Sydney-based producer Oliver Tank has just dropped his first EP ‘Dreams’, but is already turning heads with his emotionally connective electronica. Making an original sound in a scene that has a lot of similar work is tough, but Tank’s music is enchanting and refreshing, using delicate percussions and lingering vocals. Picked up by Triple J and FBi radio from his Soundcloud, he has been flown to a gig in Iceland and is now getting global recognition. We talk with the artist about his inspiration, covering Snoop Dog and his enviable smooth start in the music industry.
Can you tell us a little bit of your musical history?
I’ve been interested in music my whole life, I used to play in a few different bands back in high school which was a lot of fun and shortly after finishing, I played acoustic guitar as a solo artist. I’ve only really been producing electronic music for about a year now. I started learning the production side of music at uni and around the same time I was really getting into electronic music. I decided to try my hand at the electronic thing and it seemed to work out pretty well. I received a great response from my friends, so I started sending my tracks around and eventually they got picked up by radio. I’ve just been very lucky, it’s really been a dream run, things just started happening really quickly.
You’ve been compared with everyone from James Blake and Mount Kimbie to the Postal Service for the similar ‘dreamy’ sounds and boy-vocals, but who has really inspired your sound?
I remember a year or so ago a friend showed me Detroit Falls by Pariah and it blew me away, that was the track that made me really want to get into electronic music. Originally I wanted my sound to be more like Flying Lotus, Gaslamp Killer and Seekae, but it naturally went in a different direction.
I think for a long time people have associated electronic music with intensity. It’s only very recently that people have started to realise it has the ability to be chilled as well. That’s essentially what I’m trying to make, chilled out electronic music that you can just listen to anytime, anywhere.
A lot of people say I sound like James Blake, but I think if you listen closely you’ll hear that it’s not really that similar. Honestly, I’m trying to do something original, which is extremely hard to do considering that there is so much phenomenal music out there, although I do enjoy the challenge.
Similar to the artists you’ve been likened to, your music has the distinctive ambient scapes, but it seems almost optimistic than the darker bass heavy stuff like Nosaj Thing, is that intentional?
I think there’s a lot of optimism in my songs. Some tracks have the ability to sound dark and bright at the same time, they might have a sad sounding melody but the song for whatever reason is uplifting.
I like to let the songs take over, I don’t usually go in with the intention of writing a happy track or a sad track, I just see where it takes me. Love Nosaj Thing by the way!
You recently gigged over in Iceland, of all places, can you tell us how that came about?
I won a competition that the Sydney radio station, FBi put on. The prize involved flying over to Iceland, playing at the big international festival they have over there, which is called Airwaves, and collaborating with some local artists as well. It was an amazing opportunity and I had the most incredible time. I cannot thank everyone enough for helping me to get over there. The gigs were amazing, loads of people came to check my music out and I got a really warm reception from everyone over there as well. Iceland is a beautiful place, I cannot wait to go back.
It seems like a lot of young musicians are getting their start on platforms like SoundCloud – is that what happened with you?
Absolutely. Soundcloud is a phenomenal website. It really helped me get started. Initially I was sending my tracks to people through Soundcloud and eventually Andrew Maxam who hosts Liquid Electric on FBi radio played one of my songs. From there FBi radio started showing more interest and really helped to promote my music. I would strongly suggest Soundcloud to any young musicians getting started.
You’ve been interviewed in America and played on XFM (by Mary Anne Hobbs!) and played here on Triple J but, arguably, a lot of your listeners have come from blogs and music websites – how do you feel about artists like yourself changing the music industry through the Internet?
I wouldn’t say artists like myself are changing the music industry, I think the industry is just adapting to the listener. It seems like the most popular medium for music these days is online, particularly with electronic music as well. I think it’s really liberating knowing that there are people who are motivated to listen and share your music with their friends despite knowing nothing about you. The Internet has helped my music reach so many people and I couldn’t be happier.
From your track Can’t Sleep you’ve sampled a quote from Rodney Mullen talking about his love of skateboarding – was there a reason behind using that particular part?
At the time I was watching a lot of skating videos and was really astounded by how original Rodney Mullen was. The quote I took was from an interview he did back in 2003, I found what he was saying to be really inspirational and felt it fitted the song perfectly. I feel the same way about music. Always really excited to try something new and original. The psychological term for what he is talking about is called “flow” a state of mind in which a person is fully immersed in what they do. It’s these sort of things that inspire me.
Your version of Snoop Dog’s Beautiful brings out the emotional side of a club track, what attracted you to the song and are there any more you’d like to experiment with?
I had a lot of fun with this song and people really seemed to like it as well. I actually listen to a lot of hip-hop and wanted to take a popular track and just mess with it. I really enjoy taking a song that is perceived to mean one thing and trying to find something really beautiful about it (for lack of a better word) and approaching it from that perspective. I plan to do more unusual hip-hop covers in the future.
Your EP Dreams drops soon, what can listeners expect from that that differs to your music you’ve already released on the net?
It’s quite a chilled out listen, I tried my best to have something original about every song. It’s an emotional and personal work but I feel like it’s quite accessible too. Production wise it’s much better than some of the earlier tracks I uploaded onto Soundcloud. I think the music speaks for itself, be sure to have a listen.
Are there any gigs coming up you’d like to mention for our readers?
I’m playing at Peats Ridge Festival at the end of the year as well as No Years Festival in Brisbane on NYE. Other than that I’ll have a few more gigs coming up in Sydney and Melbourne in the New Year. I can’t wait to start playing these tracks to people.