People Of The Rock
VICE: Is Oneida a hard rocking band from New York that gets wasted all the time?
Papa Crazee: Oneida was a cult founded in 1840 by a strange man named John Humphrey Noyes (which when said repeatedly sounds like “Hump Free Noise”) who was really in love with a lady that married somebody else. He was a reverend, but he really wanted to get it on with this woman anyway. So he decided that, biblically speaking, it was cool. He formed a Christian community called Oneida in Oneida, New York, which was the name of a Native-American tribe and which also translates as “People of the Rock.” His followers were people such as himself who wanted to be Christian but also wanted to bone a lot. They instituted a group marriage of about 100 people and it lasted 44 years. There was a council of sexual relations where the council would pair people up. They would pair older people with younger people because they thought that the experienced older people should have the fruits of the younger people, much like the Romans did in their time. They wholeheartedly discouraged monogamous love. If two people were hanging out together too much, they would break it up. It was a fascist-hedonist community.
They got to be a really big tourist attraction. Presidents would even visit them. However, Noyes, like any good cult leader, was a hypocrite. He had forbidden love affairs with specific people. Since his charisma is what held the community together, when he got sick of it, it all fell apart and Oneida became the normal town it is today. They all started making china and that’s the famous Oneida flatware company which is still going strong today.
Another big part of Oneida is that they had group criticisms. Every week they would get together and pick one person out of the commune to criticize. Everybody would publicly say what they disliked about this person and the person would be reduced to tears. But no one was ever too harsh, like “you’re totally ugly,” because they knew that soon it would be their turn in the hot seat. It was all about ego dissolution.
Like our namesake, we too, as a contemporary rock band, aim for ego dissolution. We spend so much time in the tour van, we’re always breaking into spontaneous group criticisms.
Is it working?
Well, all I know is that we were four very different people and now suddenly we’re ridiculously the same.
If our band is a cult, then our god is volume. We love volume and the psychic regenerative powers of volume. We all strive for “synesthesia,” which is the LSD term for when all your senses become one. You can’t really do a lot of acid and exist anymore, so we try to achieve “the marriage of all senses” through rock. You know, like when you “taste a feeling” or “hear a vision.” We hear visions all the time and just try to recreate them through volume.
What kind of drugs do you do?
A credo the comes up for us quite a bit is “Weed, Whites and Wine,” which is taken from “Willin’,” an old Lowell George song. (Whites are White Cross truckers’ ephedrine). It’s the perfect rock combination to be able to perform onstage but also be transcendent. Not only for rock, but just for walking around everyday, too.
So you don’t do acid anymore, but you like to get high?
We are definitely pro-drug. That said, I would like to clarify that our song “Snow Machine” is not about cocaine, as is commonly thought. It is about downhill-skiing.
Oneida’s Come On Everybody Let’s Rock (Jagjaguwar) is out now.