IRVINE, California — Four years ago, O.A.R. frontman Marc Roberge's girlfriend suggested his band record "a funky, weird-ass song" with an up-and-coming production duo called the Neptunes.
"I was like, 'Who the hell are the Neptunes?' " the singer/guitarist recalled recently, sitting in his tour bus while a certain production duo's band, N.E.R.D., performed onstage outside.
"Now I'm like, 'Maybe we should do something — they do all right for a living,' " Roberge said, laughing. "Actually, to be honest, I have not had a chance to talk to the guys."
For now O.A.R. will have to do without the flashy funk of the producers they are opening for on the Sprite Liquid Mix Tour (see "Bras, Breakdancers And More Bras ... Pharrell Knows How To Party"), which is probably for the best, since their In Between Now and Then, released in May, is still picking up steam.
While "Hey Girl" is a staple on MTV2 (see "Frat House Revolution: O.A.R. Build Loyal Fanbase, One Greek At A Time"), alt-rock radio has picked up on the chilling reggae jam "Dareh Meyod."
"I think that will be the second single and we will do a video. And we are going to try to market the album," Roberge said, not shying away from the kind of promotional plan uncommon for jam bands. "We've been touring for a while, and I feel like it's our time to really try out the mass audience that we want to reach, and we're not afraid to do it, and you have to do it with radio and video. It's a new chapter for us."
For "Hey Girl," O.A.R. went with a standard performance video, but "Dareh Meyod" will likely be different.
"In the beginning we were not really into the concept video, but you start thinking, 'I can get creative with this.' It's like another art form," Roberge said with excitement in his hoarse voice. "We want to explore the darker side of the song, capturing that vibe of leaving at 4 in the morning for a three-month tour where you won't see your girl anymore, you won't see your family anymore. All you'll see is this bus."
While "Dareh Meyod" is about leaving loved ones behind for the road, it hasn't influenced the band's philosophy on touring. After the Sprite Liquid Mix Tour, O.A.R. will play "Austin City Limits" and the HFSestival radio show at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C., before headlining an ambitious fall outing with Spearhead and the Virginia Coalition.
"Then a winter tour, then a spring tour," Roberge said. "That's what we do."
While diehard fans will likely be taping all of the shows, O.A.R. — Of a Revolution — will record one or two themselves.
"In our contract we made room so that we will do one live record for every studio record, whether it's a live DVD or CD. It will be one or the other," Roberge said. "And we'll definitely follow through on that because that's really what we want people to hear is our live stuff. And we try to practice and change things and get better, and when we do get better we'll do another studio record."
Other plans for O.A.R. include expanding their own Everfine Records. The label's next act "is definitely going to be someone you've never heard of," Roberge vowed. "We never had anybody that took us under their wing and totally helped us out, so what we do is try to take the bands we love and open them up to these crowds, because they're so good."
Once O.A.R. choose a prospect for Everfine, they'll look to their fans for final approval, just like they do with other major decisions.
"When we signed our record deal, we wrote a huge letter to our fans on our message board and said, 'This is why we are doing it. Do you have any questions or comments? Please write back and we'll answer every question,' " Roberge said. "And we did, and they felt a part of it. Then we said, 'We're making a video. Do you have any ideas?' And they responded.
"Someone once told me, just as quickly as these kids came on to you, they'll turn their backs on you if there's something else they like," he continued. "But if you make them a part of it, they're not going to turn their backs on themselves."