I was interviewed by Clover Blue about myself, my new album and just general things Clover has heard about me through gossip and talking behind my back.
Excerpt of the interview below.
I have a bit of a weird first question.
Orange Orange – why? And have you always been Orange Orange?
Uhhh no… kind of… no. It’s a good question actually. The name came from when I was in high school and I’d just be changing my Instagram name every two months. I had friends who did it; it was the cool thing to do, and I went through quite a few names. I can’t really remember them, I’d have to go through my Instagram and find them, so if you wanna do that… go for it.
I had a lot about skunks, I had a lot about Kylo Ren from Star Wars because I thought he was really good, and yeah I did Orange Orange once. And then I went off to another name, but after a year I thought that Orange Orange was the coolest name that I had, so then I changed it to that as my Instagram handle.
I already had some music out beforehand under a different name, I think it was like 'Litwick Music' or something like that. It wasn’t really like songs, it was more like instrumental electronic pieces because I didn’t know how to record my voice or instruments so I would just make it all in the computer. But yeah I changed the name to Orange Orange when I put out that first EP, and yeah it stuck, everyone really liked it.
I think it’s a good name.
Oh, thank you. I trust my intuition.
So when did the first EP come out?
It was my last year of high school in 2017. I put it out just before my first exam, like two or three days before or something insane like that. I think if my parents were more attentive to the making of the EP they would’ve cut in and said “what are you doing?”.
But like yeah I spent most of Year 12 working on the EP in my free periods and at home. I didn’t really know how to release music back then so I just put it up on SoundCloud and yeah, people in school liked it. One of the singers on the EP, Ruby-Sofia, shared a song with someone who then somehow linked it with a YouTube influencer, and they’d put it up as background music on one of their videos. Oh man… I got so many streams basically immediately. That blew my mind at the time, I remember thinking “Woah, his is the best thing that’s ever happened to me! Let’s make more music” and yeah I haven’t hit a high like that since then sooooo… hopefully we’ll get back there soon.
Had you intended to be a musician? From the get-go?
Oh yeah, I really wanted to make music. It’s like the one thing I feel really great at and I feel at peace doing. Then I put that first EP out and I really enjoyed that and thought to keep doing that, and yeah it’s pretty great.
So when you were making the EP in High School, was that just you? Were you working with the band yet? Because I was told you debuted your band at the Dancing Dog in 2018?
Hahaha no, it was just me working out of my computer. From general curiosity and just tinkering around I’d kinda began to understand Ableton, so I was getting more of a grasp on it, playing with the sounds and making these neat tracks. I didn’t even think to put lyrics on the EP until the end of the year.
‘Cus I had another band in high school, Plaza-TRG, with Harry, Sunny and Elena at the time, and we had already released two EP's prior to the first Orange Orange EP in 2017. But then Year 12 came around and everyone was really focused on finishing school and getting good grades, which I was too… I swear… but at that point I thought I’d put all my song effort into this EP.I hadn’t even thought about performing the Orange Orange stuff live, but then I was semi-positively peer-pressured into it by some friends from high school to launch this thing called ‘Medium’. They really were big supporters which was great, I’m really grateful for that. One of them messaged me asking if Orange Orange could play and I said “I dunno I don’t have a band”, but they pestered me into it, so I made a band.
I chose Johnsen for keyboard and guitar, and Dylan on bass. Johnsen and Dylan were both in Hollow December, which was Plaza-TRG’s rival band in high school (a friendly rivalry). It was the first time playing music with them, which was great. Alex and I studied in Uni together, and Alex was actually really hesitant because he didn’t want to join another high school band vibe but then I told him what it was and he was like “Oh! Yeah sure I wanna do that!”, which was good. And Sunny was my longtime collaborator. I know that sounds hilarious as an 18-year-old but like, we were best friends, we hung out all the time, we made music together a lot, like ideas and silly things, so I thought it was an easy fit to get him in on his keyboard.
So that was that band initially, I hadn’t asked Keely to formally join the band because she only featured on that one song ‘Passive and Meek’, so I guess it was just… five guys in jumpsuits back then. Actually we didn’t have jumpsuits back then either, we were just–
Yeah just plain clothed teenagers playing music.
Well I was gonna also say that you Johnsen and Dylan did your entire schooling together.
Yeah, we did. Dylan and I still live near each other, and Johnsen used to live near us too. We all went to kindergarten together, we all went to primary school together and we also all went to high school together, becoming much closer towards the end of high school. But yeah, that whole formative education arc was us. Kinda crazy that we all didn’t play in a band together until after high school. Anyway!
I’ve heard a bit that your high school was a bit of a music hub…
And that the Dancing Dog was so formative for underage people to perform and party in the West. Do you think that each of you growing up together influenced each other into becoming musicians?
I think so, I think definitely. We were all already interested in learning instruments and being performers at a young age. I reckon we were all on a path to be doing music, to be honest, but we definitely pushed each other to explore more… probably.
