As he sings his unapologetic lyrics, London O’Connor offers a sense of solace to all those afraid to say what they’re feeling. With songs that narrate the worries of a millennial kid, O’Connor creates infectiously uplifting beats with lyrics to match, and blesses your ears with a refreshing poke at the (scary) realities of life. We chatted to the fresh artist in anticipation of his Amsterdam show.
“Nobody hangs out anymore, in the real, in the real…” Can you please sketch out the situation in which this song was born?
I wrote and produced that song—actually the whole album—just using stuff I could carry in my backpack. I was sleeping around on people’s couches and floors, mostly in New York. That song and that album fit together to make this picture of the small suburb in California that I grew up in, but I had already moved out of that place by the time I made the music. I guess where I grew up created that music; me just trying to render my surroundings from then and put them into sounds.
How would you describe your relationship to social media?
I think twitter is a trap. I just want to be honest with people. Sometimes I feel like the nature of twitter and social media are just people putting up a front. It’s like they’re being the version of themselves they would be at a party where they don’t know anyone—I always felt weird at parties because of all the small talk. I just put my cell phone number on my twitter; kids can text me if they want to talk about real things. I put it up a year ago and it’s still up there. I deleted all my tweets except for maybe five of them. I talk to kids all over the world, people text me every day. It feels more real, you know? I’m gonna do it until my phone explodes.
Also, as an artist I want to be as useful as I humanly can. I want to grow and make the best work that I can. I think a lot of the best work we’ve made as humans was made by people who were ahead of their time, who have thoughts and ideas and don’t care what anyone thinks of them in the moment. That’s the opposite of how social media works. It trains you to only say or think things you think people immediately are going to agree with, and even worse, you start to think those are the only kinds of ideas that are valuable. I just spend most of my time working on stuff now instead of using it—I update first wave on what I’m doing, and if a kid texts me, I’ll tell them. Otherwise I’m just working.
What is first wave?
First Wave is everyone who is in the force, O∆. Everyone who uses utilities, and cares about being in the beginning of what we do. Those people see R&D of what we’re working on before anyone else. If you’re reading this right now, maybe you’re in first wave.
Your debut album was officially (re)released last month. What does the title, O∆, stand for?
O∆ is a force, and I’m the leader of that force. We make utilities for people—that first album is a utility. It’s meant to be useful, I hope some kid hears it and uses it to get out of her or his hometown, or plays it while they do what’s important to them. I’m going to use all of the resources I get in the world to make utilities that are useful to us. O∆ is going to deploy utilities to every kid from every nowhere on Earth. We are gonna grow up with them. We are gonna shape the world.
Is yellow your favourite colour?
Actually, I don’t have a favourite colour. Which is probably weird to people because so much of what I do is either blue or yellow. I just see colour as a language and right now, blue and yellow is just kind of how you say “London” in colour. That’s just what I am. But I love every colour and in my music I use a lot of colours. Everyday I experience a lot of colours.
Some people have described your music as “narcotic”. Does it have that effect on you?
Nah, fuck that. Music is something that we have as youths that is so much more powerful than drugs. We shouldn’t sell ourselves short. Drugs are cool; there are some experiences that you really just can’t have without them. But seriously, music is how we bring our worlds to each other, it’s our stories and our lives—it’s our explanation of them. This new world is flooded with so much technology that it in no way resembles the world any past generation grew up in… We are processing that and explaining it to each other through music. Today we are making music it and giving it to each other, it serves a different purpose to what it used to. It’s us speaking; it’s not how we escape. It’s how we find each other and it’s how we push each other through whatever stuff we are gonna feel in this lifetime together.
We have to stop thinking about young artists making music as this recreational thing—that’s why our parents look at us sideways when we say it’s what we want to do with our lives. They see music like narcotics, or like an escape. There’s a kid in her bedroom right now listening to music all the time, everyday. She’s not escaping, she’s learning. What she learns might influence the way she creates buildings in the future, how she loves, what problems she solves for the world, or how she understands people on the other side of the planet. Every kid who reads this, hold onto your music—all the music that you love to listen to or make. Hold onto your art. Hold onto it and use it to do the craziest things in this world that you can.