Australian indie folk supergroup Ok Moon dive into the magic of their organic collaboration and their self-titled debut album – a soothing, hopeful journey that breathes with its own emotional depth, warmth, and intimate sonic signature.
for fans of Dustin Tebbutt, LANKS, Hayden Calnin, Xavier Dunn
Stream: ‘Ok Moon’ – Ok Moon
Stop me if you’ve heard this one: Four Australians walk into a… well, in this case, it was a recording studio, and the result? Pure magic.
An Atwood Magazine Editor’s Pick, indie supergroup Ok Moon introduced themselves in early 2019, and they’ve been enchanting us with their distinct blend of acoustic and electronic indie folk ever since. The Aussie “boyband” of Dustin Tebbutt, LANKS, Hayden Calnin, and Xavier Dunn features an unlikely cast of characters – each member has his own flourishing solo artistry, and together they have a combined total of over 250 million global streams – but thanks to a combination of right time, right place, and just the right amount of luck, the world now has a gorgeous ten-track studio album that breathes with an effervescent, luminous warmth.
I couldn’t change, I’m a good killer
What a waste, but you won’t miss it
I’m a loss, cut me clean out of you
It’s been years, how they pass quickly
Now I’m a face that you’re not missing
It’s good to see it all worked out for you
If I only loved you right….
– “Loved You Right,” Ok Moon
Independently released August 23, 2019, Ok Moon’s self-titled debut album is an immersive musical experience unto itself – a soothing, emotive journey that breathes with its own signature textures and timbres. The four singles that helped introduce the band (“Loved You Right,” “Harpoon,” “Hollow Moon,” and “Crater on the Moon”) are joined by six more songs that neither follow a formula, nor retrace their steps: One of the (many) benefits of four singer/songwriters working together is that the creative sparks never stop flying, as is the case with the constantly fresh, consistently rewarding Ok Moon.
The record opens with a series of familiar faces. The band’s debut single “Loved You Right” sets a mellow, heartwarming scene; previously described as “a gentle explosion of affection and reflection,” the song is brimming with tender longing and bittersweet love. Dustin Tebbutt sings tenderly of failed love as a spacious soundscape immerses listeners in an indie folk wonderland. The music transforms from muted piano chords and stilted samples to a dazzling array of strings, vocal chants, flutes, and more.
“I think that song just sums us all up musically and lyrically perfectly,” Hayden Calnin tells Atwood Magazine. We feel all four members’ presence in Ok Moon’s music – from Hayden Calnin’s sampling to Xavier Dunn’s orchestral flourishes, and so on – yet what’s most stunning about every song on Ok Moon is the incredible degree of simplicity achieved by four distinct, deeply opinionated artistic voices. The band’s music feels organic and natural, flowing like a familiar memory into our consciousness. Songs like “Crater on the Moon” and “Hollow Tree” find balance in chaos, offering meaningful reflections on subjects of disconnect and loss with music that emotes without smothering, captures the moment without redefining it.
“I personally love this connection of raw organic sounds with deep electronic touches brimming at the surface because it’s bringing together two genres that normally try to keep separate,” Xavier Dunn says of Ok Moon’s sound. “Mostly in other sessions when you get together its to produce a song that is gonna stand out and be a hit on radio. We came in just trying to make a song that we as four people would be proud of.
LANKS adds to that, “We just wrote songs we liked and followed our ears. It was a very free process.”
From the aching haunts of “Harpoon” and “Burn Me Up,” to the uplifting air of “Stones,” Ok Moon’s album is an amazing display of pure talent, and without a doubt one of the most unexpected and exciting debuts to come out of 2019. Light and spacious, heavy and deep, Ok Moon invites us to enjoy a moment with ourselves: To brood, to reflect, and to indulge in the depths of our conscious that we often leave untouched.
Take some time and let this album sit with you; intimate and beautiful, Ok Moon’s music is going to feel fresh for many years to come. They’ve proven themselves not only to be deserving of the “supergroup” title, but also to be a band we truly, dearly hope to hear more from in the not-too-distant future.
Atwood Magazine spoke with Ok Moon to learn more about their approach to music and the nature of their collaboration: Dive a little deeper into the songs in our interview below!
Stream: “Loved You Right” – Ok Moon
A CONVERSATION WITH OK MOON
Atwood Magazine: Thanks for taking my time, Ok Moon! First off, because I’m a fan of all of your individual artistries, I’ve been shamelessly declaring Ok Moon to be an indie supergroup of sorts. Do you feel like what you imagine a supergroup would feel like?
LANKS: “Supergroup” is such a funny title but from my perspective, working with these three other writer/producers has been some of the easiest and most inspiring creative work I’ve ever done. I’m not sure if that’s what a supergroup is but if it is, it feels very good.
