photo by Saskia Baden
While My Father Sleeps by the Olympia, Washington based band Oh, Rose tells the complex story of family, adversity, love, and friendship. In ten songs, the record bears the soul and shares the truths of the band’s front-person and creative driver, Olivia Rose, while also serving as a homage to Rose’s mother, who passed away in January of 2017. It is Rose’s life story, told under the banner of a story her mother was never able to finish.
“While My Father Sleeps is the title of the book my mother wrote throughout her life,” Rose says. “It involved her relationship with my grandfather, the way she could communicate with him through the poetry of Carl Sandburg and the writings of Truman Capote. Her storytelling always inspired me to tell my own through music. The album title and artwork serves as a bookend, the songs written between two moments. The front cover shows my mother reading to my brother and me outside the North Asheville library in the summer of 1995, the back is her headstone. Though I didn’t write these songs in a state of grief, I came to know this album while I was grieving. When my mother died, I learned a new language, the language of death. At the same time, I was continuing to build strength and love within my community; my story isn’t uncommon. I hope my music finds a home with those who speak these same languages.”
Soon after arriving in Olympia, Rose met the friends and musicians who would become her community and extended family. Formed in 2014, the band built its foundations by playing DIY house shows and contributing to Olympia’s long-standing punk and art scene. A play on Rose’s own name, Oh, Rose recorded and self-released their first EP, That Do Now See in 2014 followed by a mini album the following year titled Seven. Sticking with the tradition of their previous release, WMFS was recorded and mixed by band member Kevin Christopher in Olympia Today, the live lineup includes Rose on vocals and guitar, Liam Hindahl on drums, Sarah Redden on synthesizer, and Kevin Christopher on bass; the dynamic continues to be as supportive and collaborative as any group of people can be. Each member writes their own instrumental parts with Rose bringing the songwriting and melody. The trust the unit shares with one another is where the group’s power truly lies.
While My Father Sleeps begins with “25, Alive,” a dirge-y, distorted-guitar gem that is fueled by Rose’s lovely rise-and-fall vocals and its choppy-smooth rhythm. The album’s lone number written following her mother’s death, it is a self-appeal to release the anger Rose had been holding both during her mother’s life and after her passing. As the song opens with the lines “Am I strong enough to tell my truth/25 I am alive and I am angry,” the way is paved for the passionate soul-bearing that follows. “I was 25 when my mother died and I was angry and broken” Rose says. “This song is me saying I don’t want this anger because I know what it does to a person if they hold onto it.”
“Phoenix” is a fiery, emotional tune about rebirth following a betrayal. It embraces the situation no matter the pain. Lightening the mood, “Harrypotterjuana” uses its buoyant imagery to explore escapism as a means of avoiding coping with reality, and its slow-burn shuffle and shifting tempos complement those vibes perfectly. “Baby” is a playful tune utilizing Rose’s vocal scales. At closer inspection, the song is a self-effacing exploration of the fine line between understanding our inner child’s dependence on others and the tendency to avoid asking for help until our breaking point. As the record ends with the sparse strumming and atmospheric build of “Be Kind To Me,” it’s clear that Oh, Rose has created a landmark album of sonic self-expression and a courageous feat of emotional outpour.
Throughout the record, it is Rose’s powerful, expressive voice that carves our path, navigating a sure and delicate way from song to song. The emotion shifts and sways, a quality she attributes to the undulating nature of her past, ultimately providing a sturdy ground upon which to build. While My Father Sleeps is an album about family and friendship, beauty and love, turbulence and trauma amidst the sense of finding home.
8/2 Portland, OR – Mississippi Studios
9/8 Seattle, WA – Sunset Tavern