Lords of the New Surf: The OTTTO So What! Interview
BY STEFFAN CHIRAZI
Welcome to OTTTO, the heaviest, grooviest, trippiest of trios with a dash of funk and some dirty attitude in their sonic stew. Steffan Chirazi rides the wave with Bryan Noah Ferretti, Tye Trujillo, and Patrick “Triko” Chavez.
As I write these words, Tye Trujillo is still 17 years old. Yet, if the definition of ‘veteran’ allies with the percentage of your life spent in your chosen profession, Tye is a bonafide veteran. He was 12 years old when he ended up substituting for Korn’s bassist, Fieldy, in South America back in 2017, a time when he and fellow-OTTTOan Bryan Noah Ferretti had their band The Helmets. Tye has since become the sometime bassist for Suicidal Tendencies, continuing a family legacy which has seen his father before him lay down the grooves for Muir and Co. And let’s not cheat Ferretti (19 years old) of being a ‘seasoned performer,’ given that he and Trujillo have been jamming and gigging in rehearsal spots, local throwdowns, and club gigs for more than six years. In fact, Patrick “Triko” Chavez on drums is both ‘the newest guy’ and the oldest one at the ripe old age of 21. It makes for an intriguing, eclectic, rapidly developing sound and vibe, with OTTTO literally developing mega chops and fluidity by the gig, the result of a long-bonded chemistry between Trujillo and Ferretti, a supreme percussive foundation via the popular and powerful Triko, and a shared vision which sees the three determined to let the music flow through them as it arrives rather than try to form-fit some cheap, bargain-basement genre-tag.
Spend time with them, and you’ll see that OTTTO are delightfully unfussed, unbothered, and untouched by the normal ‘conventions’ of the music business. They chuckle at being labeled ‘thrashy,’ and they quietly sigh at the thought of structuring their sound or image to fit a nicely packed box. Much of this might also come from a united love of the ocean, beach life, and surf culture, with Ferretti having spent his early years in Pacifica, CA (Northern California), and Trujillo, a Westsider, hailing from the beaches of Venice through Malibu, California (he also skateboards prodigiously in Venice). I sat and talked with the three of them before their explosive San Francisco Bottom of The Hill set with Bastardane.
Steffan Chirazi: Let’s lay down the foundations of your story, and let’s tell the story properly. The first thing we need to get into is how Bryan and Tye brought OTTTO together.
Tye Trujillo: During the late Helmets era (their previous band, which came together when the pair were eight – yes EIGHT- years old and played Lollapaloozas in Chile and Chicago – ED), we were jamming a lot of different types of riffs. Bryan started getting deeper into guitar, and we were listening to some Metallica and Alice in Chains stuff that was more ‘progressive’ music with more progression overall. So, we were jamming out riffs, he was coming up with riffs, I was coming up with riffs, we were looking to incorporate stuff together, and we were going in a different direction with our songwriting than the other guys. And the original OTTTO drummer, Jonah, had filled in as drummer on The Helmets because the original Helmets drummer broke his arm, so when we’d rehearse for shows with Jonah, we’d go into these crazy riffs and crazy progressive kinds of jams that differed from our other stuff. This was 2017, and that’s when we started writing some new stuff, and that was the beginning of the OTTTO days when we didn’t actually have a name yet. We were just writing songs.
SC: You guys were still 14, if I remember correctly, when OTTTO was coming together, right?
Bryan Noah Ferretti: Yeah, I was 15 or 16 when OTTTO was coming out, but Tye was 14.
SC: And you were feeling the same vibe as he was at this point. You want more progressive stuff, and you want to be jamming in a more progressive way, right?
BNF: Yeah, we were just tired of the covers and tired of getting recognized for covers. We wanted to get recognized for our music, and OTTTO was that opportunity. With Jonah and us three, it worked well, just dynamics and stuff. That’s where we really started finding out what we liked, how we write, and what we want to sound like.
SC: Triko, obviously, you’re not involved at this point, but what are you up to? You’d have been, what, 17? 18?
PTC: So I was in high school in LA and playing drums in a band that was called Captor of Sin. That is absolutely a Slayer reference. So, I was playing with some of my high school friends and buddies; we were playing in a group, and that’s what I was up to. I actually saw a Helmets show on YouTube around then, from Sacramento or something, way before I met either Bryan or Tye, and I just was like, “Oh, wow!” I think they were playing “Ghost Rider,” and that’s a really sick song. So it’s just kind of funny how things ended up.
SC: Very cool. OK, completely different angle. Do you all surf and skate?
BNF: Yeah, I surf. I skate a little too.
SC: But you’re more a surfer. So you’re in NorCal surfer, you’re a SoCal surfer, right? That’s an interesting thing in itself. Are you surfing as well, Triko?
PTC: I do surf. I wouldn’t say I’m as good as either of these guys right here, but…
SC: …you have a board, you have a wetsuit, you do your thing.
PC: Yes, sir.
SC: OK, do you think that your mutual love of surfing helps you write? Do you think there’s a connection there in the way that you groove, which maybe has some DNA from surfing?
