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The Cluttered House in Fremont
Marty Anderson lives in a one-story house in Fremont with his mom and dad. As you walk through the front door and step on the brown, squishy carpet, the first thing you notice is the charming amount of clutter. Every wall is covered with pictures and drawings and photos, framed and unframed, hung, taped, or simply tacked up. On every surface is a bauble or a doodad: tiny ceramic horses, half-burnt candles, vinyl records with Mighty Mouse on the cover. Someone has drawn a picture and hung it up next to the painting of a Hindu god I can't identify. The picture says, "You were supposed to read this right now."
Sitting, standing, and lounging amidst the jumble are the majority of the members of a band called Okay. They are: Ian Pelucci, bassist, prone to smiling, relaxed on the couch; Jay Pelucci, drummer and Ian's brother, who closes his eyes and wears no shoes while he plays; Yosef Lewis, guitarist, yoga practitioner, and the only bearded member of the group; Anna Weisman, who plays the autoharp, has big brown eyes, and is engaged to be married to the aforementioned Lewis; Amanda Panda, percussionist, who does, in fact, have the cute, rounded features of a panda; and Anderson, Okay's chief songwriter, who sits behind his Juno-106 synthesizer and Wurlitzer piano wearing what I will come to understand is his trademark fluorescent orange beanie, as well as layers of flowing blue shirts, colored, fuzzy wristbands, black beads, thick white spectacles, and a pair of sky-blue hospital pants with "Kaiser Permanente" printed on them.
"I want everyone to bring bells," Anderson says to the musicians, who are packing their instruments for what is to be Okay's second-ever show the following night. "That's why I handed out the special sock."
The bells in question are each member's set of Tibetan Tingshas, which, according to one Web site, "create sounds to calm the mind and induce deep relaxation." The Tingshas are played at the beginning of an Okay performance to establish what is most definitely and appropriately a spiritual tone. The special sock is, as far as I can tell, not that special.
"Does everyone have a party favor, a gun, and one of these?" asks Anderson, holding up what looks like a miniature kazoo.
"Bang!" Panda fires her weapon, a toy cap gun, but is instructed to stop because ammo is scarce. The gun is packed up, as are the drums and the guitars and the bass, the autoharp, Panda's two dozen percussion instruments, the kazoos, the things that look like kazoos, the Casio, the melodica, the countless effects pedals that Anderson hooks up to his keyboard and to his voice, the ironing board that Panda uses as a music stand, the mini-xylophone for Jay Pelucci, the special chair that the 27-year-old Anderson has to sit in, the amps, the amps, and the amps.
Pretty soon the band members will have left Anderson's place and headed back to their apartments in Oakland. Anderson, who's also wearing big, furry slippers the size of footballs, will hug and squeeze them all, and then begin packing wires and pedals as we sit in his only slightly less empty living room talking about everything surrounding Okay's debut on March 29 of High Road and Low Road, two separate discs culled from the same sessions, and the first major release of any Anderson-penned material since his former band, Dilute, put out the mighty magnum opus Grape Blueprints Pour Spinach Olive Grape in 2002.
Anderson will explain that he recorded these songs during a tumultuous time in which he was living with his then-girlfriend, Anna Weisman, who was also sort of in love with Yosef Lewis, with whom Anderson, at the time, did not get along. There was also Anderson's disease, named after a doctor called Crohn, which, for those who don't know (I didn't), is "an inflammatory bowel disease ... that causes persistent or recurring inflammation of one or more parts of the intestine," or, to put it another way, is a really fucked-up digestive disorder that makes you shit blood and that has been known to push the 5-foot-8-ish Anderson down to 90 pounds of taut skin and bones. So there was the disease and the apartment in Oakland and a corrosive love triangle, and out of this fertile shit-pile grew the magical psychedelic pop of Okay, which transforms -- rather alchemically, via sugary melodies, warm baths of keyboards, jaunty rhythms, and all the kazoos you can take in -- this thick, weighty sadness into a joyful celebration.
Anderson is about to tell me all of this, but first I take him up on his offer of a Bud Light. I open the fridge, one of two in his quaint, '50s-style kitchen, and grab a cold one, noticing, among the beer and eggs and veggies, the plastic bags upon plastic bags of white, milky liquid stacked on top of one another. The solution in the bags is called TPN, and it flows through an IV and into Anderson for 16 hours a day, every day. It more or less keeps him alive, and has for the past 10 months.