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Weekly updates

Given how often he’s bouncing between collaborations or bleeding through into other mediums, Oscar Key Sung’s ability to persistently convey raw emotional states through his sparse production and celestial vocal style is a formidable quality. His latest release, “Altruism”, is no different as it sees him building upon these traits across the EP’s six concise tracks. We spoke to him ahead of his tour to talk about the way outside factors impact the creative and performative processes he appears to be so constantly involved in.

Hey Oscar.

Hello. How are you, man?

I’m pretty good. You haven’t done a solo interstate tour since June/July 2014. Are you looking forward to the June 2015 Altruism tour?

Yeah, I am. I think it’s going to be fun. I’m excited because I’m going to be trying out a visual element to my show. There’s going to be video art that ties into the tracks and a couple of other little tricks that I’m going to try out. It’ll be cool.

You toured in December as Andras and Oscar on the Café Romantica tour. As a performer, does it feel different to tour solo as opposed to when you’re collaborating with someone else?

In the case of with Andy, we make the tracks together but in the end, they’re his style of production and the way we approach playing it live is I kind of run around and sing. Whereas in my solo show, I do it in my own style more. I guess there’s much more of a carefree ‘just a singer’ kind of style of performance that I get to do when I’m with Andy. I’m more serious when I’m playing solo. It’s just slightly different, it’s a bit more lighthearted.

Is there anywhere in particular you like to go when you’re touring?

I like touring in Perth. Perth is good because it’s got so much activity and yet is so secluded, there’s this real feeling that you’re at the edge of the world and you’ve found this amazing club or something. [Laughs.]

What about venues? Are there any that stand out as memorable for you?

I’m pretty happy to be playing Oxford Arts Factory in Sydney. I feel like it’s really easy to do a really legit show there because of the sound and lights because often the kind of performance you give hinges on the space you’re in. The context, you know?

You’re a highly productive artist. Do you have much creative agency when you’re on the road?

That’s a funny one. In a way there is because you’ve got this enforced musing time where you have to sit around with your thoughts or arrange DJ sets and stuff. Being on the plane is especially good for that. I’ll inevitably always do a little bit of music stuff while I’m in a hotel room and stuff like that and you kind of think about a song worked live and then let that inform the changes you make in a new piece of music you’re working on. Your music begins to sound more lively when you’re on tour, which is interesting. There’s definitely time but you do need to be in the right mood because if you’re tired or lazy, then obviously you’re not going to do it.

You’ve recently done work with PAI. You collaborated on some of their garment shoots a little while back. Are they currently working with you on your new clip?

Actually, Angie from PAI was working on it. She’s doing a bit of styling stuff on a clip and one of the videos I’ve just done features a lot of clothes flowing around and I think she was part of doing that. Plus, they used some of my music for a promotional video. There’s just a bit of creativity going back and forth, you know?

You’ve earned a reputation as a collaboration-savvy musician. Do you have anything else in the pipeline?

I’ve done some more stuff with my old friend who I used to do a lot of music with – Brothers Hand Mirror. It’s with a fellow named HTMLflowers. I’ve made a lot of new beats for him that he’s going to use. The second Banoffee EP is in its final stages and I had a fair bit to do with that one, like the last one. Other than that, a couple of things are out there that you might find exciting but I’ll announce them closer to the date.

You just mentioned your beats. Going through your Bandcamp, there’s a few interesting beat tapes. What do you have in mind when dropping beats like that?

The last time I dropped a beat tape, it was a particularly art school kind of beat tape. I think I just wanted to show that across the process, making a body of work that has five songs or whatever, I’ll make so many little beats and instrumentals to try and find the sound that I want to have across the release. I guess I wanted to show a stepping stone and a potential point that it could have reached and stayed at. Also, I think I just wanted to do something fun and flippant and instrumental because it can feel a bit over the top to have vocals on everything. I’ve amassed heaps of instrumental stuff I want to put out, but I’m just really trying to figure out the most realistic way to do it because I want to be more concise with my stuff. I don’t know whether to put those beats out as Oscar Key Sung or to create some kind of monicker for instrumental work. I don’t know.

Earlier this year, Two Bright Lakes announced they were going to cease releasing new music and it felt like a Melbourne institution had dissipated. You had roots with TBL, what was that like for you?

It was a combination of things. On one hand, I felt like I really needed to be in a situation that had more infrastructure than Two Bright Lakes did, so I was already moving away from working with them at that time. But on the other hand, even before that, it was a sad thing to come to terms with. I’ve released quite a bit of stuff with them starting when I was 17. I think that in a way, it’s exciting that it ended when it did because now it really can be perceived as an era. It looks like a scene and that’s exciting that it has that quality, that persona.

Last month, we premiered a remix of ‘Premonition’. What made it unusual was that you remixed the track yourself and it had a much more consistent beat underneath it. Is that because you still had other ideas for what the song could have manifested as?

I felt like the mind frame I was getting in when I was finishing the official version was that I was trying to create a world that was still tangible, but every element was veering from what you expected it to do except for the vocals. I wanted the kicks, percussion and arrangement to have an uncanny nature and an impossibility to it. I wanted a sense of tension and darkness through that.
I guess when I was making the flip, I just wanted to use the opposite logic where I just wanted to make everything warm and happy and nice sounding. It was fun to do that. I also think that I want my songs to be a lot faster vocally than they are to the point where it’s impossible to organically perform that vocal so it has to be in the remix instead. I want to put out more remixes that are as fast as they would be if I could sing that fast.

Altruism is an interesting choice of album title. Does it have any relevance to the songs or thematic content?

The title track of the EP is called ‘Altruism’ and I guess it seemed like the obvious thing to do was call the EP one of the song titles and that’s the one that sat best. It does tie in with that particular song.

Your penchant for quality fashion is front and centre on the cover of this EP. What to you makes up good fashion sense?

I think a lot of the time it’s about having an in-joke with yourself. You know, finding something funny or doing a play on something you used to wear when you were a kid or something. The jacket on the cover of Altruism actually belonged to my uncle. It was his favourite jacket and a lot of my inspiration has come from him. He was a huge influence. I wanted to wear the jacket to tip my hat to him. I wanted to involve him in some way. He bought the jacket in the ‘80s in, like, an op shop or something. It’s funny right? I’ve always enjoyed clothes, I don’t think that’s vacuous, I think it can be very interesting and creative.

Oscar will be touring Australia from June 13 – 27. More information is available on Niche Productions.