Bryan “Olivver” Sammis Shares About His Music World
Written By: Marissa Wright Exploring Life With Former The Neighbourhood Musician Bryan “Olivver” Sammis
Photographed By: Shane Radacosky
The Expert: Bryan Sammis AKA Olivver The Kid
Credentials: Former Drummer of The Neighbourhood, Singer, Producer and longtime Los Angeles local
Favorite Song: “For What It’s Worth” by Buffalo Springfield
Visiting Hollywood Boulevard at 5:30 a.m. put the term “golden hour” in a whole new light. Hollywood is eerily calm right as the sun has risen and rush hour has yet to gain momentum. With an EP just released on Oct. 16, Bryan “Olivver” Sammis is like LA between traffic jams—so much more is coming and it’s going to be big.
Sammis didn’t set out to be a rockstar. He wasn’t a child prodigy, mastering instruments with ease. The stage didn’t call his name, but Sammis still found his way there. After moving to Oak Park from Hempstead, New York, while in elementary school, Sammis’ drumming career almost didn’t happen. His father insisted his sons take lessons in something, so Sammis picked the drums because his brother had already called the guitar. Somewhere along the line he caught the bug and discovered a love for the drums which carried him through playing with “too many bands” up until The Neighbourhood. These days, Sammis goes by Olivver the Kid while performing his original music as a solo act, which is a far cry from the English teaching job he went to school for, but his literary influence remains. Choosing short stories and poetry as mediums, Sammis has been writing consistently since high school and, fortunately for us, he’s turning his writing into new tunes after coming off a U.S. and Russia tour. Despite the success he enjoyed with his former band, The Neighbourhood, Sammis remains humble, saying he’s a “master of none” while he creates sexy, dirty, dark pop. When it comes down to it, Sammis sticks to his strengths: “I think I’m good at telling stories and that’s what I want to do.”
Q: What was the weirdest-named band you were in?
Bryan “Olivver” Sammis: Glen and the Sunshine Gang. We actually just played a show recently. When I was like 17 I started playing with them and it was admittedly a jokey-type band. We used to open up for Steel Panther and we played shows with Oingo Boingo and stuff. We all wore skintight skeleton suits on stage. But that was definitely the worst band name. No one was named Glen. There was no Glen or Sunshine Gang.
Q: What has been your most embarrassing moment while performing?
BS: Breaking stuff, for sure. I used to hit way too hard so I’ve broken snares. I’ve broken kick drums, I’ve broken cymbals, I’ve broken seats. When I was in heavier bands I would buy cheap seats, like wooden ones, so the pole would just pop through the seat and the rest of the time playing, basically I’m riding a bicycle without a seat. There was a time in Colorado where I was coughing up blood. I had bronchitis and with the altitude and singing and playing drums it was really hard to breathe. My drum set after the set looked very punk rock—there was blood splattered on everything. And then I immediately went to the hospital.
Q: What has been the hardest part of the transition into a solo artist?
BS: Doing literally everything yourself. I don’t even mean musically. Musically, that’s fine, I like doing that. It’s more so like I’m my own manager, I’m my own booking agent. I have a publicist, but I basically do everything. It’s rewarding though—like a “crops taste better when you’re harvesting them yourself” type of deal. I have a calendar in my phone with all my stuff and I am always busy.
Q: After being on the road for a long stretch, what is the first thing you want to do so you feel like you’re home?
BS: I probably want to get home and go out with a bunch of friends, get absolutely hammered, and then the next day do not leave my bed. Not do anything for a full 24 hours—that would be ideal. But I prefer being on the road. I would literally live on the road.
Q: What does your creative process look like? Does it start with words or the music?
BS: It starts with an acoustic guitar and then I sing over it to see what comes to me. And the other half of the time it starts in a studio. I like to write so I can hear it as I’m going. Sometimes I write a song and then I go into the studio and half the time it doesn’t work out because it sounds way, way off. When you take guitar chords and try to turn them into keyboards or electric guitar and real drums or make it sound really big, it doesn’t sound the same anymore.
Q: What song was the hardest for you to write and produce?
BS: There’s a song called “Do the Right Thing (D.T.R.T.)” from my first EP. I wrote that song when I was really young. On my hard drive I have like 20 versions of that song. It’s about a conversation I had with my uncle. He told me to do the right thing, which is cool because, he didn’t know this, but it’s my favorite movie by Spike Lee. It was a great talk that we had, but it went one step further.
Q: Did you ever hear from the girl who broke up with you over your voicemail?
BS: We weren’t dating. We were, like, seeing each other. I’ve talked to her recently but I don’t think she knows that song is about her. I don’t think she’s ever heard it. We didn’t connect through music and I think that was like a cliff note. It’s one of those things where I don’t think she’s keeping tabs on what I’m doing musically. She’s too cool.
