O.A.R. was founded in Rockville, Md., in 1996, the same year the Ravens came to Baltimore, when four of the five members were still at Wootton High School. They've put out eight albums and sold out Madison Square Garden twice since.
The band will be performing on RavensWalk beginning at 11:15 a.m., then again at halftime, of Sunday's Ravens-Seahawks showdown at M&T Bank Stadium. Below is an interview with one of the two original members, drummer Chris Culos.
Q: Alright, level with me, you guys grew up and got your start in Rockville, Md. NFL allegiances get real mixed down in Montgomery County. Who were you guys fans of: the Redskins or the Ravens?
"Oh man, well, ummm. We're from Maryland, so we've got to give love. There's no right or wrong answer here, right? My diplomatic answer is that I grew up more of a music fan than a sports fan. I love watching sports, but my thing is that ever since I was a kid, I could remember not only who the band or song was, but I remember who the bass player was, who the producer was, what studio it was recorded at. All that information sticks in my head forever. I like watching sports as much as I like watching a live concert, but none of that information stays with me. I have no idea why. With music, it stays with me, but with sports, it's out the door. But I will say, when we were growing up, the Ravens weren't even around. So I think if, maybe, some guys in the band grew up as Skins fans, you can't blame us for that."
Q: If you could play one "Crazy Game Of Poker" with a Ravens player, who are you choosing?
"You're killing me. Ray Lewis. I would be a little scared to win that hand. Who's the kicker? Maybe I won't be so intimidated. Justin Tucker? I like how I'm saying that about anybody who is a professional athlete in the NFL as if I'm not completely intimidated by them. That dude would take me out so hardcore."
Q: All five of you went to Ohio State. Flashback to college, and you have the option of growing your band or playing football. Which do you do?
"That is an awesome question. Being in this band for like 20 years, we've gotten to play some pretty cool shows and events and get to meet some people that I normally wouldn't have had I gone in a different career direction. So we've gotten to meet some athletes. And I swear to God, every athlete wants to be a rock star. We've played with pretty much every band out there. We would all freaking kill to be some sort of professional athlete. I can't imagine how cool it would be to play anything. To play in the NFL, NBA, be a pro golfer, are you kidding me?
"So to answer the question, I'm going to go back and play football at Ohio State. Even if I'm not even playing and I'm on the team at Ohio Stadium playing against Michigan, that would be pretty epic. How about this? Can I meet you halfway and say I'd like to be in the Ohio State marching band and play at a football game and stay the course the rest of the week."
Q: Are you willing to tell John Harbaugh, a big Michigan fan with his brother coaching there, that you're a Buckeye?
"Ummm [hell] yes! I'd definitely talk smack. We went to THE Ohio State University. I'll say that to his face."
Q: How often do you hear from old farts like me who want you to play songs from your first album, which, by the way, you recorded in my town of Silver Spring in 1997?
"Oh, dude, all the time. We mix it up as much as we can, we really do. That's the most fun part of our set list is that we try to play shows that are over two hours long when we're on tour. We can get all the old songs, all the crowd favorites, random ones and switch it up every night. But, yes, we still get an audience that want to hear all of our radio singles."
Q: That leads me to another follow-up question. So will you be playing the old stuff on Sunday?
"Well, this is a fun opportunity. We'll be playing in front of an audience that maybe has never heard us before. So what kind of song do we want to play that kind of portrays what we do best, but also with how it comes across live. We want people to have a good time at our live shows. It's about making them kind of forget about what's going on in their lives for a few minutes and enjoy it – whether it's a 10-minute halftime show or a two-hour headlining show at Merriweather or something like that. So we're going to pick the songs that just bring a positive energy and showcase the band a little to have some fun."
Q: I'm sure this isn't your first time playing inside a stadium. But is it your first time playing at halftime of an NFL game? Is this pretty much your Super Bowl?
"Not on our own, that's for sure. We've played in some stadiums before, like for the opening and closing ceremonies for the Special Olympics. We played some college football stuff with the University of Florida. But nothing like this. A halftime show? C'mon, that's pretty sweet. Yeah, it's our Super Bowl. I'm not so sure the production budget is as high as the Super Bowl, but we're going to play and pretend.
"We haven't been able to play a show in something like close to a month and a half because our bass player got married and we gave him some time to enjoy the honeymoon. We're itching to get back out there and play as a full band. What bigger stage to come out and play than at the Ravens game? That will be super fun for us – and a little nerve-wracking. This is a huge opportunity for us. Next year will be our 20-year anniversary. So to get these opportunities and still feel like we're growing, oh my God I'm so excited for it."