Yeah I was quite amazed that you all grew up together just because I feel that you’re all advanced musicians now, like you’re not hobby musicians at this point, so maybe there’s something in the water there… Eloise and Elena too. When did you start wearing the jumpsuits?
That was Dylan’s idea, maybe like 4 months after we started playing gigs. We were gigging so much in 2018, that Medium launch really connected us with some great Melbourne musicians and we had many shows lined up after that.
Yeah well I would’ve thought you had started earlier than 2018 because the first time I saw you was in 2018.
Yeah, April I think.
You might be thinking of 2019. Our first gig was in mid-2018 in June.
Yeah I guess I must be thinking of 2019. I can’t be sure if the first time I saw you was when you were supporting Bailey Judd at his residency at Gaso Upstairs, or at your own single launch where you were supported by Earnest Jackson at the Toff.
The Toff would’ve been at the end of 2018.
I think that was the first one.
Really?! Wow, that was a fun gig. I think Harry was drumming for that one, right?
I found video from one of the ones you were at, and Harry’s on the drums.
Yeah! That would’ve been the earlier one.
And Johnsen would’ve had a bob, or something.
Ahhh yeah… Johnson’s youth. Yeah we started wearing those jumpsuits at the Gaso Upstairs opening for Annaliese Rose in October 2018. It was Dylan’s idea– we’ve got those jumpsuits and it’s lasted us… five years now, holy shit!
Yeah, but I am getting a new one made. I feel like it made an impression, and it has stuck. I dunno, in lockdown I was in the mindset that the jumpsuits were in the past, and that we’ve gotta get rid of them, but maybe they’re good. Maybe they’re worth keeping around.
I mean you have such a clear image with the band which is cool. The band that you’ve just expanded which is cool… how many people?
Six. Six now. Keely was informally a part as we were gigging before lockdown. We had so many gigs we couldn’t expect all our guests to show up, even Keely back then. It did get to a point where we had a chat and said “we’ve gotta make sure it’s concrete, we gotta put you in and not just have you featuring on some songs and then walking off stage”. I think we’ve found a really good balance with that, in fact I think the band is better than ever right now. PLEASE COME TO OUR SHOWS.
Yes, I think the band is better than ever as well. It’s amazing to have seen your band back in 2018. Your single launch was probably the first gig I’ve ever gone to because the gig scene wasn’t that big in Brisbane, and I remember going with Ella Ferris and seeing you guys and I was just like “Wow! ...wait, they’re a band!” and I just followed you guys from that point onwards. But I think you’ve just continued to improve as a band and now you’re all just so tight and it feels like everyone’s coming to their full potential.
Aww thank you!
Even Soren the other day was like “something’s happened to Johnsen, he does all this crazy shit and sings all his BV’s and jumps on the ground, and Keely has so much fun and Alex is… insane!”
Frankly, my favourite thing about the band is the morale. We could play the worst music but we all genuinely enjoy each other’s company, which I mean like… you must know Clover, as you’re in a band! If you don’t enjoy being with the people you’re playing with then what’s the point?
My friend has this beautiful saying… It's actually Jess from Arbes who said it to me years before I joined Arbes. When you’re in a musical project there’s three key things you have to consider. You have to be keen, be respectful, or be there, and you have to choose two of the three. That kind of blew my mind when I first heard it.
Which two do you think you are?
I mean, I think I’m all three. I have to be there lmao, it’s me. I’m very keen, I really enjoy it, and I would assume I’m respectful…
I would assume so as well, if you’re able to keep them on lock.
They are the best, I couldn’t ask for better bandmates.
Yeah. And so, in terms of credits for the album, you seem to be the biggest influence of your album, like, you do everything!
Yeah… it’s my vice. I hate asking for help. Maybe it’s the masculinity in me pushing it but I hate asking for help. I feel I’m getting better at that now… I think I have trouble trusting people’s artistic ideas when my name’s on it because I think that I know best, which I mean… other people have great ideas too.
I mean, fuck when did I start making this album? It would’ve been around the first lockdown in 2020… around then. I feel like I’ve completely changed since I started the album, and at that point in 2020 I felt like a completely different person to how I was in 2018 when I started the band. That’s two whole lives that have changed in me… I guess I’m still that stubborn though!
But also the lockdown doesn’t help with collaborating with people.
It’s actually a bit annoying because I couldn’t have Soren on We Are Not Friends or Alex on Red Sinking Sun until much later because we couldn’t go into other people’s houses. I went to Soren’s at the start of 2022 and I remember the whole ordeal back then too– of taking a RAT before we left and wearing a mask for the whole journey there and back and wearing a mask in Soren’s room and it was bloody like 40 degrees when we were there just outside of Eltham in that tiny room. It's crazy that that was around this time last year. But, I’m happy with it! Came out great!
I mean, to answer your question. Lockdown.
But then when I needed to do it, it happened. So it all worked out.
Yeah, and Soren was saying when I saw him that the riff for We Are Not Friends, you had that for years before releasing the song.
Yeeaaaahh. That’s funny. I’ve kinda realised every idea I’ve had is ripped off from stuff I’ve heard without telling me that it’s from that thing I’ve heard.
