Oh Bummer! Offers Therapeutic Charm and Cheeky Chaos on New EP ‘To Be A Part of the World’


Bedroom pop musician Oh Bummer! has just dropped his new EP To Be A Part of the World today. Releasing a music video for the focus track “Stupid” to go along with the record’s release, Oh Bummer! welcomes listeners to a world of honest healing and music that holds a breezy yet bittersweet vibe. The project of 28-year-old Tanner Houghton, Oh Bummer! is the latest musical endeavor from the Seattle-born, Los Angeles-based songwriter. Houghton spoke with Melodic Magazine about musical inspirations, what to expect on Oh Bummer’s! newest effort and the advice he has for those who feel lost.

How were you introduced to music originally?
As a child, my late father was a pianist. When the kids were falling asleep at night my dad would be playing piano and there’s even some old tapes of him going into the studio and having recording sessions. I have a pretty musical family. For me, making music started with writing poetry and then I met one of my old best buddies in rehab. At that point, I was a little rapper kid, and his mom made him bring his guitar. He was 16, I was 17, and we started making folk music together. That was my first band and that was the genesis of working with other people in that capacity. 

Going off of that, who are your favorite artists or who inspires you the most?
That changes pretty often. I’m the kind of music listener where I get obsessed with a record until I’ve completely burned it out and I can never listen to it again. But growing up, one of my buddies gave me a burn CD of Nova, AZ, Binary Star, Jay-Z and all these rappers I really look up to. I would listen to it when I was 12 years old while playing Halo on my Xbox. It changed my fucking life. And then I got into Atmosphere. That was a huge stepping point for my rapping career, because I was like, “Okay, I could be a white dude and not do gangster rap and still make it fun.”

What is it about rap music specifically that draws you in?
I just thought the rappers I was looking up to as a kid were the coolest people in my entire life. I went through a lot growing up and I felt like I was listening to these rappers take their trauma and turn it into a beautiful song. And it’s not a beautiful song in an avant-garde or abstract way, they’re just saying what happened to them. I felt really confused and broken, but then I listened to a lot of music by musicians who seemed to feel the same way at one point in their lives. Not only that, but I did start music by writing poetry, which is the closest thing to rap. I also didn’t know how to sing, so all these things just aligned and I was able to work on music without ever touching an instrument or knowing how to sing and still feel like I’m pursuing a music career. 

What inspired the change from rap to what you do now?
There’s always been two sides of me where I love hip-hop and I love rock and roll. I have another band called Buckets, which is my rock and roll band, where I write all those songs to scream and play loud guitar on. Oh Bummer! is just a combination of my influences. It’s tricky, because I don’t want Oh Bummer! songs to lean too much in one direction or else it sounds like Buckets. There’s a fine line with that, and I think adding something like sample drums is a sure fire way to set that apart and make it more hip-hop leaning.

Have you ever felt pressure in the industry to not experiment with so many influences or stick to one genre?
I feel that pressure when it comes to play listing. It is a huge part of a musician’s career, especially when you’re coming up, and it’s really hard to find the right playlists or the right people. It’s hard to find Oh Bummer! for people. I’m not sure how I would define my music exactly, because I’m not a genre head. I don’t know a lot of that kind of stuff, but I think labeling things as the wrong genre can put it in front of the wrong people who might not like it. So there is some pressure to narrow my music a little bit and make it a specific genre so you can fit in some more places. But I also like when people don’t know who to compare my projects to, because that makes me feel like I’m unique or they haven’t heard a lot of music like mine.

