The title OT offers itself as an introduction to Oliver Tank and his dreamy, moody soundscapes. Although the Sydney producer released his first EP Dreams back in 2011, his eagerly awaited debut album gives listeners more insight into his psyche. KYRA SHENNAN spoke to Tank about the recent release of OT and his upcoming performance in Perth at Jack Rabbit Slim’s this Saturday, May 27.
The album is an atmospheric yet finely-detailed construct of R&B tinged electronica. A perfect album for serial chillers. What does this album mean to you?
I think because it took me so long to finish it and I got to the point where I thought it was never going to be finished, never going to be good enough, its about moving on in my life. Because this album had been hanging over my head for, like, years and it started to become more of a burden than what I used to do which was to make music because I liked doing it. So finally having it out and putting it together is symbolic of me moving on (and) progressing forward I guess.
Cool, cool. So it’s quite a cathartic process then?
Yeah, I guess I just felt a lot of relief when it was finally out. Just because I worried it would never be finished. It’s pretty personal in terms of subject matter, especially about the struggles I’ve had over the past few years. It’s pretty nerve wracking putting that stuff out there but the reception’s been good so far.
I feel like it’s a very chilled out album yet it’s quite emotive and melancholy as well, I suppose that’s a mood you’re trying to convey? Or did it just kind of come naturally?
I feel like I had a lot to draw on lyrics wise because some of my older songs are about experiences I haven’t had personally but I felt like people were able to relate to and this time I could just draw from my own experiences, my own struggles, and music wise I always just like making chilled out music. There’s a few more tracks on here that are a bit more up beat, I wanted to challenge myself to do some different stuff. But yeah, I like to mix really chilled out music with meaningful, heart felt lyrics because, I don’t know, I just feel it relaxes me.
So do you feel like you have a particular method when you’re creating your music or do you kind of just have an idea and let it flow from there?
It’s different a lot of the time but I’d say I usually start with an idea or I hear something I like in someone else song and I try and copy it and then it ends up something heaps different in the end, its just a point to start at. Usually I find a few really nice sounds, I’ll try put some chords to it, the song will go through many iterations and eventually I’ve just got to let it go and feel like I’m happy with it. I can get a bit caught up in working on it and try to keep making it better, I feel like the first idea or the first instinct you have is often the best one and if you try to go back and improve it, it often isn’t as good.
Yeah definitely, sometimes you’ve just gotta let these things happen and do their own thing I guess. So, your music’s very intimate I find, how would you describe your live gigs?
I’m not afraid to change some of the songs around live because I don’t think about how I’m going to play them live when I make them, I just want t make the best song I can. Because I do most of it on the computer with a guitar and keyboard or whatever it’s sort of tough to translate it live, you have to kind of over-complicate things I think to make the show engaging. I could just be up there with a laptop but I don’t like to play with a laptop so just have a stand alone set-up that you don’t need a computer for, kind of build on it with guitar and vocals and drum pad or something, I just feel like its a bit more engaging and people want to see you making an effort and actually doing things when you play live. Its a bit more chilled back then theres a bit more beatsy stuff live too ‘cause some of my music is very chill and I think you have to be quite a patient audience which can be a lot to ask in certain settings so I try and have a bit more of an upbeat set at times.
Cool, cool. So you say a lot of things you’ve experienced recently have kind of attributed to the sound of your album, what other things inspire that kind of sound?
I guess just other artists I’m into. I usually just like to make loops of music that I really enjoy, that really relax me and if I can listen to it non stop then I know its good. Then I like to mix that loop, make a few different selections. I like to mix natural sounds with more electronic ones like if its birds chirping or more acoustic instruments like guitar, piano then mixing that with a more electronic-y twist with delays and reverb and stuff. I feel like the contrast between those instruments and the more electronic sets can be really interesting.
Yeah definitely. What kind of stuff are you listening to at the moment?
I guess I’ve been listening to Chymes a bit, I think they’re from the central coast or something, they’ve got some really nice music, hang on I’m just trying to look at my I-tunes, ah, For now by Batts is a really beautiful song, Solange, Post Malone, I like to keep it pretty varied, honestly at the moment I’ve just been working on a lot of my own music and my live show, I haven’t been trying to explore new music too much.
So do you find you’re always engaging with music whether listening to it or creating it yourself?
Yeah, I like to listen to music a lot. I usually just listen through my sound cloud likes or just find new music, listen to music in the car. I used to listen to podcasts all the time but I found I wasn’t really listening to music as much as I’d like. And then I listen to my own music in different settings and see if I can hear something in it I can improve.
M-hm, nice. So Is there anything else you wanted to add about your upcoming tour?
I’m just looking forward to playing live again, its been a while, I have a lot of new songs to perform. A bit more of a varied set and I think it will be fun.