Before Oso Oso, There Was State Lines
It’s 2011. Someone is Singing on the Long Beach Boardwalk
It’s 2019, and a band plays a sold out show at the Bowery Ballroom.
A tweet: “I remember seeing Oso Oso open for P Daddy in a basement in 2016. I believe Oso were still billed as ex-State Lines and maybe one kid knew their songs. And P Daddy got the most response from their impromptu “El Scorcho” cover. Truly a different era!” -Eli Ennis
Everyone has that band that “changed their life” or unlocked something inside of them that they didn’t know was there in the first place. There’s several books that are devoted to these bands and their impact, be it a Please Kill Me, documenting the CBGB’s scene of the late 70’s; Or a Our Band Could Your Life, documenting the DIY network that sprung up in the 80’s and up until 1992, “when punk broke” via Nirvana’s Nevermind.
Punk has always relied upon the youth, creating an endless conversation and updating the form via their various influences. These can be big bands like a Green Day or Blink-182, but sometimes it’s the smaller ones that bridge that divide between being a spectator to an active participant in a local scene. There is real power in seeing someone exactly like you, speaking to your direct experiences. Maybe, if you were a teenager in the early 2010’s, it was State Lines.
From the first notes of their debut record Hoffman Manor, there is a sense urgency that only a 17 year old could have. The impending high school graduation forces you to confront some things that you may have let sit dormant. The false sense of stability becomes upended, as the people you spent the last few years with go on to college to start the next phase of their life.
“A lot of people that you know are going to college. I wasn’t really doing that, so I was hanging back. I think you get so used to, when you’re a kid, going to school Monday through Friday. You have this very set kind of schedule and you’re so used to life like that,” says Jade Lilitri, the front person of State Lines.
It’s this struggle against routine that colors a song like Getaway, which is about something as simple as a blunt ride in your friends car. Even as you are enjoying these moments, there’s still that worry that your just falling into a new routine. There is an itching feeling that sticks to you, as if you are being gently prickled with a toothpick. You feel it most acutely in the extended outro when Jade Liltri says:
Getting high to pass the time, getting high all the
You do this far to much I know
And this drive is just a getaway, I could never get away from
In 2017, after releasing a EP and a full length under his new moniker Oso Oso, Jade Lilitri self-released The Yunahon Mixtape, which flung him to new heights. Instead of garnering coverage via small blogs like Property of Zack, places like Pitchfork were know giving him substantial coverage. He was able to sign with local hometown label Triple Crown Records, which released records that he mentions were super important to him, like Hot Rod Circuit and Northstar. Instead of playing to maybe 70 people, he could now sell out a like the Beat Kitchen in Chicago.
“There was always weird pockets. We (State Lines) weren’t a big band or anything. Someone would hear it on bandcamp and then tell all of their friends. So it would be weird places, where 15–20 people all knew each other but they really liked the record.”
It would be in places like California that you could find these videos of kids who would crowd Jade, singing every word with fervor. Or it would be in basements in New York, where the loud chorus of many would outshine Jade’s voice, as he would slowly drift away from the mic and let the audience have their moment. These videos, thanks to the documentation through Youtube, are abundant.
But, like so many musicians that come from “out of nowhere”, there are countless bands that precede the breakthrough record. Even before State Lines, Jade had a project called Mooseport, that he has described as a Ergs! style pop punk band on the Better Yet Podcast, where he played drums and sang. Tom Werring, who played in Mooseport towards its end and eventually State Lines saw the development firsthand.
“It was a huge step up. He was thinking about things from a different perspective with characters and thinking about his family, death, and sort of heavy stuff,” says Werring. “Hoffman Manor was definitely the record he wanted to make for a long time and he was able to finally do it. He worked really hard on making sure it was a new, fresh start, as a songwriter.”
It’s on the fourth track, Cancer, that these observations from Werring are most apparent. What was originally designed as a fast and upbeat pop punk track, channeling their inner Against Me!, was slowed down to a solo electric guitar track. After three fast paced songs, Cancer is much more contemplative and moody, shifting a point of view towards Lilitri’s own mother. It sets the template for songs on future Oso Oso records, like One Sick Plan or This Must Be My Exit, which bring the lyrics more into focus by simply being more solo driven songs.
One line in particular sticks out:
The doctors said go pack your things,
so we found you a wooden home,
to spend the rest of your days alone.
The existential dread is permeated not only through a verse such as the one above, but in the name of the record itself. Hoffman Manor is an actual place on the Long Beach boardwalk, where Jade would write much of this record from. It was a retirement home that he describes as not pleasant.
“I was just thinking about it (Hoffman Manor) one day, and how people work really hard their whole life to hopefully have enough money to end up, to me, in a place as awful as that (Hoffman Manor),” says Lilitri.
It’s a record without a precise conclusion. You are only beginning to truly understand things outside of yourself, along with your own mental health. Your conclusions may be a little faulty, or somewhat flawed. In the title track, Lilitri says: “You’ve gotta keep it all up inside, find a place for it to hide” as the capstone to the record. The end conclusion, choosing to bottle up your feelings, isn’t exactly a healthy one, as Lilitri admits during our conversation last month. It’s an open conversation that is continually happening; listeners only get to hear a snapshot of this internal monologue.
That’s part of the allure of Hoffman Manor. You are able to get a view of the internal journey of Jade from eight years ago. Most people’s projects from high school aren’t nearly as multi-layered and deserving of a critical look, let alone as catchy as all these tracks are.
“It’s cool that he (Jade) can go on to these awesome things and still feel connected to the music he wrote when he was 17. That’s just a testament to how good the songs were,” says Werring. “As an outside observer, I think he’s a very, very talented songwriter and it has come to fruition from many, many years of working on it. Finally people are saying ‘oh yeah this is incredible music.”
At the same time as State Lines was in its beginning stage, Jake Sultzer, not yet the mastermind behind Counter Intuitive Records was in College at UMass Lowell. His world wouldn’t collide with Jade’s until seeing the Hotelier, who were still on the rise, and yet to reach their highly lauded status. This was a band that wasn’t far out of reach or an unattainable thing. They lived 20 minutes from Jake’s own house.
At the time, State Lines and Hotelier were close, touring with each other pretty consistently. The last major tour State Lines did, The Hotelier was actually the backing band for. The two bands were intertwined, even touring a couple of times once Oso Oso started as well.
The love for State Lines didn’t come immediately for Jake, as one might presuppose.
“It was over a few years of listening to them and the first record religiously before it dawned on me: maybe I’m more interested in this than what I’m studying in school.”
It’s the sort of inciting moment that feels more like a movie than real life. Everything seemed to align almost a little too perfectly. It was during the end of college that Jake decided to put out the Bay Faction record under the name Counter Intuitive Records.The rest is history from there.
“Even when I put out my first album, I would listen to Hoffman Manor and think “damn this inspired me to even get to this point.”
Since the first album Counter Intuitive Records released, the roster has expanded exponentially, crossing genres and creating an expansive roster to boot. Bands like Prince Daddy & The Hyena occupy the same territory as Just Friends. It’s become a benchmark of whatever wave of emo you would like to say we are in now.
In 2018, Jake was finally able to work on his dream project: repressing Hoffman Manor. After approaching Jade at a show, he pitched him on releasing it as everyone else was “dragging their feet”, and he agreed. From there, Jake has released the osososo EP, along with Scary Stories. You only need to get an idea for how important Hoffman Manor is to Jake by reading the bio on the Counter Intuitive Website.
“I hope you listen to this record and think to yourself “if they can do it, maybe I can too”, and you get involved with local music in someway. That’s what I did.”
“I was really upset when I had to stop playing in that band. I think it’s funny, when people leave bands or they break up, and they pretend “yeah that’s it. I’m over it. I don’t need this anymore,” says Werring. “Personally, I still wanted to play music with them. It just wasn’t going to work with the touring schedule.”
With Tom wanting to pursue school, that was the proverbial death knell for State Lines in 2014. They left behind 2 records and an LP. The rest of the band tried to move forward, but according to Jade, it just didn’t feel the same. Thus, the name change to osoosooso. Most of that first release contains songs that were originally designated for the 3rd State Lines release. You can still feel it in the pop punk propulsion of Moving in and Expiration Date.
After a couple years off, State Lines came back to play a one-of reunion show on August 18, 2018 for the last Three Table Media show to a sold out crowd of nearly 200, according to Lilitri.
“I always wanted to play again at some point.It ranks very highly on my experiences of playing music. It was just really great to play music with them again,” says Werring. “It was cool to take a few years off of playing together and then get into a room and picked up right where we left off and it was as if nothing had changed.”
“I’m stoked for when it’s 10 years,” says Lilitri. “We talked and we’re definitely going to play a show. Doing more shows with State Lines is something I’m always down for.”