NJ’s Ogbert the Nerd: ‘Shitty life decisions and telling stories about it’

"Humans suck and I hate being one but in reality it’s the only thing I can be."

How does a band prepare to play in the “DIY Super Bowl”? It listens to Eurobeat Disney. 

It’s a fitting non-sequitur for New Brunswick-based Ogbert the Nerd; anyone’s who’s spent time in the indie/do-it-yourself NJ music scene—either in a band or attending shows in basements, churches, parking lots and small venues—knows there are idiosyncrasies that keep the game fun while pushing the ball slowly down the field, to extend the metaphor.

It can be a slog, but an eminently fun one, and so Ogbert (Madison James on vocals, Shawn Ofray on guitar, Ross Lane on Bass, and Matthew Renzo on drums) is taking it one day at time. On July 8, it’s the DIY Super Bowl—a tongue-in-cheek branding that helps puncture any veil of self-seriousness that sometimes arises in the indie arts scene—at Underground Arts in Philadelphia. (The show is hosted by 4333 Collective, a music-based collective with roots in Glassboro.) 

The band came together around 2018—they all played around New Brunswick and eventually paths crossed and stars aligned. Also, there were Hawaiian shirts: Ofray and Lane had been playing together for a while and met James after donating a bunch of Hawaiian shirts to a local Goodwill. They ended up wearing some at one of their shows. (Rest assured, they’re not part of the Boogaloo Boys).

The show will be the first live performance for the band since the release of their first album I Don’t Hate You, which came out in December from Sun Eater Records and Rat Brain Records. It made NPR’s New Music Friday playlist shortly thereafter. 

Ogbert recorded I Don’t Hate You in about five months, with members having to record in teams because of work and pandemic restrictions. So it went in the pandemic times.

I Don’t Hate You tells the tale of bad life decisions and trying to be a better person, or as James explains it, “a lot of universally shitty feelings in terms of living with yourself when you suck.

“The way I  try to write is pointed entirely inward,” James continues. “Undoubtedly you can draw lines to those feelings to individuals or causes and such, but in the end it’s always only going to be you and I try pretty hard to have those feelings at the forefront. Humans suck and I hate being one but in reality it’s the only thing I can be. I’ve just made a lot of shitty decisions in my life and love telling stories about it.”

Fortunately for us, James and Co. were able to take their bad life decisions, and turn it into a fantastic album.

I Don’t Hate You was meant to be played in small venues like Underground Arts with everyone sweating and moshing to the music. When listening to I Don’t Hate You for the first time you would be surprised to find out that Ogbert the Nerd isn’t from Chicago with their midwest emo sound.

While the band does borrow some from midwest emo, they have a much bigger pool of influences. “Renzo (drums) is a huge jazz head, Ross (guitar) is big into like protopunk and mod and such, Shawn (bass) is big into like mathrock and electronics, and I (vocals) come from bedroom pop and twee music,” says James. “We all kinda bring those things to the band and it definitely shows.”

Ogbert was also influenced by music right in their backyard. New Brunswick has a storied indie/DIY music scene, and Ogbert the Nerd took advantage of their surroundings.

“Seeing bands in New Brunswick while growing up ruled and we’re all pretty grateful to have that adjacency growing up that we grew to be a part of,” James says. “Bands like Ghost Camp, El Americano, and Fire Is Motion and it was insane to see in basements where everybody was jazzed to be there. Our friend Teddy (Rat Brain Records, Gambo, Basement Beers) is a huge influence on us and helped instill our mindsets in operating as a band.”

Even though the band isn’t influenced by a certain musician named Bruce who lives in Freehold, they still share his working-class ethos: All of the band members have day jobs such as thrift store manager, bartender, server, and bus worker.

And they would like to keep it that way. On work, James says, “It keeps us grounded and shit.”

The DIY Super Bowl is nearly sold out and will be held at Underground Arts in Philadelphia on July 8. Other acts include Carly Cosgrove, Oolong, Blue Deputy and Guitar Fight from Fooly Cooly. For more information go to