TT: Yeah, totally. Our writing’s kinda like surfing. We just kind of let it happen, just feel it out, and we like to keep it really groovy. And I think our surfing brings us together a lot more because when we hang out and surf, we want to go and jam right after. If we’re at Sunset beach or Topanga beach, we’ll surf, have this wave of inspiration, go over to Triko’s house, and we’ll just write some jams.
BNF: So it definitely, like, helps the work wheel keep moving.
SC: One of the things I noticed with the EP, which, by the way, at nine songs, feels like an album to me, is that you’re unafraid to take a journey, and you’re unafraid in general.
TT: I think that’s right on. You know, we like to keep the songs different, and we like to go into little chill and melodic sections. Go with the flow, go with the wave, just like that. But you always end up back in the water, you know.
SC: Yes indeed, and further on that ‘unafraid’ trip, I’ve read some pretty lazy descriptions of you, which I really don’t think are very accurate. For example, ‘thrash punk,’ which I actually think is really not fair at all.
TT: I would definitely agree with that. I wouldn’t consider us a thrash band, actually, at all. We have elements of thrash here and there, but we have more elements of punk than thrash, really. I think we have more groovy elements and trippy melodic parts. There’re some funk elements here and there, funk and groove, but I think thrash, it would be the last element on the list. We’re a band with elements!
SC: I have to ask you bluntly, Tye, what did a twelve-year-old on tour in South America playing with a band like Korn learn? What did you learn, and what did you bring back to this band and the bands you had between it?
TT: Well, it did help me grow as a musician. Playing every other night definitely helped me get in shape, so when I came back, I was just flying across the strings. It also just helped me learn about what touring is. Like, you have to get up for lobby call, scheduling, meet with the band at a certain time, and wake up early. I wasn’t really used to that stuff, and really, you just want to sleep in, but you have to get up and pack stuff. I was doing that a little bit when I would tag along with Metallica when they would play different places, but this was the first time experiencing this myself, like having to do it. The responsibility was a little more on me.
SC: How was it for you, Bryan, seeing Tye doing that tour?
BNF: For me, it was just kinda like he came back, and we were back to what we were doing. Our focus has always been on just writing our music and being creative, so you know, I was hella stoked for him, obviously. He had the opportunity, and that got me into Korn as well, so that was cool. But we’re brothers, so it was just like, “Dude, how was it? Was it fucking sick?”
SC: So you find Triko, but I don’t know how you found Triko, and we need to know. I think the readers need to know, so tell the story.
TT: Me and Triko played in a different band called Feed the Beast, heavier hardcore stuff. I met him through my buddy Nick (Nicholas Garcia), who plays guitar. He’s from the Venice area, and he played in Feed the Beast, but he also played in a local Venice punk band, kind of like a Suicidal-style band. He hit me up to go up on stage and play a song, play a couple songs with them on stage for a night when they were playing some really cool DIY gig. So they also had Captor of Sin going, and I met Triko then. We’ve just been jamming ever since, and that was right before the pandemic, so February 2020. We just really connected on funk grooves, different grooves, heavy grooves, chill grooves –
PTC: Freaky grooves, that’s what you called it. Freaky grooves!
SC: An instant lock for you as well, Bryan?
BNF: Yeah. I met Triko at a Feed the Beast show in Compton at a super funky backyard party show, Mad Magic. It was so sick.
SC: Mad Magic?
BNF: Oh yeah, Mad Magic, they’re our homies from East LA, and they promote shows out there, cool backyard parties, which are awesome. I was checking him out, like, digging his sick kit and grooves too, so yeah, that was the first time I met him. And then, probably not even a week later, we jammed. And then yeah, we were like, instantly brothers so, yeah.
SC: By the way, where does ‘Triko’ come from?
PTC: I’ve got an uncle, and his name is also Patrick. He’s my dad’s brother, and my grandfathers called him Triko as a kid. So then, when I was born, that name got transferred to me, and that’s what I tend to go by.
SC: Got it, cool. OK, let’s talk a little bit about writing. Bring us through your writing process, how it works, and the general vibe.
TT: It depends. Our writing process changes. What we’ve been doing lately is Bryan and I will jam on a riff at the house, we’ll take our time with it and sit on it for a bit, and then we go over to Triko’s house and all jam it together. Triko comes up with transitions, parts, and stuff, plus ideas for the arrangement, and then we lock it in that way. We jam through, we all have suggestions, and we all combine those together to formulate a song. But then sometimes we just come up with a riff right away at Patrick’s house and just jam it. It really depends on the current mood.
SC: Is the writing process and rehearsal space an obsessive pull for this band?
PTC: Pretty much. We’ll be doing our separate things throughout the week, and then somebody will just be like, “Yo! I got a song idea. Like, right now. Let’s get it together!” Then when we jam and practice, my phone’s full of me singing riffs and stuff into my voice memos. Tye and Bryan’s phones, they’re full of creative ideas and stuff like that too. So when we get to the practice space, we just start brainstorming. And we’re, as you said, itching to get there.
BNF: Yeah. And I would add that our writing space is not defined by any particular four walls. We write anywhere. Anywhere. Tye and I sometimes go on a hike somewhere on a trail and bring our guitars and (suitable) amps with us.
