Olympia Red

Fresh from moonlighting on keys and guitar in Paul Dempsey’s band, Olympia has just released her debut album Self Talk along with her new single ‘Smoke Signals’ and a series of live dates that will see her play around Australia. Tomatrax caught up with Olympia to ask a few questions.

You’ve just released your debut album, how does it feel to have it out?
It’s actually quite refreshing. The work takes on another life once it’s released – I’m lucky that the album has resonated with so many people, and could not have anticipated such a level of positive response.

You’ve already received a heap of critical acclaim for the album, does this make you feel any pressure going forward?
It seems that Self Talk might have taken a few people by surprise which is nice. Naturally there will now be greater expectations on whatever follows. For the time being I just try and avoid any press and keep my head down and keep working.

You’ve said that your songs don’t form a traditional format, is it important for your songs to take on a unique form?
I approach music in quite a lateral way. I guess I kind of approach music making more like a visual artist, and this gives me a lot of pleasure. I like the work to have strong conceptual underpinnings. The audience may never know that, but it’s important for me as an artist.
I realised early on that what I was doing was a little different, and didn’t easily fit any neat box. I think it’s important to realise there’s value in it – even if in the beginning it will be an easy way for people to dismiss you.

You’re about to tour Australia in support of your album, what can fans expect from your show?
We’re all packed up and on a plane right now headed to our first show! Audiences can expect to see four musicians on stage interpreting/bringing life to the album. We’ve got Pat Bourke (bass), Rob Vasey (Owl Eyes), myself and Sarah Belkner (Sarah Blasko) with us.

What was the inspiration behind the video for Smoke Signals?
I wanted to explore someone’s internal and unseen chaos. I was really interested in that Japanese reality TV show, ‘Sweepstakes Life’ in which a naked contestant had to win $2M yen worth of sweepstakes to get released from an empty apartment, surviving on supplementary prizes of food and clothing (which never came). While I discussed this with Director Alex Smith, I think the magic of the Smoke Signals clip is all Alex.

Will you be wearing any of the masks in the videos during your upcoming shows?
Yes, and I encourage the audience to all wear masks too. It could be like that Tom Cruise movie, where we’re all trying to figure out who each other is. (Nah, no masks)

You previously played as part of Paul Dempsey’s band, what was that like?
Playing with Paul is equal parts privilege and challenge. I’ve been a fan of Paul’s work for a long time, so it was surreal to step up and share the stage with him. I love playing in Pauls’ band – it’s a much different role than leading your own team/band, you get to focus more on the music side of things, escape the admin: booking flights, watching your budgets becoming redder and redder, etc.
Paul is incredibly generous – not only with advice, but I think we (Olympia) are using 50% of Paul’s gear on stage at the moment. Paul has released a fantastic record, it’s a joy to listen to and play, and I’m really looking forward to going back out on the road in celebration of it.

How does performing in a band compare with playing solo?
I treat these as two completely different shows. I don’t tend to play solo too much these days, and when I do, it’s quite a special re-interpretation of the set, complete with song stories. The next solo show I’m working for will be performed as part of Dark MOFO.

Where did the name Olympia come from?
I always loved that painting by Manet.

Do you ever listen to your own music?
When I am unsure of the lyrics before I gig.

What other music do you listen to?
At the moment, I have these guys on high rotation: Timbre Timber; Suuns and the Hot Snakes.

What do you have planned after your upcoming tour?
Dark MOFO and Paul Dempsey’s tour, and maybe a lean to surf holiday

Check out Olympia’s website to find out more!