MAHOPAC, N.Y. - Mick Jagger once famously sang, “I know it’s only rock ’n’ roll, but I like it.”
That was 43 years ago. Rising Mahopac High School sophomores Jessica Cox, Sophia Romero and Grace Goodman were still about 27 years away from even being born when that song came out.
But Jagger’s sentiment has endured all these decades—long enough for Cox, Romero and Goodman to discover exactly what the Rolling Stones front man was singing about. They, too, know it’s only rock ’n’ roll, but they like it.
In fact, they like it so much that about seven months ago they decided to forge a musical alliance with each other and create a band. As a result, Oberman was born.
In that short time, the group has played myriad parties and events and even headlined their own music festival: Oberfest. They are also writing their own material and gearing up to record a demo.
“It was my idea to start the band,” said Goodman, who plays drums for Oberman. “I have always wanted to [form a band]. I knew Jessica played guitar and sang, and through her, I found out that Sophia played bass. One day I got them together and we played a few songs. At first, it was rough. We did not sound good at all. But we stuck with it and continued practicing and we got a lot better.”
Goodman said that she first met Cox in kindergarten.
“We would have play dates, but then we went to different elementary schools,” she recalled. “Then, this year, we happened to be in the same science class and became friends again.”
Romero met Cox in seventh grade.
“[Cox] mentioned she played the ukulele and I thought, that’s cool and we became friends,” Romero said. “In ninth grade, the three of us were all in the drama productions and we got closer through that.”
A short time later, at Goodman’s urging, Oberman was born. But each girl came to music and their specific instrument in a different way.
“When I was in kindergarten, I started taking piano lessons from a family friend,” Romero said. “Then I got into the violin. But then I was talking to Jessica at a party and said, ‘Oh, the bass sounds cool.’ So, I started playing bass about two years ago. I like it because it sets the groove; it sets the pace. It’s the backbone.”
Romero said Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers is her favorite bassist.
“Flea is the man,” she said with a grin. “He has a very distinctive style.”
As for Goodman, music is in her DNA.
“My family is full of musicians; they all play music,” she said. “So, it’s always kind of been there. When I was 7 years old my dad took me downstairs where he has a music studio and he showed me my first rock drum beat. When I was 11, I really started practicing all the time. From sixth grade to middle school and on to high school I was an avid player.
“My dad also showed me piano and I really started off with that, and it was always there,” she added, “but I made my own choice to stick with the drums.”
As for her biggest musical influences, Goodman points to the Beatles.
“Ringo Starr is my favorite drummer; he is highly underrated,” she said. “The Beatles have played such a big role in my life and he’s really influenced me.”
As for Cox, she came to music more as a fan at first, before realizing it might just be a calling.
“Unlike Grace, I don’t really have a musical family at all. But I have always been really intrigued by music,” she said. “I just wanted to perform in some way. I used to lip synch to songs and that was my way of performing.”
When she was 10, Cox began taking guitar lessons.
“I took them for a couple of years and then quit and went out on my own and picked up other instruments along the way,” she said. “I started on an acoustic guitar with nylon strings that I got from Toys R Us.”
Now she plays top-of-the-line instruments: a Gibson Les Paul, and for the mellower moments, a Martin acoustic.
“When I was really young [my influences] were like Katie Perry and Taylor Swift and other pop stars,” Cox said. “And then I got into classic rock. I am a huge Fleetwood Mac fan. Lindsey Buckingham is why I play guitar. He is just so different, combining the finger picking and [other styles].”
With myriad influences pulsating throughout the band, it’s no surprise Oberman’s set list is pretty eclectic. It includes “Tusk” by Fleetwood Mac; “Minor Thing” by the Chili Peppers; “Twist and Shout” by the Beatles; “Wake Me Up When September Ends” by Green Day; and “Sheena is Punk Rocker,” by the Ramones.
“We try to incorporate all our different styles; most of them correlate,” Goodman said. “We kind of define ourselves as a pop/rock or pop/punk kind of band.”
“Sophia is like the alternative one; she likes Arctic Monkeys and the Chili Peppers; Grace is classic rock, and I’m kinda more of the pop one,” Cox adds.
While Oberman continues to cut its teeth on cover songs, the girls are also busy writing original material that they will hopefully slide into future set lists.
“For me, writing is my thing. I really like the creative part of music,” said Cox. “We are currently composing new songs.”
Each band member contributes to the writing process.
“We each have to write our own parts for the song,” Goodman said. “I have to write the drum part, Jessica and Sophie write the melodies.”
The band has already played before several large crowds. Earlier this summer, they headlined a festival they dubbed Oberfest—an event that the group organized at the Lake Ossi clubhouse in Mahopac. About 10 local acts performed in front of more than 100 people. They also performed before a large crowd during a show at Putnam Valley’s Abele Park as the opening act for some professional bands.
Romero said their music, so far, has been well-received.
“I think it’s been good,” the bass player said. “A lot of our friends come to see us play and our family members, but people who don’t know us seem to like us too.”
Cox said that for some gigs they’ve tried to avoid inviting friends in an effort to get a more impartial reaction.
“And it’s usually been positive,” she said.
Adding a fourth member to the band—possibly a keyboard player—is something Oberman is considering, although the band admits it’s a daunting challenge.
“It is hard to find another person who has the same commitment and ambition that we have and is willing to put in the same amount of work,” Goodman said. “It is definitely a difficult search. We would like it to be a female, but anyone who is willing to make a commitment we would consider. We’d just prefer a female.”
The number one question the girls get asked is how they came up with such an unusual name for the band. It actually came from lyrics from the song, “Ocean Man” by Ween, a popular alt-rock band that hit its stride in the ’90s. The song “Ocean Man” was used on the soundtrack for the Sponge Bob Square Pants movie.
“I don’t know if we’re Ween fans; I think we are just Sponge Bob fans,” Goodman laughed. “It’s an inside joke. We got a good name out of it. We play [‘Ocean Man’] at all our shows.”
While the band continues to work on new material for the demo they are recording, they are also focused on some important upcoming gigs. They will perform at the Yorktown Grange Fair on Saturday, Sept 9, where they are scheduled to play between 2 and 4 p.m.
They are also playing at the Studio Around the Corner’s Acoustic Cafe in Brewster Friday, Oct. 13. They would like to invite other teen performers to perform that evening as well. It’s run by the Cultural Arts Coalition in the town of Southeast and kicks off at 7 p.m. It will feature performers from Mahopac, Carmel and Brewster high schools.
“I think we influence kids to listen [to the type of music] we play,” Goodman said. “There are some songs we do, like from the Ramones, that our friends now enjoy because we do them.
“We can’t stress enough that we are three close friends doing what we love: playing music that we love and having a good time doing it,” she continued. “We work hard but it’s a great way to have fun and we take it seriously.”
Mr. Jagger would approve.