Hayden Calnin: Maybe a “supermoon” group. But in all honesty, I’m just stoked to be working with 3 of the most talented writers I’ve had the pleasure of working with. And if that grants the title of indie supergroup, then I’m totally cool with it.
It’s one thing for multiple talents to get in the same room together for a day or two, but you made a habit of it over a considerable stretch of time in order to write and record this record. How did that start? Was Ok Moon’s “formation” organic and unconscious, or did you intentionally come together to make an album?
Dustin Tebbutt: The whole project came about quite randomly when Haydo and I jumped in via email on the tune ‘Hollow Tree’ that Will and Xav had been working on, with the idea of having a choir on there… We pitched a few lyric ideas and arranged a session to record the vocal parts, and kinda coincidentally scheduled more time than we needed.. the second and third days of those sessions, we had a room booked and we had the time, so we ended up sitting down and writing together. When we finished up we had “Harpoon” and “Crater On The Moon” both pretty much done, and kind of felt like we’d found a rare creative spark. I think from there we were talking about an EP perhaps, but then every time we’d get together to produce the existing tracks we’d end up with a few more… so it pretty quickly grew into an LP. It was far from planned and we were all just really enjoying writing together.
What song spurred your story, and when did Ok Moon transition from a non-entity, to an actual “thing”?
LANKS: “Hollow Tree” was the first song, but I think it really became a thing when we did our second trip to all write together and wrote “Harpoon” and “Crater on the Moon” on back to back days. For me that’s when it started becoming a project instead of just a collaborative song or something. A real excitement and magic had surfaced in that moment.
Drags me in
I’m not far from being water
All I need
Is one more season
To hang the ropes that almost let you fall
Salt through the nets
I cast broad for the love you left
Harpoon right through my chest
I was caught by what you said
One of the unique aspects of your band is that all four of you are seasoned songwriters and multi-instrumentalist musicians. As songwriters, what was your collaboration process like? Did everyone come with songs or did you allow one or two members to assume chief lyrical duties?
LANKS: I always think of it as musical chairs. We just all sat at an instrument and played and whenever we got stuck you’d stand up and switch positions to a new instrument. It was so fun and we never ran out of ideas that way. There was always something to spark a fresh path.
Part two to my part one: Singing and instrumentals. Do you all share music credits on every song, or is each song a slightly different story? How did you determine singers and what went into your discussions of melody and instrumental support?
Dustin Tebbutt: The whole process was really organic in terms of who played what, where, and when. Someone would generally pick up an instrument – mostly guitar or keys – and start playing something. We’d all start throwing melodic ideas or other instrumental parts on top, and we didn’t really stop to think who was playing what. When it came to the vocals, we kinda had a bit of an idea from the writing of each song about who had a strong sense of the phrasing, was comfortable in their range, and seemed to be capturing the story when they sang it, so by the time we got to recording those, there was generally someone who was leading the sections a bit more. It was a really nice give and take process that, on the whole we just went with our guts on.
It was a really nice give and take process that, on the whole we just went with our guts on.
Something I’ve found truly stunning is how you managed to carve out a sound that truly does feel distinct not only from your four solo artistries, but also from the rest of what’s going on musically in the world right now. To what did you lend your focus musically, and how do you define yourselves and your sound?
LANKS: I felt like because we never had a plan or any preconceived ideas of what this project should be it was a very formless and exploratory project. It found its own sound as we went along and we never told ourselves to sound like anything. We just wrote songs we liked and followed our ears. It was a very free process.
Ok Moon opens with “Loved You Right,” the debut single that also introduced you to the world. Why did you opt to begin the record this way, and why in turn was this the optimal choice for your debut earlier this year?
Dustin Tebbutt: That, there, is a million dollar question. With every release, one of the hardest things is picking the singles, and track order… and with this project it was even harder. We all had favourite tracks, and things we thought would go well with our audiences – and they weren’t always the same thing. In the end, the singles came down to a bit of diplomacy, and in terms of the record, we felt it was a great track to start with as it has a chill, hopeful vibe and as it gives a fairly good overview of the rest of the tracks. We wanted people to know right from the get-go this wasn’t a straight up ‘folk’ album, and show our hand with some of the more colourful production stuff early.
We wanted people to know right from the get-go this wasn’t a straight up ‘folk’ album.
Songs like “Crater on the Moon” and “Hollow Tree” highlight your proficiency at seamlessly blending acoustic and electronic elements. How do these (often separate) forces play into Ok Moon’s identity? Is that intermingling of sounds a conscious effort?
