Australia’s OKA is no stranger to the Canadian West Coast summer music scene. They’ve toured Canada several times over, traveling as far as Evolve Music Festival and Folk on the Rocks. I had a few questions for the boys and Zappa gladly accepted the opportunity to answer.
EB: Of Evolve, Shambhala, and Folk on the Rocks, which outdoor music festival have you enjoyed the most and why?
Z: Oh man. That is too hard. I thought these interviews usually start with an easy question? We love the crazy uniqueness of Shambhala, the awesome vibe of Evolve but I must say from last year my personal favorite was Folk on the Rocks. There was something magical about being so far north. Oh yeah… and I also partied extra hard. Ha.
EB: You’re from The Land of Milk and Honey; Folk On The Rocks happens in the Land of the Midnight Sun, what was your experience of Yellowknife like?
Z: It really surprised us. We had no idea what to expect. All we heard about in the lead up to the festival was the famous enormous mosquitoes. I don’t know what happened – but hardly any were around. You can tell the festival really lights up the town. Our shows were so much fun and we met some awesome people. The sun not really going down was also a trip out too. My favorite time of the day is twilight. I call it the ‘goo’. When we were there the goo lasted ALL night. Super stoked.
EB: I saw you guys play at Shambhala Music Festival outside of Nelson, BC, last year. I had a really good time. Although Nelson is in the Kootenays, I’m curious of your experiences of the West Coast of Canada – the fans, the people, the scenery – what’s your take?
Z: There’s no doubt the West Coast of Canada holds truly some of the most staggering and beautiful landscape we’ve ever seen. As a touring band you quickly get sick of the 4-6 hour drives between every gig. For us some of the most incredible journeys have taken place through the Kootenays and beyond. I still remember my first ride on the Jasper Highway to Robson Valley Music Festival. Every turn we were met with mind-blowing mountain ranges and such pristine glaciers. Makes traveling easy. The people we meet? Well lets just say they are better than the scenery.
EB: From what I can tell, you’re all posted up on Australia’s Sunshine Coast in the off season. Have you ever been to British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast?
Z: No we haven’t! But that’s a question everyone asks us. I think maybe we’re afraid of it. Afraid that we may discover another land that we’ll want to live in. Ha. We’ll get there one day for sure.
EB: For Zappa – how is your collection of small things coming along?
Z: HA HA classic! Coming along quite nicely. I think my last ‘mini’ gift was a legit uber small Swiss Army knife.
EB: For Didgeristu – is your collection of hotel cards growing since you were up North?
Didgeristu: Endless… its getting out of hand now. I should open my own hotel.
EB: Electric Didge… please explain.
D: Its basically awesome…. and simple. Essentially a length of PVC pipe, with a microphone on the end hooked up to a space echo, amplified, then out of the speaker the earthy sound goes! That’s the easy bit. The hardest part is getting the sound. Stu has been playing his whole life. Takes a long time to develop didge technique.
EB: For Chris Lane – how are these guys to travel with?
CL: Mmmm… ummmm. No comment. Ha Ha. We’ve been doing it for 4 years straight and we still hang out. That’s saying something isn’t it?
RPM: What does the funk mean to you?
Z: The funk is that thing in the music that makes you feel invincible. Like you’re a professional dancer with really really impressive moves. For men, it makes you want to walk right up to ‘that girl’ and boogie on down. For girls, it gives you all the confidence to tell ‘that guy’ to go away cause you’re dancing up a storm. It’s a smile. Is what James Brown lived and breathed. It’s Yum.
RPM: Are you fans of Vegimite? Some locals want to know if you miss it when you’re on tour.
Z: Yeah we’re fans. The trick is not to use too much. I wouldn’t say we miss it, because we gain so much in Canada. Example – MAPLE SYRUP. That stuff is elixir from heaven.
EB: What was your favorite parts of touring En Zid?
Z: Secretly I think a big part of Australia and New Zealand’s rivalry is because deep down Australia knows NZ is awesome. Ha. It’s SO beautiful. Kind of like a different version of BC. The music there is amazing. Fat Freddy’s Drop spearheads the army of quality bands. For me, this trip was one of the WORST ever. I’d just come from the relaxing coconut filled island of Samoa and ingested food poisoning at Auckland Airport. I had the most painful 30 hrs of my life – with a 1 ½ hour gig right in the middle. I couldn’t set up my drums. The boys did for me. Someone drove me to the stage, I staggered on, then played through the set. Hardest gig ever! I know next trip will be better.
EB: When can we expect a new Oka album?
Z: 2013 is another album year for OKA. We’ve been writing on the road and have a host of new tunes being tested at our shows. Can’t wait to release them. DidgeriStu is an absolute machine when it comes to writing the beds. We’ll have a show then go back to the hotel, Chris and I will wake up in the morning and Stu’s like… “Check this out” – he’s just happened to write a whole track while we were sleeping.
EB: Would you rather – a 3 album deal with a multinational record label and touring stadiums, or busking and outdoor festivals. For ever.
OKA: As much as we love what we do, we’d prolly take the deal (but still busk and do outdoor festivals every now and then).
EB: Would you rather – travel by horseback across North America, or travel on the backs of eagles to Narnia, but you couldn’t come back. You each get to bring one other person to Narnia.
Z: Seriously… how could you say NO to eagles. I would happily fly away with my significant other. Stu has a family, so he wouldn’t budge without them. Chris would have to be promised the beach and a surfboard.
EB: When did the idea to bridge Aboriginal and Pop Cultures through music and instrument selection happen, and when did it stick?
Z: It was never planned. Our music rarely is. It’s all about the 3 of us bringing our flavor, energy, vibe and skills to the table. Stu is like a friendly bear. His presence is felt and respected. Technically he is one of the best Indigenous Didgeridoo players in Australia and he holds such a grounding role in the band. His culture shines through the music because it shines through him. He’s a joker too – and I feel like it shows in his playing and energy on stage. Chris is the wanderer – so talented and versatile on sax, array of flutes, whistles, harmonica and guitar. He’ll rarely play the same thing which is an awesome gift and big reason why our music is a journey. Like the surfer he is Chris just weaves through and over the wave of groove Stu and I lay down. Also a joker – Stu and I spend a lot of time laughing at what he thinks is normal. I was the latest to join the band and really found I could express my musicality and spirit within the music. Drums are my life – and in OKA I play what ever I feel like, Polynesian style, funk, hip hop, disco, latin, afro, jazz and more. The three of us just clicked. We’ve still never had a rehearsal. We leave it all to stage. We have loads of fun. Thanks so much!