An album that’s gained increasing acclaim through five star reviews and word of mouth is Ohtis’ ‘Curve of Earth’. What makes the back story to this debut release so compelling is that it’s an album fully 15 years in the making.
Ohtis are a group from the unusual sounding Normal, Illinois, originally formed when co-founders Sam Swinson and Adam Pressley were sophomores at high school. They self-released their first material on small run CD-Rs while still teenagers, primarily to a local audience. Their partnership has included a revolving cast of local musicians joining the live act over the years, including re-joining mainstay member and multi-instrumentalist Nate Hahn.
The very lengthy hiatus between their start as a band and the release of their debut is largely explained because Swinson was derailed by a heroin addiction that ended with him in a religious rehab centre in Georgia, as well as living beneath a bridge for a time.
The ‘Curve of Earth’ album is autobiographical and explores in unflinchingly intimate detail Swinson’s battle with drugs and the stigma of being an addict. On the song ‘Black Blood’, he sings: “Two days later he woke up strapped in a hospital bed / Next to another man who wanted to be dead”. Written very much from first hand experience it’s a song of betrayal and addiction whose sound belies the bleakness of the lyrics. This is also the case on standout single, ‘Rehab’, a lovely uptempo Americana song with piano and country flavoured slide guitar, on which Swinson faces his demons but still manages a lightness of touch: “I slept under a bridge / But that makes it sound a lot worse / Than it was.”
By around 2009, Swinson’s addiction had become life-threatening. Weighing the odds of maintaining a creative partnership in those conditions, Pressley and Hahn decided to distance themselves and the band dissolved. They still kept in touch whilst living in different parts of the country, swapping ideas and songs online, although never planning to release them – in equal parts because of their traumatic falling-out, and Swinson’s ongoing addiction to heroin.
Redemption eventually came in the form of sobriety for Swinson. After following the 12 step programme and making amends to both of his re-joining bandmates, they brought the band back to life to release ‘Curve of Earth’; unfazed by the 2000 miles that now separate them geographically, with Pressley and Hahn in Detroit and Chicago and Swinson in Los Angeles.
Now they’re venturing out of the United States for their first ever UK dates, including the End of the Road festival on the 29th of August. You can catch them at the following:
Ohtis Tour Dates:
THU 29 Aug – End of the Road Festival, Salisbury
SUN 1 Sep – BAad, Glasgow
MON 2 Sep – The Castle Hotel, Manchester
TUE 3 Sep – Brudenell Social Club, Leeds
WED 4 Sep – The Windmill, Brixton, London
THU 5 Sep – The Hope and Ruin, Brighton