Oranga Tanga: Extraordinary music we should be listening to

"Tell me a little bit about yourselves.  How did Oranga Tanga start out?" I ask.  I'm seated across from Jared Campbell (vocals, guitar, trombone, kazoo, mandolin, flex-itone, metals, shaker thingy, possibly a milk jug) and David Bitner (guitar, bass, vocals, kazoo, various mind-bending percussion-like implements of sound) at a little outdoor table.  It's cool and breezy outside, accented by the whoosh of cars on the nearby highway and the muted thunder of another band's bass guitar inside the club where Oranga Tanga has just performed their mind-bending music for an eager crowd.

Oranga Tanga is unlike any other musical group- their songs cover obscure, random topics through unorthodox music techniques, yet they are so authentic in their endeavors that their music remains captivating.

Jared was working with electronic music, but his heart wasn't in it.  After seeing David at a drum circle and with the band Nuclear Umbrella, Jared called David.  "I was like, "He's making weird music.  I wanna make some weird music," Jared said.  David's response: "Give me a month."
Jared: And then- I couldn't believe it- he actually called me back.  He's like, "Hey, what did you want to do?" I was like, " I don't know.  I just want to see if I can get the right amount of the right minds together... We got together, we talked.  I was like, "Before we write a single thing or whatever, I just gotta make sure that the vision is the same."  
Jared already had a drummer lined up. He had been playing in original bands with Tom Van Dyke (bass guitar, percussion) since 1991. "I didn't really know him that well," Jared remembers, "so I was like, "Ok, let's make the band philosophy."

The band philosophy: "I wanna be able to play anything, and I don't want to feel stupid.  I don't want anybody to judge me for whatever. If the song requires me to smash a milk jug with my palm or whatever.  Because I like to create. I want to make sure the band is completely open for the brainstorming thing."  

"I wanna create, and I want others to create around me as well, so I want that to be wide open. Wide open opportunity for whatever.  I also want to be able to say, "Hey, sounds kinda shitty.  Maybe we can tweak this or tweak that," but not undercut the foundation of what it is."

"I don't wanna bow before some club owner because he wants us to play a certain way.  I don't wanna do that. I'd just rather play in the parking lot."

According to Jared, the first way to kill good ideas is to say, "Nah, I don't think that's the way you should-" or "I don't think..." 
With the philosophy laid out, Jared says, "It was like turning on a light in the swamp."

Tom, Jared, and David got together at David's house to play around with drums. Afterwards, David called Anthony Darmana (percussion, vocals)
David: He said, "I wanna play I wanna play I wanna play!" That was his answer. So he was number four.
Jared and Anthony were playing percussion for Bryan Tilford (guitar, banjo, harmonium, vocals). The idea of a band where anything could happen appealed to Bryan, so he joined with the group. The last piece of the puzzle they needed was a bass player.
Jared: I was like, "Oh, I know somebody who plays an acoustic bass!  And he's nuts, too, and he's super smart!" Thus Ian "his cheap moves" Koss (bass, items that could be considered instruments) joined the band.
Jared likens the equilibrium of the band to that one excellent class in school- the teacher leads, the students are entirely on board with what the class is doing (a rare finding in high school :) )- a class where all the right gears turn.

Jared: And then, all of a sudden, it was like nobody wanted to leave! You know when you know it's right, there's enough people to have enough. It's so weird because not one of us is the same person. Nobody is a wannabe.  Nobody in the group. Nobody is trying.  Nobody is trying. Everybody's just like, "This is who I am and this is what I do."  It's like just blinding brilliance when it comes together like this.
Per their philosophy, the band wanted to be able to play on the streets if a bar wouldn't have them. "Those are buskers, people who do that," Jared explains. They called themselves Brevard Busking Coalition, although they changed the name for every show: "Brevard Busking Coalition presents: (fill in the blank)." In self-confessed laziness, they soon settled with solely Brevard Busking Coalition.

Jared: So a couple things happened.  Bryan, the guitar player who we dragged in first, he didn't show up to a show.  Because he died.
"I don't know how to say that in a not blunt way," Jared laughs.
In 2014, Brevard Busking Coalition was scheduled to play at NerdFest, a convention on the Space Coast. When Bryan failed to show, the band immediately knew something was wrong. "If he was late, he was there an hour and twenty five early instead of an hour thirty," recalls David. The band joked their way through the show, including "he's gotta be dead, guys". Directly afterwards, Ian drove to Bryan's house and found that it was true. "It was like losing your leg," Jared says. That happened on a Saturday. On Sunday, the band had to play a show because Bryan had previously scheduled it at his church.

