If you were to ask Okies to describe their music to you, they might tell you they’re a folk band with indie rock and alternative influences like Alt-J, Half Moon Run, Fleet Foxes, and Andy Shauf. One listen to the trio from Aylmer and you’ll probably agree that the description is pretty accurate.
The alt-folk trio’s debut full-length is named Aylmer, after the band’s hometown on the Ottawa River. Marc-Antoine Moisan and Thomas Aguinaga met in high school there and played in a pre-Okies band together. They created Okies a few years after graduating and then brought keyboardist Sam Gendron into the fold.
Okies posted their new album to Bandcamp, and you can now stream it in full.
The build up to Aylmer has been a long one, as the trio first began unveiling new songs in early 2017, and its release date had to be postponed once. Frontman Marc-Antoine Moisan explained the reason for the delay, admitting that the band were unhappy with issues in the mix. Their perfectionism really paid off.
Apt613 reached Thomas Aguinaga and Marc-Antoine Moisan of Okies a few days ahead of their album release concert on January 5.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Apt613: Without sounding derivative or contrived, Okies sounds a lot like Alt-J remixed an unreleased Fleet Foxes album. Did you set out to achieve this aesthetic? Or just happen upon it as a product of working with each other?
Thomas: I think it’s all pretty much by chance. It just so happens that all of our individual playing styles, and writing styles, end up sounding that way. Although Alt-J and Fleet Foxes are still huge influences on us and I guess you could say maybe we’re subconsciously trying to sound as much like them as we can. Either way, that is the single coolest description of our sound that I’ve ever heard.
Okies has had a clear aesthetic since your first EP release For Now, This Is What I Love. What music or other art most inspired how you wanted Aylmer to sound?
Thomas: Basically any of our favourite bands’ first albums. We just wanted our record to sound as good as those. A Flourish And a Spoil by The Districts, Coming Home by Leon Bridges, An Awesome Wave by Alt-J. A lot of others too. On these first records they talk about all these different themes, and the songs are so carefully crafted because they had all the time in the world to write them. We wanted that too. A lot of songs on this album we’d written years ago and have been bending over backwards ever since to get right. I hope that shows to the people who listen to it.
Did you change anything up for the writing and recording process this time around?
Thomas: I think the main thing we did differently was that we tried to give ourselves ample time to finish everything. We just tried to relax and do it at our own pace. Marc had to do all the mixing and tracking, so we just wanted him to feel as comfortable as possible so that everything could come out perfectly right. For Now, This is What I Love was definitely more rushed, and I think when we look back on it we wish we had taken a little more time with it.
What new music have you been listening to lately?
Thomas: Ottawa’s own Stefan Jurewicz put out an EP with his band All Day Breakfast and it’s absolutely killer. Outside I’m a Giant, a band from our neck of the woods in Gatineau put out their first album a couple months ago called Point Comfort and it’s one of the most beautiful albums I’ve heard in a while. They’ll also be playing with us at our release party in Montreal on January 6th. And Barr Brothers just put out a new album. Everything they do is amazing, so I’ve been listening to that a lot too.
What’s the best live set you saw in 2017 and what shows are you most looking forward to this year?
Marc-Antoine: I saw Fleet Foxes in Ferrara, Italy last summer. I’d been waiting for a long time to see them perform live, and was not disappointed. Their strong stage presence, accompanied by an unbelievable musical performance, made it easy for me to rank their show as one of the best I’d ever seen. And as for the show I’m most looking forward to, I’d have to say, The Souljazz Orchestra. A crazy awesome Afro-jazz-funk band from the Ottawa region. Looking forward to seeing them this spring!
Can we expect more Okies concerts in 2018? Any plans to tour the album? What’s shaping up?
Thomas: Absolutely! We have our two release parties coming up. The first one in Wakefield on January 5th with Maggie’s March and then on January 6th in Montreal with Outside I’m a Giant and Endy Trebor. Then we’re working on putting together some more shows for the rest of the winter, and come summer we’ve begun planning a bit of a tour and we’ll have a lot more info on that in the coming months!
Okies’ album release party is at The Black Sheep Inn (753 ch. Riverside) on Friday, January 5 at 8:30pm. Tickets cost $10 online and at the door.