Surmising her debut album Self Talk in the choice three words, “Allen’s party mix” - you know that the record is going to be a good time. We spoke with psychedelic songstress Olympia ahead of her upcoming show in Adelaide, about recording Self Talk and life on the road with an Australian great.
Hot off the back of the release of your debut album, Self Talk, how has the experience been? Have you been happy with the response?
The experience of the release has been really great - I could not have anticipated the positive response the album would have. People have sent me pictures of their kids dancing to the album, crying when the album is turned off (the album is quite popular with kids apparently), and also unboxing videos, which was great because I didn’t actually have a copy of the record for a couple of weeks after the release! It has been incredible, and an unexpectedly touching experience.
You’ve specifically noted that your songs do not follow any traditional form, in what ways does this manifest on your record?
I guess I approach music laterally - instead of following a traditional songwriting method. I’ll first work with an idea and try to serve that in a song through concept and delivery. The songs don’t follow traditional ‘rules’.
You worked with producer Burke Reid on Self Talk, what was your experience with him? How did he influence the creative process?
Working with Burke was a great privilege. Burke was able to mirror the writing of the record (the pulling apart and stitching together of ideas) in how we approached the record production itself. I guess you hit the nail on the head referring to the creative process within the recording studio - as it very much was the case. If anything, the hardest thing was knowing when to stop creating and let go.
Burke had influence pushing the work even further. We were three days into recording ‘This is why we can’t have nice things’ and he came to the studio one day looking very weary and said to me - I think it needs to be in a different key. So we recorded everything again from scratch.
Reid has worked with other successful Australian artists such as DZ Deathrays, Courtney Barnett, Sarah Blasko and The Drones. With such a diverse range of musicians in his repertoire, did you find this influenced the construction of the record in any way?
It definitely influenced my desire to work with him, and mostly because you listen to all of those records - and they all sound different. Burke works hard to delineate between artists’ work which is a great skill.
What was your favourite part of the creative process?
Collecting ideas, being open to inspiration, going to galleries, interviewing people - the harvesting and the fuelling! This is certainly the easiest.
Self Talk seems to entail a prominent intra-personal reflection, was it difficult to confront this during the creative process?
The record is about the stories we tell ourselves about who we are. It started with observations of others, and it was mostly others that the record is observing, but self-revelations could not be avoided. I was really trying to capture that moment when you are confronted with a different version of yourself than who you think, and you have that “Is that who I am?” moment. I’m not immune to illusion - good and bad, and confronting is a really good word to describe it.
Could you surmise your debut in three choice words?
Allen’s party mix.
You’ve been on tour with Paul Dempsey’s band recently, what was life like on the road with him. Did he impart any wisdom on you? Did you learn anything about yourself from the experience?
Playing with Paul is equal parts privilege and challenge. I’ve been a fan of Paul’s work for a long time, so it was surreal to step up and share the stage with him.I love playing in Pauls’ band - it’s a much different role than leading your own team/band, you get to focus more on the music side of things, instead of booking flights, watching your budgets becoming redder and redder, etc.
Paul is incredibly generous - not only with advice, but I think we (Olympia) are using 50% of Paul’s gear on stage at the moment. Paul has released a fantastic record, it’s a joy to listen to and play, and I’m really looking forward to going back out on the road in celebration of it.
Could you choose a favourite track off of Self Talk?
Hmm, maybe ‘Blue Light Disco’... it changes.
Is this also the song you’re most looking forward to playing live when you go on tour throughout May and June?
I do love playing this song with the band, however each set seems to work differently in every city, so fingers crossed!