We were lucky enough to catch up with Octavia Freud following the release of the excellent album ‘Mood Dancing’. Read now!
Who or what got you into music?
I was lucky that my dad was a big record collector, so I grew up in a household with thousands of records that I was able to pick out and listen to as a child.
This ranged from 50’s bebop jazz to German Krautrock like Can or Neu classic rock and folk. I also had three older sisters that loved music, so I got to experience their rebellious interests in punk and new wave music and the way they dressed.
On top of that, I grew in Manchester, which has a great tradition of bands, such as Joy Division and the Smiths.
Who influenced your latest album release, ‘Mood Dancing’?
I love synth-based artists and post-punk acts, such as Suicide, ESG, Gang of Four, A Certain Ratio so I would say there is always some element of that tradition of combining grooves and melodies with more esoteric and politically driven themes.
It’s funny that when I recorded the album I was thinking of mixing lockdown themes with more club based sounds and it appears Jarvis Cocker had a similar recording process. Also hearing Sleaford Mods work during lockdown was inspiring to hear how they mix electronic beats to polemical lyrics.
‘Mood Dancing’ is an album full of heart, where did you draw your influences from?
I wanted to make an album that had some emotional connection to our current global situation yet didn’t want to be too doom-laden. Working with Volcanic Shores, you provided the loops meant I could focus on turning these into song structures with the lyrics and more verse-chorus approach.
Hopefully, by using the electronic elements, the album comes across as a love letter to club culture, and the hope music will survive the pandemic with the conviction in the personal lyrics that life is worth fighting for even in these difficult times.
This is your third album release, is ‘Mood Dancing’ a continuation of the previous records or a stand-alone piece?
When I started recording and performing as Octavia Freud, the idea was to use an FX on my voice to create a sort of non-gendered alter ego. This was mainly because I had been in lots of bands before and just wanted to escape into another world and sound of my own. Having recorded, released and performed those last two albums in that way, I felt I had created that persona and universe.
The second album was actually released just before the pandemic, so I had to cancel the live shows and move on quickly as things got put on hold. Then when I got the chance to record with the electronic artist Volcanic Shores I realised I could go back to using my natural voice and that’s when the songs for ‘Mood dancing’ started flowing. The songs were all written very quickly in a few weeks.
It was really exciting and empowering to record this way during a difficult lockdown period, and even though we didn’t know how a new collaboration would work out, we were really pleased with the results.
What are the most important themes you’d like the audience to take away from ‘Mood Dancing’?
I tend to always return to the idea that personal is political. The idea that the day to day experiences we have are actually the most important details that we can share through music as these offer some sort of understanding of our place in the world and our connection with others.
With ‘Mood dancing’ the title kind of gives a clue to what to expect in that I wanted to look internally into how I was feeling emotionally to the times I was writing in, but also come out with electronic beats and guitar lines than could keep people moving and positive.
For instance, ‘Cotton wool’ is a pretty blatant critique of modern politicians’ attempts to avoid scrutiny, ‘Video Call’ takes a swipe at the Zoomification of all our lives, ‘When the panic sets in’ pits a tense dialogue between perpetrator and victim, asking who is really in danger when retribution comes calling for previous state and personal abuses of power, while ‘Street Art Boy’ drags Covid-world listeners back to 1980s downtown NYC to hang out with artist Keith Haring and reflect on the similarities between our current pandemic and the emerging AIDS epidemic.
With the kitschy pop of ‘French Discoteque,’ I was thinking about the male gaze cliche of seeking intimacy and abandon of a night time romance and how during lockdown it is tempting to revert into a fantasy world without isolation or restrictions to our behaviours. There are lots of themes in there!
Who would you most like to collaborate with?
I have actually just finished a collaboration with Tiger Mendoza on a track called ‘Skate free’ for his upcoming album that is based on the anniversary of the original release of the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater game series.
That was fun as it in a more drum n bass 2 step beat he came up with for me to sing on. I think a future collab I would love to do would be with another Oxford-based electronic outfit called Means Of Production who I have played live with and have a fantastic clean electronic sound with post-punk feel. Oh and Shaun Ryder or Peter Hook or LCD Soundsystem or Billy Nomates!
What’s your dream venue to play?
Well to be honest with the lockdown anywhere right now with a live audience would be smashing to play live. I hadn’t fully appreciated how important performing the songs I had written previously had been, and it is frustrating not being able to play out the songs from the latest album.
Having visited Brooklyn and Berlin, I would probably pick a few venues from there that I got to see acts play in. Otherwise, it would be a case of going back in time and playing the Hacienda in Manchester where I first started going clubbing to.
Other than music, what are you passionate about?
It sounds silly, but our daughter plays football in Oxford for her local girls’ team, and I have been known to get passionate from the sidelines, soccer dad, I guess.
I have always been into film, and I like to see art galleries when I get a chance to travel abroad. I do some work for Modern Art Oxford, so it’s great to see their latest exhibitions.
Oh, and visiting great restaurants is a treat. But most of all I just try to live day by day and not miss the small details, hanging out with the family or going on walks and noticing the trees changing colour and Mindfulness.
What changes would you like to see in the music business?
Well, I would love to see emerging artists supported financially more, even to go as far as having state support as I believe that particularly in the UK musicians have contributed so much to the economy and culturally over the last 70 years that the next generation of artists need to be protected and valued so there is an industry to go back to after lockdown.
We all know that successful artists make up a tiny majority of the wide spectrum of music being made, so music that is often just as valid, maybe, even more, niche and experimental just doesn’t get the time to develop. Although musicians now have the means of production to create music, it can still be difficult to access radio play and national promotion.
In Manchester where I grew up listening to music and Oxford where I make music they have supportive local communities that mean their scenes thrive, elevating those non-hierarchical network approaches to a national and international level would be amazing. Plus having great bloggers who support new and interesting music always helps!
Have you started working on your next release?
When I have released material before I have tried to have some downtime afterwards just to give myself time to process new ideas and thoughts, so the next project has its own feel and value.
Having said that I’ve just realised two completely different albums in the last six months so maybe I’m on a roll. I can feel myself wanting to make some more collaboration tracks, maybe even step back from vocal duty and focus on production for the next one.
I do have a track called ‘Bleeps’ that I am working on now that plays on the fun sounds of electronic and club music, but is also quite dark vocally about the proliferation of the vacuous ‘I will like you if you like me back’ culture in social media and use of vanity press and constant need for self-promotion to create volume rather than quality of content.
It gets quite edgy, hence the need to bleep out half my own words. I like the idea of ironically self-censoring my own words as a metaphor for the censoring of experimentation in music for the sake of popularity by your peers. If the track gets released, you guys will be the first to know. Peace Out.
FV Music Blog November 2020
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