So that 5 bar phrase idea, I swear I got it from an Unknown Mortal Orchestra song that I didn’t like until last year, but that I heard back when it came out in 2018. So I knew the concept was there, but I didn’t know what the song was.
Then I made this… big penis guitar riff– that’s what my friends and I colloquially call “cringe rock guitar”, along with these chords… It’s funny.
I thought of all that in my head and then it took me a while to make it because I didn’t have an interface until like 2021 and my computer was ridiculously outdated so I had to get a new one. But yeah… I’m really happy I have this skill where I can think of concepts and parts of a song and then just apply it in Ableton or something. If it doesn’t work out I can just tweak some things and now… I’ve got a song. It needs drums.
It’s not like it came to me in a dream or anything, I just thought about it and pondered “wouldn’t that be nice?”
And so with that, do you usually compose all the music and then the lyrics or are you doing track and lyrics and melody together?
My short answer would be that I’m not sure. My long answer would be… definitely do melody last. I guess it was how I grew up.
I was shown Garageband as a young kid by my dad on this 2003 iMac he put in my bedroom. I didn’t really know any music theory back then so I would get those sample loops and then just put them back to back on a beat… and bam there were three albums I made when I was eight years old. I probably have those somewhere… I DEFINITELY have those somewhere. So because of that I love arranging, it’s what I’m good at.
With making music on a computer, I just get little ideas and chords and pieces, and then mix it with a drum beat or something and then make the skeleton of a song. And then I would ponder about lyrics for a week or a month or sometimes a year even, and then write them. But yeah, usually it would be the chords or the structure, then the topic of the song, then the lyrics and then the melody.
With the album, it was lockdown, I think everyone was very anxious and scared, so I just had these long diatribes of words and feelings that I could look to and collate to create contentions for songs. And then I would write the song around the words, which is new and interesting for me, but even then I would put the melody on top last.
And with writing the lyrics, because there’s some really key images you speak about on the album.
Like the S–
The Sun, yeah.
You’ve got a lotta bugs in there. You got the centipede, you got the crickets, you got the worms.
Oh wow, I never even realised!
Yeah lots of bugs! I think it’s really interesting because I think you have a lot of contention with nature and man.
I think that was the initial proposal with the album, to write something that explores nature clashing with humanity and the result of that. Sorry, you were saying!
I was gonna say while you were writing it, did you view it as a concept album to some extent, just by writing it with these carry-through themes?
It’s funny you say that. I felt that my last album, ‘Shame’, was a concept album. It felt like going through grief and shame in a cyclical fashion. With this album I thought “fuck, I really don’t want to do a concept album”. I just want to put music out that doesn’t need to be overthunk or overanalysed in a linear fashion. I mean, I suppose the concepts were all there from the beginning and I didn’t notice until about 6 or 7 songs in and I thought “well I GOTTA keep going with this now I guess” so I started writing with the Sun in mind. Yeah I didn’t really notice the Sun being so prevalent until I was talking with Sydney about the album, where I said “I just realised I mention the Sun in-”
In almost every song, right?
Yeah, almost every song! I think just not in Breath or Granny Lands. It’s kinda a theme that’s been in all my music as well, like in a lot of songs I wrote when I was younger I talked about the Sun. I mean, I kinda got this idea from Everything Everything as well, like the Sun predates everything except like Space itself. The least pretentious way I think I can say it is that it predates all life within our Solar System. Like we can all be really angry at each other, we can all be really mean, we can all be wrapped up in our lives, but without a Sun we wouldn't have an option to exist. So it’s interesting. I kind of attribute it to representing the truth, or like the purity or what is definitive whilst everything else is airy-fairy.
[lyrics from 2:41 to 2:57
the truth is, the birth of a child
the sunlight, it's all i ever had]
The album was originally gonna focus on becoming radicalised. When we were in lockdown there was so much discourse like “Fuck these lockdowns. This is the worst thing that’s ever happened to us since they invented soy milk. My rights are being impinged because I can’t go out” and I was like, I don’t think it needs to be said but there’s obviously worse things happening in the world while this is happening. Even in that 2020 period there were so many casualties in Europe due to the lockdowns, and so much that happened with BLM and so much happening with the war in Ukraine right now really signifies that for me as well. It just really made me realise that everyone that subscribes to these ideas… they’re not all nutjobs, they’re not all terrible people.
I think it’s so easy to say “they don’t support changing the date” or “they don’t support getting the vaccine” and conclude that they must be an awful person and completely dismiss them. But the thing that blew my mind the most was when I was looking at some anti-vaccine protests in the city and all these families had taken their kids to these rallies. I kinda realised that these people might just not know any better, maybe their community leader had rallied them to join and take part for their own perceived freedoms without all the information. It was very fascinating to me to see all these people being manipulated by forces out of their control. We might have a very negative response to what they are fighting for, but I don’t think they’re bad people. I don’t think anyone’s implicitly a bad person because of that, they’re just led to believe that what they’re doing is right. I mean I feel like that’s everyone too.
