhofer brought their untraditional take on pop music to the Memorial Union Terrace last Thursday evening, kicking off a tour of the U.S. and Canada. They describe themselves as a "coincidental pop" band, drawing influences from chance encounters and an underlying sense of uncertainty. For what it's worth, the genre's name sounds like an oxymoron. Mixing pop music, something that's typically controlled to an obsessive degree, with coincidence sounds like a recipe for disaster. But Oberhofer are the opposite of dysfunctional.
Simply labeling them Oberhofer as a pop band doesn’t make much sense; it's just the closest articulation that can come out of current music vernacular. Other than frontman Brad Oberhofer's reverb-infused vocals, which display a style that's in vogue among the Orwells and other dream-pop up-and-comers, there are few reasons to call the band pop-heavy. Yes, their songs inspired the audience at the Terrace to get up, dance and even, on occasion, fist pump. This, however, wasn't achieved through kitschy, repetitive hooks.
There were a few parts of their set that, as an Oberhofer virgin, surprised me. I certainly wasn't expecting such rich and well-planned building parts to their songs. It's rare to find a band doing something pop-based that invests so much time preparing for the catchy sections of their tunes. It worked because each part was executed with tight precision, the result of strong musicianship. This is something that all sorts of groups, from ambient to punk, try to do. Most fail in their attempts because it's challenging to layer many parts and make it sound right.
Oberhofer's use of glockenspiel really stands out as well. Three guitarists can sometimes be overbearing, but a generous helping of perfect-sounding rings from the glockenspiel provides just the right timbre change-up.
The band's set at the Memorial Union Terrace provided an excellent balance between the expected and the unknown. At times their music felt familiar, but then would suddenly bring in completely original concepts. Their fresh take at pop music and overall exuberance them to be both an enjoyable and even enlightening group to see on stage.