Looking back on it, all the signs were there early. When Eric Ober got booted from a high school guitar class for breaking from the lesson plan with a Brown-Eyed Girl riff, a life of musical freelancing was born.
When Ober says he loves music, he means it - all of it. And his stylings are something like New England weather: if you don't like what he's playing, wait five minutes.
"I have a super-short attention span," Ober said. "So it's whatever I'm into that week. It's a blessing and a curse, the short attention span. It gets me involved in a lot of different stuff, but at the same time I tend to cycle through it."
Ober is indeed something of an instrumental Swiss army knife. He plays guitar, bass, piano, harmonica, drums, ukulele, mandolin and banjo. He's been in bands since he graduated from Concord High School in 2003, including stints with Brownhill Band, Shady Rill Band, Video Band and Diamond Joe, the group he's been playing with for more than a year now.
But his latest venture, a collaboration with his girlfriend, Taylor Duhaime, under the name Pop Hustle, is a sarcastic take on current pop trends, complete with generous helpings of auto-tune and catchy lyrics based primarily around instant gratification.
(Might we propose a project? Insider theme song!)
"I'm a super sucker for corny pop music. I don't know why, all kinds of music intrigue me," he said. "I just started listening to WJYY for two months straight, and I thought it'd be really funny to try to imitate that. Every song is about tonight. They're all about now, all about drinking and sexual innuendo. And quarter-note bass hits."
That formula sent Ober to his computer, where he and Duhaime cranked out a handful of tunes that have already garnered some local attention. Though many of the titles aren't Insider-friendly - this is, after all, a family publication. Hi, Mom! - Pop Hustle songs have been requested at 91.3 FM (WUNH) for almost a year and have gained quite a following in New Jersey thanks to internet sharing.
"It was the 'What if?' when we started, the 'Wouldn't it be wicked funny if we made this?' " Ober said. "I got this auto-tune program and figured out what it sounded like with vocals. But I've never had more positive responses in my life. I've been doing all this other stuff, I've poured my heart out into songs I've written, and the most responses I've had is from (Pop Hustle songs)."
Not that Ober is complaining. It's hardly the first time his passion for music and sense of humor have crossed paths. In fact, you could say they're in something of a committed relationship at this point.
He's made and produced recordings under countless aliases, including Monty Carlisle, Uncle Muskrat and Righteous Cowboy Lightning, the latter of which Ober described as "sort of an electric fusion" experience.
He made an album as Uncle Muskrat entitled Merry Remixmas and is working on one called Machine Gun Dragon Ride, which he described as his "favorite album name ever."
He's not afraid to reinterpret other works, either, as evidenced by the rendition he and Duhaime did of the American classic All That She Wants by Ace of Base, a cover that was recently used in a skate video.
Ober gets a lot of his inspiration from the radio, something the music snob teen version of himself would never have believed.
"It's funny, when I was younger, I never listened to the radio. I was into all this soul music, everyone I listened to was dead, and I was like, 'Everything on the radio sucks,' " he said. "Fast forward 10 years and I pretty much only listen to the radio all the time. I love expressing myself in different avenues, because I like so many different kinds of music that I feel compelled to make it. I'll hear something poppy on the radio and there will be one little bassline that catches my ear, and then I'll go home and make three songs because of five notes that I heard on the radio." (next page »)