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Backstage with Opiuo: Sonic Bloom headliner talks festival culture, future plans 

click to enlarge The weather cleared in time for Opiuo to put on a full show at Sonic Bloom as planned. - SAM SILKWORTH
  • Sam Silkworth
  • The weather cleared in time for Opiuo to put on a full show at Sonic Bloom as planned.

Oscar Davey-Wright, better known as Opiuo, is no stranger to Sonic Bloom — before his June 22 set, he’d already headlined the festival in 2016 and 2014. Perhaps that’s why he remained calm, cool and collected as wind howled outside the artist tent a few hours before his headlining set.

In between weather warnings, as his crew scrambled to make contingency plans for the wind and rain, the electronic music producer sat down with the Independent to discuss his artistic achievements, hopes for the future, and thoughts on festival culture.

Davey-Wright recently released "Kaleidoscope," the first single off his forthcoming album "SYZYGY 02." You can check it out here.

He's also coming back to Colorado soon, for a Nov. 8 show at Denver's Mission Ballroom with KOAN Sound, Haywyre, Maddy O'Neal and Guggenz.

This interview first ran in print in the July 10 edition of the Colorado Springs Independent.

Indy: Was there a defining moment, when you first started making music, when you knew this was what you wanted to do?

Oscar Davey-Wright: No, I think I’ve always wanted to do it, since I was really young. But I never put the pressure on myself for it to be the thing that I would do for a living.

I was doing graphic design. And I was always loving music, but it was such a passion and a hobby that I didn’t want to taint it with a job or something in my mind, at the time. And the moment I think that it changed was I moved to Melbourne in Australia from New Zealand, and I was making music, playing some of my own music at the start of my sets but doing DJ sets.

I decided one day to take the year off and just basically write music and see where it would go, and borrowed, I think, $9,000 from my parents. And the moment I paid them back with the money I’ve made from music was probably the moment that I went, ‘This is something.’

Where did your name come from?

I was in a graphic design class at high school, and I was just doing a poster and I put it on there. And by mistake, that’s what I wrote. And it looks cool. It literally has no meaning at all. And I kind of like that, because I want you to decide what it means — what my music is for you is just as important.

I think having a name that almost can take on the form of a sound, instead of it referencing something else in your mind straight away — so you think of that word, and it references either an emotion or a feeling or a time in your life or a sound or whatever it is — I like that idea.

What’s the festival culture like in New Zealand and Australia?

Unless you go to a part of the world that has a drastically different culture, it’s really hard for music and festivals to really be that different, because we’re all from one reality. And we all want similar things, you know — we want to dance, we want to enjoy ourselves with our friends.

...What’s happening in Australia with the approach that they’re having is, I feel like, up until maybe kind of recently, a lot of people that were attending festivals lived that as their life, and that was the kind of people they were. They’d grown up going to parties, or they’d had people around them from young ages that were taking them to festivals, and they were teaching them and educating them about that time.

What’s kind of shifted with the popularity of dance music and everything — which is awesome, and I think more people should listen to it ... [is] a lot of people are going to these places, for the very first time, are trying [substances] in these environments, instead of being around people that can teach them or in a really safe place.

... So what’s happening in Australia is they’ve got police dogs at the gate sniffing. People get terrified; they eat too much. I don’t know exactly how it’s happening, but it kind of seems that way... It feels to me like the pill testing thing is the only way you can go. [Pill testing, which has been implemented in some European countries, involves providing facilities at venues where attendees can test their own drugs for known toxins and contaminants.]

People are going to do it no matter what. You’re not saying to them, ‘It’s OK to do it.’ You’re saying to people, ‘If you’re going to do it anyway, at least you know you’re not gonna die by taking this thing.’ And I think that’s all that matters.

What is your creative process like?

A good example was right before I left home, I spent the last week writing music with this place in mind. And I was in the studio just thinking about the dance floor here and that kind of thing, and it just comes out. I just let it fly, and it normally takes a couple of gos or a few hours to see if something sticks. And then just go from there — whether it starts with a sound, or a groove that I want, or a tempo... I just think of a place that I want to play the music, and off I go.

I don’t know if you do this, but if you ever were to take like, two weeks off, or a month off, and just take a break, where would you go and what would you do?


I haven’t for a very long time... If I was not enjoying this, or I was really burnt out, I’d probably be able to do it much easier. But what I do do, is ... I have a property in Australia that I got last year, and I either work on the house or the land or build things, like a mountain bike track.

Out of all of the festivals and sets you’ve played, is there a performance that stands out?

It kind of evolves through time. Like every year or two, I will be thinking of the thing that was my favorite at that time. And then you kind of end up challenging yourself and doing something different... I did Red Rocks with [the Syzygy Orchestra] last year. And that was, to be honest, walking off stage I didn’t really know what had happened, so it wasn’t something straight away that I could be like, ‘That was my favorite show.’

But months later when I watched the footage and listened to it ... I was actually listening as if it wasn’t me. Because I was kind of like, ‘Wow, that’s a cool thing to do.’ So that’ll probably stick out for a long time.

Are you bringing back the orchestra at all?

To be honest, today I have no idea. It’s something that was so special — I can only speak for myself, but it was really special for me. And it’s something I always wanted to do... And the amount of work was — eight months of work for one show — it was intense.

So at the moment, zero plans to. Yeah, I think it was — it was a moment in time.

This interview has been condensed for clarity and brevity.

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