It’s a rule of thumb that, when you come across a band with an exclamation point in its name, you should prepare to hear something lighthearted and offbeat. Abbotsford, BC’s Oh No! Yoko makes good on that rule, with a synth-laden tropical pop sound and a mantra to live out what the band members call life’s most important values: carelessness, freedom and fun.
“We started this band young,” drummer Liam Hamilton tells CMJ. “And when you’re young, all you care about is having fun, so we would only make songs that are fun to play.” ON!Y sounds sort of like a cross between Tokyo Police Club and Minus The Bear, with an upbeat, summery atmosphere that includes catchy synth lines, earworm melodies and the occasional gang vocals.
ON!Y is made up of Hamilton (17), vocalist and keyboardist Everett Morris (18), and bassist Nic Dennis (17), a trio of high school buddies who have known each other since kindergarten. When they were ten years old, Hamilton and Morris bought instruments and started to write metal tunes about bathing and loneliness at Hamilton’s house. Dennis and Lukas Thiessen, who’s not with the band anymore, joined the group when they were in the eighth grade.
“We covered ‘Joker And The Thief’ by Wolfmother at the school talent show and wrote a few songs with shitty song titles like ‘Victim Of Evolution,’” Hamilton says.
Somewhere along the way, ON!Y ditched its hard rock roots for its current sound. The group also parted ways with Thiessen, because—as Hamilton, who sounds pretty broken up about it, says—he was “too preoccupied with being a meat head.”
“Although we love him dearly and he was the sickest bass player around, we ruthlessly kicked him out due to his love for rugby, working out and hair gel.”
And so, ON!Y was pared down to its present form. The guys continued to work on new material, driving the hour west to nearby Vancouver to play shows whenever they could. Lately, the band’s song “Courtyard! Bankrupt!” has enjoyed steady rotation on Canada’s CBC Radio.
Most of ON!Y’s subject matter includes nods to cultural staples like Saved By The Bell “baggy-ass clothes” and Oregon Trail, the pedagogical adventure game that lives on in all of our warmest nostalgic memories. “We write about things that we find hilarious in life,” Hamilton says. “It’s just what comes out when writing lyrics.”
The closest the group gets to writing love songs is its heartfelt ode to starlet Megan Fox. “I think we made a pact back in grade nine to never write a song about a girl,” Hamilton says, “because it’s a pathetic waste of time.”
So far, Hamilton, Morris, and Dennis have taken things relatively easy while trying to balance the band with high school, but they’ve just graduated (congratulations!) and are now ready to ramp things up with ON!Y. The group will self-release its debut EP, PAU PAU (pronounced “paw,” not “pow”), on June 21, the first day of summer, before spending the rest of the year playing shows around western Canada.
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