So yeah uh… that “The Sun Isn’t Gone” title came from mass hysteria about the sun setting. I did stray away from that radicalism vibe as it was depressing to think about all the time in lockdown.
Do you feel like the album is relatively political? Or do you think the things you are speaking about just entered the zeitgeist at that point.
I think the zeitgeist. Does speaking politically mean speaking from one point of view or is just talking about how people are thinking?
When I thought of that question I was gonna ask if you felt it was aligning with like, activism through music, but after listening and reading into it, it doesn’t feel like you’re going really hard on anyone.
Yeah… no, I don’t think… I… uh yeah, it’s a hard question to answer. I think with some songs… I think overall, no.
I’m not trying to send a message like “fight for what’s right”. I more wanted to preach kindness overall, how everyone has different views and even if some seem and are blatantly wrong and have awful implications… we’re all just life under the sun. So we’ve all gotta survive and we’re all just humans, it’s not like we’re anything more or less than that.
I think… I think Modern Life is the big one for that topic. I wrote that specifically when I was in quarantine because my workplace at the time was a Tier 1 Exposure Site, and I was just hearing about my friends and people I know were not respecting the isolation requirements, y’know like just going for bike rides even though they might have Covid. Looking back on it it’s kind of laughable how worried I was but at the time I was freaking out, I was thinking they would be ruining the community, essentially. And that started this whole line of thinking that people aren’t as bad as their beliefs make them out to be.
I’m sure with the other side, like the ‘QAnon people’ that we don’t know about or whatever, they probably think the same way as us like “oh, they’re not thinking like us, they’re enemies” but I’m sure they also will learn to understand that we’re all people, we all have the same ideas, and ultimately we all want to do good. It’s just we all want to do different kinds of good, ultimately. Sorry I’ve just been talking for like 15 minutes and forgotten what you asked in the first place.
That is the point of the interview!
Do you have any, are there any songs on the album that you’re like… it’s just a song.
Or do you write with intention?
I think I’m at that point where if I’m not writing with intention, I’m asking myself “what am I doing?”
Actually, I think Red Sinking Sun, the first song of the album, is kinda just a song.
I was doing a live stream when we went into lockdown; Medium were hosting it actually. Charles, who is a great artist and designer in his own right, was troubleshooting the livestream to me, telling me what to do and what to download and stuff like that. While I was waiting for him to fix something, I made the loops for Red Sinking Sun. The project was called ‘Waiting For Medium’; I did all the vocal stuff there as well, I was just riffing off of vibes.
Then I saved it… maybe like a year later I went back to it and thought “I should show someone this at least”. So I showed Sydney and she said “Ryan, this is the best thing you’ve ever made” which is kinda sad because I put far less effort into it than my other songs. She was like “you gotta do this”, and everyone else in the band really liked it as well so at that point I thought “well I guess we GOTTA play it together!” so I rerecorded the vocals and guitars and worked with Alex for the drums and… yeah!
That song doesn’t really have a clear cut intention. I mean it has an intention but it wasn’t a clear one or a planned out one.
It kinda just emerged.
I think it makes a great entrance for the album.
Thank you, I think so as well.
How did you go about ordering?
Ordering the album?
Oh, well… like all albums (I assume), it started off as an EP. It started off as two different EPs in my head, actually. A lot of the songs… Ordering is an interesting question because all I can say is that it just feels right to me. I guess the chronology of the songs influences where things fit, and even how songs are made.
A lot of the songs are former Uni projects, like DC2, Get Quiet, CYA on MARZ, Future Role, Granny Lands, Saviour of the World. I had Granny Lands, CYA on MARZ and Future Role as its own EP, and I had Get Quiet and Saviour of the World with a bunch of other uni songs as well.
I love Saviour of the World.
Yeah I love that one as well. And then after curating all those EPs I thought, “Fuck… let’s just do another album” because I just put out MUNKEE and I thought it was cool but it’s just 4 songs and I’m able to do a bigger release that will be more fulfilling for myself.
So yeah I had all those songs and I put them in an order I liked, and then I thought “alright, now I need an intro track (Red Sinking Sun), now I want that thing that’s been in my head (We Are Not Friends), I wanna make that, now I need a few more songs between Get Quiet and CYA on MARZ. Then after all that I thought “I need one more song, and it needs to be upbeat but calm”, so I made Modern Life after that. So that’s interesting because I had an order, and because of that order that made me make songs in a certain way.
Wow, that’s awesome.
I recommend you do that.
That’s… what I’m doing. That actually is what I’m doing.
Yeah, I like that a lot. Some of the lyrics that you use… I find you create quite epic images a lot of the time, like quite poetic but very visual language. Like the centipede severing his arm, or putting yourself before your God and becoming a plant… awesome phrase. Um or there’s one – “I won’t be a cinderblock on the floor of your swimming pool”. I really like these and I like the super visual language and I get the impression from talking to you that you really like film? Are you like a film guy?