Jared: It was the most brutal-est show I've ever played to date.  Like, ever. Like, where you're just ready to throw up because you have to.  The only reason you're doing it is out of love for your friend. But I wanted to be anywhere but that place singing anything but those songs.  But we had to do it, so we did.

Three days later, the members met to rewire. Bryan left his legacy in the music of Brevard Busking Coalition, his friendship, and his vexation during political conversations. "So now he's free, doesn't have to talk about politics anymore... Wonderful person," Jared says. Everyone knew that the band wouldn't be the same without him. They didn't want to give up their vision, but they wanted to honor him and his contributions to the band. So they changed the name from Brevard Busking Coalition to the Oranga Tanga we know today. "Now we put Oranga Tanga stickers on our old CDs," David divulges.
Soon after, Ian's girlfriend moved to Colorado and Ian followed. (Because, according to Jared, she's a good cook.) (And a wonderful person.)

The newly named Oranga Tanga was now in need of someone who played the bass, the ukulele, and other more bizarre instruments; plus, that person had to be up for anything. Enter Cade Austin (guitar, bass guitar, ukulele, vocals, percussion)- the son of a friend of a friend's.
Jared: We met him, and it was like, "Oh, you're another one of us."  It was a young version of us.

The instruments.
Jared:  Tom calls me up and was like, "Hey, there's all these musical instruments.  You should come up here and bring cash."
I was like,"How much?"
He said, "Bring all the band money." I was like, "Ok."  So I don't know how much it was.  Two hundred dollars at the time or something.  But we get there, and it was literally like somebody had taken all these old, way past their prime, old-school instruments they bought in a lot from the school system, and so everything was ripped to shreds.  I found this piece of a trombone and I was like, "Well, I could jam a kazoo in that. That'll work." We bought an upright bass. So anyways, that was really fun. We bought a bunch of old, dented instruments from this crazy hippy guy.  I mean, it was the weirdest. He was like, "Hey, uh. I don't know. Thirty dollars? Forty dollars?" He was like a weird guy, super weird guy. But it was very much an adventure.

Left to right: David surrounded by percussive implements, Jared and his trombone,
Tom ensconced in drums, Anthony focused in guitar, and Cade grooving five-string bass

Listening to Oranga Tanga's songs, you'll hear standard rock-band instruments: guitars, drums, etc- good stuff. And then there are kazoos and trombones and kazoos in trombones. And goat hooves, singing bowls, the vibraslap, and the flexitone. And more. Still, David's instrument of choice is the guitar, and Jared's is his voice, although trombone comes in close second.

The practice house.
Twice a week Oranga Tanga practices together. Sometimes they create new music, and sometimes they focus on fine-tuning their existing music. Twice a week, the band had to set up their equipment at David's house, which was not only inconvenient but also junked up his house.
So David bought the house behind his as a designated band house. It's complete with all the equipment the band needs, plus mood lighting, recording equipment, and awesome speakers.

Show fuel.
What keeps Oranga Tanga going during their ever-energetic performances?
Jared, vegetarian, had pizza before this particular show. His intention was to buy two medium pizzas, he tells me, but he accidentally ended up with three pizzas plus Pizza Hut tater tots.
After learning about the unsanitary, inhumane conditions that livestock face, David went vegan. He now thrives off homemade vegan fare. (If you've read pretty any other Blergh post, you'll know that I got excited when they told me about their cruelty-free tendencies :D)

David: "I don’t have a problem if you raise your chickens and eat
them.  But when they’re stacked in cages on top of each other..."

Jared: And everybody else in the band will eat, like, probably dead armadillo, if it’s slow enough.
When they're not music-making.
Jared: High school science teacher turned instructional technologist at FIT.
David: Software engineer for Frito Lay.  "But I don't eat their products."
Tom: Draftsman.
Cade: Soffit and siding.
Anthony: Owner of The Love Hut, a shop that offers free trade clothing, arts, crafts, accessories, and African percussion.

Where do you get your pants?
Despite what Jared and David initially told me, their wacky attire does not come from the MC Hammer clearance sale.  This particular pair of Thai fishing pants is from California.  Jared has others pairs he ordered, but his first pair, a gift from a friend, was from Lebanon.
When the band was first starting out, a woman came to their show and told them that, yes, their music was cool- but they looked boring.  She took it upon herself to bring them all manners of more interesting clothing and instructed them on what to wear.  Now, Oranga Tanga looks like a band called Oranga Tanga should.

