Despite their busy schedule, Joel Roberts from Otzeki took the time to answer to a few of our most pressing questions.
Basking in alternative music, Otzeki is a synchronised meeting point between progressive, expressive electronic music and subtle alt-rock influences. Formed as a two-person project, Otzeki was created by cousins Mike Sharp (vocals, guitar) and Joel Roberts (keys, Ableton). The dynamic duo recently released their debut album, Binary Childhood. Curious to know how Otzeki was formed, I ask Joel about the project’s beginnings. “Otzeki was primarily born out of a mutual love of music, and the excitement of what we could create together,” he tells me. He continues to explain how himself and Mike met up at the pub every night in an attempt to come up with a unique name. “This process ensued for a couple of weeks, and we would always end up just being drunk and having fun in the pub. However, after picking up a little red book, Mike found a Russian word in it that sounded appealing. When trying to remember what the word was a few days later, he remembered it as ‘otzeki’.” It might be unusual, but Joel and Mike’s creative efforts paid off in the end.
With the band’s title as interesting as their music, you can easily predict the tone of my next question. Describing Otzeki is no easy feat, instead their music leaves you in a contemplative state brooding over the boundaries between contemporary electronic music and music that feels steeped in personal emotion. In an interview with Rough Trade, Otzeki described their music as “expressive”. I asked Joel if he could further elaborate on what he meant by tagging their music with that label. “In my eyes ‘expression’ is the feeling that you have effectively communicated what you have wanted creatively, and are proud of a piece of work. It is managing to portray your ideas and personality in a unique, interesting and exciting way,” he explains.
From the origins of Otzeki to their ambitious full-length album, Binary Childhood, I ask Joel if there was any direct inspiration behind the album’s presentation. “The title comes from what happens to our identity as individuals when we are, from such a young age, turned into readable and quantifiable data; read and understood by a higher power. How censored media has dictated our personalities from childhood, in turn giving someone the ability to manipulate and then read generations of people. The reverse question mark that we use is actually the symbol for irony, and it seemed like a significant logo to brand our business,” he answers thoughtfully. While Otzeki mostly stick to their self-described expressive genre, the band are not afraid of challenging their own labels. This willingness to offer a progressive nature of electronic music is evident throughout the entire album, yet it also features tracks which you wouldn’t expect such as ‘Pay The Tax’ and “Nobody Like You’. “We feel the modern listen of music on the whole possesses an eclectic taste, spanning different genres, cultures and times. We have the ability to search and listen to virtually anything, and thus the significance of the genre has weakened; people no longer associate their identity with a particular style or attitude in music yet recognise the value of diversity. However, this does not denounce the importance of meaning or message in a song.” Joel’s answer is careful, calculated and, from my point of view, as correct as you can get. It’s clear Joel appreciates the composition of music as well as an individual’s connection to it.
Now the band have a debut album out, it seems that they have ticked another box on their list of achievements, but I ask Joel if he and Mike have any new musical goals. “We are interested in the merging of club music with live performance, and want to explore this relationship more, experimenting with it and seeing how far we can take it,” Joel says. The idea of a new direction doesn’t stop there as Joel opens up about possibly collaborating with other artists. “We are open to collaboration with the right people, especially synth specialists and percussionists, although any amazing musicians who can help us with our writing are welcomed. Improvising with different people is great as you always learn something new each time.” I don’t know about you but I’d love to hear a version of Otzeki featuring specialist musicians, it would truly be expressive music.
With the interview coming to an end, I ask Joel if we can expect anything new from the band and his answer is short and sweet, “some exciting new music. Hopefully.” That said, hopeful we are. Otzeki are a talented band and we can’t wait to see what they do next!