The first impression you get from talking with the members of O-Positive, a Boston-based, close to "big time" band, is, in all actuality, positive. The five member group is comprised of extremely talented musicians, who for all their skills in music, are very loose, amiable and easy to talk to. Renowned for their powerful love songs, O-Positive is a band on the move. They have recently completed a two-week tour of the Eastern United States, and are looking to continue touring as much as possible. Unlike some bands, O-Positive is not an overly-serious gathering of nihilistic musicians. They are a band that likes to have fun, but in doing so, they don't detract from their musical style or substance; they add to it. O-Positive has struck a balance between comedy and charity, and the end result is a band that is one of the most engrossing, captivating bands of today.
O-Positive began about seven years ago in the Boston area. All of the band members (Dave Herlihy, Dave Ingham, Dave Martin, Alex Lob, and Alan Petitti) grew up in and around Boston, specifically Newton and Watertown.
"We were all in some cover bands to start," says Alan Petitti, "but I was getting sick of doing covers, and wanted to start writing my own material. So one day, Alex, Dave Ingham and I got together, jammed, and worked on some original stuff. That was really fun, and we decided to meet once a week to write new material. We made this a point, and I brought in Dave Herlihy, who was an acquaintance of mine. After awhile, he became a big part of what we were doing, and we decided to do a gig." The rest, as they say, is history. Encour-
aged by the reaction they were getting, the four members (at the time) of O-Positive stuck with their intentions of originality.
The O-Positive of today is made up of five very talented musicians. Dave Herlihy is on lead vocals, and also plays a mean guitar. Herlihy graduated from Watertown High School, and also passed the bar exam to obtain a law degree. Dave Ingham is O-Positive's bassist, and also plays a part in the band's vocals. Dave Martin, a new addition to the original four member band and the last of the three Daves, plays guitar, and goes house on the tamborine for certain songs. Martin is also on O-Positive's vocal crew.
Alex Lob is the man in charge of hammering out a high-powered rhythm on the band's percussion section. Although he has a relatively quiet personality, once Lob hits the stage, he's sure to impress with his own unique style of play. Playing guitar, keyboards and the accordion for O-Positive, Alan Petitti rounds out the band. Petitti also contributes to the band's vocals. By varying playing styles and techniques from song to song, not to mention instruments, O-Positive comes off with a very unique sound, one that is not only hard to replicate, but difficult to develop as well.
Upon posing "the dreaded question" (as seen by Dave Ingham), one can find out why the band decided to call themselves O-Positive. "We didn't hate it," says Ingham right off the bat."We started thinking AWow, we're not saying no to that,' so it stuck, and just like any other name for any other band, it began to work for us."
O-Positive's first album was an EP that came out on a tiny label called Throbbing Lobster. "Only Breathing" was later compiled with another EP, "Cloud Factory," which had come out on Link's label. The "Only Breathing/Cloud Factory" compact disc came out on Link's Label, and allowed O-Positive fans to enjoy such heart-wrenching tunes as "Talk About Love" and "Up, Up, Up" on the same album.
Alan Petitti affirms the value of the CD by saying, "It really was the release of the CD that made people stop and listen to us. Although college stations and WFNX had played our stuff, this CD put it all together, and was more attractive to the fans." When asked which song in particular could be credited with the group's success, Alex Lob doesn't hesitate to say, "It was ATalk About Love.' It has a real catchy tune that people can easily remember, and by remembering the song, they would also remember us." After Link put out the CD compilation in 1987, O-Positive switched labels and their new "Toyboat, Toyboat, Toyboat" came out that year on a major label, Epic Records.
According to Dave Ingham, making the record with Epic was much easier than putting together "Only Breathing" or "Cloud Factory," since, with the major label, the band actually had a recording budget, and were not pressed to squeeze all the recording studio time into as short a period as possible. One advantage of being with Epic is the number of opportunities that present themselves. O-Positive has already shot their first video for MTV, ("Imagine That"), and they're hoping to get in some more videos off the new album.
With a band just starting off in the Boston area, the members of O-Positive didn't really expect things to work out the way they did. For Petitti, "I just wanted to be in a band considered good enough in Boston to get us gigs." However, the band members' attitudes changed after the release of "Only Breathing''
"There came a point after the first record, that we all decided we were going to get a major label deal," maintains Ingham."Once we decided that, we just kept fighting towards that end. You've got to. If you don't, then you're going to quit, because there are alot of points where morale is low, and quitting seems to be the easiest way out."
To achieve the goal of becoming part of a major label, it is impossible to toy with the chemistry of a band. O-Positive has all of its original members plus one, so the original make-up of the band has not been changed.
The days of the band just starting out are long gone, and O-Positive has just returned from their most extensive tour ever. Going the cheapest way possible, members of the band (as well as three crew people) roamed the country in a Winnebago. Although O-Positive did not headline their recent eleven-city, fourteen-day tour, they were exposed to large clubs, with capacities of over one thousand people.
"We were playing in front of maybe eight hundred to one thousand people every show. It was our job to get them into the music and to enjoy the acts following ours. But we found many people in many towns were very receptive to our music," comments Dave Ingham about the tour. The tour hit St. Louis, Kalamazoo, Ithaca, New York City, Baltimore, and Philadelphia, to name a few.
When asked what they thought of opening for Sinead O'Connor at Great Woods, Alan Petitti points out that, "Whenever you open for a big name star, at a big venue, you find all the people you work with are professionals. It's really a great feeling to be treated that well." Alex Lob is quick to add, "The food was great, too." The tour was a learning experience, as always, but it was also a self-promotional device to get people into O-Positive, which it obviously did.
The members of O-Positive claim that there are innumerable things that have affected their music. Alan Petitti is particularly influenced by the guitarist from the "Gang of Four," who Petitti claims, "just starts pounding on his guitar, with no detectable rhythm; but it sounds great. I try to do that sometimes when I'm playing." Dave Martin believes that he has been impacted not just by other bands, but by emotions stemming from watching certain movies, or seeing certain events. "It's just that feeling you walk away with that leads you to think of a certain melody or phrase of words," comments Martin.
O-Positive is truly one of the few unique bands around today that has its own group of fans, based on a singular, O-Positive sound. When you even come in temporary contact with the band, you become aware of the loose, fun-loving nature of the band members. Alan Petitti articulates, "We're just a bunch of guys with the same goals and the same ideals." Through seven years of dedication and hard labor to meet those goals, O-Positive has defined themselves as an extraordinary group of talented individuals, capable of working well as a team. Seven years have seen the rise of O-Positive on the Boston scene. O-Positive has become Boston's premiere band. Within a few years, there is no doubt they will be one of the country's premiere bands. O+ Up, Up, Up. n
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.