For the members of the ImprovBoston-birthed comedy band Off-Ramp, things started with a straightforward enough idea: “Let’s make some funny songs.”
“That’s basically as simple as it got,” laughs keyboardist Luke Bruneaux. He and bandmates Emily DiPietro (vocals), Conor Garrison (drums) and Matt Bistany (guitar) released their first full-length, We’ve Come a Long Way, earlier this month.
“We were trying to write emotionally powerful songs about completely banal things,” Bruneaux says of the year and a half spent working on the record. There’s “Substitute Teacher,” which finds Bruneaux crooning from the POV of a completely baffled sub at a new school, and “My Tummy Hurts,” on which DiPietro serenades her stomach flu. It’s almost like an inverse Weird Al; the songs don’t work because the band takes them to the zaniest place possible, but rather, because they’re singing so earnestly about really, really dull subjects. (Even the name “Off-Ramp” is as intentionally generic as possible.)
“I’ve always loved bands that have fun lyrics,” Bruneaux says, checking off Barenaked Ladies, They Might Be Giants and—believe it or not—Paul Simon—as influences.
“Paul Simon talks about all kinds of different stuff, and like, it’s not funny in that specific way… but it is kind of funny!” he insists. “Graceland is kind of a funny album, but it has powerful lyrics.”
We’ve Come A Long Way also features four Christmas songs, including the phenomenal—and entirely too relatable—”Dear Santa,” on which DiPietro rattles off a lonely millennial woman’s Christmas list. (Among the requests: a Dominos gift card, a coffee mug with a cat on it, a love that doesn’t hurt and Rob Lowe’s autograph. All reasonable!)
For Bruneaux and co., the goal was to create a record that was funny but that could also stand on its own. “It’s a comedy album, but people have told me that they really just like the songs, that they’re earworms,” he says. He and the other members of Off-Ramp have all been in “serious” bands before, and they’re using those musical backgrounds to write everything from Taylor Swift-esque polished pop jams to the delightful Doo-Wop ode to Tinder “DTF.” “If anything, it’s freeing to be able to do all kinds of forms,” Bruneaux says. “I would love to just keep writing songs that we really love, and that sound good.
“As long as we’re not doing, like, food songs—well, we do have one food song,” he adds with a chuckle. “But as not as we’re not only doing food songs, I think we can just be a band.”