Josh Olmstead is a longstanding member of Philadelphia’s independent, underground music scene. He originally moved with his indie band Aleksandra to the city in 1997. In addition to two full-length albums with Aleksandra, he has written, recorded and released two full-length solo albums, an EP (under the pseudonym Archives of Oblivion), and a number of singles with some of Philadelphia’s most eclectic and accomplished producers, including Brian McTear (War on Drugs, Kurt Vile), Jon Low (The National, Sharon Van Etten), Bill Moriarty (Dr. Dog, Man Man), and Ben Riesman (Heyward Howkins). Hailed by music journalist A.D. Amorosi as a “humble little-ole-folky-flowery-songwriter-pop-rocker,” Olmstead has been commended by WXPN’s Bruce Warren for original songs “that stretch out nicely with cosmic guitar and keyboard jams.”
In addition to his work as a singer-songwriter, Olmstead is a classically trained guitarist, making him a somewhat unconventional choice for lead guitar in a growing number of rock bands that he’s collaborated with over the years, including BC Camplight (Bella Union), Le Fits (UFI Records), Summer Fiction (Bank Robber Music), The Looks of It, TJ Kong & the Atomic Bomb (American Diamond), and Vita & the Woolf. Olmstead’s lead guitar work in BC Camplight’s NewsWorks Tonight theme music can be heard weeknights at 6 pm throughout Greater Philadelphia on WHYY (an NPR member station). His guitar in the Le Fits’ song Daddy Was Wrong recently appeared on the soundtrack of Eli Roth’s erotic thriller film Knock, Knock, featuring Keanu Reeves (who incidentally co-starred with River Phoenix in Olmstead’s all-time favorite film My Own Private Idaho).
Olmstead has toured internationally, performing music in England, Germany, the Netherlands, Scotland, and several U.S. cities. His festival performances include Bonnaroo, Fringe Arts, South by Southwest, and Xponential Music, and he’s appeared in several podcast, radio, and TV programs, including Bands in the Backyard, Daytrotter, Food Network’s Chopped, WDVX’s Blue Plate Special, Weathervane Music Project Series, and WXPN’s The Key Studio Sessions and Folk Show with Gene Shay.
He has performed as the warmup act for two of his personal guitar heroes — Marc Ford (formerly of The Black Crowes) and Nels Cline’s Wilco side project If By Yes — as well as for a number of his favorite singer-songwriters and bands, including Buffalo Killers, Doug Paisley, Gary Louris of The Jayhawks, Howlin’ Rain, Iris Dement, Israel Nash, Jesse Malin, Lucero, Lydia Loveless, Truth & Salvage Co, and Wussy.
In 2015, Olmstead and his solo group were invited to perform as the backing band for Austin-based songwriters Elijah Ford (ex-Ryan Bingham and the Dead Horses and son of Marc Ford) and John Jack Joseph on select east coast tour dates.
Olmstead is currently writing songs for a new solo album. His lead guitar work can be heard most recently on Vita & the Woolf’s Tunnels (2017) and TJ Kong & the Atomic Bomb’s Kong EP (2014) and Dancing Out the Door LP (2017).