Ruins of Ooah
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Ruins of Ooah

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This band has not uploaded any videos


The best kept secret in music


"Tribal sounds"

Saturday night of the 2009 Bend Roots Revival — held last summer near the intersection of 14th Street and Galveston Avenue in west Bend — will go down in history as a special moment for local music.

The evening truly blasted off right around dusk, when three guys took the stage and whipped up a sound best described as “otherworldly.”

Those three guys were (and are) Ruins of Ooah, and your next chance to see them is Wednesday in Bend (see “If you go”).

Back in September, it was fun to watch faces in the audience as they evolved from curiosity to incredulity to blissful appreciation. From the neck down, most of the bodies connected to those faces began to involuntarily shimmy.

That's because the Ruins — Tyler Spencer of Bend, and Justus Williams and Adam Bushey of Eugene — use harmonica, drums and didgeridoo (a cylindrical, droning instrument from Australia) to create textured, propulsive dance music, live, right in front of your eyes. The result is a stew of primal sounds that are made organically but reach the ear like some sort of tribal electronica.

And it works better than you could possibly imagine.

Even didgeridoo player Spencer, who makes his own instruments in his shop on Bend's east side, acknowledges the oddity of the tools of Ruins of Ooah's trade.

“It's just kind of weird. It's kind of a weird combination,” he said earlier this week in a telephone interview. “It's unconventional, and sort of like, ‘What are you going to do with (those instruments)?'”

What they've done in just over a year as a band is carve out a niche in the regional music scene that didn't exist before. Or, if it did, most people didn't know about it.

“I haven't had anybody come up to us and say something like, ‘Oh you guys sound a lot like so-and-so,'” Spencer said.

Ruins of Ooah's seed was sown about six years ago, when Spencer, Williams and Bushey met and began playing together in Reeble Jar, a seven-piece jam-funk band that played around Eugene. Near the end of 2007, Spencer left that band and moved to Bend for its climate and outdoor amenities, and to be closer to friends.

Within a year, both Williams and Bushey had departed Reeble Jar, too, Spencer said. Shortly thereafter, Williams — the harmonica player and vocalist — began jamming with Spencer. The two eventually decided they needed a drummer to drive their sound, so they enlisted their old friend Bushey.

The trio knew their lineup was unique, but that didn't stop them.

“We never consciously came up with a plan and thought, ‘Yeah, this'll be a great thing. It may be kind of weird, but we think it'll work,'” Spencer said. “It just happened sort of naturally. All three of us like experimenting and like different types of music, and we thought it would be interesting and ... a challenge. I think that's what captured our interest.”

Early on, Spencer often traveled over to Eugene, where the fledgling band would record its practices. That decision was “crucial” to the evolution of Ruins of Ooah, he said.

“We were able to listen to our jams and pick out the sweet stuff that sounded good to us, and then piece it back together ... with a program we have on our computer,” he said. The guys would then take that “rough sketch” of a song and recreate it with more care and attention to detail. And those tracks became the band's self-titled album, available online at www.myspace .com/ruinsofooah and locally at Ranch Records.

Also crucial: early shows played at a Eugene jazz club, even though the band had no material. They would just jam for hours, for better or for worse, relying on their own chemistry, Spencer said.

“Sometimes it didn't sound good at all,” he said. “Sometimes it was torture and sometimes it worked, and if it was sounding like torture, then we'd somehow pull out of that and make it sound a little more blissful and dancey. I think those experiences really aided in creating our sound and getting comfortable with what works.”

In the year or so since, Ruins of Ooah has become even more comfortable as a band, taking their act to Iowa and Colorado, in addition to several shows in Oregon. They're more in tune to how their instruments work together, with the harmonica carrying the melody, the didgeridoo playing a percussive, bass-like role, and drums providing the backbone, as drums do.

They've also found studio space in Eugene to begin working on a second album, with hopes of having it done before summer. And Spencer, Williams and Bushey are now focused on shifting their music-making process from jam-oriented to a more “solid approach to songwriting,” Spencer said, without losing the experimental edge that makes Ruins of Ooah stand out, especially to those who've witnessed this spectacle live.

“We've had pretty positive reactions and people have been very supportive,” Spencer said. “We feel pretty lucky with that, and we don't want to take it for granted. We just want to keep making new music and keep it evolving.”

“It is hard to come up with different music that's relatively accessible to the ear ... and to get something that people might enjoy,” he continued, “but I think it's good to try to mix it up — even if the instrumentation is different — to see what you can do with it. I think that helps music grow, and that's a good thing.”
- by: Ben Salmon/The bulletin


Ruins of Ooah (self titled)
original songs that have received airplay:
Mt. Man



Ruins of Ooah (pronounced OOH-AHH). This new trio is comprised of Tyler Spencer on didjeridu, Justus Williams on harmonica, and Adam Bushey on drums. This daring and original combination transcends mere novelty and summons huge sounds much greater than the sum of its parts.

Ruins of Ooah's lively compositions range from tight, punchy jaunts of electro-industrial rock to sweeping Floydian soundscapes, to visceral, pumping tribal electronica - and more. Amid such a sundry of styles and influences, one consistency has been Ruins of Ooah's ability to take the average music venue and transform it into a full-blown dance party within the space of a few songs. The original, irresistible sound of Ruins of Ooah is one that will bring audiences of many ages and tastes to their feet- and keep them dancing until they cry "OOAH!"