Why Omen sings about loss, finds itself with 'Sentient Blue'

Andy Downing
Why Omen

The songs on new Why Omen EPSentient Blue were written long before the pandemic, but the record’s themes feel particularly relevant as the band prepares for its digital release on Friday, Dec. 18.

“I think a big theme for my writing, or at least for this record, is loss,” said singer/guitarist Thane, who joined guitarist Elijah Calico for an early December phone interview (the quartet is rounded out by bass guitarist Griffin Brink and drummer Gino Frederico). “It’s not being able to talk to someone anymore, or do something again, or just missing opportunities.”

While these explicit meanings are often masked by more cryptic language (Thane said he can be drawn to the phonetics of certain words, embracing them as much for the sounds they make in his mouth as much as any dictionary definition), there are times when certain phrases reveal the anxieties underpinning the music. “Paralyzed with everything outside of me,” Thane sings amid “Shores,” his tumultuous words running counter to the song’s breezy melody.

Get news and entertainment delivered to your inbox: Sign up for our daily newsletter

Musically,Sentient Blue traverses a wide terrain, moving from the anthemic, guitar-driven art-rock of opener “Remington” to the swirling, multi-suite psychedelia of the shape-shifting “CSA.” Thane and Calico traced this sonic diversity to the various sounds they absorbed beginning from childhood, pointing to everything from System of a Down to the Beastie Boys to the religious music Calico was exposed to growing up attending a megachurch. “For the first nine years of my life there wasn’t a lot of secular music except for when my dad would sneak the Wu-Tang in,” he said, and laughed.

“With that combination of influences, you’re not looking or trying to be one kind of thing,” continued Calico, who first met Thane when the two attended Bexley High School together. “It’s just this myriad of content you’ve incidentally consumed now pouring out together in this homogenous mixture.”

While music was a presence from childhood for Thane, he said it wasn’t until he received a drum kit for Christmas at age 10 that he first connected with the art form. “I was a lazy kid, and I didn’t have many interests,” Thane said. “When I got the drum kit, it took a minute, but then I started playing with other people, and I really likedthat. I liked that connection, and being able to communicate with other people without really talking.”

Not that the singer has ever been shy about using his voice. “We’re definitely a loud family,” he said. “We’d yell at each other throughout the house, and I think that was an influence on our music now, or at least how I sing.” (Skip ahead to the 2:45 mark in “He Gave Charlie to the Zoo” for proof.)

Calico, in contrast, has been drawn to music from age 3, recalling an early obsession with the guitar wielded by a member of the church choir, of which his mom was musical director. “There was a guy named Ernest who had a yellow Stratocaster, which coincidentally I have now,” he said. “He would always let me strum it, and I remember that, and being very intrigued by it.”

It wasn’t until age 17, though, around the time he met Thane, that Calico started to play the guitar more seriously. The two have since developed a brotherly rivalry, of sorts, practicing riffs and chords in an attempt to outplay the other. In the years since meeting in high school, the two have joined together in various musical incarnations, including an early psych-rock band, finally forming Why Omen about three years ago.

“It’s probably an evolution from our old band, where we just wanted to do something different, to change the colorization of it,” Thane said of the current project.

“Sonically, we’ve always focused on dynamics and technicality,” Calico said. “I think [with Why Omen] we just wanted more of ourselves in it.”