Dustin Tebbutt: I think it’s more just a product of the instruments and tools we had at hand.. We’d get into the studio, and there’s heaps of acoustic instruments to work with, but then, as we were working up the tracks, samples and synths also started creeping in. We didn’t really have an intent in that regard – more just following our noses with the sounds that excited us initially, and pretty quickly the mixed electronic palette started to form.
“Stones” showcases the beautiful vocal harmonies present throughout this album. What inspired this song?
Hayden Calnin: This was definitely one of the many ‘lets all huddle around a piano and scream with excitement’ songs. There were a few of those on the record. There were times making this record where one of us would just be mucking around on a piano and then someone screams, ‘Oooooooh I like that, keep playing’ and before you know it we are all around the piano and in the middle of writing a song. Vocally, this one stayed very raw. We’ve even kept some of the demo vocals in the track. The big harmony chant at the end was laid down very quickly when we were first writing it, and we just never re-recorded it. It lasted the test of time that often so many early recordings of a song do not. We are all really proud of this track, both lyrically and musically.
Dustin Tebbutt: We all probably have different interpretations of these lyrics, as we we’re all pulling from our own experiences in a way to kind of shape these loosely defined stories that were existing in the songs… but for me, this one is about pleading with someone to see what they have in front of them.
What is it about the less built-up songs, like “Sure Man” and “Burn Me Up,” that separate them from your solo repertoires?
Hayden Calnin: I think I’d say it’s the lyrics more than anything. Ok Moon write very differently to any of us as solo musicians. Writing all of the songs on the record was probably a much bigger task than most people would think. There were times where we would really have to fight for words, or be super stubborn, because you get really attached to something, which was a really cool thing to be a part of. When you’re a solo musician, you make the choice on a lyric quite easily and keep moving forward with the song, but when there are four of you who are writing them together, in can be a huge process to make everyone happy. As for these songs, I think the album just needed a few really stripped back songs that just float you by, and let the words do all the work.
Whilst the four pre-release singles helped build significant anticipation for the full-length album, the additional six songs are all moving in their own right. What are your favorite moments on the album, outside of the singles?
LANKS: We all have different favourites, which is what made the release timeline hard to plan. I personally love Burn Me Up as a moment in this record. That song flowed so easily when we wrote it and it just feels so heartbreaking and emotional. Hayden’s solo moment after the bridge section of the song cuts through so incredibly too as it’s a rare vulnerable moment of solo vocal in an album filled with vocal layering and group vocal parts.
When four minds get together, the possibilities are endless. What attracted all of you to the quiet, folk-adjacent sonic template that permeates your music? What is it that’s special about this sound, for you?
Xavier Dunn: We were all gravitated towards this subtle but powerful colour because we hadn’t had the chance to make these types of songs whilst in the room with other people before getting in with each other. Mostly in other sessions when you get together its to produce a song that is gonna stand out and be a hit on radio. We came in just trying to make a song that we as four people would be proud of.
I personally love this connection of raw organic sounds with deep electronic touches brimming at the surface because it’s bringing together two genres that normally try to keep separate.
You conclude with the somber, busy “Back to You” with its repeated line, “always coming back to you.” What’s the meaning of this line, and why did you end your album with this song?
Hayden Calnin: Some things you just can’t escape. I feel that is what this whole song is about. Being drawn back to something that is completely out of your control, emotionally at least.
Is Ok Moon a one-off endeavor, or is this a side-project soon-to-be main thing for all of you? Was there ever an end-goal of being in a band and making music as a quartet moving forward?
LANKS: We never really had any expectations on what the project had to be, except that it needed to be fun and creatively fulfilling I think. In terms of the future I think we’re all gearing up for solo releases (Hayden is releasing an EP in September!) and it’ll be a balance thing. We have more work written but we all do a lot of things in music so we’ll sit down after the tour and carve out some time to dive back in, I think. We all love being in the studio so it’s going to be really great to get back in there!
If this album is the one representation of your work together, which song are you most proud of as a culmination of the Ok Moon project, and why? In other words, which song best expresses who Ok Moon is, are, and have been?
Hayden Calnin: Mine would have to be ‘Loved You Right’, as I still find myself singing it to myself and I’m still not annoyed about it when I do! I think that song just sums us all up musically and lyrically perfectly.
Lastly, who are you listening to right now? Who/what artists should be on our radar?
Xavier Dunn: Right now on my latest listens i have been smashing Rl Grimes, Shura, GRAACE, Sarah Wolfe and XIRA!
Hayden Calnin: Phoebe Bridgers (everythinggggg),, Bon Iver’s new record iMi, Henry Jamison (also everythingggg), Leif Vollebekks album Twin Solitude (this one I listen to every week and have been since it came out in 2017), Angie McMahon’s debut album Salt.
Thanks so much all!
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