On their fourth album, Souvenir, Atlanta’s Omni continue to find variations within a spartan approach to Southern U.S. post-punk. Recruiting drummer Chris Yonker (Hello Ocho), guest vocalist Izzy Glaudini (Automatic), and first-time producer Kristofer Sampson (The B-52s, Nashville Pussy), the trio’s hooky, minimalist songs are sharper than ever. At the tail end of 2023, we sat down for a video call with Omni bassist/vocalist Phillip Frobos, guitarist Frankie Broyles, and Yonker. Topics ranged from their ongoing evolution to run-ins with Georgia’s rock ‘n’ roll pantheon, ending with a sneaky peek at an upcoming music video. | j locke
Aquarium Drunkard: Let’s start by taking it all the way back. Phil, Frankie, how did you guys first get together to start Omni?
Frankie Broyles: Phillip and I were both playing in bands in Atlanta and we were living in the same house. Then when those bands ceased to exist anymore, we just started playing music together as a fun project with no real goal. It kind of grew out of that in 2014 and 2015.
Phillip Frobos: Yes, I can corroborate. That’s accurate accounting. Chris was playing in bands around that time, too. We were all kind of of the time in Atlanta
AD: Chris, what bands were you playing in?
Chris Yonker: At the time I was playing in a band called Hello Ocho. We actually played some shows with Omni when they were still called Landline. So we were playing shows together before I was in the band.
AD: I didn’t know you were originally called Landline. How long did that last?
Phillip Frobos: I think maybe like a year. We decided to change it when we signed with Trouble In Mind because there was a Landlines based out of Portland. But no one ever heard anything about them, so I guess we would’ve been fine. But we’re cool with Omni.
AD: Yeah, I feel like I’ve heard of bands called Landline.
Phillip Frobos: I think I have too. Omni is a much more unique name for sure.
Frankie Broyles: Yeah, I think we always planned on changing it anyways.
Frankie Broyles: In Deerhunter, I came in just for one record and they were already a pretty established band. In Balkans, we started that band when I was like 14 with all of my best friends. We kind of grew up together playing in that band. I guess when we started Omni we were able to take everything from those experiences, figure out what works, and focus on that stuff with this project. I guess, I don’t really know.
AD: I remember when I heard Omni’s first singles, like the song “Afterlife,” I was just blown away by how minimal it is. Even the drum rhythms are kept sparse, and I always thought that was really cool.
Frankie Broyles: Yeah, that was one thing that I really wanted to accomplish in this band. Starting this band, we thought about keeping everything as bare bones as possible.
AD: I love the tea towel on the snare that your old drummer used to use, because that’s my trick too. Chris, you joined Omni with the third album, Networker, right?
Chris Yonker: They reached out to me out of the blue and asked me if I wanted to try out on drums. I was very confused about that offer because I didn’t really know that anyone in Atlanta knew that I knew how to play drums. So I was like “How do you guys know I know how to do that?” Also, I was not a very good drummer.
I tried to learn a couple songs, and I did and it was fun, so we just kept doing it. It’s been pretty easy as far as getting along and going on tour and keeping things simple and just about the music and no drama. The upcoming record is the first one I’m actually playing on, because I think you guys had started writing Networker around the time I joined. The record was already being made, so I’m not on that one.
Frankie Broyles: Yeah, I think we had this space out in Decatur and we were working on the new songs. I think that’s where we practiced the first time. Right Chris, in that weird trucker parking lot?
Chris Yonker: Yeah, that’s right.
AD: That sounds cool. Was it like a truck stop or something?
Frankie Broyles: Yeah, I think it was some kind of dispatch or something like that. Like right off the highway on the perimeter.
AD: Are jam spaces hard to come by where you guys are?
Frankie Broyles: Yeah, unless money is not an issue.
AD: Like the places where they charge $20 an hour, or something like that?
Frankie Broyles: I don’t know if there are a whole lot of those. I know the place we practice has a room like that. It’s also just like space. Any time there’s a vacancy there’s like a waitlist at a lot of places.
AD: Phil, the last time I heard from you, you’d released a solo album and this novel that goes along with it. Could you tell me a little bit about that project? It’s kind of autobiographical, about your time as a bartender, is that right?
Phillip Frobos: It’s undeniable that it’s a little bit memoirish. But, I definitely kind of folded in a lot of fiction. It was a “write what you know” kind of thing at first just to see if I could even make it to the end of trying to write a novel. Which is why I didn’t really tell anyone I was doing it for a really long time. Because there’s nothing worse than hanging out at a bar and someone telling you they’re working on a novel. So it is fiction, but I guess the big themes are jealousy, young marriage as an artist, scenes on the road and in our hometown of Atlanta, kind of a love letter to all that.
AD: Were you married young?
Phillip Frobos: I guess no, not compared to most people in Georgia. But it was more the age of the marriage being young, I guess is what I mean.
AD: I got married when I was 27, so that’s pretty young I feel. I’m not with that person anymore, unfortunately, but we had eight good years together. Did you feel like you needed to get that project out of your system before returning to Omni? Or were you sort of working on both at the same time?
