Oliver Talks 'Full Circle', Daft Punk, & Nonconformity
It’s no secret that as wine ages, its flavors become ever more present on the palate. The same rings true of electronic music duo Oliver. Their debut album, Full Circle, took a little over two years to complete, and is full of robust beats and melodies that make us grateful the group carefully took their time to release something that’s timeless in nature. Taking influence from iconic acts of the likes of Justice and Daft Punk, Oliver’s album exudes a sound that captures the fun of synth riddled ’80s pop with a hint of futuristic undertones, making Full Circle a one-of-a-kind release we have on constant rotation.
To celebrate the release, MILK.XYZ sat down with Vaughn Oliver to talk the group’s nonconformity in the electronic music arena and how the evolution of their production style ultimately came “full circle” (we couldn’t resist).
I want to commend you both on Full Circle. I absolutely love the album! My favorite song is “Go With It” featuring Chromeo.
Thank you! Awesome!
You did an interview with Music All Access and mentioned that the amount of stress with the making of this album was surprising. What challenges did you guys go through?
Well, it’s our first album, so we’d never done something like this that takes that long to make. One of the challenges is by the time you’re wrapping it up, there’s songs that are a couple of years old. Your tastes and everything changes in that amount of time. We’re both very critical of our own stuff so it’s hard to decide, “I don’t know. Is this good enough for the record?” Deciding which songs actually make the cut as well as there are so many songs that didn’t make the album that we put so much time and effort into. There are so many things, it’s kind of hard to think about it in hindsight. Yeah, it was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done professionally. We wanted it to be a true album in the sense that it’s a body of work that has some diversity and expresses a lot of our ideas and our inspiration just over the years. It was two and half years in the making, but it’s really a lifetime in the making. It’s just all of those ideas coming to a head. We did it. Here we are.
Are you happy with the outcome?
Yeah. It’s one of those things where you put that much time into something it’s hard to have any subjective opinion on it. Unfortunately, you can’t really be subjective about your own music, but the fact that it’s done we’re happy about it. All of these songs we worked on so much, so it gets a little bit hazy after that amount of time. We got to the finish line. I think that was the major thing for us.
Especially when you go from making EPs—I look at Light Years Away back in 2014 and going from that to doing a 15-track album that would definitely be something that’s different.
Yeah, absolutely! You know even with our EPs we kind of wanted them to be kind of be mini albums where there were a few different takes on each of the songs. Yeah, this is just a whole different level.
I appreciate the cohesiveness of the album—from the intro with “Portrait” to the last track, “Full Circle”. “Portrait” sets the tone for the entire album. What was the deciding factor in the choice of songs that ended up making the album? Was the concept something you had in mind for the past couple of years or did it come along organically?
It kind of happened organically. When we first started working on the record, we did kind of make a checklist of things we wanted to do on the record musically just kind of rough ideas of what we wanted to have on there when referencing a lot of the albums that inspired us growing up and the music that we love and stuff. Yeah, it was definitely organic. A lot of times when we’re in the studio we’ll just make a chord progression like that and bounce it out. It might be a cool idea for something later. We have hundreds of digital snippets of tracks and ideas. We kind of went through a process of elimination. There was a lot of material to choose from.
Yeah, 15 tracks are still a lot. So, I’m sure narrowing it down to 15 versus 30 or more would be a challenge.
Even for us originally, we set out with 10 songs; but I think due to the amount of time there were certain things that we had to have on the record. We were a little more flexible. The fans that we do have, we were like, “Let’s give them a little something extra because they’ve waited so long and patient for it.” I think we had to do it that way.
I’m one of those fans that have been looking forward to this album. I was initially introduced to you guys years ago because I found out that you co-produced some of the tracks on Chromeo’s White Women album. I can hear the evolution of your production style. So, how do you feel this is a reflection of where you both are in life as artists?
I think it’s just a certain maturity to the sound—kind of knowing what we like. I definitely feel like we have a thing that we do and just being cool with that like, “Let’s do our thing.” We’re definitely inspired by a lot of current music and stuff like that, but we never let it get in the way of that. We’re just like, “Let’s just do what we want to do. If people like it, cool. If not, then whatever.” I think in general it just reflects our tastes. We’re always improving as producers and musicians, so hopefully that’s reflected on the album a little bit. For me when I listen to some of the first stuff we did I just kind of cringe a little bit. [Laughs] Which is good because it means there’s some progression there hopefully. It’s just like life, hopefully you’re learning all of the time and hopefully getting better and I think that’s reflected on the album.
I can relate. When I read some of my earlier work, I cringe too. So, I get what you’re saying!
Yeah, that’s a natural thing. If you’re doing it right, then you probably feel that way. Other people may not feel that way. Definitely with music there’s that “Oh, I like that old thing that you did. I don’t really like the new stuff though.” There’s always that, but you can’t let that hinder you and your progression as a person and musician. I think a big part of it is just being true to ourselves and just being cool with what we wanted to make.
So, what would you say has helped you to remain confident in the signature you both have created as producers?
I think it’s the only way to be a musician and an artist because you have to do what’s in your heart and what you want to do. There’s no other way to do it. If we were to force some kind of sound we didn’t want to do, it wouldn’t come out right. Authenticity is kind of the key to all that. Ultimately, we want people to like our music and I think by being authentic and true to yourself and doing what you want to do, I think that’s conveyed in the music and I think people can hear authenticity. They can hear when it’s a real thing. I think that goes back to the history of music. All of the greatest songs ever that are memorable stood the test of time and had that in common in that they came from a really real place. It wasn’t contrived or trend chasing. I think that’s what most good music has in common. There’s obviously exceptions to everything—but at least for the stuff that inspires us—I think it all has that in common.
I agree. When you think of different producers or bands, like Nine Inch Nails with Trent Reznor. You know it’s their sound and it’s something that people immediately identify. With you guys, listeners too know that it’s an Oliver sound.
I think that it’s a struggle with a lot of artists. Not everyone, but a lot of young artists struggle with that. It took us some time to get to our thing now. Part of the pressure of being in this business is staying relevant and there’s a lot of temptation to jump on the newest trend. You see it so much with a lot of artists. They’ll be making a certain type of music one year, then the next two years later it’s like, “Oh, you’re doing this new thing that’s supposed to be the hottest new thing?” We kind of wanted to steer clear of that because it’s kind of a race that goes nowhere I feel.
Featured graphic courtesy of Oliver
Stay tuned to Milk for more rising stars.