Interview: OKENYO goes on a deep dive into her brilliant debut EP, THE WAVE
She's playing some special launch shows next month to celebrate.
After knocking our socks off last with the excellent WOMAN'S WORLD, OKENYO last week unveiled her v-anticipated debut EP THE WAVE and it does not disappoint (grab it HERE). A diverse and ultimately commanding six-track release, it finds OKENYO finding herself, and embracing all the aspects of this crazy ride we call life: "I am always pushing myself into places of vulnerability in my work in order to discover who I am in this world and how I can continue to navigate it. I’m scared, I’m strong, I’m funny, I’m weak, I’m searching, I’m magic on certain days of the week. THE WAVE is an expression of a time that through mu-sic, can outstay time."
Produced and written with Lionel Towers, it backs up a promising presence for OKENYO for the past few years, and head of next month's launch shows she was kind enough to take us a little deeper into just what's going on in THE WAVE - check it all out below:
First and foremost, what is the EP about? What does 'THE WAVE' mean to you conceptually?
This record is about a time period in my life but also opens up to big questions about how we as people navigate the world and how we relate to each other. "The Wave" references the uncontrollable force of a literal wave but also conceptually branches out to metaphors of change, growth and letting go of control.
Is there a journey to the tracklisting of your EP?
I definitely thought about the tracklisting. Coming from an acting background I’m super interested in narrative and presenting a story of some kind. The opening track Demons aimed to set up the idea of overcoming fears and learning to love and sit inside vulnerability, then the rest of the EP tracks a journey through how I’ve been navigating that in my life recently.
Did you set out from the beginning of this EP release with a specific aesthetic in mind?
My personal aesthetic has always been pretty clean, simple and unfussy. This also made sense to me when making decisions about press photos, EP artwork and any images attached to the EP. Each of my songs are in a way a mini portrait of me so I wanted to express that with simple portraits that showed me in a natural state. I find THE WAVE artwork image really curious, I recognise it as me but I also was surprised to see quite an androgynous person staring back at me, and what does the gaze communicate? I’d be interested to hear what others think about the image.
Do you believe there is power in aesthetics? How does this relate to the cover of your EP?
Absolutely. We take so many unconscious cues from imagery and especially faces. Although branding is a vital (and tedious) part of what artists have to do these days, I’m not that interested in it from a commercial sense. I guess that’s why I’m really engaged with pushing myself deeper into understanding who I am, how that relates to me, to others and importantly to the viewer. The EP cover was shot by a very close friend of mine Emily Havea and I think that’s maybe why it is a very honest portrait of me and maybe why I don’t quite understand who that person is quite yet.
Can we ever really recognise ourselves? Why this is an ongoing conversation for me stems from my relationship to myself as an actor and navigating other people’s stories, becoming them and representing a slice of humanity that is in many ways, not my own. When I first started performing my music live it was super confronting because I realised I was now performing as myself and not in the guise of someone else. So I think the aesthetic I present as a musician really needs to reflect the the personal nature of the songs I write and a closer version of me in a natural state.
What does the costume and style in your videos say about the songs themselves? Is this important to the story of the song to you?
My choice of costume and style more so reflects my own personal taste but also, like my approach to my artwork, I like the idea of quite plain outfits that can be striking in an of themselves but never get in the way of the song or the performance. Keeping things simple is often hard to do but paring back ideas or concepts often allows the core of the idea to come to the fore.
How does your stance / pose in the cover of WOMAN'S WORLD compare with the cover of 20 / 20?
When I watch the WW music video I see a very authentic side of myself - my strength, power and seriousness. It’s also the part of me that is extraverted - more of a performance side. The cover of 20/20 is one of my favourite images (shot by Michelle G Hunder) I really see the real me there. It’s entirely unfussy, my own makeup, favourite cap, creased tshirt and slightly wonky glasses (that I need to get fixed). Like many artists, I’m actually quite introverted but because of my job I also spend a lot of time being extremely extroverted. Such a weird mix of socially preferring to hang in small groups or alone but also feeling more at home than ever in front of hundreds of people.
Sat 9 Jun - The Foundry, Brisbane w/ Tiana Khasi
Sun 10 Jun - Gaso Upstairs, Melbourne w/ Rebecca Hatch & Price J
Sat 23 Jun - Waywards, Sydney w/ Rebecca Hatch & Price J
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