Phillip Frobos: I was working on it while we were traveling some. I kind of always feel like I need to always be working on something. Everybody in the band has multiple projects and I didn’t really have any other projects. So it kind of helped me fill that void. That way I’m not driving everyone crazy trying to get them to do stuff. I just kind of need something to do.
AD: Well, congrats on finishing that album.
Phillip Frobos: Thanks, I appreciate it. I’m working on a new one now.
AD: So, what was the recording experience like for this album? You worked with Kristofer Sampson for the first time, right?
Frankie Broyles: Yeah, he’s a guy that I’ve known for a long time. He did the first Balkans record. That was the first time I worked with him. I also recorded a solo EP thing with him in 2014 or 2015. It was a great experience.
Chris Yonker: Yeah, it was fun. We went up to a cabin that’s been in Frankie’s family for a really long time that’s in Vienna, Georgia.
Frankie Broyles: Yeah, the same place we tracked Multi-task and Networker.
AD: Okay cool, but just working with this different producer for the first time?
Chris Yonker: Yeah, it’s wild. I had never been there before, so it was my first time seeing the cabin. There’s this windy trail that goes back into the woods, across these bridges and over a swamp. Then you end up at this perfectly bluish-green hole in the earth that’s a cold spring. It is really magical and beautiful. Steam comes off of it at night and it glows.
AD: Wow, in Georgia that sounds really unique.
Frankie Broyles: Yeah, and again, this is the first record that Chris played drums on which was really great. It really enhanced the experience I think, in a great way. That was a big part of it.
AD: Nice, so this is your fourth LP. Did you guys have any goals going into this one to make it different from the last three albums?
Frankie Broyles: Yeah, I think going into writing the record, because we took a long break during the pandemic. Our last album came out on November 19th, 2019. So we only had a few months of promoting that before everything shut down. After that, I was very afraid of getting sick and we didn’t do much for a long time. I think we did one session thing in November of 2020.
When it came to writing the new record, we wanted to be more immediate than the last record, where we were trying to do something more subtle. For this one we wanted to do something that had a lot of energy for us and whoever else wanted to listen to it.
AD: What about lyrically? Phil, did you have any different themes this time around?
Phillip Frobos: Yeah, I think going off of what Frankie was saying, we were definitely looking for high dynamics and I wanted to match what we were doing lyrically with some cutting, razor-sharp melodies. Lyrically, I kind of just went with the flow. I wasn’t trying to be married to any kind of idea. Which is I guess what we were saying for most of the record, kind of back to vignettes. But, I did want to explore outside of my usual candor. So, I got a few different stories. Like the song “PG,” I really like that song. It’s about getting robbed with your partner in the park.
AD: Did that actually happen to you?
Phillip Frobos: No, it didn’t. But, it did happen to one of our friends.
AD: I guess as a songwriter you’re not totally on the hook about turning your experiences into art. I’m sure you’ve heard about the Hasan Minhaj thing recently where he was called out for not actually experiencing the things that he says he did. But in music, it’s kind of different, I think. You can just tell stories.
Phillip Frobos: Yeah, I mean I feel like every little song is a different tale, but not that I’m obsessed with storytelling.
AD: So are you guys back to touring now? “Post-pandemic,” or whatever we want to call it?
Phillip Frobos: Yeah, starting up in late February we’re doing the U.S. and in April we’ll be in the UK and Ireland. Then we have some more stuff in the works after that.
AD: What is the scene like in Georgia right now? Are there new bands you’re excited about?
Frankie Broyles: We’re going to be taking this band that I believe is still based here, Kibi James, on tour. They share members with this other band, Sword Two, that seems to be getting a lot of attention recently, which is cool.
AD: Do you guys have any connections to the classic bands from Georgia like Pylon or R.E.M.?
Phillip Frobos: We played the first Pylon Reenactment Society show back when that started. So we met Vanessa and she was really nice, and Michael the bass player, I’ve met him a few times. He’s really kind. They’re from Athens and my whole family is from Athens. It’s funny, right around the time we played with them my grandfather died, and Vanessa said “he always did a lot for the community.” Also, my stepdad put solar panels on Bill Berry’s house.
AD: Nice! I guess you guys answered this a little bit with the touring question, but what are you looking forward to in 2024?
Chris Yonker: We just worked on a video for the second single, “Plastic Pyramid”, so that will be exciting for people to see and for us to see.
Frankie Broyles: The premise is kind of like you’re scanning through channels on a TV, and we filmed stuff for each channel. It’s a song that Phil sings with our friend Izzy from Automatic. For example, one shot is like them on a home shopping network, and they’re selling these items and they’re dressed up in these cheesy TV suits. There’s other stuff you guys can describe if you want.
Phillip Frobos: We didn’t say this but we picked a guy at the bar to be the person in the video watching the TV. Because he was in there eating a TV dinner, he was like “you want me to walk in and do normal incel behavior?”
AD: Wow, “normal incel behavior” – is that how people describe being alone now?
Chris Yonker: He was just alone watching TV, eating a Hungry Man. His celibacy had nothing to do with it!