Oliver Tank is an artist upon whom it would seem that God is often smiling. Not only blessed with a golden voice, a gift for songwriting and the kind of nonthreatening good looks you’d expect to find on the face of the latest surfer heartthrob to join the cast of Home & Away, he also seems charmed with good luck. He breezed from relative obscurity to having his debut EP Dreams lauded by press and fans alike, receiving airplay on BBC Radio 1 and XFM in the UK, with NPR also naming Dreams in its top 5 Bandcamp albums of 2011, having also won FBi’s Northern Lights competition to travel to Iceland to collaborate with some Icelandic artists as well as playing at the Airwaves Festival. I know, I know, you hate him already.
With select shows over the Christmas break, playing at Peats Ridge Festival amongst others, before launching the EP at shows in January, we caught up with Tank to discuss his current success, the crazy ride that got him there, as well as his love for hip hop and future projects.
Music Feeds: So you must be a mixture of stoked and proud considering all that’s happened in the last six months?
Oliver Tank: I guess I’ve had a bit of a dream run. I mean, when I started making music it was just for fun. I started at uni; one of my subjects was how to use production software and I really enjoyed it. I had originally made acoustic music before, but I started to see how electronic music was really taking over and I was really enjoying listening to it, so I thought I’d give it a try. Then triple j picked it up, and FBi. I won the competition and released my EP, which everyone really liked, so it’s just been great.
MF: Yeah, well, the sort of fusion between songwriter and producer that you’ve got going on seems to really resonate with people. Why do you think that is?
OT: I tried to put a lot of effort into making it original but still accessible. I can’t really think of an example, but electronic music that isn’t a chore to listen to, that’s enjoyable, that’s not too strange but different enough to be noticed. It’s a fine line between originality and accessibility.
MF: Do you take more inspiration from your acoustic background or your electronic present?
OT: At the moment, I’m only really listening to hip hop and electronica and I have been doing that for a while, mainly because I’m not hearing anything too exciting in other genres. Obviously good songwriting is paramount to anything, but I feel there is more good and original songwriting and ideas there for me.
MF: I think both genres are picking up where rock n roll left off because, like rock n roll when it started, it was open to taking ideas from other genres and wasn’t stuck down in the conventions and purism.
OT: It’s been a big year for hip hop especially, and you can see a lot of electronic producers moving into it. Clams Casino is a great example, like an electronic producer who’s moving into beats and whatever, but I think people are starting to appreciate the music behind the lyrics a lot more. I’d love to do some hip hop tracks though, it’s around the same BPM of what I do and I just really love it,
MF: Why not do a mix-tape release and get some local rappers to feature?
OT: Australian hip hop isn’t really my scene but I am working on a hip hop mix-tape at the moment, it’s going to have mainly a bunch of covers, like the cover of Beautiful by Snoop Dogg that I’ve done. Have you heard that?
OT: Oh, you should look it up. I just took a few lines off from the song, slowed it down heaps, and just played around with it. I think there is a lot of beauty in hip hop that often doesn’t shine through and I guess that’s what I was trying to show with that cover.
MF: Sounds great. Anyway, can you tell me about The Northern Lights competition; what was the trip like?
OT: I don’t think I could’ve asked for a more perfect trip. FBi are amazing and they are just doing such a great thing for Sydney music. Rainbow Chan and I ended up winning the competition to go over there and it was sponsored by an anonymous supporter of FBi, I should say, not giving too much away, but that person really put in a lot of effort to make sure we had a really special time over there. We worked with a few Icelandic artists and that music should be coming out in January along with some remixes by Rainbow and I, and an original I started working on over there, which FBi are putting out. But yeah, we got flown over premium economy, got to see and do so much over there, and yeah, it was just a free-for-all of drinking, partying and making music, couldn’t ask for anything better.
MF: Great, but other than that and the hip hop mix-tape, is there any more new material you’re planning to release anytime soon?
OT: Well, I don’t work at the moment, or I haven’t worked for a while, and I’ve been able to maintain a living just making music, which is just great. So I’m always working on music and rehearsing and stuff. I’ve come along way since Dreams, which I was really proud of, but I feel like my production skills have improved dramatically, so whatever I release next, which I think will be the hip hop mix-tape, will stand above my earlier stuff. I also have a few originals I’ll be playing at Peats Ridge as well as the EP launch shows in Jan, Feb. I’m not sure when the next EP will be released, maybe March next year, but in the meantime there’s the Iceland compilation and the hip hop mix-tape, so there’s a lot of music from me coming up.
The Workers Club, Melbourne
With: Wintercoats, Kikuyu
Tickets from Moshtix
Fat Shan Records, Perth
With: Anton Franc and YLEM supporting.
Paddington Uniting Church, Sydney
Tickets from Oztix