Okapi Sun / by E

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Check the interview to see what Leo and Dallas of Okapi Sun had to say about making their debut album.

Techno Prisoners is your debut album?

Dallas: Yeah, this is our very first album. We just started the band in 2013, so this has been going on for pretty much a year and a half now so, yeah, it's the debut album of Okapi Sun. It was exciting; it was a long process but it's cool to have all the music out there finally. It kind of starts to free you up to write new music too because we've just been focusing on all the songs we wrote at the beginning of the project and then you obviously want to record the album so you're just concentrating on those songs and it's nice to have that done so we can actually start thinking of new songs. 

How did you two meet? When did you decide you wanted to form a band together?

Leo: We just met in the club in Europe and I saw her there and then we started talking and we became friends. Then I was going over her and I called her up and was like "I'm coming over!" and that's pretty much how we met.

Dallas: I don't think that we ever - well, I don't know; maybe we were like "we should start a band" - I can't remember, but I do remember us just kind of.. I think we said "let's get together and just kind of play some music" and that was really the situation so we got to a room together and we brought all the instruments that either of us knew how to play and we just kind of started experimenting and messing around. Then, when we actually started writing songs we were like "oh, okay, this doesn't sound too bad" so then that's kind of when we started to think 'maybe we should develop this more and turn it into a real band'. That was in October of 2012 so from October to December we were just kind of messing around and meeting up and playing music for fun and then, by January, we actually had some real songs and we started playing shows and we really took it seriously.

Leo: Yeah, I think mostly we just really wanted something as an outlet. We were working at the same job and I remember thinking like "oh, yeah, that's something fun after work" and we would just get together and play music.

How did you come up with the name 'Okapi Sun'?

Dallas: Okapi is one of my favorite animals: my favorite animal, growing up, was the zebra and then when I saw an okapi, which was probably in high school or something, that became my new favorite animal - even though I still liked the zebra. So, yeah, it's an animal and, when we were thinking of band names, I was like "oh, what do you think about 'Okapi'?" and she was like "oh, what's that?" and so I told her it was an animal and we looked it up and she thought it looked really cool -which it does - and so we were like 'okay, well let's think about it for a few days' and then a couple days later she came to me and she said "well, what do you think about 'Okapi Sun'?" and I was like "ooh, I kind of like that" so that's pretty much how the name came about.

Leo: Yeah, I thought that it was really cool that it was an okapi and it's like a spiritual animal, for one: I thought that it would really stick with who we are and what we represent, kind of like a mixture of all different cultures, you know? 'Cause, obviously, we don't look the same, so I thought it was really cool to have this weird animal representing us that looks like a horse, a zebra, and a giraffe in one.

How would you describe your style of music to someone who had never heard it before?

Dallas: Usually when we're talking to people and we're like, "oh, we're in a band," and they ask us that question, like "what does it sound like," the first thing that I usually say is that it's kinda like electronic/pop/dance music and, every now and then, we throw in some words like tribal/disco dance music. I mean, those are the words that we use to describe it. Just fun; easygoing; pure; like, four to the floor dance music, but it has a little pop flair because we try and do a lot of melody driven songs versus just reverb, you know, straightforward electronic, like EDM style of music. We kind of are a little different from that because we have more actual melodies for the songs but, yeah, I mean, it's pretty much just fun dance music... Do you want to add anything to that Leo?

Leo: You actually summed it up... It's cool; this is only us two, but I think we bring a really full sound to the table for our audiences. I think that it's pretty cool that we're playing all these instruments: I mean, one person plays synthesizers, guitar, and drums and we sing and then we have our tracks and I actually think it's really cool just to see. So, that's my two cents.

What part of the album making process was your favorite?

Dallas: I think I would say, probably for the both of us, one of the funnest parts was being able to work with Neal Pogue. We were able to fly out to Atlanta, Georgia which, I'd never been there, but it was just a really exciting experience. It was just exciting for us to be able to work with him and then when we got [to Atlanta] and we just had a lot of fun and we got to watch his process and kind of see him take a little, you know, put his flair on our music and so that was really a fun experience. 

Leo: Yeah, I think that was definitely one of the highlights. For me, the whole process was really exciting because, ever since we'd started this we'd just been playing with our instruments and had like the beginnings of the songs; we just had like these little bits and pieces and then later we got together and we were like "oh, this sounds cool and this sounds cool" and from there we just started layering all the instruments and developing all of our songs and it was really exciting to see the whole process of seeing the songs coming from like that instant idea to.. We write something together and then, having it sort of come to life, as a full work of art: that is just exciting to me.

And the most challenging part about making the album?