It’s really funny that you say that because… I don’t really seek film to watch. I kinda just happen upon film and enjoy it. I get really easily frightened, so when there’s tension in a film I feel really uncomfortable, I feel really bad. I watched Joker when it came out in the cinema and I just felt awful the whole time, but I think it was a good film. I was enjoying it in the moment, but I couldn’t look at the screen and loud noises made the jolt, so maybe… that’s my way of trauma dumping on the album. Like– the cinderblock line… you say it and I remember now that I was inspired by the video for Breezeblocks by Alt-J.
I am familiar with that video, yes.
Yeah I think that imagery comes from that video.
Which is quite a traumatic music video.
Yeah! Quite traumatic. Really left an impression on me. Maybe this visual language thing is another thing I stole from Everything Everything.
A band commonly associated with Orange Orange.
Yeah. I’ve been a big fan for many years. But they had that one album ‘Get To Heaven’ which is–
So good. Not my favourite, but still so good,
What’s your favourite album?
A Fever Dream, by a long mile.
But, shocking imagery on Get to Heaven. It’s all about the rise of ISIS and the attacks and all that growing into mass media in 2014/2015. There is a song on there about becoming a radicalist and also some songs about the disparity of ‘happy Western life’ with ‘war torn Middle-East vibes’. And they do a lot of juxtaposition in their lyrics with like “Crushed under feet, how about we find a nice place to eat tonight?” in the song Get To Heaven, I really like that lyric. Very interesting, ultra-violent juxtaposition. I dunno, maybe I gravitate towards that kind of mediae.
Do you feel that influences the way you write to some extent?
Oh yeah, 100%. I feel like everyone writes about what intrigues or interests them. That’s me!
Do you have… going beyond the visual medium of film do you have film score influences?
No… I’m gonna say I’m not really a huge film score guy, which might be frightening for some people to hear. But yeah, I don’t really pay too much attention to film scores– I’m usually so engrossed in the film I don’t notice the film score.
Which I guess is the goal of the film score.
Yeah. But um, yeah I really love music for music sake, so yeah, not huge on film score really.
Totally wasn’t the answer I was expecting to get. And that is awesome.
Doesn’t mean I’m not interested in it! Pearl was showing us the soundtrack for The Social Network by Trent Reznor when we were on tour, it’s so good!
Trent Reznor and Addicus Ross?
Yeah, I dunno who that Addicus guy is.
They’re the duo I think. Yeah. Yep. But you directed your own music video, correct.
Haha, yep. I do like making films.
Would you like to do that again?
Yeah I would. But I hope I have a better idea next time. Because everything feels so epic when you think of it and then when it all comes together you just think it’s all a bit cute.
Nah I mean, I do like the music video I made, I liked working with Jagger. Jagger’s out of my league, he’s so good, he’s a hard worker. He does all these YouTube videos that are like video essays on Australian Sport, it’s actually really good. I love the videos but I guess I am the target audience after all.
Would you ever endeavour to do something that’s like the concept album film? Like Anima, or a Lemonade?
I don’t know… the big issue I have with film is that I like film, but I don’t think I’ve seen enough film to have enough original ideas to make stuff? I feel like very recently I’ve understood what the purpose of a good shot or good writing is, but I feel like I’d have to watch a few more… anything really.
Have you seen Anima?
No I haven’t.
*shocked* It’s Paul Thomas Anderson and Thom Yorke’s Anima EP.
Ohhh yeah Anima, I know that. Elena mentions it in one of the Lili Pili songs actually.
Beyond Everything Everything, do you have any notable influences that you connect with a lot or find yourself accidentally mimicking.
Specifically for this album or in general?
Um… maybe particularly for the album.
Okay, I guess what I was listening to a lot at the time 1000% influenced. But I guess there’s always that overarching “Everything Everything” sound palette. I do take a lot from Animal Collective, especially the earlier stuff. I love their lyrics– they do a lot of strong visions and very large juxtapositions, even in the way they perform the lyrics. That uh that… SO GOOD, I could give examples but just listen, it’s great.
I kinda grew up on that, so that’s my foundation. For specific songs I take a lot from Radiohead, I take a lot from contemporary stuff… Future Role’s synth was inspired by the George Alice song ‘Stuck in a Bubble’, which came out while I was making. I kinda mixed that with one of Sydney’s songs – ‘Out From the Inside’, that kinda 6/8 groove. I was listening to the Flaming Lips at the time, for surprisingly the first time as well at the start of lockdown.
Yeah, I was turned onto it by my Uni mentor and… I was hooked. Shoutout to Cayn Borthwick. He also turned me onto Ween, and the concept of recording guitar straight into the desk, like skipping recording with the amp. God if we had another lockdown I would just record it like that, so much easier to deal with.
Yeah, I feel a lot of people think it’s sacrilegious to do that honestly. I like it.
Yeah! I do think for my next release I’d wanna do it through an amp, or ‘properly’. But yeah a lot of Ween songs are a guitar into the desk with like a chorus pedal, and that’s it. I feel like ‘Saviour of the World’ is basically that for the recording; I think it works well.
