Oliver Tree's Relateable Loneliness
“I think it’s just part of the human condition, you come around to it and just accept it, there’s no need to fight”
Image credit: BRANKO STARČEVIĆ
Enigmatic, undeniable and truly singular, Oliver Tree is set to expand on his already wild resume of internationally acclaimed, multi-platinum chart-topping releases with his third full length album, Alone In A Crowd, out September 29, ahead of bringing ‘world’s first intergalactic circus’ to New Zealand and Australia this October, set to cap off what has already been a massive 2023 for Tree.
This year has already seen Oliver release his collab Here We Go Again with David Guetta, as well as a string of dancey singles and amazing music videos in the lead-up to his new album, including Bounce and most recently Essence.
With visual components and humour as much a part of Tree’s artistry as the music itself, Oliver has connected with countless people around the world with his unique brand of Kaufman-meets-Dada-esque “meta humour”, racking up over 4 billion streams, over 1 billion youtube views and 15 million TikTok followers - numbers that define the term ‘mind boggling’.
Alone In A Crowd sees Tree further exploring themes of “absurdity of modern culture, obsession with fame and social media”, with his third album of EDM packed with pop sensibilities seeing him examining the highs and lows of human nature through the lens of popular culture, and the impacts this can have on a person.
Ahead of his album dropping and his return down under (all dates below), we jumped on the line with Oliver as he was en route to a video shoot and had a really awesome chat. We touched on being a business mogul; MC Hammer & ‘crab dancing’; letting his freak flag fly; his love of film and passion for creating his music videos; on set pranks and joining his childhood heroes, Jackass; getting back to his electronic roots; what it means to be alone in a crowd; what to expect from the ‘world’s first intergalactic circus’ and more!
What’s going on, bro?
Stoked to chat, dude - I was actually just trawling through your Wikipedia page, cos you know that’s gotta all be 100% accurate, right…
Technically there is some misinformation that’s been spread about me online. I’m not sure if you’re aware of this, but I did grow up in Australia for the first six years of my life. It says Santa Cruz, which is where I moved when I was six, but I’m actually rooted from Australia, so that’s part of my background and story. I don’t know what else my Wikipedia says - I know they’re always changing my pictures, changing facts. They always try to pick the worst pictures of me, which obviously I’m a handsome guy, so I don’t know why people are trying to bring me down and pick horrible pictures of me. It used to say I had 150 million dollars which I’d like to think is true, but it’s not, so I don’t know what you read but the chances are there’s probably some lies there.
Well the thing that personally jumped out to me is it says you studied business at university for a few years…
That is correct, yes.
And then you went on to do a music tech degree?
Yeah, but in between I dropped out to pursue a record career that failed.
I only brought that up cos I did the same thing almost. I did a business degree, didn’t pursue that and while I didn’t try to pursue a music career in between, I also did a music tech degree after, so I was just like “my man!” *laughs*
We’re cut from the same cloth, man! I like this guy. That’s pretty rare, that’s pretty rare. Those two degrees are pretty different, most people who get into music technology - not much business background, I’ll tell you that right now, man.
No doubt, and I guess the question I had then is, did doing the business thing help dealing with that side of things in music? Did it make you want to pursue music even more cos you didn’t want to just do business?
Look at me man, I’m a mogul. I mean, come on, I’m a businessman. I may not be in the traditional sense but - talking about this, look at this [Oliver gestures to his shining gold shirt], this is made with real gold plating. So this thing right here, this was used in an MC Hammer music video, made in 1982, the thing is legit. It’s literally 32 kilos - I’m not kidding, it’s 72 pounds, that’s the metrics we use in America. This thing is heavy, it’s like wearing a weighted vest and I’m literally wearing gold, this thing is technically gold. It obviously has a bit of wear to it, but this thing is very heavy, it helps me with my callisthenics in the morning.
Have you got the MC Hammer parachute pants?
I do, but they’re in the back of the car right now. I’m driving to a video shoot right now so I don’t have them on because they don’t fit in this spot in the car. They’re so giant, but I’m gonna wear them in the video.
And is any sort of crab dancing gonna be happening?
Bro, you took the words right out of my mouth, dude. I’m a big crab dancer. Always have been, I love crab the food, but I love the dancing. I always say that.
"I let the freak flag fly, brother. That’s probably me in a nutshell, in the core."
Favourite way to eat crab, Oliver?
Oh man, there’s only one way and that’s with the tortilla. Mayonnaise right on the tortilla with the crisp, there’s nothing better.
Gotta admit I’ve never tried that, I usually just go straight from the crab leg.
Oh man, with heavy mayo - it’s basically a mayo tortilla with crab sprinkles.
That’s the way! So your new album is a couple of weeks away, Alone In A Crowd, but the latest thing we’ve heard is Essence and it’s awesome music video… putting you on the spot here, but what is the essence of Oliver Tree, if you could sum that up?
