Regardless whether you’ve just now stumbled upon her work or have been an arid fan since day one—Oklou’s sound always takes you to a place far away that somehow feels familiar already. The French singer and producer effortlessly meshes cutting-edge club beats with hazy vocals and R&B tunes, constructing her own universe of heart-felt opposites that exist in surprising harmony. Ahead of her live performance at Different Class this Saturday, we talked to Oklou about all things past, present and future.
Growing up in rural France, what first inspired your move to electronic music and into the life of a producer?
I don’t think the environment I was born and raised in has directly influenced my artistic direction. My brother lived the same rural life and stayed really close to acoustic music. I think it’s more the people I met during my journey that opened my spirit and sparked my curiosity to discover and listen to music in a new way. I guess I turned towards writing music on a computer because this is the medium that gives me most freedom so far. There are no limits, really.
What prompted your move to Paris? How supportive and nurturing did you find the artistic community there?
I lived in a smaller city about 3 hours away from Paris and I felt the need to change my environment. So, I did. Paris was maybe the most obvious place where I could confront myself with bigger spaces and with a bigger community, and it was the place most likely for me to meet people I’d be able to connect with. But I don’t know if I have an opinion on the artistic community actually. I guess it’s similar to the one in other big cities. There are a lot of interesting people and things happening all the time. But for support and inspiration, I have to say that the friends I met there have been and still are extremely important for me, regardless whether they’ve been involved in my artistic process or not.
How does your classical background seep still into your more recent tracks?
I don’t know. It’s always there I suppose, no matter whether I’m writing a very abstract tune or something super melodic. It’s mixed with the rest, there’s no recipe! Of course my ability to play keyboard comes straight from that classical background, but that’s all I can consciously relate to. The rest is chemistry.
What is the narrative guiding the Rite of May? What influenced it?
There isn’t a proper narrative, really. It’s a rare thing for me to build something around a clearly defined or unique idea. I had that strong feeling, though, that this EP was a way for me to connect to my past, pay tribute to it, but also turn the page.
What inspired the song and video for Friendless, and how pleased were you with the final result?
Friendless is a song I started writing a long time ago. It’s about how you can feel hot and cold at the same time in a relationship, how you can feel so alone when you experience a deception. It’s about passion in love. For the video, I wanted to explore this ambivalence, play with the arid side of the desert we were at in Morocco, but also with the wetness of the ocean. Appearing with my best friend in the video for a song, on which I keep repeating I feel lonely, is maybe a way for me to, in fact, cure that loneliness and fight it with strong and rooted love.
Your use of sampling and natural sound examples within your tracks helps to define your sound. What influences your choices?
I have no idea what to answer. [Laughs] It can be so many different things. I love the sound of nature, indeed. I love the sound of crowds, someone moaning—everything can tell a story. First time I did this was in a mix I recorded in 2014, when I sampled a passage from True Romance. I think I first witnessed that process when Palmistry did this on one of their mixtapes, and I was blown away. I was like: ‘wow, that’s such a beautiful thing to hear, it’s like you’re in a movie’.
How do you find the experience of performing live? How does this influence the sound you create in the studio?
Live and studio performances kind of complete each other. Working towards a live performance always brings up some new ideas, lines and melodies. But I’m essentially searching for the best formula to use so that I feel really comfortable on stage. I’m not, like, a “performer”, though I don’t play experimental music—so I have to find a balance to make my live show a cool moment for people experiencing the music in front of the stage. And a cool moment for me, obviously.
Finally, what can we expect from Oklou in the future?
She will keep on doing what she loves—that’s the only certitude. 😊