I was listening to a lot of St Vincent as well, I love the boldness to explore the indie-pop genre to the extent Anne has. CYA on MARZ might’ve accidentally ripped a St Vincent song… I don’t notice these things until it’s too late. I think that’s all the influences, is that enough? There’s probably more, but I can’t think right now. And there’s like Gorillaz and all that but I feel like that was more my last few releases and I’m over it and looking for new things.
Nice, and I've also heard that as a young person you were a big Beatlehead?
Ohh yeah. Humongous Beatlehead. I blame my dad for that. Dad wasn’t very keen on most popular music that was coming out in the 80s, I think he probably tuned out to the big hits in that time. But I mean he’s an older man, even for parents in my generation, so he kinda grew up at the tail end of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, around the time Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd were doing well, so a lot of the growing up… fuckin’, I remember being 3 or 4 and being into Elvis, like we’d be listening to that 30 greatist hits album or whatever together and I’d be enamoured. I was SO into Elvis!
With the Gold Cover, that CD.
I loved it. I was hugely into the Beatles in Primary School, kind of to the point where I was mocked for not knowing the latest hits of the latest 2000’s. But I see it as an absolute win because now I’m listening to all the pop music I’ve missed out on in the last decade and thinking “this is definitely… what it is!”
Are there any particular Beatles songs or aspects that have been really influential in your music making?
Uhhhh? I like John’s lyric approach. I love how he’s so introspective and loves exploring his own issues and shortcomings. When I’m listening to the Beatles I’m most drawn to John and George’s songs because they align with the way I write songs.
I am on the record saying I hate Paul, that I don’t like Paul at all. To set the record straight, I don’t hate Paul, I just dislike some of his song ideas and the way he writes music. He’s probably the greatest bassist I’ve heard and he writes some crazy basslines, and I’ve started listening to a bit of Wings and it’s good, but he has some real silly songs in the Beatles if you ask me.
He does have some where we’re like “we get it, you sound so happy, shut up”.
"I will still feed you when you’re sixty-four, get over it."
I mean like, the Paul songs might be a bit of a joke but I can still like them, and that’s something that’s interesting with the Beatles – I can like everything they do. They have like over 200 songs and I can still enjoy a lot of them.
I am drawn to… fuck I dunno. I’m drawn to all of it. I can listen to Please Please Me and their early stuff and like that as much as their later stuff, though I do enjoy it in a different way. Revolver and Rubber Soul onwards, that’s where I start thinking it gets interesting, all the way to Let It Be and Abbey Road. I think I actually love Magical Mystery Tour the most.
That’s MY favourite one as well.
Even the silly Paul songs are good. In fact, a lot of the Paul songs aren’t silly on that album. I loved I Am The Walrus growing up but now I feel how silly it is. But yeah, big Beatles fan.
And your dad was a big Beatles fan?
I mean, he’s a big music fan. He likes things that are good and doesn’t like things that aren’t good.
And did you grow up with a lot of music in the house?
And were you like a kid that always really wanted to play music? Or was it handed to you?
It started off handed to me, and then… yeah, I always hate saying this but my dad taught me guitar for a year and a half and then I stubbornly told him I wanted to learn by myself. So from 11 onwards I started learning things I wanted to learn, like solos from Bloc Party songs. I think beyond 11 I was exploring and really wanted to play, but Dad gave me the basics. Which is good, because occasionally he would check in and see my technique and subtly guide me. It’s nice, I do appreciate it looking back on it.
When I was younger I definitely had the mindset of wanting to be the best guitarist I can be, but when I got to 15 it changed to wanting to write music, and wanting to be the best songwriter and composer I could be. So I stopped playing guitar as much and moved to the trusty computer.
Ahh yeah, makes sense. So… DC2…
Christopher… is your dad?
That’s right, he taught me the guitar.
And so, he does woodwind on it? What woodwind?
He was playing a suling. It’s a bamboo ring flute, I believe it was a Balinese variety of suling.
DC2 was actually the first song I made for the album. It was a Uni project concerning making a compositional piece for contemporary dancers, linked with an NGV exhibition about the Terracotta Warriors I think. I found some art based on peonies, especially concerning the life and death of a peony. Our pieces had to link with one of the artworks so I made a song rise and fall like the lifespan of a peony, with arpeggiation that grew and shrunk in 7/4. And it was a hit, everyone really liked it in my class which was really nice to feel at the time.
And then I started just fucking with it, I added a section in the beginning that was in 4/4 and it was sounding like a Gorillaz song, but it was kinda bad so I scrapped it, I didn’t really know what to do with it. When I decided I was making my collection of songs into an album, I just took the 7/4 section of the song, extended that part a little bit, and added some things to it tastefully.
I was gonna have lyrics on it initially – I had Ruby-Sofia come over in 2019 and put some words on it but I didn’t think it worked right in the end. So I decided to get Dad to play on it instead, he was pretty keen. Working with Dad is always fun, I remember taking a couple of takes of Dad playing the suling and he requested I put all the takes back to back and make a 12 minute version of the song for him. It’s pretty silly. Love you Dad.
