10 Questions With My Hero Zero’s Newest Member, Donovan O’Rourke
My Hero Zero has made some big changes for 2015, including gaining a new sponsor from Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey. But perhaps the most noticeable change for the band this year is an addition to its lineup. After announcing a search for a fifth member, My Hero Zero made its debut as a five-piece band last weekend during its THON performance.
Donovan O’Rourke took to the stage performing with a similar confidence as fellow MHZ member Jason O., showing off his chops on vocals, guitar, and keyboard, and even providing backup for drummer Noah Connolly during his rendition of “Fancy.” We had a chance to catch up with O’Rourke after his THON debut right before he hit the Saloon for My Hero Zero’s regular Thursday set.
Onward State: First off, how was your My Hero Zero debut at THON last weekend?
Donovan O’Rourke: It was definitely unforgettable. I just recently learned about THON last year when I heard about it from the guys in Total Whiteout. It was really inspiring to see so many college students come together for one of the biggest student philanthropies. It totally goes against the popular notion of the selfish college kid.
OS: Are you feeling nervous at all being the fresh face of one of the most popular cover bands in State College?
DO: I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t. I never walked into a band like this before that’s so established. It’s intimidating, but everyone I’ve met so far has been super welcoming.
OS: Did you know any of the band members prior to joining?
DO: We met in person about eight months ago in Dewey Beach [where My Hero Zero performs often]. Lots of bands played there, especially at Bottle & Cork. Since so many bands play there, you end up hanging out with them all day.
OS: What do you feel you bring to the table that will make My Hero Zero progress as a group?
DO: Obviously, another set of hands for instruments can be a big help. Jason and I can be yin and yang in some ways. Jason is a very smooth kind of guy, and he’s a great frontman, whereas I’m more of a ball of energy. For certain songs it’ll give a different perspective depending on the song having the two different styles. Jason and I each have our own strengths that complement each other, as well as Greg, Mike, and Noah, too.
OS: What inspired you to become a musician?
DO: That could be a whole article in itself, [laughs] let me try to summarize. My parents are big supporters of music. My earliest memory is going to a Moody Blues concert when I was six, and I was playing air guitar and jumping around. I love live music. The first CD my dad gave me was “A Boy Named Goo” by the Goo Goo Dolls, and I just kept listening to it over and over and over again. That inspired me to really want to learn how to play guitar and other instruments, and my parents said “Okay, take piano lessons and we will see where it goes.” That was when I was six, and I’ve been tinkering around ever since.
OS: What is the transitioning process like for you going from Philadelphia-based band “Slamm” to My Hero Zero?
DO: There are some things that are really different between them. Slamm is an older band, so the crowd is a little on the older side. Zero obviously appeals more to college kids. You have to be current and have a pulse on what the songs are that people wanna hear today. And with an older crowd, they don’t depend on an energetic show necessarily — they just want to hear really good music. Places like the Saloon and the Phryst, you really have to be engaged and draw people in, because even if you blink, the crowd might lose interest. [laughs] But it’s fun to be a part of a show like that, it really keeps you jazzed up. There aren’t many places in Allentown or Philly that you can play to a packed house on a Thursday night like in State College. But Slamm taught me a lot and are a great group of guys. I enjoyed playing for them.
OS: What’s been your favorite song to perform with the group so far, whether it be at practice or at THON?
DO: “I Will Wait” by Mumford & Sons. This is the first time I’ve played the keys in a band, and that was one of the first ones I had to learn with the band. It took a little bit to get used to playing it live with other people, but once I got going, it was so much fun to play. They do a really great rendition of it, so it’s really fun to play with them.
OS: How would you describe your performance style compared to the rest of the band?
DO: We’re similar in a lot of ways, that’s why it works having me in the band. We can definitely sync up and rock or groove out on a song. In another respect, I have a punk-rock background. I guess Mike and I have kind of the same background, too. I bring more of a raw energy, I guess. And Jason’s solo shows really draws on his acoustic background. My background is more of those sweaty basement shows with a keg and rock show. They’ve seen me perform this kind of style before, and they’ve said they like it. We’re in the process of catching me up to speed on their catalog and trying to incorporate some of my catalog right now.
OS: When you first practiced with the band, was there any pressure on yourself to do well? Or were you confident that you would mesh well with the other four guys (frontman Olcese, drummer Connolly, bassist Michael Lee, and guitarist Greg Folsom)?
DO: Anytime you’re stepping into a new situation, you’re going to be a little nervous. It’s like a job interview–you can be confident, but there’s still that pressure to do well and hope they like you. But the guys have been super nice and very encouraging throughout the process.
OS: What’s your favorite dinosaur and why?
DO: Velociraptor — it needs no explanation.
Photo: Steffen Blanco/Onward State