INTERVIEW // Ok Hotel: On Dreams, ‘Life is Crazy’ and Relaunching

INTERVIEW BY ISABELLA ROSS

While OK Hotel aren’t fresh faces to the Aussie live music scene, they have taken 2020 as an opportunity to relaunch themselves. Starting off with a bang their sound is polished and ready for summer sing alongs. Their debut EP is well underway leaving them ready to get back into playing live gigs as soon as they can. Last week I had a chat to the boys from OK Hotel, we spoke about everything from inspiration to triple j, and dream concert venues. They are a super down to earth bunch dreaming big while staying humble. We had a great conversation, here is what they had to say:

Isabella: I’d love to start off today with where the band’s name came from?

Josh: So there is a venue in Seattle called OK Hotel, it’s the first place that Nirvana played Smells Like Teen Spirit.

*chuckles* We actually came up with the name before we found that out. It was pretty cool when we put it together, so it’s what we like to tell people.

That’s a pretty fateful story! I would love to know how you came up with the name yourselves?

Josh: It was ages ago, kind of just from Radiohead’s OK Computer! We were 16 and decided we really liked names that started with OK, so we tried to brainstorm words that sounded good after that and came up with hotel. We would probably choose something cooler if we could go back now.

You said that name came about when you were 16, what has your progress as a band been from there?

Josh: A lot of people think we are a new band but they are totally wrong. *laughs*. We had a few singles out and took them down so we could get a bit more serious about it. We went to record with someone who is a real producer per se. I understand why people think it’s a new thing, but we have been chipping away at it for a long time.

Jason: Me and Josh have been together since the start of it, which was high school 5 years ago. That now seems like such a long time. Since then we have continually worked on it, cycled through a lot to make it sound as good as we can. We have got the band to this point and we are pretty happy with how it’s going.

I guess the beauty of having those years behind you is that this new debut has such a refined sound.

Josh: Yeah honestly if I had to do it all again, I wouldn’t change it. We were that terrible local band at 16. You need that baseline to start at, the only way we learn is that hard way.

Jason: We’ve definitely learnt what not to do. *chuckles*

Do you think being from Wollongong has shaped who you are as a band?

Liam: I think the live space has, it’s a really good scene here. There are a lot of cool bands and everyone is super supportive of each other. It was definitely a good experience starting out here.

Josh: It could have been a lot worse, because it’s kind of regional but not really. We are close to Sydney which is super handy. I think about it sometimes and realise I was super lucky to grow up in Wollongong. We could have grown up in the middle of nowhere with no live music venues, it could have been way worse. We love it here, we’ve found a lot of like-minded people. Liam was playing in a different band when we played a show with them in 2016. We probably wouldn’t have had that opportunity in a small isolated town so we are super grateful for growing up in Wollongong.

Last week on my way to work I heard life is crazy go for a spin on triple j. It was a really funny moment of Dave Ruby Howe choosing their song to soundtrack an unbelievable prompt someone sent in from unearthed. The boys from OK Hotel actually hadn’t heard the full story so I did my best to explain and we all had a great laugh. Josh said it reminded him of System of a Down’s Needles. Liam thought they couldn’t have asked for a better intro and Josh laughed about stories you just couldn’t make up.

Josh: Back when I was younger, I thought when your song gets played on triple j surely your audience will grow. Because there were already a lot of people following us from the first single we put out it’s been a lot to keep track of and we don’t really know who has come from where. 

The vibe Dave was looking for was a really fun, kinda unbelievable, anthemic song to soundtrack a moment you just couldn’t make up. Life is crazy really captures that I think it will be a great one to sing along with at a festival. Do you have any wild dreams for playing festivals in the future?

Josh: We haven’t ever played a festival, so any and all festivals! We just got a booking agent so when they go back I’m sure something will happen. We were meant to play Your’s and Owls but as for a dream festival I don’t know.

Jason: Defqon *laughs*

Josh: One of the sick ones in America! You know all the bands that could be playing, Snail Mail, Pavement, all the bands we listen to, US festivals are fucking sick! Something that I would care more about seeing the other bands, we just get to play too.

