Dispatch 24: Rookie Season ~ "The Collide"
Sanders Bohlke and Brad Odum are breaking down walls and building a better music brand
Interview by Jeffrey Roedel Images provided by Rookie Season
As Oxford, Mississippi native Sanders Bohlke splits his time between Jupiter, Florida, and Charlottesville, Virginia, he slices his creative expression into graphic design and music, the kind of midnight soul folk found like smoke rings across his 2012 debut Ghost Boy and eponymous 2015 follow-up.
But with The Collide, released this summer as a next phase record for the guitarist and pianist with a silky delivery, Bohlke has finally managed to bridge this divide. When his longtime drummer-turned-co-writer Brad Odum—of Nashville via Augusta, Georgia—approached him with a fresh way to approach writing together, they cooked up a batch of songs that celebrate their collaboration as much as a shared love for ‘90s R&B and old gold Southern hip-hop.
Called Rookie Season, this open-ended partnership means more than hot beats and sweet, layer cake harmonies for its two principals, and Bohlke spoke to Wonder South about his unique new blend of design and music.
WS: I’m interested in how your collaboration on this album works, exactly, because The Collide is not the first time you’ve played with Brad. How did you first come to play with each other?
SB: It was kind of crazy, I had not even heard him play, and I asked him if he’d come down to Oxford and do a show at a placed called Proud Larry’s with me. We rehearsed just one day, the day of the show, at my then-girlfriend-now-wife’s apartment. I had this idea of becoming a duo, and we just decided to throw ourselves into it, which, doing it like that, was really kind of dumb, but it turned out to be the best, most magical show. So then Brad played on my solo record Ghost Boy, and around that time he’d started talking about wanting to get more into songwriting, too.
After Ghost Boy, we got together in Nashville to try to write for a few days, with no genre in mind, just the goal of coming up with some syncs [for film and TV]. But as we played we quickly moved into an R&B thing, which naturally is our favorite genre.
R&B has an interesting history in the South. But I think The Collide stands out because it feels like forward momentum. It feels progressive whereas a lot of R&B, and good R&B, coming out of the South today has more touchstones in the soul sounds of the ‘60s and ‘70s.
Being from the South, R&B is hard to get away from, and for me, I clung to it growing up. It gripped me in a way that made me want to explore. Boyz II Men, D’Angelo, and even Hall & Oates. And now, we like the idea of using sounds from bands like Tame Impala and My Morning Jacket that have this psychedelic indie rock vibe to compliment the R&B thing we are doing.
Brad and I have very similar tastes. We’re like the same person when it comes to what we listen to, so there’s no arguments there.
What’s interesting is that Rookie Season is a collaboration without borders in a way. How did that come about conceptually?
As a graphic designer, I’m always looking for ways to combine ideas and influences, and I had for a while some concepts for a design and clothing company. I was trying to figure out how to put that out into the world. The design and apparel concept was already called Rookie Season, and I felt that the music Brad and I were creating really fell into that aesthetic. At the time we didn’t have a band name, so I approached Brad about calling our music project Rookie Season and letting Rookie Season be the umbrella for everything we wanted to do creatively.
What do you want people to know about Rookie Season?
I think a little mystery about it is good. We want it to be more of a community and a way of connecting. We want our apparel to feel more like a streetwear brand, one that when you see it you don’t automatically think ‘That’s a band tee.’ We definitely want the clothing to stand on its own.
How did the project go from creating sounds for movies to more of a band concept?
We planned for an EP early on after we had “Sweet Talker,” and “Got a Feelin’—those were the first two—but once we got really into it, we decided it was sounding great, so we said, ‘Let’s make a record!’ Brad writes some things on keyboard and has great production ideas, and he plays drums obviously. I guitar, keys, bass and sing. Brad would say even though I don't play drums, really, that I think rhythmically. I'll sketch out a melody then he really goes to work dissecting it. We finalize that and write the lyrics together.
Was there a moment when the album really clicked for you, where you knew what this experiment and these songs meant to you or were about?
I might have been in the shower, actually. One day I had this epiphany. This melody came to me, and I started singing what became “The Collide.” And to me it was about our collaboration—that’s this collide that was happening—and the mix of graphic design, clothing and music that Rookie Season became, and that idea made the whole record make sense to us. It made it all more intentional as a body of work and not just a collection of songs.
Y’all debuted The Collide with a big show with Nisolo, who released a new shoe at the same party, and you had a brass section, the whole works. What was the most memorable thing about that first show for this album?
For me the best part was getting to do what I don’t normally do when I’m playing my solo music and up there with a guitar—I got to really dance around while I was singing and just have fun with it. It was a blast.
What’s next for Rookie Season?
We’ve just finished up a live video, and we are collaborating with a really talented claymation artist on another video. We have plans for a Fall line of clothing soon too. Things are really changing every day.
*Listen to lead single "Call You" below.
Find more from Rookie Season at RookieSeason.net