By Poppy Tohill
We first clapped eyes on Oscar Key Sung in New Zealand earlier this year on his ‘Altruism' EP tour and it's fair to say that with the announcement of his return for Laneway Festival in February 2016, we're just a little bit excited.
Having spent the past five months touring around the United Kingdom and Europe, I had the pleasure of catching up with Oscar for a chat upon his arrival back home in Melbourne.
You've been pretty busy since we last saw you in New Zealand in June. Can you fill us in on what you've been up to?
Yeah! Since then I've basically been touring in Europe the whole time. I actually just got back on Friday. I've been all around the United Kingdom, Europe up to Scandinavia and just everywhere, non stop (laughs). I had some really great shows in London and one of my own solo shows in Berlin that I kind of put on quite last minute was really really fun. It was just amazing to go to places like Norway and Portugal and play there.
I bet! You spent a bit of time on the road with Years & Years around the UK also, how was that?
Yeah, that was great... I really love all those boys in that back! The back up singers are great girls to hang out with too. They're such a huge band with these incredible obsessive fans who you can tell just really want to be there and are super into it. It was a great experience playing my songs to such big crowds, because I feel like what I do solo is nowhere near as grand. I mean, they've got lasers, lights and a full stage of musicians, but I do think that what I did kind of complimented and set up the night in a nice way, leading up to the guys performance.
Sounds like the fans got the best of both worlds...
Yeah, for sure. I think grand performances that are so huge like that are just incredible, but there's also something nice about stuff that is a bit stripped back and more intimate, you know?
Speaking of intimate, you're heading back to New Zealand for Laneway festival early next year. What are you most looking forward to about performing to your kiwi fans once again?
(Laughs). It's just going to be really really great to play there because I always have such a good time in New Zealand. I'm excited to see some of the other artists who are playing too. I got to know Shamir while I was overseas and he's really cool and I really like Groeni, so it should be pretty good!
Do you have a favourite New Zealand artist?
Recently I've gotten into kiwi-roots music and Chris Kraus. I just read her book I Love Dick which was fucking genius. The way she writes is so original, it kind of crosses between art critic and philosophy, poetry and fantasy. It's really original and inspiring.
Moving onto your music.. You've got an incredible voice and sound musically - When did you first become interested in writing / creating music?
I was properly writing songs with an instrument from about the age of 13 or 14, just playing guitar and little casio keyboards, but I don't think I wrote anything good until I was about 17 (laughs).
I started producing and using bits of gear when I was about 17 also. So, when I was still in high school, up until that point, I had a loop station and I would plug in a guitar, keys and have a mic all set up and make everything with loops. When doing that though, I would always get to a point in the song where it needed to be a new loop, so I'd pause record on the little dictaphone and then make the new loop and press play again to get it to the next section of the track (laughs).
Basically after that I ended up working with an engineer and producer named Nick Huggins to make an album, which got me really interested in the overall recording process. I just used to sit next to him while he was EQ-ing and mic-ing things up and ask him heaps of questions. So once I finished high school I went and studied sound and design installation just to gather more skills in that area.
As well as working on your own material, you've collaborated with a lot of other artists. Do you think this has helped inspire you to evolve when it comes to working on your own music?
It's kind of mental to think that it wouldn't as you always learn a lot from different people in the process of working with them, even if you don't like what you make with them and never see them again. There's always something you gain from it. So 100% yeah. I think, like everybody, I'm an amalgamation of influences and things that I've been inspired by in what I do.
So who would you say are some of your biggest musical influences?
I get inspired by novels and artists and all sorts of things. Someone like Vincent Gallo, who I was obsessed with when I was younger.. I'm not really into him as much now, but he was someone that really interested me. Of course, Thom Yorke as well. All throughout my teens I listened to Radiohead and all of his solo albums and whether I like it or not, there's still this Thom Yorke influence sitting in the back of everything. Bjork, was another huge influence. But I'm also really inspired by a lot of my friends as well.
If you could collaborate with one artist, who would it be?
That's a hard one, there are heaps of people I'd love to collaborate with! Kalela and Acra who are both American. I'd also love to collaborate with some rappers or even some of the Grimes producers, like Merlo. Tink would also be amazing. There's just so many! (laughs)
Back to talking about your live shows. What sort of planning and preparation do you put into a show or a tour before hand and without giving too much away, what can we expect from your set at Laneway?
While I was away on this tour in England I had to have a really minimal set up because I was traveling so damn much, but for this one I'm excited to bring a bit more gear with me including maybe some drum machines so I can really jam tracks up. I'm keen to strip some of the other songs back too. So it's going to be really atmospheric with peaks and troughs, but also dramatic, emotional, upbeat and dancey!
Will you be performing solo or are you bringing over a band with you?
I've always sort of done my Oscar Key Sung project solo, but I am in the midst of figuring out how to play material I'm working on with a bigger group, but it's still in a formative state so I can't really say for sure. But, I do think that by next year ideally I'll be performing with a few other people as well, as I want to do something that is a bit more grand.
What have you found the biggest difficulty or difference is from performing solo and now trying to relay that same music into a band formation?
I guess the main thing is that there has to be a lot more planning. A lot of the time, to be honest, I just conceive a lot of what I'm going to do, in my head. I just think about it and then go ahead and follow through with that. But in order to have a communication between people you need to have that discussion externally and also have that factor of other people's opinions, abilities and limits and all that, so it's definitely a more complicated and time sensitive preparation process.
Following your performance at Laneway next year, what else is on the cards for you during the summer?
I've got a number of festival sports and some other side shows around Australia, then I think I'll check out overseas again next year, because I want to use this time as much as possible to record and do that type of work, with a bit of DJ stuff in between.
Awesome! Well, last of all, do you have a message to share with your NZ fans before you head back over here in the New Year?
Please be as nice as you were last time I was there because I had a really good time!
St. Jerome's Laneway Festival 2016
Monday February 1st (Auckland Anniversary Day): Silo Park, Auckland
Baynk - Battles - Beach House - CHVRCHES - DIIV - East India Youth - FIDLAR - Flume - GoldLink - Grimes - Groeni - Health - Hermitude -High Dependency Unit - Hudson Mohawke - Leisure - Lontalius - METZ -Nadia Reid - Oscar Key Sung - Purity Ring - QT - REIN - Scuba Diva -Shamir - Silicon - Sophie - The All Seeing Hand - The Internet -Thundercat - Tobias Jesso Jr. - Vince Staples - Violent Soho
Tickets via Ticketek