Left to right: David, Jared, Tom, Anthony, Cade

For some songs, Jared will slip on a pair of seriously far-out glasses.  They're x-ray glasses, so he can see the audience naked, David informs me very seriously.

Just kidding.  Jared focuses best with his eyes closed, but he's picked up on a disturbing phenomenon.
Jared: I have noticed at many different occasions when I play with my eyes closed and people can see it, when I open my eyes there’s less people.  I don’t know if that’s some superstition kind of thing, so I put those things on, and it keeps people guessing.
Plus, the blinding psychedelic stage lights burn his eyes.
Of course, Jared doesn't wear the glasses all the time.  
Jared: Sometimes I stare at people.  If I’m running around in the crowd, I can’t.  I have to be able to see. I have not taken out a table yet.  I almost did tonight. Somehow by the grace, the good grace of the universe, I did not.  I was like, “Whoaoaoa!” Some people think it’s part of the show, but I was literally ready to smash the table.
"I don't close my eyes," David says. "I just stare."

Jared in x-ray googles, David staring

"Do"s and "Don't"s of Songwriting.
Do allow yourself dumb ideas.
Jared: ...When you’re trying to figure out what your heart needs to sing, what you need to get out of yourself. It may sound like, “Ah, I’m gonna eat a stick of butter,” at first, but then, it’s just placeholder.  Allow yourself to have that freedom to do that. It’s good for yourself, and also it develops positive self-talk.

Don't entertain non-authentic ideas.
Jared: Like, “Oh, I want to do this because it will sound like that.”  You don’t! You want to do the song that sounds like you, and you want it to be about what makes you happy, or you want it to be about something that’s bothering you.  A song is just boiled-down emotion. Even if it’s happy silly stuff, like what we’re doing. Even if you’re writing a song about food, you know?

Do record yourself.
Jared: And then, listen.  And then, listen. And then, get to the spot where you can listen comfortably, where you can let somebody else listen comfortably.  Say, “Hey, listen to this.” When you can do that and it doesn’t feel like somebody’s yanking your stomach out of your mouth and stepping on it on the ground outside, then you’re probably gonna start writing some good stuff.  Because then that means that you don’t have these boundaries in your head that are keeping you from doing what’s authentically you. That’s a tip. That’s the deeper tip.

Stuck for words? Do sing to the melody of a different song.
Jared: There’s so many songs that are in 4:4, that are a particular key, or whatever, that you can sing over, you know, “That works with that!  I can sing to that melody, I can sing to that melody.” And then wreck it and don’t sing it to that melody. But that will allow you to get the words out.  You have to care but not care. If you don’t care, you’ll come up with the right words. But when it just comes out right- you know when they say the pen is mightier than the sword- you have the opportunity that somebody could read your stuff, like, ten years from now and you could change their entire frame of mind to do something else, do something important, and make the world a better place.  You have to be authentic in order to do that. Don’t judge yourself.

Don't write for anyone but yourself.
Jared: Don’t worry about carrying a torch or, “I gotta sing an anthem about this!”  Unless you’re really passionate about that. If you’re really passionate about it, do it.  You know, we have songs about food. Cheeseburger Cheeseburger is about how messed up the food industry is, because that’s something I cared enough to write some weird words about, you know?  When you find those things that you feel passionate about, you know, write that song. Write it. Make it meaningful.

Do let your bandmates be themselves.
Jared: Let them have fun with it for a little while.  Until you can’t stand what they’re doing, and then you’re like, “Can you change a little bit?”  Understand if they fight it too much, then maybe it’s you who doesn’t understand what they’re trying to do, so give them a second, because sometimes as a songwriter, you’re too close.  It’s like your baby, but sometimes somebody else can have an effect on your baby that is way better than what you can do for your baby. You have to be willing to let your baby grow up on its own sometimes.  And that baby is your song, right? David: We found out that, over time, it was better just to try it than to argue about it.  Because you try it, and if it doesn’t sound good, well, so what? You don’t do it again.  The other one is trying to be constructive criticism. There’s no point in saying “that sucks.”  You’re not gonna get a good result out of it... Sometimes even being a stickler about some things, like: “We need quiet for that split second.  Everybody has to dead stop. Why? ‘Cause it sounds better. And if you don’t do it…”

Do keep it fun.
Jared: It’s our lump of clay.  If we wanna change something on it, even if it’s recorded in a particular way, that’s us.  It’s on us. They’re living stuff. You know, living stuff. Songs don’t exist unless you’re listening to them on the CD or watching them live, and we have to be entertained, too, you know, so why not keep ‘em just fun?

