On The Might Of Princes

I recently had a chance to touch base via email with Tommy Orza of On the Might of Princes, the Long Island post-hardcore powerhouse who released three full-lengths before dissolving in 2004.

We spoke about how the band has temporarily reunited to play a couple shows in support of Eugenics and Rok Lok's recent co-reissue of the band's first two full-lengths, 1999's Making of a Conversation and 2001's Where You Are and Where You Want to Be, as well as a little back history since their inception in 1998.

As described in the interview below Orza is currently busy in his newest project Villa Vina.

What was the first ever tour like?

In the summer of 2000, we went out with the Long Island DIY punk band, Contra. It was absolutely life changing for each of us. Up to that point, most of us had never even left the east coast, and here we were traveling the entire country. It was also one of the first times that any band from our scene even made it out that far, especially with literally no label support. We had very little money, so we were sleeping in parks, on floors, on beaches, etc., but we saw it all as part of the beauty and fun of touring. I remember feeling so happy and grateful, just being able to travel around with my best friends and share our little band with people in other parts of the country. I mean, it's not every day I go to Twin Falls, Idaho and play in a basement full of kids! The band was getting along great, and our friendship with Contra was growing as well. Most of the Where You Are… stuff was born out of that period.

What do you truly believe were the reasons for breaking up?

Well, just like with any romantic relationship that disintegrates, it's hard to pinpoint exactly what it was that made everything fall apart. And with a band, it's even more complicated because you're dealing with three or four people. Now in OTMOP, I can't stress how different the four of us were. Everything from our temperaments, our upbringings, our lifestyles were at polar opposites. And I think during the Sirens era, we each had extremely different ideas of where we wanted the band to go, both musically and professionally, which caused a lot of tension.

The ironic part is, because our communication had deteriorated so much, we actually never sat down and expressed what we each wanted for the band. There was all this pressure to just keep the ball rolling, because we were on the verge of achieving a larger scale of success. When the record finally came out, we did this God awful national tour where everything that could go wrong went wrong…from not getting any label support, to flipping our van… There was A LOT of personal shit going on as well, which I'm not going to get into. Negative, negative shit. There was just so much tension and of course, being young and stupid, we were too busy pointing fingers and blaming each other rather than sitting down and really looking at all the aspects of our problems. I'm past that though. I can see where I played into the problem as well, whereas maybe before I couldn't. It's all part of the learning process, I guess.

Tell us about all the various projects the members have been busy with since the breakup.

We've all been quite busy actually. Lou is in this band called God's Gift to Women, who are just INCREDIBLE. It sounds like a mix between old flamenco/fado music and indie rock. I can honestly say that I haven't heard anything like it before. He also plays guitar in Small Arms Dealer and bass in With Every Idle Hour.

Jason is still in the process of trying to find the right people to play with, which I'm sure he eventually will. I just think it's going to be very difficult for him, because he's not someone who can just be some boring rhythm guitar player. He's an intense person and needs to be involved with a project that's up to par with his amazing talent. I'm looking forward to hearing whatever he will do in the future, because I've always had a deep love for his music, since day one.

Chris had played in Gracer for a while and toured with Criteria over the summer, as well as being involved in various other projects. Also, I'm ecstatic to say that he recently joined my band, Villa Vina.

Villa Vina is a project that I have been working on for two years. After OTMOP, I was kind of disillusioned, and wasn't sure if I wanted to play music on a serious level anymore. But when I met Luke (Villa Vina guitarist/vocalist), we had an immediate personal and musical chemistry and he inspired me beyond words. From the beginning, there was a deep and unspoken understanding of each other and where we wanted to go musically. It's very rare to meet someone that you can connect with like that on so many levels, and I feel very grateful. Now with Chris in the band, who rhythmically has been my other pea in the pod for years, I couldn't be happier. We have always had that same connection. Musically, it's all over the place, going from proggy to ambient. We're just trying to push the envelope a bit and explore all the things we love and hate about music.

Are you still under contract to Rev? I know they famously arrange their contracts so that members' future projects are basically tied to releasing their stuff through the label until the quota is filled, and I'm guessing that's why Gracer's first album was put out through them. Will this be the case with Villa Vina, or any of the other OTMOP-related projects for that matter?

The Rev contract has expired.

Who came up with the idea for the reissues -- Mike or the band? What about the shows?