So you had worked with your Dad before?
Yeah yeah! I worked with him on all the Plaza recordings. He would get a ZOOM recorder and record the band playing in a little room, and then delicately mix that with some vocal takes I, Sunny and Elena would record later. We did that for a few years but I was really keen to do everything myself. That’s kinda the origin of Orange Orange as well, working on music without my dad, by myself. Maybe that’s why I’m so stubborn about working with other people. Thanks for coming to my podcast therapy session.
So it was the first time I’d worked with him in a while. But it was nice!
I think it’s a really special part of the album. It’s an interesting break from everything else. The only other person who has a production credit on the album is Johnsen, how did that come about even?
I would show him songs and he would lovingly say “Do you want to redo the vocals?” to me. And I’d say, yeah probably! I mean, in that first lockdown in 2020 I only had my 2010 Macbook Pro which really struggled to do stuff sometimes, but I would record at home with my dynamic Audio-Technica mic that I bought from Swop Shop. But then Johnsen said that he had some nice mics itching to be used so then I went to his place to record the vocals.
I thought it was very important to do that for Get Quiet as it’s such a vocal-heavy track, but it’s funny because I think we only used like half of it because I like my vocals better in one verse. I don’t think anyone could tell except maybe Johnsen.
He also helped a huge amount working with Johnsen to record drums, we got some really stellar sounds recording with Alex and Soren in their own homes actually. Thank you a whole bunch Johnsen. But yeah… production credit.
And then… you also have songs with Sydney and Stella, both of whom you also went to Uni with? Is that how you met them?
Yeah that’s exactly how I met them.
But you wrote all of it right?
Yeah, that’s my stubborn streak again. I love… I just gave them parts to sing and they sang them. I think Stella and Sydney did a really good job taking what I had and enhancing it even more. I worked remotely with Stella as it was during a lockdown; she was apologetic because she said they were just a rough few takes but I thought it was PERFECT. But I was able to go to Sydney’s place to work with Syd and give some live direction about how to sing and stuff.
Is there anything that draws you to the vocalists you like to use as feature vocalists?
I think it’s good to work with people who are really good friends, and it’s wonderful to mark that friendship with a piece of music that might outlast myself. It’s nice to show that off. I was doing quite a few collaborations on Shame and that was good and all but I wanted to stray away from being a bit like the Gorillaz or the Avalanches in that aspect, as the kind-of facilitator. Having said that, I’d be open to collaborating more in the future, possibly more as a collaborative effort and less me just directing everything.
I felt like we covered the development of the live band already but I still wanna ask, do you think you’ve developed your live performance as an individual?
Yeah, well I’ve been playing live for a long time now, and in many bands as well. Like with Plaza-TRG I’ve been playing since 2013, 2014, throughout school and stuff, so I suppose I’m not a stranger to playing to a live audience. I still get some stagefright which is fun, but everyone does I guess. I felt pretty confident playing live with the Orange band and stuff. Those early years performing while in high school were pretty formative, like learning to sing into the mic and not singing too far away from the mic. It’s those little things that when you’re told to do it, you’ll never forget to do it ever again. I mean it’s all just practice as well, and playing in the Orange band has given me the opportunity to just build on that.
You seem particularly… I don’t know if embodied is the right word, but I guess ‘present’ is the right word, you seemed very present on stage the last few times you’ve performed. Not to say you weren’t present before but you’re like getting into the actions of the words you’re singing, it seems like you’re really connecting with the content you’re presenting, which is awesome. How did you find that went with the crowds you were playing with on the rural tour?
Aw, it’s interesting. I think with those actions firstly, that was something I’ve done and then my friend said “that was cool” so I decided to keep doing it, and I do it a lot in Hive Mind, Say What You Feel, songs like that. Um, yeah rural was very fun, feeling embodied with those songs. It’s tougher when there’s less people there, but they enjoy it, I enjoy it, it’s a performance in the end so you have to enjoy it. I’ve only recently come to terms with just how theatrical I am in recent years, and performing on stage is probably the safest space for me to just let all of that out and enjoy being that kind of person.
Are there any songs off the album that particularly allow you to do that?
Oh, like be super theatrical? Uhhhhhhhh probably We Are Not Friends because it’s so bombastic. I think anything that shifts tone quickly gets me very physically excited about playing it and feeling it in the room. Say What You Feel as well… I wanted to write more songs where I just had the mic and didn’t play guitar to really let out that pop star inside of me. Uhhh, I dunno, I think everything else I take pretty seriously.
You leave the guitar on for the songs that you just sing?
No. I’ve been taking them off recently.
How have you found that? Do you have a preference?
I don’t have much practice without it, honestly. I don’t know if you were there but the last show we played at the Gaso as part of Sydney’s tour, we did Say What You Feel and I was just like walking onto the foldbacks singing and staring into the crowd. Everyone was looking at only my and I was thinking “Is this it? Am I supposed to be doing anything else? I guess I gotta go back to the stage now…” It felt a bit awkward. Have you had similar experiences?