Q: If you could make demands like J. Lo, what would you have on your rider?
BS: I used to put a pack of cigarettes every place I go. On our rider in my old band when we used to play colleges, we would put a six pack of white shirts, socks, underwear, deodorant—stuff we needed while on the road.
Q: What’s your favorite show you’ve ever played?
BS: Probably Chicago on the tour I did this year. Chicago was the biggest venue that we played and during our set we had crazy lights and we just pushed it. So I think that night we just sounded huge and looked good on stage and felt great. It was a huge show for the tour and it was for my project and not my other band so that was a very proud moment.
Q: What would your perfect day off look like?
BS: It would involve a flight to New Orleans.
Q: What is your favorite restaurant in LA?
BS: I really like Sugarfish.
Q: What do you order when you go to Sugarfish?
BS: The Trust Me, all day. I like that it puts a cap on what I’m going to eat because I’ve spent $150 on just myself at sushi. And the Trust Me is what they do best. I know exactly what I’m going to get, so when it’s done, even if I’m not super full, I go, “OK, I’m done. That’s it. That is a normal amount of food that people eat.”
Q: What is your drink of choice?
BS: I haven’t drank in a while—I’m trying to be good. I’ve been eating healthier and running every day, but normally I drink Maker’s [Mark] on the rocks. Or Bulleit Bourbon.
Q: If someone wanted to bump into you, where are you a regular?
BS: Commissary. It’s a coffee shop right by my house, by Sound Studios on Sunset. I go there every morning. I go to Emo Night every month at the Echoplex. It’s the first Tuesday of every month. They also call it Taking Back Tuesdays, and it’s a very popular event. They have DJs playing early 2000s emo like Taking Back Sunday, Brand New, etc. People go nuts.
Q: If you were playing tour guide to someone, what five places do you feel are must-sees in LA?
BS: For sure whoever is playing the Greek. I go to the Greek for the Greek and I don’t care who’s playing, I just love that venue. If it’s Emo Night, for sure Emo Night. Commissary, they have the best cold brews in town. If the LA Kings are playing, to a Kings game. Then, honestly, something touristy like the Griffith Observatory or the Hollywood sign or something like that.
Q: What was the first album you bought?
BS: The first Jimmy Eat World album, that was the first album that I bought. My parents bought me a lot. I remember getting the clean versions of rap albums and they got me Blink 182’s Cheshire Cat. But the first album I bought was Jimmy Eat World. And that band holds up, and I think will always hold up.
Q: What was your first tattoo and what’s the story behind it?
BS: It’s an eye at the center of my chest. Heard of Maudlin Strangers? Their singer [Jake Hays] gave me that tattoo. His mom is Cherie Currie from The Runaways and his dad is Robert Hays from Airplane!
Q: What is your medium of choice if you are feeling creative but not making music?
BS: In college I started a poetry club with my friend Katya that for me turned into songwriting and short stories. The EP I’ve been working on now is a short story I wrote that I turned into five songs. I’m pretty good at everything but I’m not great at anything. Most people I meet are like, “Oh, I play this” and I’m like, “You’re probably better than me at that.” But I think I’m good at telling stories and that’s what I want to do. I was going to school to be an English teacher for my first three years of college and then I started writing a lot and that poetry club. If I wasn’t being creative with music, probably writing.
All In A Name
The Fonda Theatre originally opened in 1926 as the Music Box Theatre and one of the first investors was John Barrymore (Drew Barrymore’s great-grandfather). It was renamed in 1985 to honor actor Henry Fonda and has gone on to be named Los Angeles’ top venue.
The Fonda Theatre
6126 Hollywood Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90028
323.464.6269 | www.fondatheatre.com
The Hollywood Walk of Fame attracts about 10 million people a year to view the more than 2, 500 stars featuring actors, musicians, directors, producers, musical and theatrical groups, and fictional characters.
Hollywood Walk of Fame
Los Angeles, CA 90028
Bryan “Olivver” Sammis’ favorite movie is Do the Right Thing by Spike Lee
Bryan “Olivver” Sammis goes by Olivver the Kid for his solo project because he always wanted to change his name. The two v’s are the result of a friend’s misspelling and Sammis liked it, so he kept it.
Native Knowledge: Emo Night, also known as Taking Back Tuesdays, is held at the Echoplex the first Tuesday of the month and it’s free before 10 p.m. if you RSVP. Cost is $5 after 10 p.m. with all proceeds benefiting A21, a nonprofit organization that works to prevent human trafficking.
1822 Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles CA 90026
213.413.8200 | www.theecho.com