Olympic commentators around the globe refer to the Olympic Athletes from Russia by the abbreviation OAR. It's just easier. But it also happens to be the name of a band, O.A.R., which has seen a huge spike in interest as a result of the coincidental homophone.

As punishment for Russia's widespread doping program at the Sochi Olympics, the International Olympic Committee banned the country from Pyeongchang, South Korea. It instead invited individual competitors who could prove they were clean to participate as Olympic Athletes from Russia.

O.A.R., the band, first heard about the name similarities about a month ago.

Olympic Athletes from Russia Anastasia Bryzgalova (L) and Aleksandr Krushelnitckii compete against South Korea in curling. Photo / Getty Images
Olympic Athletes from Russia Anastasia Bryzgalova (L) and Aleksandr Krushelnitckii compete against South Korea in curling. Photo / Getty Images

"We kind of thought it was a great coincidence. We joked about it internally," lead singer Marc Roberge, who grew up in Rockville, said in a phone interview Tuesday. "[But] we didn't know anybody cared."


Roberge founded O.A.R. in 1994 with drummer Chris Culos, eventually growing the group to five. The band hit its stride in the mid-2000s with hits including "Shattered."

The band remains popular, but recent success has been more limited. Then the Olympics started broadcasting, and people did notice parallels between OAR and O.A.R. A lot of people.

Between Feb. 9 and 16 - as the Olympics were revving up - the band saw a 46 percent increase in streams on Spotify, according to a spokesman for the music service.

"Oh my God, are you kidding?" Roberge exclaimed when he first heard the stat. "That's crazy."

Google searches have also more than doubled. Roberge has received a barrage of texts, tweets, emails and other alerts about OAR, O.A.R. and the Olympic connection. He said he likes hearing the personal stories most: "Every day it's a new story of some sort of reminder that somebody had about us."

The band has done publicity in the past, from interviews to late night TV shows, and even collaborated on a Duracell battery ad for the 2012 London Olympics. But Roberge said the attention they've received during Pyeongchang is unprecedented.

"You can go on TV as much as you want and you don't traditionally see an increase . . . never anything like this," he said. "We're all pleasantly confused."

The timing couldn't be better for the band, which announced a new tour and song just last week.

"We fell into a really well-timed promotion," Roberge said. Many of their biggest concert venues are already on their way to selling out, months ahead of time. The irony, Roberge said, is that the latest song release - "Just Like Paradise" - is an ode to summer. Though, that hasn't stopped him from tuning into the Winter Games.

"We've always watched the Olympics as a family," he said, listing hockey as his favorite sport. "The women's hockey is super impressive."

Neither Roberge, or the rest of O.A.R., is sure where all the hype heads next - except that it makes their manager look "really good." For now, the band isn't complaining about the free publicity, especially from outlets in which they don't often appear, such as ESPN:

"When you get a boost like this, if you don't enjoy it, if you're too cool for school, you're not doing it right," he said. " We're enjoying it. We're smiling."