Yeah well, I’ve really just been playing with the guitar. HATED playing without the guitar for a long time and then realised that I’m just alright at the guitar, not great at guitar, and it felt like it was hindering my ability to vocally perform, which is what people come to see me more for most of the time. And it took me a while to settle into what to do without the guitar because you don’t just wanna stand there–
And then moving sometimes just doesn’t feel right either, does it? When you’re performing you really feed energy off the audience– something else I had to be taught was that you have to create energy for others to feed off of, because ultimately they’re there to be watching you. I felt like at the Dancing Dog when we played I felt like everyone was just standing and watching.
You mean the recent show?
Yeah the recent one, at the Summer Party.
Yep, at THE Mamma Chens?
Yeah, and I mean, this is fine. I like it when everyone is silent and listening, what more could I ask for really? But like, if we’re doing some dance songs and people are just standing still and watching, like what do I do? I can’t take energy from that.
Yeah I mean, I was with Hot Glue for part of that one, and Henry would do his weird dance, but apparently Henry hates dancing. But we were still moving, but I was like “why are none of you guys dancing?” And then… I’ve said this to you already but I loved what happened to you and the band at that gig, I just LOVED it!
Ahhhhhahah, thank you!
I just thought it was so earnest, and awesome to see you all have something go wrong. I’ve never seen you and the band have something notably go wrong before. So to see two things go wrong in one song was awesome.
I’m really glad you enjoyed that, it was really funny. I mean, you take what you get honestly.
And now, the Retreat is the final ride of the tour?
YES! The Retreat Hotel is the be all, end all album LAUNCH! We got some big things for that show, I feel. I really want to make it a full blown, exciting thing. We’re gonna be extra good, we gotta make up for that blunder at Chens.
Are you gonna play everything on the album?
Yeah, at the Shame Album Launch we played all the songs in order, so I kinda wanna do that again. That was very entertaining for me, and if it was entertaining for me it must be entertaining for at least someone else! And then maybe we’ll do some fun stuff at the end. I have one or two songs that I wanna do definitely.
Mr Brightside? For $100?
For $100, maybe. But I’m looking forward to the launch so much. Please come.
And that’s the 17th?
17th of February.
And the album’s out now?
Yes, it came out on the 10th.
So people have a week.
Yes, you have a week. Probably less than a week by the time this interview goes live.
And then are you going into hibernation post-Retreat?
Good question. Well I’m going on holiday not long after but I really don’t want to go into hibernation, I just want to make more stuff because I feel like I’ve got a good thing going and I don’t want to stop. The only thing that may stop me is what other bands I’m in are doing… Arbes is also releasing an album very soon, it’s getting mixed as we speak and it sounds fucking amAZING. Lili Pili is also recording an EP right now but it’s moving at a snail’s pace because the other members also have other band commitments that are growing and gaining notoriety. And we’re actually making one final Plaza-TRG EP before Harry relocates to Canada, so we’re against the clock.
I really want to start writing more stuff, and I have been over the Summer as well. I actually have an extended version of the album that I wanna put out.
I saw the extra songs in the lyric document you sent me.
Yes. Yes. Yes. And I love those new songs but they’re good for an EP but not an album, and they’re stuck in this time already so I think it’ll be a good fit. Probs will put it out later this year. Soren has convinced me to do some recordings out of my house just to see how it feels, especially after being forced to record from home the last few years, so I may just be doing that in the end. I have a title for a new album as well… not gonna tell you now in case you steal it but I’m pretty set on it, and I have snapshots of song ideas in my head that I want to use. Once I can get all of The Sun Isn’t Gone out of my head I can start focusing on new things to make.
Nice, very nice. So like, what’s the dream? Do you wanna be, like, famous?
Haha, I think deep down yes. But like, I dunno, I think when I was younger I wanted to be known and respected for my music and I think I’m slowly getting there, even in smaller communities in Melbourne. I think ultimately I would love to be playing shows around the world and be respected as my own artist and musician and loved for what I provide to people, sonically or otherwise. And then from there I can seek out some new wants or interests, I suppose. That’s the dream, but I dunno, being famous is interesting.
I had this realisation when I was thinking about the Sun, that like, these people who are famous now, will they be famous in 70 years? I thought about who was most famous from 70 years ago, and it’s just like one or two people I can think of immediately and it’s like… people who did bad things. I mean, you can be named after an invention or credited for ideas like Galileo but like, I dunno who Galileo’s parents were, I don’t know his love interest, I don’t know his backstory. You know what I mean? No one really… fame is such a redactive pratfall in the end. I think if I can just be happy, work less, make music all the time, have friends that I love being around… that’s the dream I guess. I mean, the Sun WILL be gone one day, so does it all matter? Just gotta be happy and make others happy.
Don’t wanna be that guy, but I think I nailed that answer.
Final sentence of interview.
“I just want to be happy.”
Orange Orange's second album The Sun Isn't Gone is out now, available to listen where you would be able to stream or listen to music.