By Jordan Reisman
Photo courtesy of osoosooso.
JD (or Jonathan DiMitri, if you’re not into the whole brevity thing) of osoosooso goes off the grid sometimes. The Long Beach, NY-native, currently on tour with The Hotelier, has been increasingly hard to reach in places like Jackson, Miss. where he was at one point driving through. He says about himself, “I’m a hard man to reach” which may suggest more than spotty cell phone service, though we’re just speculating.
You might know JD from his work with State Lines, also from Long Island, but with oso x3, he’s essentially starting from the ground up. This project stakes a simpler, more toned down territory than the fleshed out, full band arrangements of State Lines. BTR was finally able to track JD down as he was driving through Louisiana with The Hotelier, when all he had was time on the way to Texas.
This full US tour marks the first for osoosooso, though State Lines has traversed the country a few times. Unsurprisingly, it hasn’t come without hardships as DiMitri says he “got dumped in New Jersey… I was bummed out for a week and now I’m just kind of in the tour groove.” It seems that touring for him only exists as a vacuum from real life problems some of the time.
On whether or not he sees touring as an escape, Dimitri says, “Yes and no… it is an escape but I would like to make it more permanent. I just want to tour for awhile because you gotta do something; I did school for awhile. I’m kind of getting to the point where I’m wanting to go back to school more but it’s definitely as if time passes a lot faster when you’re touring and it’s interesting to come home after.”
The decision to start a side project as an extension of State Lines came from the urge to tour more and continue the lifestyle that came with it, as State Lines is more or less a part-time band. DiMitri says that State Lines reached a point where they weren’t sure what they were going to become, if JD was going to continue it would be on his own. It wasn’t so much that he was the only one that wanted to tour, it was that the other members had prior early twenties-type obligations and he was finished with school.
He says that if he’s not “in school or touring, and I’m working a job, I just feel really stagnant.” In that stagnation, he had a slew of songs at hand that he felt didn’t really fit the grimey pop-punk of State Lines, songs he felt were more “simple” and “less thought out.” With this new collection, he is able to say, “Well that sounds cool, I’ll just do that” as opposed to being in a four-member band where there must be a meeting of the minds.
Even though DiMitri’s prerogative is to tour as much as possible now, he makes it known that this kind of desire has an expiration date. In other words, he knows that people feel moved by a certain piece of music for a period of time, not forever.
“The thing about being in a band and making music is that no matter how many people you make happy with your music, unless to somebody you are that exceptional band in the way that everyone has their favorite band, to me a band like Against Me! or Brand New, most bands in life are just going to make you happy for a period of time. After that, you might still enjoy their music but it’s more of a novel idea to go back and listen to it. It’s the same way when you’re playing music. It’s just to the point where I really want myself to be happy and I don’t think I would be happy playing music for a super long time,” says DiMitri.
For right now while DiMitri is 21, we have osoosooso. And while it’s still a new and fresh project without too many songs, there’s a lot of material to discuss. Basically, the upcoming self-titled debut is a concept record. No, it’s not about hot button issues like how “social media is killing us” or the apocalypse. osoosooso is simply about a bear named Theodore.
Let that sink in for a minute. To paraphrase from JD, the narrative of the EP goes like something this: Theodore is a bear living in the Pacific Northwest who travels to Seattle where he meets and falls in love with a girl (a human girl) named Ellen. After meeting more humans through Ellen, Theodore develops insecurities (for the first time) because of his interspecies love. Helen moves to Rhode Island, and in turn teaches Theo about human relationships. Upon moving back to the wild, he finds that his best bear mate has died and so he goes back to Seattle “a broken bear.” Told through the eyes of a non-human, the EP spans themes of love, loss, and feeling like an outsider.
“For me there was an idea of writing about a bear, or really any animal in general that is intelligent as a bear is, trying to live in human society. I feel like as humans we’re very familar with bears–we give kids little teddy bears. I feel like when you think about a lion, a tiger, or a bear it’s like these animals are huge and they can destroy you so quick but for some reason there’s a lot less trepidation when it comes to dealing with bears,” says DiMitri on his choice of protagonist.
This all sounds silly, and it most certainly is, but that’s only on the surface. It would be hard to admit that the record of the year that you listened to most was a concept album about a love lost bear, but the most important part of personification as a narrative device is to give that character salient, humanizing qualities. This is where osoosooso shines, because even though the writer’s sense of expression tends to come extroverted anyway, a little piece of himself is sure to find its way to the surface of even something so surreal as his latest project.
“Theodore is more of a state of mind that I feel like a lot of people get into. I don’t want to make it as simple as alienation but moreso acknowledging the fact that you feel different to people around you and the way that he has to learn and observe. I would at least hope that there’s this like-minded consciousness out there where there are people like me who are just on the fence about everything. You realize that’s really okay because most of the people who are on either side of the fence are out for ulterior motives,” says DiMitri.
Jonathan DiMitri is unsure if people will “get” what exactly is going on these songs, but he says the story is in the liner notes. It takes a talented songwriter to give us a character that makes us feel more like ourselves but that’s what you learn to perfect on those long drives in the South.
To stay on the fence with osoosooso, click here.
Check out osoosooso’s music and interview on the latest episode of Discovery Corner on BTR.