Eric Kiefer has become an international performer without leaving the comfort of his own home.
Performing solo under the name Oblee, the local drummer – who has played for the group Aftergrass and the now-defunct hip-hop band Dialogue – has been using the Internet to play for audiences around the world.
Forget Kickstarter. His online shows have produced enough revenue to record, produce and distribute his debut.
Kiefer will celebrate its release tonight with a show at El Rancho Tavern.
Through playing an average of two online shows a week, Kiefer was able to raise more than $1,000 between February and June, which covered costs. It’s a strange way to perform – on stage in an empty room, playing to an online audience who can communicate using instant message. There is little of the traditional concert experience – no crowds, no overpriced drinks, no distractions.
For Kiefer, online performances have resulted in a guaranteed payday, in addition to tips from audience members who are listening around the country and as far away as Japan and Australia.
“I just want to play for more people,” Kiefer said recently in the KDUR studios. “They pay you in a currency, and it takes about five days until you can trade it out into dollars. It’s kind of like having an account you can’t get to easily. ... It just sits there and builds up and builds up, and then you have a thousand bucks to make an album. ... It’s really wild.”
“Wow, Bob Wow” is a diverse record – a collection of lo-fi pop songs that drift from folk to rock, reggae to funk. Kiefer’s use of looping technology, where he builds musical parts to make up “the band,” is minimal. Unlike his looping contemporaries who drift into jam-band territory, Kiefer respects the formula for crafted pop songs that clock in under four minutes.
Though mostly a solo outing with Kiefer playing all instruments, the album features contributions on individual tracks by former Aftergrass bandmates Bob Demmon and Jesse Mattice, with help also coming from vocalists Kim Manning, who performs currently with George Clinton and the P-Funk All Stars, Australia’s Bonnie Hollywood, members of the band Engrama and The Voodoo Organist.
Like his online shows, recording was an international affair – contributions were sent from places like Australia and Spain.
The online experience has been beneficial to Kiefer as a performer and a music lover. Bonnie Hollywood and Kiefer have never met in person; they know each other from online shows, building a musical partnership in a virtual world.
It’s also an opportunity to gain fans who may never set foot in the same room with him, in addition to discovering new and exotic music. It all came from taking a chance with a new kind of concert venue.
“What did Weird Al Yankovic say? ‘You have to dare to be stupid,’ and it’s paid off in so many different ways,” Kiefer said.
Liggett_b@fortlewis.edu. Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager.