February 16, 2017
As band names go, Oferle is a great one. It evokes the word "offer" but with an enigmatic twist suggesting, perhaps, an offer with unspecified strings attached.
As it turns out, Oferle is the last name (minus an "f") of two of the band's three members: siblings Annette and Luke Offerle.
A third member, Jonah Baker, is a cousin.
"I am half-Offerle," he said.
And it's pronounced "Oh-feerle" not "Off-erle."
Oferle have been accumulating fans and accolades of late. The band took first place in an Indianapolis singer-songwriter competition, and it was named one of Fort Wayne's top acts by WAJI. A late January concert at 816 Pint and Slice drew a capacity crowd.
The band recently worked on a song with Mike Daley, a Grammy-nominated songwriter and producer who has collaborated with Lady Gaga, Chris Brown and Rick Ross.
Oferle are a bit of a rarity on the Fort Wayne music scene these days: An enthusiastic embracer of slick, hook-laden, sweetly harmonized contemporary pop music as practiced by John Mayer, Colbie Calliat, Lady Antebellum and Sugarland, among many others.
A talent contest at Indiana University was what gave the siblings the idea to form a band, and Baker joined later because he "wanted to get in on the fun."
The trio's uncanny chemistry was evident at the start.
"Obviously, we're family," Luke Offerle said. "But there's something about our sense of musicianship as well. It really has a good feel to it.
Being in their early 20s, the band members have written a lot of breakup songs.
"It's triple the heartbreak when you have three," Baker said.
Sometimes, a family band dynamic can mean more conflict, but not with Oferle.
"It's a lot easier to song-write that way," Luke Offerle said, "We're naturally closer."
"We already have that established relationship," Annette Offerle said. "There's no judgment when we're telling each other our heartbreak stories. Since we know each other, it's easier to figure out what everyone else is trying to say."
There's incentive not to fight, Baker said, because they all see each other outside practices and performances.
"I feel like there's less drama," he said, "because, if one of us quit the band, that would make for a really awkward Thanksgiving."
The band is gearing up for a busy spring and summer of performances (including a gig at Indy's Rathskeller) and it's weighing what its next big move should be.
Thirty years ago, a band that wanted to make a national impression would have courted major labels and moved to one of a handful of big cities.
But the truths of those moves are no longer self-evident.
Some folks have suggested that Oferle move to Nashville, Luke Offerle said.
"That's been a suggestion that's been swirling around the band," he said. "We've considered it."
But people in the know have advised against it, saying that Nashville is oversaturated with talent.
Trying to make it here in Fort Wayne makes more sense for the time being, Luke Offerle said.
"Stand out," he said.
"Focus on being a big fish in a small pond," Annette Offerle said.
A number of smart people have been saying recently that Fort Wayne is poised to be the next music mecca, a la Austin or Seattle, Baker said.
"Especially with Sweetwater the way it is," he said. "All the musicians that are moving here to work at Sweetwater and are gigging on the weekends."
Baker said he thinks Fort Wayne has a more vibrant and promising music scene than Indianapolis.
The goal of the band right now, Luke Offerle said, is to write a "crap ton" of songs and focus on being the best musicians that they can be.
"I think it's fair to say we want to be the best musicians in Fort Wayne and the best musicians in Indiana," he said, "because, if we're going to do this music thing, why not be the best at it?"