The members of Ona would like you to know they are — seriously and unapologetically — nice guys.
Admittedly, the very summery pop tunes that make up its second album “Full Moon, Heavy Light” are tip-offs. The mood is ushered in on a wave of synths and sinewy guitar along with the kind of effortlessly light melodies that bring the music of such master pop craftsmen as Josh Rouse to mind. But the West Virginia band insists the attitude isn’t for show. The guys in the group as upbeat as the songs on the record.
“All of our songwriting just kind of evolved,” said guitarist Zack Owens. “We’re all in different places in our lives than we were even four years ago. Everybody is in a happier place. We’ve got kids or have kids on the way. Everybody is in a happy relationship. It was kind of a high five thing. Whether it was the songs I was writing or the songs Bradley (Jenkins, Ona’s other guitarist) was writing, it all came together.
“We’re fun dudes. We’re not sad all the time. It’s nice to convey that onstage.”
“I’d say the album, from chord structures to lyrics, comes from a sunnier spot,” added Ona keyboardist Brad Goodall. “That was a conscious decision. We wanted this record to sound a little bit happier. We wanted to illustrate where we were in our lives. In the decision making, from chord changes to melodies to vocal harmonies in the studio, whether consciously or unconsciously, we tried our best to reflect that.”
Based in Huntington but named for the neighboring community that’s about 20 minutes east on I-64, Ona is no stranger to Lexington having played numerous shows at The Green Lantern and The Burl. For that matter, just about any sizable city within a three hour drive of Lexington began getting acquainted with the band following the release of its decidedly rockier 2016 debut album “American Fiction.” That’s because one of the prime objectives of a Huntington band is to play outside of Huntington.
“In Huntington, there’s only one club to play,” said co-guitarist Jenkins. “There are people who do house shows and stuff, but to really get started you have to do the three hour bubble of Cincinnati, Lexington and even out to Louisville. Maybe Morgantown and Pittsburgh, that area. You don’t really have a choice but to drive a little bit to play. We’ve had a lot of luck in Cincinnati. That and Lexington have kind of been our homes away from home. Everybody there has been really supportive.”
But a home base in Huntington has its perks. Lawrence County songsmith-turned-national sensation Tyler Childers frequented Huntington area venues and became fast friends with the Ona members long before there was an Ona band. When Childers’ career took off, he didn’t forget about his West Virginia mates.
“I mean, we’ve gone to New York with Tyler and played for eight people in Manhattan. Then we come back and a year and a half later and play Brooklyn to a sold out crowd of 1,500 at the Brooklyn Bowl, so it’s a really cool deal where it’s all coming full circle that we’re all together. Tyler is still there supporting us, even after he’s blown up into the megasphere.”
Even with Ona’s Friday return to The Burl at hand, which coincides with the release of “Full Moon, Heavy Light,” the band is already looking ahead to its next Lexington date. It will be one of the invitees at the inaugural Railbird festival on Aug. 10 and 11. Ona will play on Aug. 10, making one of the very first live acts festival goers will hear.
“It’s definitely a great privilege to be invited,” Goodall said. “We love festivals. They’re always fun to play because they treat the musicians really well and the crowds are always enthusiastic. This is the very first Railbird, right? Then that’s definitely a nice compliment to what we’ve been doing to get an opportunity to get to play the first festival. We’re definitely excited about that.”
When: 9 p.m, Friday
Where: The Burl, 375 Thompson Rd.
Tickets: $10, $12
Ona will also play a free in-store performance at CD Central, 377 S. Limestone at 5:30 p.m., Friday. For more information, call 859-233-3472 or go to cdcentralmusic.com.