Your new EP To Be A Part of the World comes out today, congrats on that. You also have a new music video out for the song “Stupid” off the EP. The video is so chaotic and fun – tell me a little bit about the process of making it!
Looking back at that video, I’m kind of slapping my forehead because it is so on the nose. I was almost thinking I could have been a little more creative with the video and it could have been about me actively trying to be a better person, but I end up making a fool of myself. Not to talk shit about the video we made, I think it’s really funny, but I am genuinely embarrassed about it. Which is also on the nose. The inspiration was the song. It’s just about me getting too drunk and making a fool of myself. The video was super fun to make. I didn’t expect 20 people to come and hang out with me. My buddy Brandon and I filmed this video as well as the last three or four videos for me. We do a lot of freestyling, so we have loose plans and then we just go in there and try to figure it out.

What made you decide to do a video for “Stupid”? When did you listen to that song and decide it needed a video?
I think all the songs on the record have videos except two or three of them. This one was more extensive. Why do I have “Stupid” as the focus track? I don’t know. I made the song a couple years ago, and at the time I was like, ‘This is it, this is my hit song.’ So I guess we just carried that mentality. I don’t necessarily think that now. I think it’s a really fun record. There’s a part of me that wants to be a good influence and talk about stuff like this, and there’s another part of me that wants there to be a silver lining at the end of the song. A lot of my songs start really dark and self-deprecating and then I’m like, ‘but what if the last verse said we’re going to be okay?’ But I never end up doing that. It just ends sad.

I also wanted to ask about “Watch It Break,” the last single from the EP. You’ve said it touches on the vulnerability that comes with love and sex, what encouraged you to write a song about that?
I don’t think I’ve ever had that kind of thought process when I’m making music, where think about what I want a song to be about. It’s always retrospective. It’s such a therapeutic exercise for me that I make the song and then I don’t ask myself why I made the song until after. Then sometimes when I’m looking back at songs I wrote I’m like, ‘holy shit, I wrote that!’ But “Watch It Break” is about how sex and love can be so devastating or so beautiful when it comes to heartbreak or the risk involved. I’m a very sensitive guy, especially when I was a little younger, so I’ve been prone to heartbreak many times. I’ve had people do some pretty wicked things to me and my heart. I think I got more fragile and more guarded overtime, so that’s what I would say inspired that song.

Your new EP To Be A Part of the World comes out today. We’ve talked about it a little bit already, but what can people expect?
I called it To Be A Part of the World because of the title track. The record covers a lot of themes, but the major theme is how sometimes it’s difficult for me to be a part of the world and integrated with society and feel like a regular person who belongs somewhere. A lot of the songs are so free-flowing when I write them while I’m in a bad space. For me personally, it’s like a snapshot of a certain period of my life. When I listen back to this record and I realize I was struggling a lot more to be alive back then than I am now, I try to reflect and feel positive about my life right now because I don’t feel doomed. Most of this record is me feeling doomed. There’s songs like “Listen Up” that are happy, but there are some that I consider silver linings on the record. Mostly it’s like a therapy session for me. I have a song “Talk About it All the Time” that’s about going to therapy and talking about the same shit every single week, feeling like it’s never going to change. A lot of the record covers similar themes.

What advice do you have for listeners who might feel the same way as you did when you felt like you couldn’t find your place in the world?
If someone listens to my music and they feel seen or they feel less alone, that means so much to me. Because that’s how I felt growing up listening to certain artists. Just knowing you’re not alone in the world with your big feelings is so important. When you’re in the dumps, it’s pretty hard to convince yourself that anyone can relate to that. My mom would always tell me, ‘keep being yourself, be as loving and as kind as possible, and good things will come.’ That’s advice that I still keep to this day. Also, I think your environment and surrounding yourself with loving people is important. I see friend groups all the time where there’s contention, stress, or drama. I didn’t always, but I’m so grateful I now have a very tight circle of friends who I trust, love and look up to. Taking care of yourself is also important. I feel like I wasn’t a fully cognizant adult until I was like 25 years old. I truly felt a flip switch at one point and after that I could understand consequences better, which encouraged me to take better care of myself. If you take better care of yourself, you take better care of the people around you. 

It’s been great talking to you, thank you so much!
Thanks for talking to me!

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