I mean, that’s a hard question. You know, I don’t think I can boil it down, there’s not enough words in the language, but when you spoke to me and you said crab walking, I think that comes to mind. I mean, there’d be a list I’d have to go through hundreds of things but I would say I let the freak flag fly, brother. That’s probably me in a nutshell, in the core.
Dude, and that’s why you are the Oliver Tree we know and love, right? So your music videos, the freak flag flys there I guess you could say, and they’re always on point and hilarious and creative as fuck… why are you always getting beaten up though?
I will say this - that’s never the intention but I run a really hard bargain on set. What will happen is, a lot of people turn on me on the set, so by the end of it, people get pretty fed up because I’ll be like “oh yeah, we’re gonna do this video where I get to beat you guys up” but then I start adding things in there last minute, I’m literally doing things that people don’t expect to happen. I’m like “yo, get the camera ready, I’m going to kick this thing over at this dude” and literally, people start to turn on you. There’s basically a wall they hit and at a certain point, these people will turn on you. They might be getting paid, but they're not getting paid enough for that.
*laughs* No shit, I can only imagine the stress that would all add. Speaking of pranks, I did actually see you on Steve-O’s podcast, and then saw some instagram stuff with the other guys and you tagged and stuff, so are you getting involved with the Jackass guys at all?
Yeah, so, I haven’t spoken about this, and I’m probably not even supposed to say it but I’ll say it because I like you - they asked me to be part of the Jackass crew as one of the new members. I haven’t said this anywhere. I don’t even know if we should include this [Note: we got the all good to run this], but yeah, it’s a big deal.
That’s huge!! That’s what I was hoping to hear, at least a cameo, but that's so sick. Have you been watching their stuff since like day one?
My heroes dude, all those guys - big, big heroes. I used to play a game with my cousin, we called ourselves ‘Dumbass’ and we would drop down staircases. My cousin sprained his ankle pretty bad when we were playing the game, but it’s something I’ve always looked up to. It’s something I grew up on, it’s basically my childhood heroes.
That’s so sick dude, like to go full circle - imagine 20 years ago or whatever and your cousin’s breaking his ankle and then they’re like “hey, you’re gonna be in the real one one day”!
That’s the crazy part - hanging out with them man, the whole crew, Johny. You know, it’s been a wild ride. I’m very grateful, I got to spend a fair amount of time with them, I’ve hung out with them quite a bit lately.
"I think I’d probably say that if I wasn’t able to direct my own music videos, I probably wouldn’t even make music, I guess it’s the whole reason I’m in it. I love the visual stuff."
Do they have opinions on scooters vs skateboards?
I mean, those guys will ride anything - rollerblades with fireworks, you know?
Oh man I gotta rewatch them now, Johnny Knoxville on those skates, dude. That’s so sick. So film in general is a pretty big influence, then?
Yeah, I think I’d probably say that if I wasn’t able to direct my own music videos, I probably wouldn’t even make music, I guess it’s the whole reason I’m in it. I love the visual stuff. The music, I love making it but I probably wouldn’t even release it. You know, I actually prefer when the music doesn’t come out, I think I have somewhere around 3,500 songs, in that ballpark of unreleased music. I love just having it. For me, the best part of making music is having it when it’s not out yet - once it comes out, I don’t even listen to it, it’s not really mine anymore. It’s a gift to the world, maybe 100 people listen to it, maybe 100 million - I don’t really know, but the truth is, I really just love making music for myself.
The filmmaking is what I really do enjoy and making these music videos, I’ve been writing and directing all of them, but now I’ve been fully producing them myself and with my crew, we have our own production company Alien Boy Films, so we’ve been getting really into it and making everything from scratch fully, with our own fingerprints all over it and it feels amazing getting full creative control. The vision is there and it’s getting closer and closer to how I see it in my head each time, although I have to say every time I see the videos, they look so crappy, but I try my best. Same with the music, it sounds so bad, but if you heard how it sounded in my head when I was making it, you’d be like “oh, this is really bad”. But you know, it gets closer and closer to the vision every couple of years.
So how did you get over, like how did you get past that and know something is “good enough” to release?
The thing is, if I spent so much energy and time, I have to release it even if it’s horrible. Like I put too much love into it, I’m not the kind of guy who’s gonna hold on to the music videos. The music’s a different story, but you come to terms with the fact there’s only so much budget, there’s limitations - no one knows the real hardships that go into things for every video I make. It’s like too long and I have to trim the fat, or I can’t afford to do half the stuff and you don’t know the conditions of the wind blowing, gear not working, the camera lens getting dropped - whatever. But you can never put a video out and then put on the screen “this was supposed to happen during the shoot” so it just comes with the territory. I would say being on those sets and really being in it, it’s a high like no other and I love it. Playing shows is great, but I think music videos take the cake on that one.