It was Mike's idea to put out the reissues and we're forever grateful to him. When it comes down to it, he is the 6th member of OTMOP (the 5th being Nicole). He's more passionate and dedicated to the band than any of us even! It's just always been that way. He believed in us from the beginning and gave us our first chance at making a record and putting us on shows. I don't even think we would have remained a band for as long as we did without his help. He has sacrificed so much and put in infinite amounts of time and energy for the band and these reissues. It's the most humbling thing.

The shows were my idea. I've changed a lot since the band broke up, especially in this last year or so. I'm just starting to grow out of some of my negative patterns and make peace with myself, my past…my life in general. I wasn't carrying around any negative feelings about OTMOP anymore, and one day it dawned on me how unfortunate it was that we never had any real closure to the band. I started this band and poured my life into it, and it just sort of fizzled out. So I guess these shows are kind of like a reburial in a sense. This was a very important time in our lives and we touched a lot of souls along the way. These people were just as much a part of OTMOP as any of the members were, so I think we owe it to them and we owe it to ourselves as well. I know titles aren't exactly copyright-protected or such, but did Taking Back Sunday ever contact OTMOP about their 2004 album? I mean, I don't think its title was mere coincidence…

We used to play shows with them, so it came to a surprise to us when we heard about it. Like you said, it's not like we owned the title or anything. Maybe they just liked the way it sounded. I have no idea.

Let's assume the band wants to do a full-blown reunion tour of the U.S.; what three bands are you bringing along? The only rule: They have to be active.

We always preferred going on tour with our friend's bands. So we'd have to choose Encrypt Manuscript, Bridge and Tunnel, Milagro… people that we're comfortable with.

Where and when exactly do you think the shows will take place? Ballpark if necessary. We're shooting for sometime around May. [Ed.'s Note: The band recently announced that details would be revealed in the next '2-3 weeks.']

Was there leftover material from the Sirens sessions or songs written but never recorded post-Sirens? Will it ever see the light of day? You could record a 7" for the shows á la Gorilla Biscuits. Or in your case, probably a 10".

There was actually nothing left over from the Sirens sessions. The band had already started to fall apart by then, and we kind of had to scrape the floor just to find enough to put onto the record. I'm still happy with the way it turned out, but it was extremely rushed and half of the record sounds unfinished to me.

As for a live record, I think it would be a great idea if someone wanted to put it out!

What Revelation band would you like to see reunite, if any? Aside from the ones who have already done so, of course.

Does Quicksand count as a Revelation band? I'd love to see Quicksand reunite!

Name the band's three primary influences at OTMOP's inception, then name the three at what you would consider the peak of writing for Sirens.

Oh that's a tough one! In OTMOP there were VERY few bands that we all collectively loved. I think we spent half our time together making fun of each other's favorite bands! But I think during The Making of a Conversation days we were all into Red House Painters, Failure and Sunny Day Real Estate, which really comes through in the music. While writing Sirens, I think we were really trying to isolate ourselves from whatever people were doing at the time. But I'd have to say we were all listening to Shiner, Cursive and At the Drive-In, which shows as well.

Do you believe Long Island punk and hardcore is currently as strong as it was during your time, if not stronger/considerably weaker? It's hard for me to say, since I don't really go to shows out there very often. But from what I've seen, it just seems like there are much less people involved. Also, there seems to be less camaraderie between the bands. Some of the kids I've met seem to have their hearts in the right place though. I think now more than ever there are more difficult challenges to do something different and exist outside of the mainstream. Our culture constantly tries to feed us poisonous ideas and mind-numbing "art." A 15-year-old kid turns on the TV and MTV tells him or her that Fall Out Boy is punk. So I think young people really have to seek out and/or create meaningful ideas and music.

Do you think you still experience all the social turmoil and emotionally bleak moments portrayed in the songwriting?

Well, like I said before, I'm a little older. I'm much more at peace with a lot of aspects of my life. However, I still do experience plenty of internal and external turmoil, and with the state of the world we live in, I can't help but have it affect me. I mean, there's always going to be that ebb and flow of life. I just think the difference now is that I have a deeper understanding of myself and much more self-respect, so I'm able to be more proactive about my problems.

The band has seemed extremely enthusiastic about these shows, what with providing a constant influx of updates, even little things like band practice. How would you feel about getting back together full-time?

It's something that I have no interest in doing at the moment. Villa Vina is something I'm extremely invested in it and I'm not about to throw it all away. I feel like everything has come down to this. Now is the time.