We met OJ Law at a very strange time in his life, when Yesterday is a Distant Dream was released in 2012. Three years later, and we’re all grown up now, we sit down with the “banana indie soulrocktronica” singer-songwriter once again to talk about his new album, Let’s Be Adult, and well, being adults.
What’s the story behind Let’s Be Adult?
The title actually came from a song by a band called Pizzicato Five, a band I was quite infatuated with for a few years in the early ‘00s. It’s not really a grammatical error, but it does sound peculiar, doesn’t it? It doesn’t quite roll off the tongue naturally – and I love that awkwardness. The phrase also has multiple interpretations: it can be something that children say when they’re playing together, or it can be about maturity, and also about sexuality. On the actual song, ‘Let’s Be Adult’, there’s another interpretation, because I add a couple of extra words, “Let’s be adult about it.” You know like, let’s resolve our differences.
What kind of storytelling songs do you have in store for your listeners this time around?
The entire album is structured to tell a story. It’s quite autobiographical; it follows my life from the end of a relationship, to the journey into a new one. Hopefully, it comes across as such when someone is listening to it, because lyrically, most of the songs are written to evoke certain moods, rather than recounting exact events. However, ‘Introverts’ is one of the exceptions; that whole lyric is very vivid to me. I see this image of someone going clubbing on a Friday night, being surrounded by people, but feeling very alone. ‘Waves Gently’ is the other one; I think it manages to paint the scene of a dinner date quite well, with relatively few words. That being said though, lyric writing is still hard for me, and I agonise over them for a long time!
For your previous album, Yesterday is a Distant Dream, it took you three years to put together, and you did mention before that the album sounds different for each track as they are written at different points of your life when you’re influenced by the different kind of music you were listening to. Assuming that Let’s Be Adult took three years as well, based on the gap between both albums, how different a path did this album go down, as compared to the previous album? Is it still a combination of different musical phases of your life, or is it this time a lump sum of one particular influence?
When I finished my last album, although I was happy with how it turned out, it occurred to me that it wasn’t an album that I would listen to myself, if it was written by someone else. It skewed more towards the music I liked listening to in my youth. So, I decided I wanted to make an album that reflects the kind of music I listen to now. Part of that is a sonic thing; I spent a lot of time analysing the sounds of records I like, deconstructing the instruments and textures, and incorporating them into my own songs. But mainly it has to do with me gradually losing interest with indie rock – which is funny, because that’s the sort of music that got me started with wanting to learn how to play the guitar and write songs (laughs)! Not that I’m totally dismissing it now. I mean, if there’s a really amazing song or album, I’ll be all over it. But most of these garage rock, post-punk revivalists or singer-songwriter types… I generally just tune out now.
We’re hearing a lot of synthesisers, ambiance-like influences, and those nostalgia kinds of feelings in Let’s Be Adult.
Would you say this is generally how it feels like to be an adult; calmer, quieter, and more reflective tunes, as compared to your previous album with a bit of rock going on? Actually, I’ve been mildly obsessed with synthesisers for a while now. It was more of I didn’t know how to use those sounds within the context of my songs. You can hear me trying it out on my previous albums, these little experiments where I’m trying to figure out how to make these synths work. I don’t know if it’s representative of being an adult; it’s just a reflection of myself. But I have friends who still love rock music, some are more about the radio pop, some haven’t listened to new music for many years. We’re all different, even as adults.
We once asked in regards to your previous album, what was it from yesterday that’s a distant dream to you, in which you said: “the idea of when you were younger and you have your entire life ahead of you and anything is possible. Just being in a position where you feel kind of invincible in a way. You’re able to do anything. And then, as time goes on, and that feeling of invincibility just kind of fades, and you’re just kind of left with what you managed to accomplish so far, or what you haven’t managed to accomplish.” There is sort of a notion of regret and disappointment in that answer, and compared to your current album, would you say that it’s a step forward, away from feeling bad for yourself, and just making peace with the unachieved accomplishments in the past, and creating new ones as an “adult”?
There’s definitely some truth to this. The last album definitely had a quarter-life crisis feel to it. I was somewhat unsure of myself, and I was still trying to figure out who I was supposed to be. I do feel more comfortable in my skin now. Sure, I could’ve done more in the past, but I’m making up for it now by doing more.
OJ Law’s new album ‘Let’s Be Adult’ is now available.
This article was featured in the HANGER SS15 issue.