Two years ago, Webster University student Brandon Carroll and his friend Matt O’Brien had the idea to pay homage to Dad Rock. The pair took the idea and released an album titled Their Early Work Aug. 20, 2016 as a band called Area Man.
The pair met while working at Plaza Frontenac Cinema, where they discovered a shared sense of humor and musical taste.
“We were into the same kind of music and the same kind of humor, and had the same basic way of presenting ourselves to people,” Carroll said.
O’Brien, who attends the University of Kansas as a theatre major, said he and Carroll would spend lots of time throwing ideas back and forth at each other, one of which would end up becoming Area Man.
“It started with us talking about what peeved us about music, and then he came up with the idea [of Area Man],” O’Brien said. At first, I didn’t think much of it, but as we started collecting more ideas for song titles, we both decided to just sit down and do it.”
Carroll said his love for dad souvenirs may have had something to do with the ideas he had started having.
“For years now, I’ve been a collector of dad memorabilia,” Carroll said. “I have a mug from the 70’s that says Dad all over it […] and now everybody knows that if you’re going to get me a souvenir, it better be dad-related, otherwise I’m just going to throw it in the garbage.”
Carroll then cited comedian, actor and musician Tim Heidecker as a strong influence on their decision to form Area Man.
“About a year or two before we started the Area Man project, Tim Heidecker released his first album, which was a collaboration with Davin Wood, and they made Dad Rock music, and we thought it genuinely sounded like good music, but was also funny, and we thought maybe we could do something like that,” Carroll said.
Dad rock, as Carroll defined it, is exactly what it sounds like—the rock music your dad would listen to. But he also said it is not completely interchangeable with classic rock, and dad rock can encompass both indie rock and classic rock.
O’Brien agreed Heidecker had helped them form the lines of what they were trying to do, and incorporate satire with a decent effort at making music.
“He basically brought Matt and I together to create something new,” Carroll said.
Though interested in many of the things Heidecker brings to his music, the duo felt as though their album should tell a story rather than sticking with a disconnected premise.
Carroll said Their Early Work tells the story of a dad who begins as a troublemaking ruffian, but in his later years as a husband and father feels a continuous sense of disappointment in his life and family, even going so far as to get divorced and live alone in a condo as he spends his days staring at women by the pool and drinking all day.
“It’s definitely a downhill, depressing kind of concept, but that’s just our sense of humor in that it’s like all the things that people should be talking about on Dad Rock records, but don’t,” Carroll said.
In terms of actually making the music, both Carroll and O’Brien contributed what they could.
“I wrote a few songs about a year and a half ago while I was at work one day, and next thing I know, I have a full ten-track album written, and I meet Matt O’Brien at my new job and he liked the concept a lot and decided to go with it and help me with the music aspect of it,” Carroll said.
Carroll said O’Brien has extensive knowledge of keys and guitar, and was a great help in bringing the idea of Area Man to life.
Despite what went into the project, the duo seemed surprised the album sold beyond expectations.
“I was very surprised when people ended up enjoying the music simply for the music,” Carroll said. That just blew me away because I thought of sure people would react to it as they would to any sort of satirical gimmick on the internet, but people have actually showed interest in it which has surprised me to no end.”
O’Brien said it was pretty exciting to see people genuinely enjoyed the project, though he would have been content with the fate of Area Man regardless of where the opinions of others fell on the matter.
As for the future of Area Man, the success of the first album has given Carroll and O’Brien thoughts of doing additional projects with the band.
“As soon as I get back for break, and get to St. Louis and we start throwing ideas at each other again, something could happen very quickly,” O’Brien said.
Carroll said the pair did not have plans of doing a live performance, but now they are not so sure. Carroll has considered setting up an Area Man event with the audio engineering society in the Sunnen lounge sometime in the future.
In light of all this, Area Man has had a positive impact on both Carroll and O’Brien. For O’Brien, the project has made him less hesitant to try new things.
“It’s taught me for the future that I can make more music and that I want to make more music and that if I want to attack a new project that’s foreign to me, then I just got to try it,” O’Brien said.