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Local Listens: Once Okay Twice

Welcome to Local Listens, where we profile some of our favorite Washington musicians. This week, we shine the spotlight on Once Okay Twice.

Photograph courtesy of the band.

The hometowns of the members of Once Okay Twice span the United States as well as Singapore, but the band was born in the District of Columbia.

Once Okay Twice began as a two-piece basement band with Craig Smith on guitar and a friend who later left the band. From there, Erika Seberhagen was brought in on violin and Ian Thomas played the bass and sang until Nick Hardt took over bass duties. When the drummer quit for creative differences, Dan Goldberg filled the spot. Smith moved to Los Angeles, so Tyler Elliott came in as a guitar ringer, and when Smith is in town they both take the stage.

When asked to describe the Once Okay Twice’s music in one word, members of the band give a variety of answers from “svelte” to “democratic” to “ours.” It isn’t surprising that they all have different responses, since they have quite different musical tastes, ranging from Karen Carpenter to the Spinners, Tears for Fears, Hall and Oates, the Bee Gees, and more. But all of their musical interests come together nicely to create an indie-rock band with a hint of soul.

On “The District” (available for play on MySpace), the band sings about the city’s dynamic and mixes one of President Obama’s speeches into the chorus. The violin gives off a melancholy feeling until it’s set behind Obama’s words, then the melody becomes uplifting and more assertive and the song fades out with chants of “Yes, we can!”

Thomas says the band has enough songs to fill two albums but will probably release two or three EPs. The name for the first is still being decided, and the band doesn’t have any plans to release a full-length just yet.

“If we ever get signed to a label,” Thomas says, “that’s when you can expect the full-length album.”

While we wait for that to happen, catch Once Okay Twice on February 20 at Yorktown Bistro in Arlington, and check out our Q&A with the band.

Name: Once Okay Twice.

Ages of members: 23 to 27.

First song that made you want to play music:
Ian: “ ‘Human Nature’ by Michael Jackson.”
Tyler: “Anything by Michael Jackson.”

First instrument:
Nick: Ukulele.
Craig, Tyler, Dan, and Erika: Piano.

Local spot to seek inspiration or write music:
Nick: “The basement, where my roommates won’t complain about the noise.
Ian: “On my patio, looking at the nighttime sky and drinking red wine, it’s mighty fine.”

Best local venue:
Ian: 9:30 Club.
Craig: DC9.
Nick: Black Cat.

Best bar to hear music:
Dan: Blues Alley.
Nick: “Black Cat (both stages) or its jukebox.”

Favorite local band other than yours:
Craig: Ra Ra Rasputin or U.S. Royalty.
Dan: The Tet Offensive.

Best thing about the District’s music scene:
Craig: “Friendly and tight.”
Dan: “Craig R. Smith.”

Worst thing about the District’s music scene:
Ian: “Not really recognized nationally.”
Nick: “It needs more venues!”

Craziest tour or show memory:
Tyler: “Waking up suspended from a ceiling in Brookland.”
Erika: “All those hot chicks that want me after every show.”

Finish this sentence: “When not making music, you can find me . . .”
Tyler: “. . . drinking beer.”
Ian: “. . . at the club bottle full of bub.”

Rolling Stones or the Beatles?
Craig, Tyler, Dan, and Erika: Beatles.
Nick: “Neither. Give me some something that bleeds . . . like Slayer.”

Digital download or hard copy?
Tyler, Ian and Nick: Hard copy.
Craig, Dan, Erika: “Digi.”

Rolling Stone or Spin?
Ian: Spin.
Tyler: “Whichever has the hotter girl on the cover.”

Club show or festival?
Craig: “Festival of club shows (SXSW).”
Ian: “Festival. Pitchfork is amazing—small area with a ton of spectacular bands.”

If you were stranded on an island and could have only two albums with you, which would you choose?
Tyler: “Outkast's Aquemini and Led Zeppelin II (first album I owned).”
Dan: “How the West Was Won by LZ and Chocolate Factory by R. Kelly.”
Nick: “The first Cold War Kids album and Band of Horses’ Cease to Begin, but there’s more!”
Craig: “Sublime’s 40 Oz. to Freedom (because it runs the gambit) and either João Gilberto’s Legendary collection or Pet Sounds.”
Ian: “Tears for Fears’ The Hurting because it is legit and Wham!’s Music From the Edge of Heaven because, eventually, Christmas will come and it is essential that I hear “Last Christmas” every holiday season until I die.”

How did you come up with the band’s name?
Nick: “Most people like to do things once; we like to do things twice.”
Craig: “It was going to be Only Once Okay Twice, but then we just shortened it.  It is usually in reference to something you don’t want to admit to doing more than once.”

What was the best show you ever played and why?
Craig: “Ian’s Grandma’s birthday.  Because it was completely different than any other gig.”
Tyler: “Been too wasted at all of them to remember.”
Nick: “I think the last one for the On Tap CD party.  We had just got back from a NYC gig, and we just picked up where we left off. . . . The crowd dug it. We played early, so there was plenty of time too party, and it was packed.  I feel the best is still to come though.”

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