David: It’s not that the songs are that difficult, but having those little things in there make it more interesting for us.  It makes it stand out a little bit more. It’s more fun. It’s gotta be fun. You can’t play something you don’t like.

Jared looks at the band's first album, It will come back to you, as their "elementary school" album.  "It's super crazy," he says. "That album is really fun to listen to with headphones on, that's like zoomin' around."
If It will come back to you is elementary school, Last Night at the Old Hotel is middle school. 
And the album coming soon, Garbagehands, is their high school album.  So there's still that Oranga Tanga element, that freeform core, but it's mixed with deeper meaning.  For example, Balloons (which we're eagerly waiting to hear) has lyrics that Jared says are straightforward, although David insists that the rhythms still give the song its Oranga Tanga bizzarity.  Is bizzarity a word?

We can currently listen to five of the Garbagehands songs:
Blackhole, a funky groove that's super fun to dance to.  Oranga Tanga has brand new Blackhole-themed shirts with art by the fantastic Michael Hallberg.
City Rat, which was the Oranga Tanga song that first grabbed my attention. Garbagehands, the namesake and a total headbanger.
Marabunta, a tale of scientific adventure (oh my goodness I LOVE this song it's SO much fun) and My pet vulture, part of which Jared describes as "the sonic equivalent of a vulture eating someone’s insides."

If you're new to Oranga Tanga, start with City Rat and go on to James Nachtwey, Someone's Floating, and Space Bar- they're my favorites. (After I listened to James Nachtwey, I looked up Nachtwey's photos and now I feel very counterculture and all I want to do is spread peace and love).
Anthony on percussion, Cade on five-string bass

If you had to do the soundtrack for a movie- whether it’s a preexisting movie or an entirely new one- what would that movie be?" I ask.

"Well, we would do the soundtrack for Bud the Spud," Jared tells me after some thought. Then, "Oh, that’s right, we did."

Bud the Spud, written by Adam Byrn Tritt and illustrated by "Java John Goldacker", is a children's(sort of) book about a boy who turns from a couch potato into a literal potato. It has three different endings- the third is my favorite. You can buy the book on Amazon or have it read to you with original Oranga Tanga music as the soundtrack.
David was apprehensive when the band agreed to play the Bud the Spud soundtrack.  "I'm not a kid kinda guy, you know?  But it turned out to be a whole lot more creative, and a whole lot more fun and good than I ever thought it would be," he muses. "... We went by the moods of the pages, the colors. You just have to see it."

If they were to do the soundtrack for another movie, Jared presents a few ideas:  Maybe something by Terry Gilliam.  Maybe a claymation.  Definitely not a horror movie (David: "I could provide music for it.  I’ve done that kind of stuff. Not movies, but stuff that could be there").  But whatever it might be, it's got to be true to the core.

Pictured, left to right: David, Jared, Tom, Cade (Anthony has disappeared into the deepstage aura)

Oranga Tanga's advice for the world.
Jared: We have a gang sign.  It’ll also get you ten percent off at the Walmart on Palm Bay road... Come to our shows... (Do it. Oranga Tanga live performances are incredible, plus they're fun and you can dance.) Be creative. We want people to be creative.  We’re tired of all these people doing the same thing over and over.  But I think people are changing. You know, I think people are becoming more true to themselves, I think.  I hope. It kind of seems like the whole world has blown its top a little bit.

This is their gang sign, but flipped because I didn't have the mental capacity
to flip it to compensate for the camera mirroring me.
David: Don’t pay attention to antisocial media, man.  It’s antisocial, it’s not social... I want you to turn off your cell phone and speak to real people.  I refuse to have one of these things- (David taps my phone. Jared then proceeds to completely call David out on owning an iPad and being an avid Candy Crush player).

Practice patience- Jared and David suggest going to the grocery store and standing in the longest line, just to do it.

I can't begin to thank Jared and David for collaborating with me on this.  Their goodness of heart exceeded the high hopes I had for this- they are genuinely fantastic people and I'm certain the rest of Oranga Tanga is the same.  Beyond that, their music is incredible.
So go now.  Listen.  Support Oranga Tanga.  Go to their shows!  Be kind and creative and a little bit out there, or just be whatever's in your brain.

 upcoming shows!   Official Oranga Tanga website  Oranga Tanga on Twitter  on Facebook

World peace and love,

Heather <3

P.S. A dog I saw at the show (I think heshe was part of the next band)

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