Drawing on influences from the likes of soul, blues and rock, Horace Greene have crafted their own unique style. The talented 3-piece, consists of Tony Oakley (Vocals/Guitar), Sam Swetlik (Bass), and Mitch Washebek (Drums). We sat down with Horace Green for an in-depth interview to hear all about their tracks, inspirations and more.
Your track “High Tonight” is amazing. How did the track come about?
Tony – Thanks, glad you like it! It’s been a while so let me think… that song was written about 6 years ago, we weren’t even a band yet.
I was messing around with those dreamy Maj7 chords for a while before I wrote lyrics to them. I trashed a bunch of previous iterations of the song because it just wasn’t vibing like I thought it could. I took a break from the song; I went to Los Angeles to visit my sis for about a week. That gave me time to get a new perspective on it. I sat down with it again when I got home and it got really clear what path the song should take. This was around the same time I fell in love with Motown music, which was definitely another inspiration for me. Although subtle, writing “High Tonight” was the first time I felt like I was moving in a more 60’s/70’s pop direction with my song writing. That’s when I knew there was at least a piece of me, probably more, that belonged in soul music.
It’s a love song of sorts, or maybe lack thereof. It’s a song about a girl I had a thing for; she was super spontaneous and outgoing, and I was a pretty quiet person at the time. Just being around her made me feel anxious, but she had this aura about her that was so exciting and attractive. The lyrics are a monologue; they talk about the feelings/experiences I had around her. The phrase “because the moon, you said, was high tonight” is a plea, almost, for her to honor the late-night plans she always suggested, but never did.
Mitch – I never knew that about the song. Which makes this interview fun because I feel like there is a lot of stuff about Tony’s song writing that I still don’t know about. We had been jamming for a while until we got the song to the point to record it, so the demos were helpful at first and it evolved in both of the basements we practiced in.
How did Horace Greene start out?
Tony – Sam and I started playing music together in High School. He didn’t play bass when we met, but I asked him if he’d give it a shot, and in typical Sam fashion he was down to try it (he’s cool like that). Like he said below we were in a few different bands before Horace Greene. We could never find a drummer that was serious about playing until we met Mitch. Mitch answered our Craigslist ad, that’s how we met (about 2.5 years ago). He came over where we practiced and we jammed out a few songs together. Mitch was a solid drummer, just really solid. He was a really down to earth, respectful guy (still is) and we really liked that about him too. So I sent him the demos we had for Early American Ice Cream and I think he liked them, cus he quit his other band shortly after. He was cheating on them with us anyway. :’) (Kidding, love you Mitch)
Sam – Tony and met early in high school and started playing together. We had a few groups before Horace Greene (The Davenport / Loud Knocks). In October 2015, we found Mitch on Craigslist after he answered one of our ads for a drummer. The rest is history!
Mitch – I was playing in a band called More Then Merry when I was perusing Craigslist to see if there were any new musicians I could start playing with. At the time I was still playing with MTM and Horace Greene. Eventually MTM found a new drummer, which was good because it was getting hard juggling both of the bands.
What inspired your name?
Tony – We were throwing around a bunch of names, but they all seemed to assume too much. We wanted a name that was just nothing, like, didn’t imply anything about who we were because we wanted people to form their own opinions of us without us steering them in a certain direction. It was our first foray into a real musical endeavor and we didn’t want a shtick, we just wanted to be ourselves without letting a name dictate our path. Horace Greene is just a name I thought of one day, I think I was literally going through baby name books from like 50 years ago and I must’ve seen “Horace” in there. Could be, can’t really remember, I’m pretty forgetful, there’s too much stuff swimming around in my head at one time. We all liked it because it had a nice cadence to it and it seemed like it would be fitting for the name of a wise old man, which seemed respectable and a good name to build on. It was kind of like naming a child, who was born as a 75 year old man.. and I’m the daddy. Where my mommas at?
Mitch – Tony just told me he always wanted to have a band named after an old man and I thought, “sure man, whatever” I liked the sound of it. I’m glad the extra ‘e’ at the end of Greene was added because it sits well graphically with six letters for each word.
Who are the top 5 influences on your sound right now?
