Around this time last year I met with Joseph Whitehead, Jeremy Couch and Evan Sandy of Florence for the first time. They had just taken a break from former band, Strange Waves, together in order to work on a new project; recording an album under their new moniker, Oribi. The result was 2017’s “Time and Mind.” T&M had a laid back, semi-psychedelic sound and was an impressive debut record.
Just one year and some months later, Oribi’s sophomore album, Void dropped this past month on November 16. A release show for the record was held the same day at downtown Florence’s beloved venue 116 East Mobile (which announced it will be closing at the end of the year). A packed crowd came out for Oribi’s final show at 116, matching Whitehead’s energy and engaging with the band enthusiastically throughout the duration of the set.
As proven by the reception from the audience that night, Void has an undeniable energy, plainly nodding towards — and poking fun at — the cliches they refuse to fall into, while also getting philosophically contemplative on other tracks. Throughout the record, frontman Whitehead’s signature sardonic lyrics serve playful eye rolls rather than throwing punches, while ensuring his message is still crystal clear. The music itself is more alternative rock than indie this time around, as two new members amp up the sound from intimate acoustic to all out rock.
For live performances of “Void,” Luke Wright (alternate lead) and Chess Swinea (bass) have been added to the band in addition to veterans Sandy (drums), Whitehead (vocalist/bass/ guitar) and Couch (lead guitarist). This expansion allows more room for Whitehead to orbit around inside, giving him freedom to pull back or get louder depending on the moment.
Thanks to tracks like “Alabama Dreaming” and “Chicken Liver,” Oribi’s take on a Southern rock song comes off as both parody and anthem, but only for those who are in on the joke. At this juncture in time it’s necessary to hear a “Southern” band critique and challenge the South, especially in the blunt fashion Whitehead does (reminiscent of Mike Cooley of the Drive-By Truckers).
“I like to write whatever I feel in the moment and try not to adhere to one particular sound,” Whitehead said. “I approach each song with a different mindset and really try to mix in what I am trying to portray with the soundscapes or styles. The genre or sound of the song is simply the setting in which the story of the song takes place.
“These environments are definitely complimented by Jeremy, Evan and Luke’s input, and the songs would not be what they are without the guys. Even though the songs are very much a product of me, by the end they become something much more than my initial vision.”
To listen to Void, go to Spotify, Apple Music, iTunes or wherever you stream music.