The O’s never set out to be a local band, but that doesn’t mean their hometown hasn’t been instrumental to their indie circuit success.
Before Lakewood native John Pedigo picked up a banjo and began writing rock-inspired folk tunes with fellow Dallas guitarist Taylor Young, their resumes included stints in several Dallas-based bands like Polyphonic Spree and Young Heart Attack. Since then, Pedigo and Young have traded high-intensity alternative for a raw, low-key sound that’s often compared to folk sensations Mumford & Sons or The Avett Brothers.
But the duo says they weren’t intentionally hopping on a bandwagon when they formed in 2008. It just was the most pragmatic way to continue recording and touring without watching their bank accounts rapidly dwindle from the high cost of tour buses and elaborate equipment.
While their sound has been simplified, The O’s are a culmination of the band’s previous projects, Pedigo says. He and Young make a conscious effort to record each album how it would be performed live, but they also have a knack for multi-tasking with multiple instruments.
For Pedigo, the only difference between performing in the duo and with their past projects is instead of “everybody having a piece of the pie, we have the whole pie,” he says.
“It’s like our legs and our arms are other individuals,” Young explains. “We really have a 10-person band with both legs and arms and brains included.”
Young and Pedigo’s lifelong interest in music is a typical tale fueled by MTV music videos, cassette tapes and Deep Ellum’s thriving music scene during the late 1990s, when Pedigo was a student at Woodrow Wilson High School and Young attended Jesuit College Preparatory School of Dallas.
“If you look up a little video — ‘Here I Go Again’ by Whitesnake — that’s when I was like ‘Man, I think I want to be a part of this,’ because there was loud music and cars and girls,” Young says. “I was stuck at home with a babysitter watching MTV a lot, and I think that guided what I wanted to do with my life.”
Pedigo and Young never outgrew their aspirations of becoming rock stars, although Young jokes being a rapper might have been more lucrative. During their teenage years, they spent their free time in Deep Ellum watching local bands like the psychedelic rock outfit Tripping Daisy.
But the neighborhood’s music-laden glory days came to a halt around 2003, and it wasn’t until recently that Pedigo noticed the scene’s resurgence there.
“It’s a pretty cool time in Dallas, because the city is growing incredibly fast,” he says. “Deep Ellum is basically a Starbucks away from being the coolest place in town.”
The duo has watched Dallas progress in between national and international tours. Pedigo never thought he’d see Manny’s Uptown in Lakewood or Deep Ellum thrive beyond its music and bar scene, but he’s content with the area’s ever-changing dynamic.
“I think everybody expects that these days,” he says. “It’s a certain thing people want. They want craft beer and artisan bread and local chickens.”
The support and praise they’ve received here is exactly what makes them inclined to stay, they say, and Pedigo subscribes to his father’s philosophy about growing up in East Dallas.
“I grew up on a farm, and it turned into a golf course, and now it’s a city. And I never moved,” he says.