Tony – I think this changes a bit from month to month, but in no particular order: The Arcs, Mac DeMarco, Ennio Morricone, The BeeGees, and King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. Also, shout out to Post Animal, we played a show with them last fall and they confirmed our love for psychedelic rock.
Mitch – I’ve been listening to Benny Greb, Truckfighters, The 1975, Futurebirds and a whole bunch of other stuff lately. I’m not totally sure how those bands are influencing our sound but I think whatever i’m listening to is subconsciously influencing my drumming all the time.
You’re from Wisconsin, how do you think the area has influenced your sound?
Tony – In winter we feel like writing sad folk songs, and in summer we feel like writing club bangers.
I grew up in the Fox Valley, which had a really special music scene. The scene was relatively small, but it was big enough to be self-sustaining and make an impact on the community. The local musicians all seemed to know and support each other, which I always admired. I used to sneak into bars to see bands all the time. The people playing back in those days were my heroes, and they were approachable which made me feel like part of the community before I even had a band.
As far as Horace Greene goes, I think it’s different for each of us. Soundwise, for me, I was into a lot of local indie rock bands, americana/folk groups, and power pop stuff in the area. I could name off a handful of good bands that used to be active in the area back then, but a lot of them have moved on. Right now there is a pretty cool Indie Psychedelic/Dream Pop scene rising in Oshkosh, which is the city we’re based out of. I’m excited to see where that goes. I think in general as a band, we try to take everything in, there is amazing stuff happening in every genre.
Sam – There are a lot of talented and friendly people here in Wisconsin and the Fox Valley. Growing up I played music with my friends and went to see local bands which was always inspiring. Also, being close to bigger cities like Milwaukee, Green Bay, and Chicago provided endless opportunities to see bands coming through on tour. Wisconsin is a warm and inviting place and I’m glad we can call it our home!
Mitch – I grew up traveling every weekend with my parents playing classic rock radio and being around my Dad spinning Supertramp records so I’ve always been into rock music. Then when CDs came around my friends were big into 90s alternative and then punk rock and pop so I guess just living in Wisconsin has always inspired me to be a rock drummer because of the people I’ve been around.
Your debut album is called “Early American Ice Cream,” how did you come up with the name?
Tony – We were dead tired after recording for something like 35 hours in two days straight and we started getting slap happy. We found this old Mad Libs book that had been under my bed for years and we started losing it over some of the stuff inside. The phrase “Early American Ice Cream Cone” was something we found in there. As a band at that time, there was something about that title that was strangely relevant and magical about our situation. We truncated it so it wasn’t too obnoxious and then we rolled with it.
Sam – What Tony said.
Mitch – Yea it’s kind of silly how the name came about, but it made for a good idea with the album art.
And finally, what does the future hold for Horace Greene?
Tony – This year is gonna be a doozy. We have a ton of stuff on the horizon, including a new full length album coming out June 1st. We’re so excited for it, we don’t even wanna talk about it, we just want people to hear it. We’re working with some of our favourite local artists to make new videos, graphics, and other content that we’ll be rolling out over the course of the year. We’re doing some new merch items too. After summer we’ll probably start on a new album, if not before. We have our eyes set on a Midwest tour and a west coast tour sometime in the not so distant future. There will be some surprises next year as well, so stay tuned!
Sam – We are very excited for the future of Horace Greene. We just finished tracking our new album at Honeytone Studios in Neenah! This was my first time recording anything in a studio setting and I don’t think I could have had a better first experience. We are planning our release party in early Summer (June 1) at a local venue called the Algoma Club and are very excited for people to hear our new songs and celebrate with us! We are also planning to play a number of the summer festivals which Wisconsin has to offer. Unfortunately, we missed out on a number of these last year. Along with the new music, we are also planning on launching a website and releasing some music videos in the near future. We are excited to be working on with a few local artists and photographers on these projects. Within the next year we also hope to hit the road more and expand our sound to cities in the Midwest!
Mitch – Ever since last year I think we have established what it takes to keep the momentum going with the band. Our new album release for this summer is huge and it’s quite the campaign for us. We are just trying to play out as much as we can and continue making music and art.
Make sure you check out their track ‘High Tonight’ below!