Oginalii is a Nashville-based rock band with a dense sound that’s impossible to pin down. One minute they’re psychedelically lulling you into a druggy head-bob, and the next they’re ripping sludge rock, making you want to throw a beer can and light a cigarette in a dimly lit basement.
The band, whose name translates to “my friend” in the Cherokee language, was formed four years ago in Nashville at Belmont University when Emma Hoeflinger (vocals/guitar) and Karalyne Winegarner (vocals/drums) met on the hall they shared. The pair would go on to add bassist Kürt Kraft to the mix in Fall of 2016. Hoeflinger wields a voice that is at times jarringly pretty—a pleasing juxtaposition to the dirty chugging guitar she loves to sing over—and at others unnervingly raw and loud. Winegarner goes toe to toe with her, both instrumentally and vocally, in a blend which went down oh-so-smooth with the crowds who saw Oginalii play their showcases at South by Southwest in March of this year.
Oginalii premiered their video for the single “Red” off of their debut EP earlier in March at Huffington Post, who categorized them as “Dead Weather-meets-Elle King,” while the band’s impressive guitar work has also garnered them comparison to the likes of Queens of the Stone Age and Led Zeppelin. Not terrible company to keep.
On that first effort, American Songwriter credited the band with creating "a culture of fresh sounds and songwriting that really represents and reflects that New Nashville sound." And Joshua Pickard at Nooga worded it like this: "They're creating a brash and necessary rock aesthetic that strips the fat and waste away from classic rock's skeleton, leaving the sinews and lean muscle behind."
Oginalii is set to release their sophomore EP The Grey on October 20, and it promises to maintain the trajectory. No, this isn’t an EP inspired by the Liam Neeson Alaskan survival movie, though if there was a genre called “wolf-punch rock,” this might be that sound.
The Grey was produced and engineered by Curtis Roush of Bright Light Social Hour in his studio on Lake Travis in Austin, Texas, and mixed and mastered by Erik Wofford (Black Angels, Holy Wave, Explosions in The Sky, Pure X....etc.).
“The grey [as a concept] has been a thing for me my whole life,” reveals Hoeflinger about the album. “The in-between. Black and white shuts the demons up, but the grey is always constantly calling my name. It’s in between the grey of things that not a lot of people talk about.”
Grey areas crop up as a constant theme throughout the EP, with thoughtful musings on feeling lost as well as the space between the inner self and the front that people present to the world. Lyrically, the EP is at times pensive and at others tongue-in-cheek, yet ever self-aware. Opener “Substance Abuse” puts on display a painfully transparent brave face, with Hoeflinger singing a repeat of “I’m fine” in a cadence that suggests she is anything but.
Immediately following “Substance Abuse,” Oginalii shines an unapologetically mocking and honest spotlight on the disillusionment of trying to make it as a musician in the Nashville scene on track “Salmo Salar.” Says Hoeflinger, “We’re literally just making fun of Nashville. In order to survive anywhere in my opinion—because there is shit everywhere—if I don’t make fun of it, I’m going to cry. That’s how I get through every single day is sarcasm.’”
For Hoeflinger, “7799” is the song that hits the hardest and best portrays both the message of the EP and the range of the band. “I think that really is just a perfect amalgamation of what we sound like in a lot of ways. It has our hard and our sweet sound. That one gives you a taste of all aspects.”
As a listener, if you can keep still while listening to a single track on The Grey, you’re either impressively self-disciplined or clinically impenetrable. The release as a whole is musically challenging and dynamic, comprised of defiant, relentless guitar riffs and complicated time signatures, with each musician proving their mettle track by track.
“I think that this new EP is going to show people that we should be taken seriously and we’re not people to fuck with. Don’t fuck with us,” says Hoefinger, quickly disclaiming, ”but fuck with us, because we also like to have a good time.”