Jason: We get there, they tell us we have to play, and we say ‘nah, come on we want to see someone else, give us half an hour please’.

To follow that one up do you have a dream venue to play, it could be anywhere in the world?

Jason: OK Hotel!

Josh: I remember Jason and I went to see Violent Soho, when they did that massive tour with DZ Deathrays, Dune Rats, The Gooch Palms, we were sitting up the top. It was our first big concert so we didn’t want to be in the mosh pit. They played at Enmore theatre, it’s been my dream since then to play Enmore!

Jason: We unintentionally saw Skeggs there as well, they were sitting right where we were. This was 2016 when they were still up and coming, which is sick to look back on now.

I know you guys have mentioned Violent Soho and a few others as inspirations or their use of contrast. Whether it be the contrast between lo/hi fi production, or a sweet melody and something a bit punchier. Why do you think you are drawn to this contrasts?

Josh: That’s a great way to put it, I think it’s something we really value in all music. A lot of the 90’s music we take influence from is quiet verse, loud chorus. There are really big moments to take everything away and go somewhere really small.

Jason: We like to play with volume and perception to keep things interesting all the time and bring emphasis to the really great parts. It’s a very impressive tool.

Josh: We just study the fuck out of other bands. Even on the way here this morning, we decided it was time to listen to the Blink-182 album. There are so many cool contrasting elements in that album, it does some weird stuff but it’s really cool.

You have obviously played a lot of gigs and released music in the past, how has that been different this year with the re-launch of OK Hotel?

Jason: I would say it has worked a lot better than we thought. As soon as everything started to close up we were a bit worried because we were on an upwards track. I think we have managed to sustain our slow rise especially online.

Josh: We have had a lot more time to do things. We made music videos for both the songs we released this year, which is something we might not have had enough time to do if we weren’t all locked down. With everyone on their phone a lot more we felt it was really important to make something super visual. We figured we won’t be able to play anything live any time soon but if we made something cool in a music video we can still get the band’s image across. We feared our music might get lost without something that adds value or reason to listen to it.

Liam: When everything shut down so suddenly, it made us take a step back and asses what we were doing. This gave us an extra chance to really fine tune what we were doing and really make it work.

Josh: Yeah for sure, we are practicing three times a week now. We are sounding so much better than we ever have! Lockdown was so demotivating at the start, we had our biggest shows ever lined up and all of a sudden I woke up for uni one morning and didn’t have to go, all the shows were cancelled. We had an EP to put out and couldn’t play a single show, so we decided to use everything to our advantage.

You just mentioned an EP, is that coming out any time soon?

Josh: The EP is set to be released in a month or two. We have a real tight deadline at the moment. We need to get it mastered, when we tell anyone our time frame, they tell us we are being ridiculous. *laughs* So it’s very stressful at the moment, we have a lot of admin stuff to get done today. The EP is definitely coming out soon!

Here at Temporary Dreamer we like to ask if your song were a colour, what colour would it be? so I would love to know for Life is Crazy.

Josh: I think yellow. It’s kinda bright, an attempt at the happiest song we’ve got. The EP is a bit more emo.

To wrap things up today I would love to know a 6 track playlist to pop on in the car, maybe a couple of songs each?

Jason: Ultraviolet! and my second one has to be from Soho, Dope Calypso.

Josh: My first one will be Where’s My Dini? By Ovlov. Second one would be Crawling in My Skin by Soccer Mommy, it’s a great driving song that keeps going.

Liam: *checks his Spotify* I listen to too much this is a challenge. Feeling Ok by Best Coast is a good one. My friend showed me a track a while back by Mike Krol, it’s called An Ambulance and its good stuff. 

If you haven’t already, go and have a listen to Life is Crazy Like That, and keep your eyes peeled for OK Hotel’s EP coming very soon! I am super keen for a time when live music is back on the cards and I can sing along to their tracks.  

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