Catch up with folk-tronic trio Olive Tiger's lead vocalist/cellist/guitarist Olive and listen to their new single, "Dark", off their forthcoming debut album, Until My Body Breaks, due out later this Summer.
What brought you all together?
Olive: I had been writing songs for a while and I had a band previously when I was living in Tallahassee and then, when I moved back to Connecticut, I met the guys. Dane actually came to the first Olive Tiger show and our first drummer didn't work out [laughs] so he wound up becoming our drummer. Then, I met Jesse at an open mic night up here and, in the beginning, we had a whole bunch of people and I really wanted to operate my band like a jazz band; [laughs] I wanted to be able to just call people for gigs and have a variety of people jump on a show and just do a couple rehearsals leading up to each show, but it wound up being way more time than I anticipated. And, also, the music was getting more complicated and we were moving away from the whole folk/jazz sound and more into whatever it is we're doing now. Around that same time too, I wanted to start incorporating my cello and my loop pedal, so I really needed the detailed attention of a smaller group, which is when our band went down to being just me and Dane and Jesse.
Do you remember the first song you wrote that you were really happy with?
Yeah! There was this tune I wrote called "Atmosphere" that I remember finishing writing it and I was really frustrated with it for a really long time and then it finally came together and I remember just thinking, 'I think I would be okay with other people hearing this song. That's cool,' [laughs]. Yeah, then I just went from there. I got really excited, in general with writing music, just with the idea of being able to create something where something didn't exist before and to be able to create something beautiful and something that would bring people transcendence in a way is really what motivates me as a songwriter.
Which musicians would you say you've been influenced by?
There's a bunch of people I really admire. I think tUnE-yArDs is one of my most favorites [laughs] I love tUnE-yArDs. Radiohead also is a big influence for me. Joanna Newsom, I love her songwriting style and her harping and her combination of classical and folk has been really motivating to me. Andrew Bird's been a big influence, too. He did a record called, I Want To See Pulaski At Night, and it's mainly violin and loop pedal, but it's in a song format; I feel like a lot of musicians will use the loop pedal and it's really easy to get lost in the loop pedal [laughs] and I love when people use loop pedals in a structured song format and I love the way Bird does that with his violin. And, St. Vincent I think is also a huge influence for me, she's just incredible in every way [laughs].
How would you describe your own sound to someone who had never heard your music?
A lot of times we like to use the phrase, electronically tinged indie orchestral folk rock something or other [laughs]. It's kind of orchestral and sometimes it's easier to talk about the instrumentation to describe what the sound is, so we have cello, guitar, violin, electronics and drums, and I'm hoping that we'll get a bass player soon. I think, overall and genre-wise, we combine folk, rock, electronic music.
What were your inspirations behind your new single, "Dark"?
"Dark" is about the, I like to call it, twinkly serendipity of the hours between 1 AM and 5 AM. I feel like there's something very special about those hours of the day when the whole world is just dark and quiet. Literally nothing is expected of you and nobody is expecting you to do anything between 1 and 5 AM [laughs] so it's a time when it's almost like an alternate reality and at those times I feel like my mind is in this state of a quiet riot where it's kind of subdued, but also just going a million miles a minute, and I feel like I'm able to create during those hours in a way that is kind of difficult to access during the day. But, it's also about what happens during those hours and the connections that you make and different serendipitous things that happen and I think people's minds are a little more open when we're up at those hours, whether it be from just very tired or just from the general state of it - I think people's minds expand to new possibilities and people are a little more open and there's a little more something that happens there. So, that song is about experiencing all of that and my deep love and appreciation for that frame of time each day. I'm not really awake for it [laughs], but when I can, it's very precious. It's also about that juxtaposition when you wake up in the morning and you have to resume your "normal life" and get done whatever it is you have to do to be an adult and that juxtaposition is really jarring and just creates that sense of 'eugh'. That duality is what created the song, essentially.
Could you tell us more about your upcoming debut album?
So the record is called Until My Body Breaks and it will be released in August at some point - the exact date is TBD - but probably mid-August. It has a lot of folk and rock origins as a baseline but then I do a lot of experimentation with new ways to use the cello and new ways to use my voice and vocal layering. There were a lot of influences for the record, definitely, again, a lot from tUnE-yArDs and St. Vincent, Andrew Bird, Joanna Newsom, Radiohead - those five are probably my biggest influences as far as sound goes for this record. I don't necessarily have any particular other band in mind while I'm writing but all of my experimentation so far as a songwriter has culminated in this record. I love how it was recorded and produced; we worked with a wonderful engineer/mixer/producer Eric Tate who now lives in Denver - he moved like a week after we finished recording so I'm kind of upset I can't use him for my next record - and he was just absolutely fantastic. I'm so happy with how the record came out and I just can't wait for everybody to hear it. It's kind of like this big amorphous thing.
The record's title, Until My Body Breaks, has multiple meanings, of course [laughs]. "Until My Body Breaks" is the title track and it was inspired by my grandparents' 60+ year relationship and my own struggle with whether or not I want that and the modern landscape of love these days is so complicated and so difficult to navigate, so it's sort of that struggle with searching for that and trying to reconcile these expectations of what's always been thought to be the best or most successful relationships, traditionally, those that last for 60 years versus all of the movement nowadays that's available to us; a lot of older people that have been in a relationship for ten years and are just as devoted as the people who've been together for 50 and I don't know that their lives are any worse for the wear; it's kind of hard to say but, that particular song was inspired by that. Also, just that phrase, until my body breaks; as a first record for me, it's kind of like a mission statement, that this is my purpose in life, this is what I love to do, and I will continue making music until my body gives out and I literally cannot physically do any more [laughs]. It's sort of like a mission statement for myself, as well.
Do you have a favorite song from this album?
I think my favorite song on the record might be the last one. I don't know if that's going to come out as a single or not; I doubt it will but, obviously, if the record keeps getting pushed back [laughs] maybe that's how we'll end up releasing it. The last song is this song called "Beyond The Gate", which is about an escapist fantasy of leaving everything behind and pursuing your dreams. In the song, it tells a story of people that are running away together and, specifically also, for me, in my mind, it's representative of the queer struggle and being able to be true to oneself and pursuing the people and the love that you really can have and not caving to pressures to be heteronormative and that whole journey, for me, is a big inspiration of that song; of being true to myself and, hopefully, other people can do the same. It's sort of this slightly sprawling, orchestral song and that one came out as my true favorite.
If you had to sum up the album in one sentence, how would you do that?
Oh man, you're asking a lot [laughs]. I might call it a quiet riot of sound. You could call it a quiet riot of strings and voices and drums.
What do you hope listeners are able to take away from your music?
I think my goal for all of my music is that, one of the reasons that I'm motivated to make music is because there's this sacred space that I feel when I'm listening to my favorite music and I think that space is so healing: when you're just so keyed into music that you really love, it gives you emotional strength to deal with whatever it is that's going on in your life. A lot of the record is meant to be - and it's hard because I write the songs for myself, so it's interesting to think about what I'm hoping for other people but ultimately, through that - that hope that the record and the music will bring people increased emotional energy for their life. I hope that people will be refreshed and will have a new energy after listening to it, ideally.