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INTERVIEW: Brooklyn indie-folk artist Owlbiter

Hi Matt, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

I’m okay. My joints feel good. I’m trying to exercise occasionally, eat my starches. This past week I realized I have psoriasis all over my scalp. So there’s that. 

Can you talk to us more about your song “Make Breakfast?”

This tune is a pretty simple concept. Make time for the smaller things. Try not to get swept up in the bullshit. Appreciate how people come and go, like a newborn or the death of somebody close.

Did any event in particular inspired you to write this song?

Nothing in particular. I believe I was showering… or walking. Or walking in the shower. The melody sort of smacked me over the head, like all melodies do. Making time for breakfast is just an idea I find value in. Those days where you’re scurrying out the door in a frenzy can really do a number. 

The single comes off your new album Stud Farm – what’s the story behind the title?

I believe it came from a book I was reading, though the title is escaping me. I love how it sounds. It’s short. It’s funny. It’s oddly fitting for this time. Hopefully people find the humor in it. And if not… 

How was the recording and writing process?

The whole album happened pretty fast. I had a number of tunes come tumbling out during the end of 2017, and I wanted to take advantage of the running faucet. I asked my good friend and collaborator, James Downes, if he’d like to produce & engineer the record. We tracked the songs swiftly and kept in the flubs, imperfections. I like records that sound a bit messy and unrefined. Not in a lazy way, but in a human way. It’s easy to get carried away with technology, overdubbing, stacking 47 kazoos. We really made an effort to kick out the artifice. Maybe on the next album I’ll have the kazoo cascade.

How does Brooklyn influence your music?

Brooklyn expedites everything for me. It puts a fire under my buttocks because you feel this hurried wave of creativity here. This of course is not always a good thing. I have a lone tuft of hair on my head because of this wave, but it certainly keeps productivity up. 

Do you tend to take a different approach when you are collaborating with someone else rather than on your own?

Oh yes, for sure. For the past 5, 6 years I played in a band that was built around a piano player and my voice… occasionally I played drums. You always have to consider your bandmate, make sure things are clicking musically and beyond. It can get a bit uncomfortable and strained if you’re not checking in. Working by myself (outside of the recording process with James), I was able to get stuck in my head a bit longer, not let outside opinion influence a part or lyric. A lot of good ideas get squashed early on because someone in the room is scratching their head.

How do artists like John Prine and Ivor Cutler influence your writing?

At the moment, it’s all about words. Sure I like a good noodle every once in a while, but I don’t have anything to give in that department as a musician. I think with each tune you have the opportunity to make a little world out of words, and those songwriters are so masterful at crafting these places and people, all within the span of two to three minutes… I find that inspiring. A lot of good hip hop does that too. 

What inspired you to balance humor with serious topics in your writing?

It’s how I’ve always done it. I started making goofy movies with a friend when I was twelve, then music when I was fourteen. I’ve tried my hand at “serious” work, and it feels wrong, like I’m an imposter. Humor cuts the tension, lets me talk about the smaller, domestic subjects I’m fascinated by. But I always try to leave room for the heavy stuff. 

Any plans to hit the road?

Oh boy… nothing on the horizon but it’s a real good idea. 

What else is happening next in Owlbiter’s world?

I’m going to take care of this psoriasis on my scalp so I don’t alarm people on the train. 

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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