SC: Really? So you’re going full Jimmy Page/Roy Harper 1984? You ever seen that clip?
BNF: I haven’t seen that.
SC: On the vintage British TV show The Old Grey Whistle Test?
BNF: I gotta check that out.
SC: Jimmy Page and Roy Harper on The Old Grey Whistle Test. They go up to the mountains in the Lake District in England, and they’re just jamming. Right there. It’s iconic.
TT: We do that type of stuff, yeah.
SC: Oh, that’s great. What, you’re talking about in Topanga?
TT: No, yeah, Topanga. In Temescal Canyon.
BNF: Temescal Canyon’s trippy.
TT: Really nice canyon. Beautiful, you can see the beach from it. We walked over there and just wrote a jam. We carry our little amps and just sit down on the ground and jam.
SC: Is moving into a band house on the agenda, or is there a purity in separation? Which way would you rather do it?
TT: Well, I mean, our dream goal is to move into a band house in Malibu, be able to surf every day, and write every day. I mean, that’d be a dream, but you know, Malibu is so expensive to live in. But that would be the best dream ever.
SC: Would you settle for Culver City?
TT: Well, yeah! If we had the chance, I would do that. Culver City, man. For all of us to be together and just write, where there was enough room, so we weren’t walking all over each other, I’d be hella into that.
PTC: If there’s a spot where you can set up a guitar, bass, drum kit, and a mic, we’re cool. As long as it’s like, within like 45 minutes of the ocean or so. We have to be able to go to the beach. That’s essential.
SC: Let’s talk a bit about the “Ride Low” video. The music is definitely a little dirtier and chunkier than most of the songs on the EP. It was almost uncomfortably dirty. It offers a picture of LA as whirling helicopters, barking dogs, and overall apocalyptic. Is this you guys starting to really vent through your music and vent through your lyrics about shit that you see that you think is really messed up?
TT: Yeah. 100%, yeah.
SC: And explain that.
BNF: I wrote that song when I was in Cameron Park, CA. I think it was maybe just feeling, I don’t know, a little bit secluded? I just needed to vent, to get it out. It was written during lockdown.
SC: I have to ask, what did lockdown do to a band that likes to surf, get together, and go to mountains to jam? Can people expect the record that’s coming to be edgier as a result of that?
TT: Definitely. We started writing the new record right before the pandemic hit. We went in and just recorded it, the arrangements, levels, and everything right before the pandemic hit. Then, all of a sudden, it hit; we were all quarantined, so we FaceTimed each other a lot.
PTC: I hadn’t even joined yet.
TT: Yeah, that was pre-Triko. It was right around the time period when I first met you. But that whole summer (of lockdown), I was surfing a lot locally. No gigs or anything, just chilling, writing riffs and stuff. And then it slowly started building back up into it, and what we had to finish, we met up with Triko, and then everything ended up working out and recovering.
BNF: For me, during quarantine, I didn’t have the ocean. I’d just moved to a new place, and I was working at a golf course, waking up at 4 in the morning every day and digging holes because I was on irrigation. Just me and a shovel, thinking about songs, having songs in my head. I just kept working hard and then coming back and jamming on my old guitar, singing ’em into the software. That was my process.
SC: I’ve got to ask as well, again, this is a physical question as much as it is anything. Your vocal style will have changed as you’ve got older, right?
BNF: Definitely. My voice is definitely getting a little bit deeper from the Helmets era for sure. But even since the OTTTO EP, I’m finding my voice and creating freely. I feel that’s the way I’m gonna find my voice, and I don’t ever want to limit myself to one thing.
SC: When is the album coming out?
PTC: Our goal is to get it out as soon as possible, within the next few months, hopefully. We’re this close to being done with the record. And it’s gonna be a whole album this time, ten tracks.
TT: We want it all in 2022!
SC: So, it’s all about getting in the van and getting from A to B to C to D, club to club, city to city, and just learning and learning.
TT: That’s right.
SC: OK, final question. Imagine that you have a nice, big, comfortable tour bus with a nice big TV, and you’re sitting around about to put a couple movies on. What movies are you guys gonna play on your first OTTTO tour bus? You can each have a movie.
BNF: OK, all right. I got my movie. Goodfellas.
PTC: All right, I’m gonna go with Django Unchained. My dog’s name is Django. I named him after that movie.
TT: So many good movies, I’m trying to think… I’ll say Sinister, the horror movie.
SC: One more question (I lied before). What music’s blasting on the bus?
PTC: Red Hot Chili Peppers is definitely blasting. Rage Against the Machine is blasting…
BNF: Parliament-Funkadelic’s blasting. Common War, Ohio Players, Jane’s Addiction…
TT: Floating Points, Four Tet, Jane’s Addiction, Alice in Chains, Deicide, and Morbid Angel.
And with that, our chat is over as OTTTO needs to get ready for the show later tonight, as well as chat with Thrasher Magazine. This is a ship which is sailing on some rare and special waters, and I have to say, is there going to be a cooler tour bus to hang on in 2023?