Time Out of Mind
Oh Whitney frontman Peter More was born in Fort Worth, spent his formative years here, and for a little while lived here with his three bandmates. But the guy has spread roof all over the Western Hemisphere –– from New York City to Brazil –– and with his band now calls the arty, English-language-friendly town of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, home. More, drummer Adrien Fraunce (originally from France), bassist Diego Noyola (Mexico), and lead guitarist Jose Juan Poyatos (Spain) are not filthy rich –– they just work their butts off, gigging all over Mexico and occasionally the States.
“We’re not trying to make tons of money,” More said. “We just play shows and keep recording. Both of those places –– Brazil and San Miguel –– have been kind of just backdrops to writing.”
The band has been writing and recording plenty and next month will go into the studio in San Miguel with Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen. Yes. The Donald Fagen. The Oh Whitney guys and the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer came together purely by chance. Fagen and his wife, singer-songwriter Libby Titus, happened to waltz into the San Miguel art gallery where bassist Noyola works. A casual convo about art ensued, and after Noyola mentioned Oh Whitney, contact information was exchanged. A friendship quickly developed.
“He’s incredible,” More said of recording with The Nightfly. “It’s an honor to get to work with him.”
Fagen frequently collaborates with other artists but rarely sits in their producer’s chair. In addition to two latter-day Steely Dan albums and a couple of solo records, Fagen’s only other production credits include a 1978 straight-ahead jazz album and a 1988 Broadway soundtrack.
“I don’t know what to expect,” More said. “His reputation is that he’s very meticulous in the studio.”
Oh Whitney started out, innocuously enough, several years ago as Smooch & The Big Hug in Durham, N.C., where More and former lead guitarist Will Arnold were students at Duke University. After assuming the moniker Oh Whitney –– named after More’s mom, the musicians’ spiritual caretaker –– the band, while undergoing some lineup changes, also spent time in Puerto Rico before finally settling last year in San Miguel, where More’s parents own a home. (When tourists rent the house, which is often, More must make himself scarce.) More and Fraunce are the only remaining original members.
The young twenty-something More’s peripatetic nature informs his music, he said. “I think any time you travel, you get inspired,” he continued. “You can study the different rhythms and influences of a culture and their music even if you don’t mean to. … I think it’s a cool thing. That’s why we like to travel, for sure, to keep checking out new music, what the sound and the vibes are.”
Mainly guitar-based rock, Oh Whitney’s tuneage also brims with folky flavors (bluegrass and country primarily) and has naturally expanded to encompass the stylings of the two newcomers. Poyatos, a flamenco guitar virtuoso, is who inspired More to pick up a six-string in the first place –– the two met in Madrid years ago while More was studying abroad. Once back in the States, young Peter left college for the rose-petals-and-money-strewn path of rock ’n’ roll. Traveling all over creation has not only allowed More to shape Oh Whitney’s sound into a singular, idiosyncratic expression but also has brought him in contact with some heavy hitters, including his two new bandmates, as well as Fagen and Rick Shlosser, who produced Oh Whitney’s eponymous 2011 debut (“Say Oh Whitney,” Feb. 23, 2011). The former drummer for Van Morrison, James Taylor, and Cher will co-produce Oh Whitney’s forthcoming sophomore album. More hopes to release the record in time to make a small stateside tour, anchored by at least one Austin gig during South-by-Southwest.
The Oh Whitney fellas –– with a part-time keyboardist, New York City’s Will Armstrong –– are now wrapping up a tour of Atlanta, Charleston, Durham, New York City (with the up-and-coming Bobby Bare Jr.), and Philadelphia, bookended by gigs in Fort Worth. The tour’s first stop was earlier this month at The Flying Saucer as part of the annual Lone Star International Film Festival, and the last show will be on Thanksgiving night, Thursday, Nov. 22, at Lola’s Saloon with another peripatetic band with Fort Worth roots: New York City’s/Austin’s The Frontier Brothers. By no later than February, More said, he and his bandmates will leave Mexico behind for the not-so-sandy shores of the Texas state capital. “We’re going to avoid at all costs just falling into that Austin circuit,” More said. “We’re just going to try to live there and tour as much as possible.”
More also thinks Oh Whitney’s time will be split between the Live Music Capital of the World ® and ye olde Fort. “We lived in Fort Worth for a while, and I would still say in a way we’re a Fort Worth band, for sure,” he said. “My family lives here. My girlfriend lives here. I have a feeling we’ll be out of both places. … I’ve thought about coming to Fort Worth instead, but I would like to give Austin a little try, even if just for a few months.”
Thu w/The Frontier Brothers at Lola’s Saloon, 2736 W 6th St, FW. $7-10. 817-877-0666.