Atlanta-based punks Omni make their own rules. When Frankie Boyles left Deerhunter, he started the band with his longtime friend and songwriting partner, Philip Frobos. The two stayed up all night drinking and together came up with Deluxe, before adding Frobos’ Carnivores bandmate, Billy Mitchell, on drums.
Out July 8, their debut album is a fresh mix of post-punk, new wave and pop, blending Television-style guitars with Frobos singing like a lo-fi Gary Numan. Singles “Afterlife” and “Wire” have an ’80s dance vibe, while also being unapologetically punk rock. “Eyes On The Floor” and “Jungle Jenny” bring to mind early Buzzcocks, and tracks like “78” and “Cold Vermouth” recall Ariel Pink during his Haunted Graffiti days, but on an Iggy Pop bender.
With Deluxe, Omni has successfully distilled the sounds of their favorite bands into an album full of modern classics. We caught up with Frobos in Georgia to talk about the band’s breakout LP, Atlanta’s local music scene and The Godfather of Punk. Their new single, “Wednesday Wedding,” is out today via Trouble In Mind Records.
Tell me a little bit about Omni. How did you guys get together and start making music?
Frankie was in a band called Balkans in Atlanta, then Deerhunter, and I was in a band called Carnivores, as well as Billy who plays drums for us now. We all lived in this old Southern mansion over in Druid Hills, Atlanta, which is like an old money neighborhood, and Frankie and I used to make demos together when we were bored and not doing stuff with our other bands. It became a thing we liked doing more and more, and we developed the sound of the band through it. One of the big things we’re passionate about when we DJ, is a lot of the late ’70s and early ’80s new wave and no wave scenes, especially the Georgia stuff, like Pylon. There’s a lot of great guys that people don’t mention anymore, like Kevin Dunn, and basically anything from DB Records, out of Atlanta, who put out the first B-52s seven inch. We wanted to have a band that was like that, but not too contrived.
How would you describe Deluxe?
The first song we wrote for the record was ‘Eyes on the Floor,’ and we hit this weird post-punk nerve that we really liked. We went with that for the sound of the record. Basically, me and Frankie would meet up and drink a pretty good amount of beers and whiskey. We wrote these songs all in one night, and ended up with Deluxe.
What bands or records had the biggest influence on the album?
I was listening to a lot of music from Glasgow, like Josef K and Orange Juice. A lot of Devo, The dB’s first record. A lot of Magazine—we love Magazine. And the B-52’s first couple [of] records. Those are big ones for me, and Pylon. I feel like that Rolling Stones album, Between the Buttons, is the first no wave album, and that’s a big influence. Like those songs ‘Connection,’ and ‘My Obsession’ are kinda like Devo songs before Devo.
What do you draw from when you’re writing?
With the Omni songs, I challenged myself to write the lyrics while we were writing the songs. So on one hand, I’m reaching for interesting, direct imagery and autobiographical situations, but it’s also very much like I’ll just put pen to paper in the one hour that Frankie is trying to nail the guitar and drum takes while we’re making the demo. I just put the lyrics down and when I’m done that’s it. I didn’t revisit them.
Why the name, Deluxe?
It was actually a joke because we think people buying deluxe editions of records is silly. Like, someone buying the deluxe edition of an Oasis album so you can read Noel Gallagher’s lyrics—it’s really cheesy. But Deluxe seemed fitting. It just stuck.
Omni has a different vibe than your previous band, Carnivores. Were you consciously trying to do something different?
Carnivores was a band where there were many different songwriters, and many different singers. With this group, we wanted to be more deliberate in all aspects, so we made sure we had defined roles. Often people ask us why Frankie doesn’t sing as well, and it’s because I like the consistency of it being one person’s voice, lyrics and imagery. I think that lends itself to making a more complete album, as opposed to having one person writing about shit that’s going on in their life, and another person trying to make some sort of artistic statement. Then you get this hodgepodge of everyone’s mixed emotions. It’s better when you can go on that journey with one person. We wanted to make non-psychedelic, poignant punk rock songs, [but] also minimal.
Your vocals are also less muffled. They’re still lo-fi, but clearer on Deluxe in a way they weren’t with Carnivores.
We wanted them to be not only good punk songs, but also good pop songs. We wanted to make music for everyone, not just young people on the Internet—the kind of music where even your dad could listen to it and be like, ‘This is a great track.’ And our dads love it. We got to support Billy Idol for a couple of dates last year and the dads were so stoked about it.
You know you’ve made it when your dad actually knows the band you’re opening for. How does Deluxe differ from your previous work?
I was deliberately trying to write more punchy lyrics, and I really wanted to try a lot of different styles that were more in the vain of singers I admire. I love David Bowie, Iggy Pop, The Specials and Magazine, and I thought a lot about the way those guys form their lyrics and melodies—how deliberate they are. I just wanted to take that approach.
That’s an interesting dichotomy, because you said you wrote the lyrics as you were recording the songs, but you’re also saying you were being deliberate about them.
I guess I was thinking more like ‘What Would Iggy Pop do in this moment?’ I didn’t completely mime anyone, obviously, so it ended up being my own sound. But I ran through the ideas of that process. I also made sure I didn’t come up with any lyrical melodies or words, until I heard Frankie’s guitar parts because I found them to be really inspiring.
What was the hardest part of making the album?
The hardest part was us making sure we weren’t so drunk that we couldn’t remember our parts the next time we were trying to record them or remember how to play them. Recording was actually a breeze. Nathaniel is an old friend; he was in Carnivores, so he knows exactly what we want to sound like, exactly what we’re inspired by, and has the same kind of vision. It’s not like when you’re in some other studio scenario where you’re paying these guys thousands of dollars for them to tell you their opinion of how they’re gonna mess up your record. It’s way better to have someone on the level.
Talk about your musical background. Were there any aha moments?
There were two big music moments for me. I figured out that I loved rock music was when I first heard White Zombie. But the more pivotal moment when I was like, ‘This is moving and I should probably do this,’ was at my aunt’s funeral. They played ‘Changes’ by David Bowie and I was like, ‘What is this?’ My mom told me it was David Bowie, and I was just like, ‘How have I never heard this? It’s amazing.’ I was like 12 years old. So I got a bass and started rocking. I really like it when songs are bittersweet, and the songwriters make fun of themselves a little bit—they’re not so serious that they’re bleeding out, but they’re also a little boozy, and a little sexy. A little boozy, a little sexy and a little sad. Those are the ones that really get me.