Interview: Ogikubo Station

Words by Maddy Howell

Anyone who has played any part in punk or it's many off-shoots is likely to have become familiar with the name Mike Park. As the owner of Asian Man Records, Park has never been one to stick to the basics, trying his hand in countless musical endeavors throughout his time in the scene. With more than two decades of experience under his belt, Park's most recent venture has seen him joining forces with Maura Weaver (ex-Mixtapes), to form a collaboration titled Ogikubo Station

With the duo having released their debut EP last year, they now find themselves on the verge of the release of their first full-length, 'We Can Pretend Like'. We caught up with Mike Park to talk about the upcoming record, the complications of recording across state borders and how the band came to be touring alongside Alkaline Trio.

Burn After Writing: You and Maura live in completely different states and have never seemed to operate too close to one another in terms of specific music scenes... How did you guys come to meet and eventually start making music together?

Mike Park: I had heard the Masked Intruder song Heart Shaped Guitar and so I looked up the vocalist and saw that she sang in a band called Mixtapes. I listened and enjoyed the music and that was it. Fast forward a year and I was recording a song at a friends house and while scrolling through Instagram I saw a mutual friend who lives in my city posting photos of her and Maura around town. I called and asked if she’d see if Maura would be interested in recording a song with me and that was the genesis of this meeting of music.

BAW: With both members of Ogikubo Station living in different states, there's presumably a little complication when it comes to the writing and recording process. How do you approach these aspects of band life and what difficulties have you endured due to distance?

MP: It’s actually pretty easy. We both record songs on our phones and just email ideas back and forth. On this new record I used a full band of musicians from San Jose, so we were able to rehearse and get ready before Maura’s arrival. Although it works, ideally it would be wonderful to live in the same city and be able to just play fun local shows.

BAW: The band’s debut album, ‘We Can Pretend Like’, is released later this month. What inspired the songs on this record and what individual themes can be found across the release?

MP: Just everyday life. It really covers a wide spectrum of life from love, anger, hate, and fear.

BAW: The album follows on from your self-titled EP, released last year. What made you decide to shoot for a full-length record this time around?

MP: I’m not sure we made a conscious effort to record a full-length over a single or an EP. It’s just that the songs were flowing, so it made sense.

BAW: You recently released the first single from the album, Take A Piece Of All That’s Good, what’s the story behind this track?

MP: The song takes a look at the various struggles life brings, but the end result is to try to see the good in everything.

BAW: Another of the tracks on the album, Weak Souls Walk Around Here, is actually the song that sparked the formation of Ogikubo Station after what was planned to be a one-off collaboration on the track occurred. What inspired you to include a refreshed take of the track on your debut full-length?

MP: From the day we recorded that song, I just heard drums and driving beat that should be included. I told myself one day I would record it full band and I’m super glad I did because I really like the way it came out.

BAW: Ogikubo Station are currently out on tour with Alkaline Trio, a band who you’ve had a strong personal friendship and working relationship with since their early adolescence. How did this tour come about?

MP: It was because of our friendship. Dan [Andriano] just called me and said do you want to open the tour with us. He was specifically asking about me playing solo, but I asked if I could bring Ogikubo Station along as a full band and he was all for it.

BAW: Ogikubo Station is one of a large selection of bands you’ve worked with covering a wide range of styles. How have fans of your older work taken to this newer venture?

MP: It’s hard to say since it’s still such a new band that has done very little touring, but as far as I can tell I think they like it? [laughs] At least I hope they like it. I think because I’ve done so many different projects I’ve kind of developed various different pockets of fans. Ska fans, indie fans, Alkaline Trio fans, DIY-thinking fans [laughs]. It’s all over the place.

BAW: Almost all of your life has been lived alongside music in the public eye. As you’ve progressed through the many milestones of life, how have you found your songwriting process changing?

MP: Oh boy. Let me think for a second here. It hasn’t changed much in terms of the way I start writing, that’s almost exclusively with me on the same acoustic guitar I’ve had since I was a little boy. I usually just start strumming and coming up with melodies. If I hear something I like, then I try to build some kind of structure and put lyrics to it. Through the years, I’d like to think I’ve gotten better at producing and singing. Listening to a lot of early songs and recordings I do cringe a bit at what I’ve done in the past. [laughs]

BAW: You’ve worked with many bands who have progressed to become big names within their retrospective scenes. Is it ever difficult to remain modest and focused on bringing the next small band to the forefront?

MP: I don’t think so. I am who I am and I get really excited when bands/friends I work with are successful. I also love working with new bands who are working hard and touring like crazy. I still do grunt work. I pack records, fold shirts, answer every email, and it still feels very fresh and exciting to me.

BAW: Having spent so much time releasing other people’s music, do you find yourself being more critical of your own work?

MP: Not really. Might be the opposite. I don’t spend a lot of time in the studio. I feel like a good song is a good song and the human imperfections should be on display when recording. A lot of music these days is just created through computer tricks, making it sound unnatural to my ears. One of these days I would like to go into a studio for a full month and just not worry about paying crazy amounts of money and enjoying messing around, but that has yet to happen.

BAW: Maura’s previous band Mixtapes broke up partially due to the level of popularity they were achieving, evident in the events surrounding New Found Glory. Now, Ogikubo Station is heading on tours with bands such as Alkaline Trio, who are quite firmly in the public eye. Has there been a change in mindset regarding success within music?

MP: I asked Maura about this and she says this is definitely not true regarding herself and Mixtapes. The reasons are really not my place to disclose, so I’ll leave it at that. The mindset with Ogikubo Station is just to have fun. We have no illusions of grandeur. I just love music and I want to keep writing and releasing regardless of if there are people who want to hear it. If they do want to hear it, that’s just an awesome bonus.

BAW: Following on from the release of the album and the US tour, what’s next for Ogikubo Station?

MP: Not much to be honest, I’ve got to get back to Asian Man and get ready for the fall releases and then Christmas is right around the corner, so I’ve got to get ready for that crazy season. FUN FUN. But we’ll probably keep emailing songs back and forth and working on new tunes. We both would like to head to the UK, so that’s definitely a goal for 2019.