With 'TRL' In Tow, O.A.R Are Rowing (Awkwardly) Toward The Mainstream

After 10 years of touring, band is getting a taste of the big time.

For the better part of the last decade, O.A.R. have probably played regularly at that bar you used to hit for nickel-beer night back in college. You know, the one with sawdust on the floor and extra-foul bathrooms.

So when they recently found themselves sitting in the air-conditioned (and sawdust-free) splendor of the "TRL" green room, they understandably felt a bit out of place.

"It's a complete shock to be here," frontman Marc Roberge laughed. "To get on 'TRL,' you feel honored and you feel like it's something you deserve. Because too often, I think that bands that work hard on the road are overlooked. But it's something we feel has been coming for a while. We've been touring and putting out records for 10 years now, so we're kind of like, 'OK, well, what took you guys so long?' "

O.A.R. were making a whirlwind trip through New York to promote their new album, Stories of a Stranger, their second major-label effort and the first to spawn a single and video that just might be "TRL"-worthy: "Love and Memories." It's been a hectic 24 hours, to say the least, but for a band that's used to sleeping in vans and playing in dive bars, a few hours of media work can't be that bad (see "You Hear It First: O.A.R.").

"We've been doing a ton of press, so it's been a day of wearing a lot of makeup. We sat down to do 'TRL,' and the lady was like 'You're already wearing makeup,' " saxophonist Jerry DePizzo laughed. "But we're totally fine with it. Because time in New York is very valuable, so you've got to keep doing all this stuff. It's been fun, tiring and exciting. But you blink and it's gone."

And with an attitude like that, it's no wonder O.A.R. are enjoying their time in the teen-pop spotlight. The video for "Love and Memories" has been gaining major spins on mtvU and the song is fast becoming a rock-radio staple (see "O.A.R.'s 'Memories' Likely To Trigger Déjà Vu"). Which makes the band's decision to work with super-songsmith Glen Ballard on the song (he of Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill fame) look that much smarter, despite a rocky start.

"[Guitarist] Richard [On] and I show up at Glen's house, and we knock on the door," Roberge recalled. "We've got our guitars and this woman opens the door, and she's like, 'OK, you guys are a little early. Can you go wait in the car?' We thought she was going to welcome us in and have us sit in some green room or something, but she made us wait in the car.

"So we're eating McDonald's and the neighbors think we're criminals or something. But eventually we go in and we're bummed, but he welcomes us — and it was our time then. He showed us how a real pro does it. I mean, we wrote."

And of course, when news of O.A.R.'s collaboration with Ballard — plus their scheduled appearance on "TRL," not to mention their just-announced gig at Madison Square Garden in January — reached the band's rabid (and rather anti-mainstream) fanbase, they were less than thrilled and more than outspoken, leaving a stream of profanity-laced tirades on O.A.R.'S official site. But the bandmembers know that you can't make an omelette — or a hit record — without breaking a few eggs, and they're not about to let a few ticked-off fans ruin their chance to bask in the spotlight.

"When we made the record, we were like, 'This is great! Everyone is going to love this!' And then we see the backlash on our messageboard and it kind of gets to you. People started calling us the biggest f---ing sellouts ever, and we're like 'What?' " Roberge sighed. "And that's the greatest thing about the Internet and also the worst. Everyone can speak their mind, but you have no idea who anyone is. So when people hear we're going to be on 'TRL,' they go nuts, but it's not like there's a messageboard for them. You can't log onto the John Johnson messageboard and be like 'John you're such a f---ing sell out!'

"So you've just got to let it roll off your back."