Monday, February 20, 2023

Otis "O" Barthoulameu

I can't find the pictures I took of fluf at the Warped Tour in 96,
so I had to swipe this from the internet.

It goes without saying that I hate writing things like this.  I haven't done too many of them, but when an artist who has had a real, lasting impact on me has passed, I find the need to write a little something about them.  Otis Barthoulameu, or more simply known as O to most, is one of those people.

Full lengths. I was surprised to find out that I don't own
Road Rage on vinyl.  Need to fix that.  
I've written before that I've always felt like I got into the world of punk rock way later than everybody else.  Sure, I was only seventeen or eighteen years old at the time, but when I started to explore and learn, it always felt like I was years behind everyone else and was constantly trying to catch up.  I couldn't tell you the first time I heard them or how I was alerted to them, but at some point in 1995 or so I was told that if I liked Rocket From The Crypt, I should check out fluf.  And check them out I did.

Aside from hailing from San Diego and a general affection for big guitar sounds, I don't know that I ever thought fluf sounded all that much like Rocket From The Crypt.  Sure, maybe on a couple of songs here and there like "Skyrocket" there were similarities, but that didn't matter as I loved fluf for exactly what they were.  Huge, and I mean HUGE, guitar tones, smooth vocal melodies and the ability to just get loud and angry from time to time to make sure you were paying attention.  I simply adored their first two albums and their singles compilation.  

You can't see it, but my copy of the fan club 7" is numbered
#2 of 1000.
They were one of the first bands where I made a huge effort to try to track down all of their 7"s so I could have a complete collection.  Today, it's not all that difficult to pick up most of their singles on Discogs for reasonable prices, but in those pre-internet days finding Garbage Truck and the split 7" with Further was not easy.  Eventually I talked my buddy Alan into trading them to me for something that I can't remember anymore.  I also joined the fluf Value Club that was advertised on their records and got a free 7" and a membership card with an awful picture of myself on it.  Despite being a gigantic pack rat, I cannot find that membership card anywhere.  I haven't seen it in decades, but I know I never would have knowingly thrown it away.  It must be in my attic somewhere.

I also have some Olivelawn records and really enjoyed the Harshmellow 7" that recently came out, but those fluf records, and especially the first two and the singles compilation, would always be so special to me.

I bought this shirt in 95 or 96 from Vintage Vinyl.
I wore it out, thus the horrid stains.
fluf was also one of the first bands that I interviewed while writing for my college newspaper.  In the
summer of 1996, the Warped Tour came to Vernon, NJ.  Why? I have no idea and I'm not sure anyone else did either as to this day it's the most sparsely attended 'festival' show I have ever been to in my life.  I worked out something with some label to set up an interview with fluf that day.  I'm not even sure what label as their Headhunter records were a couple of years old at this point, but their MCA record, Waikiki, hadn't come out yet.

The entire band, and O in particular, were so gracious to a dumb kid that was definitely asking them really basic and bad questions.  Not that I think I ever became a great writer or anything, but whenever I come across a clipping from back then I cringe about how clueless I was.  All three signed my copy of the Garbage Truck 7" that I brought with me (for the first year or so that I started interviewing bands, I always tried to have them sign something, then one day I decided autographs were kind of stupid and stopped doing that) and I was pretty much ready to go back out into the Warped Tour and watch some bands play.

Before I left, O asked me and my friend Joe who was with me if we wanted to come to the next day's Warped Tour show down in Asbury Park.  We said sure and O put us on the following day's guest list with backstage passes.

This was the MCA press photo for fluf, they didn't
use real pictures of themselves for stuff like this.
The next day we drove down to Asbury Park and met up with fluf.  We watched them play (those two Warped Tour shows would be the only times I was ever able to see fluf play live and they were really great both times) and then hung out with them a bit.  O then said that he was going to go over to the second (or maybe even third) stage to go watch a band that he had recorded a record for play.  We went with him and sat on stage next to band playing really fast pop punk songs to about 20 kids that ventured away from the main attractions.  That band was Blink 182.  That's the only time I ever saw them play as they just never really connected with me.  But that also is something that can be said about O.  I was there to see his band, but the moment they were done playing, he immediately wanted to shift my attention to another band that he liked.

Those two days are the only days I ever interacted with O.  I will never pretend to have been his friend or that I knew him at all.  But everything I have ever heard said about him mirrors my brief interaction.  He was kind, funny and seemed to mostly want the attention on someone other than himself.  There was no reason for him to go out of his way to be so nice to a couple of kids from rural northern New Jersey, but he did.  Because that's what punk rock really is at the end of the day.  It's a big family.  And O seems to have been everyone's favorite cousin.

A few of my favorite fluf songs:

"All the Fuckers Live in Newport Beach":

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