Because of their short lifetime as a band, and the fact that their two albums were released on Epitaph records where they were overshadowed by punk stalwarts such as NOFX, Rancid, Pennywise, and Bad Religion, Osker are often overlooked or forgotten.
Formed in 1998 when singer/guitarist Devon Williams was a sophomore in high school, Osker played fast punk songs that were fueled by angst and Williams’ bratty sneer. The band recorded a demo that Williams gave to a friend who worked for Epitaph. His intention was for the friend to give him some critical feedback, but instead the impressed acquaintance passed the demo on to Epitaph head honcho and Bad Religion guitarist Brett Gurewitz. Gurewitz paid for the youngsters to record a new demo and then offered them a contract.
Treatment 5, Osker’s first album, was released in 2000 when Williams was at the ripe old age of 17. Prior to this, the band had only released a split 7″ with Blindsided. The songs may have all sounded similar with galloping drums and hyper-speed guitars, but bassist Dave Benitez added bass lines that were more complicated than the average pop-punk band. Williams’ melodies were also surprisingly good and consistently stuck in your head, while his lyrics sounded like an older and world-wearier man penned them. The typical attacks on girls, bullies, and authority were few and far between, and instead a sense of existential woe pervaded songs about self-doubt, betrayal, and human motivation.
With the subsequent touring and press that followed the release of their first album, Osker quickly gained a reputation as an offensive, angry, and standoffish band. At one point they even proudly wore the banner of “Most hated band on Epitaph.” Williams would often heckle crowds and even spit on them. In interviews and on the band’s website he would insult detractors and fans alike. At an Epitaph Christmas showcase in California he even insulted headliners, label mates, and punk legends NOFX by saying that he thought it was funny they could sell out The House of Blues when they hadn’t put out a good album in years.
Later in 2000, after losing their drummer, Osker returned to the studio to record their sophomore release and subsequent swansong, Idle Will Kill. The band worked with three different drummers during the sessions and emerged with an album that was packed full of progression.Ã?Â¯Ã?Â¿Ã?Â½
The songs no longer all sounded similar. Opener “Patience” was an acoustic guitar and keyboard driven number, while some songs were long and building affairs, and only a few carried the skatecore punk tone of the band’s previous work. Williams’ guitar playing was much more complex and layered as he relied less on straight chord strumming, instead opting for more riffs and leads. Benitez again brought his A game with bass lines that were both complimentary and detailed. The speeds of the songs also varied greatly, showing that the band did not need to play fast all of the time.
Perhaps even more impressive was the vocal side of the band. Williams’ voice improved as he experimented with softer singing, sudden angry bursts, and backing vocal arrangements. His lyrics were also a cut above anything he had done before as he moved more into the realm of poetry.
People were torn over Osker’s second release. Some appreciated the improvements the band had made, while others merely wanted to hear more fast and snotty punk numbers. The band began a headlining tour in support of the album with a new drummer, but lost him halfway through and returned home.
The future of the band was uncertain and Osker’s website became a place for Williams to vent his frustrations. He often talked of how many units the band had moved for the week and accompanied the numbers with bitterly sarcastic comments. He still attacked fans, and in a strange twist of events, even used the site as an open forum to discuss the band with bassist and longtime friend Benitez. Before 2001 came to a close, Osker was no more.Ã?Â¯Ã?Â¿Ã?Â½
Since the band’s demise Williams has gone on to start Fingers Cut Megamachine with Benitez on bass. Williams has continued to improve as a songwriter, but has completely shifted gears from his punk rock past. Fingers Cut is a mix of country, folk, and indie-pop driven by Williams’ acoustic guitar playing. The band have released a couple 7 inches, a full-length album, an EP, and a CD collecting rarities and unreleased tracks. The sincerity, understanding of melody, and excellent lyrics are still present while the music has become more and more detailed.
Osker is one of many punk bands that could easily be forgotten because they never gained the recognition many of their peers have. Still Osker created some incredible music that still holds up today among disappointing pop-punk bands. They are a band well worth checking out and preserving thanks to their well-written melodies, impressive lyrics, unwavering passion, and incredible songs.