I had the pleasure of interviewing OYLS. They are very intellectual and fun to talk with. In this interview we talk about their new single and much more.
Rob: Who is OYLS?
OYLS: David and I met at the end of summer of 09’. It was a month and a half before my first year of college. David was going to be a senior in high school. We had both heard about each other through mutual friends. He went to Jewish summer camp with many of my friends (I went to a small Jewish high school) The events leading up to our first meeting went like this: early in the summer of 09’ David was paired as a co-counselor with one of my best friends. And (of course) of all of the potential girls that David could fall for at camp, he fell (deeply) for his co-counselor’s, my best friend’s, ex-girlfriend.
Fast forward one month. End of summer camp. First batches of college freshman are going off to college. My friend is at my house saying goodbye before going off to Princeton on Monday. His phone rings. It’s David. David wants to apologize (selfishly clear his conscience) in person for his summer-camp fling with the ex. Clear the air before our friend goes off to college. David comes over to apologize to friend. We start talking music. David asks to listen to the song I’m working on. I ask David to play guitar on the track. It’s really good. Chemistry. Chemistry. We exchange numbers. And for the rest of the summer we are inseparable while playing music constantly. My mom begins to refer to him as “Sweet David”
I go off to UC Davis. David goes back to LA to finish up high-school. We sort of stay in touch. David gets admitted to UC Berkeley. We see each other now and again. I fall out of music a bit and start getting serious about moving to China, post college, to pursue a business career. At the end of college, my longtime girlfriend and I break up. David gets word and rushes to Davis with recording equipment to take advantage of my emotional state and within 24 hours we are OYLS.
Rob: How did you come up with your name?
OYLS: Sometimes we tell people that it came from the Okeechobee Youth Livestock Show. Other times we say Orlando Youth League of Soccer… Alternate spelling of the fossil fuel…
Rob: Your new single “Maps” was recently released. What is the song about?
OYLS: The lyrics came about through reflections during this post college transition time. I (Michael) was really struggling with the suddenness of 23 years of school ending and I had this impression that my purpose was going to reveal itself to me in a really concrete way. It didn’t. And so Maps for me was the struggle of figuring “it” out. It battles with choosing an alternative path to the societally proscribed one for an Econ major… And “it’s alright” kept coming up in this self-talk and characterized the time in my life with a lot of complexity as a mantra that sometimes was doubt, reassurance, repression, and acceptance. It comes up a lot in Maps and the rest of the EP —instills it with a sense of continuity while still leaving room for the complexity that the phrase’s many connotations allows for.
Rob: You have a unique sound. Who inspired your sound?
OYLS: Thank you. Here are some of our inspirations and some reasons why.
James Blake – electronic sounds, authentic dubstep in non-dance context
Bob Dylan – storytelling
Paul Simon – songwriting, authentic pop, importance of collaboration
Wilco – diversity and evolution from traditional country to contemporary experimental over 20 year period
Sly and the Family Stone – upbeat music with complex messages
James Brown – soul, horns
Ray Charles – melody, emotion in phrasing
Charles Mingus – genre bending creative arrangement and composition
Beatles – experimental sounds, absorbing culturally relevant soundscape,
The Mars Volta – precise composition combined with raw improv
David Bowie – fearlessly authentic, unafraid to reinvent
Kendrick Lamar – rhythmic vocals
Dr. Dre – precision, simplicity, deliberateness
Rick Rubin – cross genre consistency from Metallica to Jay Z to Johnny Cash
Brian Eno – emotional soundscapes, details, forward thinking production
Sufjan Stevens – layers, emotion
Joni Mitchell – imagery
Modest Mouse – the DIY rebellious garage band to accidental top-40 band
Rob: What is your songwriting process like?
OYLS: Our music is very deliberate. David and I will usually start off by sharing sounds that were inspired by a new musical genre we’ve heard, an effect someone has used, a kick style, or instrumentation. We then talk out what it is about any of those things that moves us. Then we begin making sounds, melodies with electronic synthesizers, beats, and sometimes vocal harmonies. We’ll know how many syllables we’ll need for a phrase before we have words. We then start layering instruments and mapping out the progression to the song. We’ll consistently write a part and throw it out until we come up with a song that has an arc that we like. We want every section of the song to stand on its own as something that may get stuck in your head and to fit into the song and into our style. Michael then goes and reads a bunch of poetry and meditates and then comes up with lyrics. David then locks himself in the dining room and combs over every sound and mixes and masters.
Rob: What is the one venue you want to play?
OYLS: Hmmm. Not a particular place. But a scenario…a really tight and intimate venue right after a big tour. It could even be someone’s event space as long as the sound is great…But 200-500 cap. And everyone who is there REALLLYYY wants to be there and be present. No one is on Snap chat. Just listening and moving. The people know the music but trust us to manipulate it in interesting ways. Something like that.
Rob: What are your plans in 2016?
OYLS: Release an EP.
Get really good at playing live.
Play a bunch in Los Angeles.
Tour a little.
Start writing an LP.
Foster kittens again (?)