General George Washing Machine, Urethra Franklin, Stone Cold Jane Austen… Believe it or not, these band names were once semi-serious suggestions the group formerly known as Beardo (itself a brilliantly lousy pun) considered for a replacement name. Instead, the band—comprising bassist Josh Speers, pianist Ryan Ahern, guitarist Matt Gaydar, drummer Jeremy Rosen, and a collection of their voices—settled on Otter. That’s right, like the fur ball.

Etymological history aside, talking with Josh and Ryan (the other two couldn’t make it) about their wacky quest to rebrand themselves, spirit animals, and the beauty of productive procrastination made me feel like I was with my older brother’s cool, funny friends. They seemed like the kind of people who would not only buy you drugs, but also smoke them with you.

Otter, named as such because Matt purportedly looks “obviously like an otter” and eats food off of his stomach, graduated from Skidmore college last year. They met as freshman, played as frequently and for as long as they could finagle, usually until campus safety or the cops showed up, and graduated with music, english, chemistry, and geoscience degrees.

Although the group only recently popped the collegiate bubble (i.e. became “real people”), they have done a good job of balancing their naturally rowdy sound and jokester personalities with keen professionalism and musicianship.

otter pull quote2The way Josh described Otter’s sound was still very college; “It’s house party music,” he said, speaking from experience, “A band you want to be in a crowded house with, sweating a lot with a lot of your friends, throwing Solo cups at the wall or at the band.” But to supplement the vivid imagery, after Josh finally admitted that answering questions about their sound is so hard “sometimes we just lie” and “sometimes we just ramble.” The two gave another swing: “Postmodern, contemporary boogie funk, sans horns.”

And what might that sound like?

It’s clean, but spontaneous; meticulously arranged, but free flowing.

The carefully trodden line between exuberant funk-making and music industry grind-ing is something Otter has practiced, literally. Rehearsals used to begin and end (and virtually consist of) laughter, but although the excitement won’t disappear, Otter has learned how to suffer in the studio, and how to make that suffering count. It’s a time they use to challenge themselves and really hone their sound, listening to each band member intently. It takes a mentality antithetical to the house party mindset.

otter pull quote“Live performance is like a drug,” they said, “but recording is like a job you love going to. It’s tough but the reward is fantastic. It’s like running.”

Otter has been running laps around the Boston music scene since their graduation, working tirelessly to snowball into something sustainable and long-lived. They’re recording new tracks, filming complementary video, touring the East Coast through December (on December 13th they’re playing TT The Bears in Boston), and planning to move to Northampton where they’ll be welcomed into a tightly-knit community of musicians and college kids who are eager, I’m sure, to listen to the finest quality of house party postmodern boogie funk sans horns.

The band, however, plans to take their time, developing confidently in the nurturing and intertwined melting pot that is the Boston music scene. Their methodology may be as chill and groovy as their music is.

“It’s about stamina now,” Josh said, “there’s no rush.”

Bottom photo by Sam McCormick.

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