An Interview With Spencer Peppet and Grace Weir of The Ophelias: A New Album and Breaking Away From ‘Music Bros’

Last Friday, the Ophelias released their debut album, Almost on Joyful Noise, an album that drifts listeners along like a life raft in the ocean with soft melodies that strike as melancholy and a medley of instruments as serene as night sounds. But the Ophelias have a unique story that resonates with many.

Subtlety and without using the word “feminists,” the Ophelias are a band that serves as a model of what we should all strive for in how we think and treat others or: feminists. The band is now wrapped in a narrative of a group of women that came together after each member realized that they were the “token women” in different bands.

The Ophelias were born when Spencer Peppet reached out to the rest of the band to play with her at a benefit show while in high school and one show became a recording session which became the foundation of the band.

Even the name of the band follows the same narrative: Peppet who studied drama, said of the Shakespearian character whom the band derives their name from: “I think Ophelia kind of gets a bad wrap. She has a really nuanced storyline and they get kind of run-over in the story by all of Hamlet’s stuff. I kind of identify with that.”

And truly, each member of the band was in the same situation that Ophelia herself faced, of being “over run” by male counterparts. But if she had been able to get in one last thought, it probably would have been the same ardor and finesse that is becoming so expected in the Ophelias’ music.

The Ophelias are from Cincinnati, Ohio. The band consists of Spencer Peppet (guitar, vox, songwriting), Grace Weir (bass), Andrea Gutmann-Fuentes (violin, piano), and Micaela Adams (drums).

Antonio Villasenor-Baca: How long has the album been in the works?

Spencer Peppet: It’s been in the works for about two years. The first album we did, we did in about a month. A month versus two years has been a big change for us.

AVB: What’s been the process?

Grace Weir: We all individually write our instrument’s parts. Andre writes the violin parts. Michaela writes her percussion parts. Spencer writes her vocal parts and guitar as well as like the song structure. And I write the bass parts. We went in for this album and we recorded all of the bass tracks about two years ago. We were sitting on these songs and we got to a certain point and we had gotten into contact with Joyful Noise and decided to work with Yoni Wolf and opened back up the songs and revisited them. It was a lot of added layers. A lot of it we did in the initial recording process but others parts we added on after revisiting it. Some of the parts that we added on in this past year ended up just being a whole song. So there’s a song, “O Command,” specifically- Andrea came in to record a couple extra violin parts and we ended up falling so much in love with the violin that we mixed all the other instruments during the verses and just had violin and some percussion. It’s been a process of writing the songs and getting them to say what we want them to say, but not necessarily to create the world that we were hoping to create and then revisiting them a year later with a fresh perspective.

Antonio Villasenor-Baca: What about the concepts and themes in the album? A lot of the tracks sound melancholy. Is there anything specific that you’re writing about? And can you talk about the artwork and the cover?

SP: The album itself was written over a period of about three years. The oldest song is from when I was a senior in high school, so like 2015? And then the newest song, is like from a year ago. It’s been a while with these songs. I would say I’m writing about being in two places, because I left Ohio to New York for college. It’s just very different and it changed a lot about the way that I think about myself and the relationships that I’m in and also the way that I was looking back on relationships I had already been in, in Ohio. It’s the kind of thing where you miss the other place you’re not in. So I would definitely agree that they’re melancholy just because I was between two places and trying to feel at home in both.

unnamed-12
Almost, artwork.

As far as the album art goes, those images are either things that are in the lyrics or are indicative of the band as a whole. They are the images that we have used for a while. We did a bunch of stuff with moths for our first album. The candy on there is because we have a song called “Moonlight Sour Candy.” And there’s a really lovely girl named Rachel Neltner who did the paintings for that. We’re just friends for high school, she’s not pursuing art even though she’s one of the most talented artists I have ever met. She’s just a lovely human being.

 

 

AVB: And when did you graduate high school? 

SP: I graduated in 2015, as did Grace and Andrea. Micaela graduated in 2016.

AVB: What have been the logistics of keeping the band together since [Spencer] moved away? 

SP: It’s one of those things where I didn’t want to give it up so we make it work, whenever I’m home, whenever we’re all together. We play together ad we play shows and we work on things. It’s just nice to always have the people you love to come back to. That’s been really  lovely. We’re lucky that the thing hasn’t been more complicated, where most of the band is in Cincinnati so it’s easier to come back and keep working.

AVB: I’ve read the narrative of how the bad came together and how you all realized you were playing as the “key” women in separate bands. How did the conversation happen where you realized you had the shared experience and wanted to start your own band? 

SP: I don’t know if we had put words to it until after it all happened, back in 2014 I was putting a benefit show together and I didn’t want to play solo so I reached out to Grace and Andrea and Micaela and asked if they would want to play just this one show with me  and so then we ended up playing together. And we [made] pretty much the entire album that we put out in 2015. It was totally unlike anything I had ever experienced in other bands. I ended up being like, “hey. Would you maybe want to continue this?” Lucky for mw, they said yes. Otherwise I’d be very sad right now.

GW: I feel like the conversation about being made the token woman in a band, we hadn’t had that conversation until about a year? We all had experienced this feeling, like even in our very first practice where we all felt very free to try things, make mistakes, or just convey whatever emotion we were feeling and none of us had ever, I think, felt that feeling before. I don’t think any of us realized that we felt so safe and able to be ourselves  not only individually but because of the fact that we had been surrounded by, “dude bros.” Dudes that just wanted us to play the way that they play. To play what they’d written. That pretty much just wanted us there for the image.

The Ophelias Tour Dates:

07/20 Portland, OR – Mississippi Studios *
07/22 San Francisco, CA – Swedish American Hall *
07/23 Salt Lake City, UT – Kilby Court
07/27 – Cincinnati, OH – We Have Become Vikings
11/2 Cleveland, OH – Beachland Ballroom #
11/3 Chicago, IL – Bottom Lounge #
11/4 Minneapolis, MN – Cedar Cultural Center #
11/23 Ferndale, MI – Loving Touch #
11/24 Pittsburgh, PA – Spirit Hall #

# = w/ WHY?
* = w/ The Low Anthem

By Antonio Villasenor-Baca

 

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