Sick, and I could talk video stuff with you the rest of the chat but let’s touch on the album - big dancey electronic vibes going on on this one, and when you said 3,500 unreleased tracks I can only imagine the variety going on there, but why did you settle on dance vibes for this third record?
Well I come from a dance background, I mean, I’ve had many different iterations. When I was in high school, I was 17, I was a dubstep DJ and I got to open for Skrillex. So I got in touch with my roots, and I just kind of fell in love with dance music again. I recently started working with Supercomputer, this new electronic underground duo, and it really sparked a new love for dance music. They’re the second act I’ve signed to Alien Boy Records, my label, and the stuff they’re making is just incredible and unlike anything I’ve heard. They got me really excited about dance music again and obviously with the success of Miss You, and I’ve been making dance music the entire time I’ve been producing. I took a few years off where I really wasn’t giving it any attention, I think during the pandemic and when raves shut down, I kind of felt like dance music wasn’t really able to thrive and I kind of abandoned hope on it for a bit, then that only sparked my love for it even more when I came back around to it and saw the effect of it, especially after COVID, and finally seeing people coming back together. It’s a very powerful thing. I like taking turns and bounding around different things and it just hit for whatever reason, I just had a real spark coming back for that nostalgia, all that dance music I listened to growing up when I was spun out on ecstasy at the raves, bro.
"It’s a mixture of a movie or a TV show, a play, a musical. Then we’ve got WWE wrestling, we’ve got scooters, stunts, comedy, motivational speaking - we’ve got a little bit of everything."
I can relate, very very much *laughs*
I’m sure you can, Mr. music tech!
*laughs* So you’re coming back to Australia, not your first rodeo down here but it is the ‘world’s first intergalactic circus’...
That is correct.
So what can people expect from these shows?
Well, I’ll say this - no one knows how to party like Australia. And no one knows how to party like Oliver Tree in Australia. These shows are going to be like nothing else ever. Of course, I’m losing money to do these shows, I’m putting everything back into it, I’m going into the red. These shows are something I’ve been working on for five years, I’ve invested millions and millions of dollars into the show. I’ve made the concert with a full narrative so that all the music videos, if you’ve seen them, you can see how it all ties into one story.
It’s a mixture of a movie or a TV show, a play, a musical. Then we’ve got WWE wrestling, we’ve got scooters, stunts, comedy, motivational speaking - we’ve got a little bit of everything. I’m very proud of this show. The visuals are just stunning, I put so much love into this thing. I don’t think there’s another show that’s even remotely close to it. I’m very proud of what we’ve done. There’ll be Sueco opening up for me, we’re gonna have Supercomputer come out and Little Ricky so we have quite an eclectic show, all types of different styles. I think there’s something for everyone.
That’s literally the phrase that I was thinking, cos like you say “WWE” and I’m sold.
One punch in the gonads and you’re there.
*laughs* So finally Oliver, what does it mean to be ‘alone in a crowd’? Is it a good thing? A bad thing?
I mean, on this album I explored the idea of isolation and feeling loneliness. I think it’s just part of the human condition, you come around to it and just accept it, there’s no need to fight. Even when you’re in a relationship, you still go to bed with your own thoughts, in your own head, no matter who you are, you've experienced loneliness. For me, at the core of it - and this isn’t the message of it - but I explored a lot of loneliness with the more fame that I got, especially the massive uprising of TikTok, you know, to get 15 million followers within a year span, your life changes pretty crazy. Stuff changes for the better, but for the worse mainly, honestly.
So I kind of had to make an expression about that but that’s not really a relatable concept to people, but being lonely is and I think that’s really at the core of it, feeling like Rapunzel up in a castle, or realistically just isolating myself into my own head. It’s something that no matter who you are, rich or poor, no matter if you’re with someone or single, you still deal with being lonely no matter what. So I think it’s a concept we all deal with as humans.
Amen, brother. Couldn’t agree more, we’ve all been there, we all are there, definitely connects. So good to chat, dude, congrats on everything and hopefully catch you when you’re down here!
Sweet, thanks for everything, brother.
Oliver Tree's new album Alone In A Crowd is out September 22
OLIVER TREE PRESENTS ALONE IN A CROWD
WORLD TOUR 2023
10 – Auckland, NZ – Shed 10
11 – Wellington, NZ – Michael Fowler Centre
13 – Brisbane, AUS – Fortitude Music Hall
14 – Sydney, AUS – Hordern Pavilion
15 – Wollongong, AUS – Yours and Owls Festival
18 – Melbourne, AUS – Festival Hall
20 – Adelaide, AUS – Hindley Street Music Hall
21 – Perth, AUS – Metro City