I’m sitting in a dim, black light-equipped room in the basement studio of one of the most peculiar Ottawa bands to date. Present with me are Eric Landry, and Asa Holloh, the lead singer and bassist of Ooluu, respectively. Their debut EP Mannequin is being released on February 14th. Any significance behind the date? “It’s a Friday,” Eric explains, grinning.
On the desk, a miniature Spock and Buddha are having a staring contest, with classical music leaking out of an unseen pair of speakers. (“Chopin,” mumbles Asa when I ask him about it after the interview.) I set my digital recorder on the desk, press record, and with that, we start talking:
Apt613: Tell me a bit about the band.
EL: Well…Ooluu is currently me, the vocalist, Zack Thi, guitarist, Ed Zombi, guitarist and human synthesizer/beats machine, and Asa Holloh on the bass.
What’s the band dynamic like?
EL: We’re all amazing friends. Everyone in the band is like a brother to me. You share everything you have with your brothers, and we all thrive off each other’s ideas. We’ve almost started our own little religion, and that’s what it’s become — a way of life for all of us, which definitely factors into the tribal aspect as well. I think this band has made me a better person, because it’s a form of therapy for me. I need to be making music with these guys at least once a week, if not more.
How would you describe Mannequin?
EL: I think it’s adrenaline pumping, and scary — tribal and heavy. Everyone who was involved in the making of Mannequin has put something emotionally into it. It’s a piece of everyone’s soul. When you’re holding a copy of it, you have our demons in your hands.
What was the process of creating that like?
EL: The EP was recorded here — in Asa’s basement. There’s so much that’s happened here, that I feel like we brought a spirit into existence. We essentially made this album in a haunted place — a place haunted by our own experiences, and our own reflections. Really, what it came down to was that we needed to externalize all of those feelings, and I feel like we did that.
I see you have some very surreal artwork picked out for the EP. What was the process of finding that?
EL: I’m really obsessed with social media. I hate that I am, but I find myself on Instagram a lot. I used to just like friend’s photos, but then I came across the artist who did the cover art for Deftones’ Koi No Yokan, and started checking out what they were liking. A few degrees of separation later, I found this guy — Will Ragland, from Kentucky. He has a real eye for taking everyday things, and making them look absolutely fucked. Looking at the cover gives me the same feeling I get when I listen to the songs on Mannequin.
How did you get your first show, and what advice do you have to bands trying to get theirs?
EL: Well, it wasn’t a small feat. We finally had our song, Trapped Inside the Mannquin kind of recorded, but it had different vocals and was shorter and faster than what appears on Mannequin — we sent it to Eugene Haslam, the owner of Zaphod Beeblebrox. He liked it enough to give us our first shot, and we went from there. So, I’d say to other bands looking for their break: there are venues out there that no matter what kind of music you’re making, you’ll find somewhere to play. You just need to do the legwork.
What’s your general impression of the Ottawa music scene?
EL: I’ve heard people complain about “not enough people come to shows,” and “all people do is download music,” but if you create a product that’s genuine, and appealing, and aren’t doing shows every week, then people will start paying attention.
It’s a funny story — there’s one venue we played, and I’m not going to name names, but we were banned from it. They said the washrooms were ‘a complete mess with makeup or whatever it was,’ and then told us, ‘I would prefer if you and the other acts on the bill don’t play here in the future — we’ll stick to punk, metal, and rock.’ So I guess we aren’t any of those.
You released your first single with a music video in December last year — Powder-White. What was that like — transferring between mediums?
EL: Looking at it visually was really strange at first. When we made that song, we definitely knew the sentiment behind it. Powder-White is about overeating, but it can be about the abuse of and addiction to anything — whether it’s eating, love, sex, drugs. It kind of shows that addiction, but it also shows how people fall into these states of being. We really tried to make it more of a short film, and less of just a typical music video.
What’s the one thing you want people to take away from Powder-White?
EL: It’s more than just the story; there’s a lot of symbolism in the shots. It’s a question about whether or not that kind of abuse changes who you really are. We really just want people to be asking themselves questions about these things — the nature of indulgence and addiction.
What’s next for Ooluu?
EL: Even though we’re releasing Mannequin now, we’ve started on material for the next full-length album.
So then, I guess Ooluu is going back underground?
EL: Well, I feel like we have been underground — for us, anyways — and we’ve just been working really hard on the EP, but we definitely have some surprises coming. The new material is in a very different mood, and a lot less in your face. It’s more about finding power in silences. Which is I guess what we’re about to go into, after the EP drops.
Finally, why should our readers check out Mannequin?
EL: I think there are a lot of people out there that feel the same way as us, and I feel like we’re saying something about the human condition. If you want to hear what a haunted house sounds like, listen to this album. If that’s not enough, and you want a simpler reason: it’s been a grey winter, we’re only halfway through, and everyone’s starting to seem pissed off.
Watch the video for Powder White:
Mannequin by Ooluu is out on February 14th and will be available here.