Leo: Pretty much, just putting what you have in your head out there and trying to get as close as it gets because, obviously, we both have a vision of how it's supposed to sound and then, actually, in the end, having it sound how we really meant it. It's always hard trying to talk when you're working with other people because we don't have the technical aspects of it so we had to compromise, but I think it came really close to how we had it in our head and I think that we did a really good job of bringing what we thought it should sound like to life, but that was definitely a challenge. What do you think Dallas?

Dallas: I agree; I totally agree with that.

How did the album writing process work? Did you collaborate on everything, or write on your own before coming together?

Dallas: Oh, no, we collaborate on everything we do so, pretty much, the writing process is just: we'll just go into our practice space and sit down and go through the beats that we have in our system or we'll search for new ones online or if we can't find anything that fits our mood at the moment then we'll just write something that we like. Then, after we have a beat that kind of inspires us a little, we'll turn the lights off and start jamming to it and there's really no rules to it. If both of us start playing the synthesizer, we both start playing the synthesizer; if somebody stops and decides to pick up the guitar then they pick up the guitar; if we both start singing.. We just kind of let whatever comes out come out and then as, I mean, a song is like three or four minutes, but usually we'll jam on it for ten or fifteen minutes; you just kind of play and sometimes you might hear a melody that works that might be played on guitar but then you might start singing it; you might be singing it and someone might start playing it on something else. We just kinda keep messing around with it until we start hearing something that we like and then we might stop and talk about it like "oh, that was cool; let's try it again". Then we'll mess around with it again and it starts taking an actual shape; we'll start seeing parts that we like for verses and hearing parts that we like for choruses or whatever and then we'll usually spin off one more time and kind of verbally say "well, let's play that part here and let's play that part there" and then we'll turn on the recorder and just play through it once or twice, kind of letting it come out however it comes out with the little structure we've put on it. Then we let it go and we'll move on to the next thing and do that maybe five or six times in a sitting, just that whole process, and then we'll listen back to the recording over the next couple of days. Obviously, some songs we'll be like "okay, that one was weird; drop it" but then other songs you're like "oh yeah, that kind of sounds cool" and then you kind of start messing around with it from there and actually shaping it to a real song: forming the choruses and adding words and adding layers and adding instruments; developing a song.

Leo: That was really good. I think that's it is really cool when two people actually get together like that and really are in that moment and whatever comes out, comes out. It's a really cool feeling because you're creating something from however you feel in that moment and that's kind of a nice part of making music, in general, because that's like the joy of creating music, for me. You know, some people have that idea of how it should sound on paper and that's pretty much how it's supposed to sound but, however it comes out, we'll take it and we'll mold it into a song later and that's kind of the Okapi sound.

Is there a track you really love performing live?

Dallas: That's a hard question; I like all of them. Really, there's not like a song that we play that is like "oh my gosh, okay, let's try and get through it to get to the next one". They're all fun and they're all different, in and of themselves, so it's just like, you know, some songs have drums and you get excited to perform that because you get to jump on drums and other songs, like, I might sing a lead in one song, she might sing the lead in another song and there's a lot of stuff going on so I don't think any one song ever gets boring and, you know, not exciting. It's just like one long..

Leo: Dance party.

Dallas: Yeah, one long dance party.

Leo: Yeah, I think it's fun because every song has different aspects and, in the end, we wanted to create something that we would want to listen to, if we had gone to a show; like, "oh, you know, this must be cool to watch, so I would want to see that song and dance". It's kind of fun; we always play a lot of instruments in the songs so it's like I'll be looking forward to the next song because there's drums and then the next song comes up and you're on guitar so it never gets boring with that.

What song can you not stop listening to right now?

Dallas: Ooh, Fame Riot. The Fame Riot and Ishi. Those are two bands that we play with; we played with Ishi before and we just played a show with The Fame Riot this past weekend in Seattle and we're going to play with them again down here in San Diego but those are two CDs that we always have in the car and we can't get the songs out of our head once we listen to them.

Leo: Yeah, [The Fame Riot] is from Seattle and Ishi is from Dallas, Texas.

Anything you want to add that I haven't covered?

Leo: We're excited to go on our first national tour coming up in a couple weeks so we're pretty much packing right now and getting that ready.

Is there anything you want to say to your fans?

Leo: We just want them to have a good time.

Dallas: Yeah!

Leo: We want it to be like a big dance party and everybody can just come and have some fun and there's no, like, you don't have to be cool or dress cool or whatever, it's just like, everybody comes together and has a good time and parties and that's pretty much what we're trying to do through music: bring everybody together and celebrate life.

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