“I wanna roll around like a goth, I wanna roll around like a black goth, and I want everyone to know it.” This week in the Soundsphere hot chair is a singer- songwriter, producer and digital artist by the name Okandi. Dom Smith chats with him about his new inspirations, O-Children, and NFTs.
Success is a funny thing, it can make people lose sight of what is important, and to chase numbers more than the pride and confidence that you get when creating a piece of art. Okandi realises this, in a way that sounds wise beyond his years. “I think success is based on your comfort levels within the thing that you do. Although people like to base success on numbers, or what you’ve done, I’ve never really been like that. I think the most successful thing is something that resonates.” Okandi also says with the rise of social media this also makes things difficult to quantify, and could lead to imposter syndrome.
If you’re not familiar with the name Okandi, then let me enlighten you. He rose to fame as the lead singer of goth-rock group O.Children, who at the time burst onto the scene with their raw sound akin to early Horrors material. Along with playing a multitude of festivals (Glastonbury, Bestival, Latitude), and caught the attention of the public along the way. Along with that, he is a man of many talents, being a producer and digital artist.
Okandi looks back on this time fondly, and really begins to understand how to be an independent artist. Even though they were considered a niche thing at the time, where the radio was ruled by either your middle-of-the-road pop or indie darlings, they still made an impact and have a cult fanbase. “I didn’t think that ten years later that people would be wanting, and even demanding that new O.Children come out.” When Okandi mentions new material from the band, and how coming back to it involves revisiting old themes and ideas the band had at the time. Wisely, Okandi says “There should always be an element of your past in your future, that’s how you leave a legacy and tell the story that you want to tell.”
What Okandi is partly here to talk about is his new single ‘Catch Me When You Fall,’ which was written as a reaction to the pandemic. The pandemic was a really tough time for most, especially affecting people’s mental health. Okandi witnessed this first hand, with many people contacting him on social media for a friendly ear. “I had a load of people sending me messages, just wondering how to cope. Feeling super lost, super vulnerable, as you would in the middle of a pandemic.” There were even people getting in touch with him that believed their loved ones’ time was coming to an end.
Okandi channelled this energy into new music, throwing out demos into the world essentially. But, it came into effect with a rather personal moment with his young daughter. “I remember I wrote it with my daughter next to me, and I was writing this song and thinking ‘this is going to have to come out at some point, but I have no idea how I’m going to do it independently because I’m essentially trying to get that song to a place that it can touch a bunch of people.’ I think there’s a lot of power in music, especially music that tries to speak collectively, and maybe explain how people might be feeling.”
The chat takes a turn towards NFT’s, which if you don’t know stands for ‘Non-fungible token’ and is essentially a digital asset that people can create and sell for millions. It’s a rather complicated idea if you’re coming at it for the first time, so do what I did and Google for answers and end up even more confused. Okandi’s view of them now isn’t completely complementary, – “NFT’s as they are now, are kinda naff, as in it’s kind of a pisstake.” Okandi worked a few years ago with people who were creating NFT’s when they were in their infancy. He believes the power of the NFT’s can really open up avenues for independent artists.
“The power I think they really hold, they open up a new avenue for artists to present their works and present them in a new, unique, interesting and ultimately independent route that takes away a lot of the meddling of your gatekeeper, your industry professional, you’re A&R.” He has even been working on a secret project building what he believes is the future of the music industry. Unfortunately, he can’t give us the scoop, as the project involves Fort Knox levels of security. But, he does say that, “long story short, if NFTs are utilised correctly, basically it open’s the market for a lot of independent artists to come through”
As we finish up the interview we asked what is coming up in the near future for Okandi. And he reveals that Catch Me When I Fall is going to be the catalyst for musical exploration, exploring video, audio, and art and essentially turning it into something that can stand the test of time.
To end, we ask Okandi what would he say to his community of fans, and he replies very humbly, “without those people there’s no chance I’d be releasing or making any kind of music or anything.”
Interview: Dom Smith / Words: Brett Herlingshaw