PHOTO CREDIT: Pierre Toussaint
I have had fun talking with Olympia...
PHOTO CREDIT: Cybele Malinowski
who has been telling me about her new single, Hounds, and what we can expect from her upcoming album, Flamingo; what sort of music inspires her and which albums mean the most – she recommends some rising talent to look out.
I ask the Australian artist if there are tour dates coming and how she spends time away from music; whether there is any advice she’d give to artists emerging and who she’d support on the road if she had the choice - Olympia selects a pretty cool song to end things with.
Hi, Olympia. How are you? How has your week been?
Hello. Great, thank you!
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?
I’m an Australian-based artist performing under the moniker ‘Olympia’.
Hounds is your new single. Is there a story behind the song?
The whole album is a bit of a throwback to my love of albums having a narrative arc (or rather just albums in general). The album has high points and more fragile ones – Hounds is one of the Friday nights in the world of the album.
It means something as part of the whole and, on its own, it is about observing someone who is being a bit of a dickhead. Someone who performs tricks for others ‘cut in half’; to appease and someone who could ‘drown in the sun’.
It is from the album, Flamingo. What kind of things can we expect from the album in terms of themes and songs?
I’d set out to make something different to Self Talk with this record. I really wanted to challenge myself as an artist and try to break through to something that surprised me - something new.
When Self Talk came out, I often got labelled as a Synth artist - which was quite funny to me (less so to my friends who actually are Synth artists). But, there is always this tendency to pigeonhole with blanket terms like ‘Pop’, ‘Rock’ or ‘Synth artist’ - it’s limiting (for both the artist and also stymies the curiosity of the audience). I’ve always felt that what we were making was bigger than any one thing and that it would take another record to demonstrate that. And here it is!
Flamingo is an emotional force. It’s different to Self Talk from the get-go; how I wrote the album, instrumentation and production choices. Everything was about creating something urgent, confronting and modern; an atmosphere you step into from start to finish.
It’s a love record. More visceral than Self Talk – lyrically, it is speaking from within an experience, rather than from afar. I’ve heard writers/artists often discuss moving to New York to be close to the place where things happen and, on this record, I’ve tried create an environment so that the whole record is speaking from this emotional place and is informed by this energy. You’ll hear this in the choices of language: to strip out metaphor that you hear on Self Talk to, instead, try and tap into the unfiltered, uncensored self. Sonically, it’s probably more urgent. It is certainly not a passive record. There are no take-backs and no apologies; guitars are up front, vocals are sung hard and we drove the studio gear to distortion.
When growing up, what sort of music were you exposed to?
Everything - it was a very eclectic household. I have really strong memories of listening to artists as diverse as Patsy Cline; The Andrew Sisters; Bob Marley; Nirvana; Chicago; Tower of Power; The Ronettes, etc.
We didn’t grow up in a large city and weren’t necessarily exposed to a culture of icons/stars, so instead my discovery of music was (and still is) very organic. It also meant my approach to music was a little more egalitarian. It just felt like anyone could pick up an instrument and have a go – I didn’t grow up with a sense of ego about music. One of my all-time favourite things was to tape music off the radio. This exposed me to a broader range of music including a lot of world-music artists such as Sheila Chandra.
PHOTO CREDIT: Cybele Malinowski
What plans do you have for the rest of 2019?
We are releasing the record in exactly one month today, which is pretty huge. Following that, we’re lucky enough to be touring this record to the U.K. for Latitude Festival and Europe in September; Australia in October.
How important is music to you, emotionally and psychologically?
Music is how I’ve come to know myself and my place within the world.
Do you have a standout memory from your time in music so far?
Probably having Midnight Oil use Smoke Signals as their walk-on song all around the world.
Which three albums mean the most to you would you say (and why)?
I will instantly change my mind as soon as this discussion is over. But, first off my head:
Transformer - Lou Reed
There’s everything to love about this record - it’s perfect. Transformer is probably one of the strongest anchor points of the new album. The mix of melancholy and levity, dark humour (and subject matter); B.V. lines.
Pink Flag - Wire
This record has had a massive influence on me as an artist and is my go-to record whenever I’m feeling a bit stuck. It’s endlessly refreshing.
Portishead - Portishead
This is a painfully perfect record. It’s an incredible listening experience.
If you could support any musician alive today, and choose your own rider, what would that entail?
Alan Vega with a rider of a masseuse.
What are your other plans regarding gigs/touring?
We have some big shows planned that will encompass more of the visual aspects of the album.
If we came to see one of your gigs, what might that involve? Do you love being on the stage?
The live show is high energy. We work hard at making it an immersive experience for the audience.
Is there any advice you’d give to upcoming artists?
Remember to have fun.
IN THIS PHOTO: Merpire
Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?
I stalk Adam Curtis online.
Finally, and for being a good sport; you can choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).
Colour Television – Eddy Current Suppression Ring