It has been a busy year for Melbourne singer-songwriter Olivia Bartley, the brains behind ethereal goddess OLYMPIA. A multi-instrumentalist, OLYMPIA has recently released a dreamy new music video for “Tourists”, the latest hit from her forthcoming album, due to be released at the end of October. We caught up with OLYMPIA to discuss the inspiration behind the video and her creative writing process.
Can you tell us what drew you to the Jenny Holzer poem artwork that was your inspiration for “Tourists”?
I wasn’t sleeping very well while I was writing the album. I’d dragged all my writing to the sea for a change of scenery and found Holzer’s quote in one of my old notebooks: “In a dream you saw a way to survive and you were full of joy”. That piece somehow just tripped a switch between the internal and external and “Tourists” was written as a direct response.
The use of the word ‘joy’ also struck me. It’s a loaded affirmation, more commonly used as a vague threat punctuated into bible bookmarks. In the context of the song, I decided to let myself be immersed in the moment, to be overwhelmed by it. Anaïs Nin says it better than me:
“I am lying on a hammock…diary open to my knees, sun shining on my diary and I have no desire to write. This is perfection. There is no need to portray, to preserve. It is eternal, it overwhelms you. It is complete.”
Is finding a connection to literature an important part of your creative writing process?
The most important part of the creative process for me, is the idea. The idea comes first, whether (over-)hearing a great story or coming across some strange invention in the New Scientist Magazine that you’ve borrowed from your boss’ desk. I’m also interested in how other artists have responded to a topic, whether it be in literature, painting. etc.
For instance, when I was writing “Honey”, I was first triggered by these pictures coming out of Utah of red honey, when a beekeeper tried to cut costs by feeding his hive candy canes. It ruined not only his hive’s honey – but that of the whole state’s. It just seemed like such a great illustration of the effect that we, as humans, have on each other. There’s also this incredible section of Dorothy Porter‘s poem Aneas Remembers Domestic Bliss: “I could taste honey, as if every bee in Troy, had made her phantom its swarming hive.”
The presence of other artists’ work is important. Other artists/thinkers become like the cool kids at the end of the street. It’s good to get your arse kicked now and again and also, by trying to keep up, you’ll push yourself further forward than you might have done in isolation.
“Tourists” has a great comibation of synths and guitars. What do you love about that combination?
We had the privilege of working in a studio that was set up and run by a music collector who not only had a lot of vintage synthesisers (including a very special early Jupiter 8), but was also really excited about us exploring them. The whole record is imprinted with this sense of exploration and play; we plugged everything into everything.
What was the inspiration behind the “Tourists” music video?
Following on the theme of being immersed in the moment, the video clip for “Tourists” is a little nod to Dr Sylvia Earle‘s expeditions in her one-woman submarine and her notes about being a ‘witness’ and ‘observer’ to ocean life, most of which remains unknown. Also, the work of Chinese photographer Ren Hang and all that beautiful footage of Greg Louganis leaving the diving board throughout the 70s. We shot the video at an aquarium and spent time in between shots playing with snakes and baby turtles. That was pretty awesome.
What can we expect from your live shows?
We’re currently playing as a three piece, however [we] are expanding for some very special headline shows lined up to release “Tourists”, including guest artists on backing vocals. We’ve also developed some strong visual elements to these shows with a series of projections.
Who are your biggest influences?
Stina Nordenstam, Hungry Ghosts, Neu!, Peter Carey, Robert Adamson, Pedro Almodovar, Neil Young, Juana Molina…
Tell us about your upcoming album…
Producer Burke Reid and I have been working on the album for most of the year, working with musicians such as Donny Benet, Peter Luscombe and Pat Bourke. Lyrically, the album has become incredible personal, with songs relating to each other including the singles “Honey”, “This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things” and “Tourists”. Sonically, the record contains a mixture of both analogue and electronic elements, hints of hip hop, with dissonant guitar and of course, lots of voice.
OLYMPIA “TOURISTS” UPCOMING HEADLINE DATES:
November 24th | Shebeen, Melbourne
December 3rd | Oxford Circus, Sydney
For more info: http://www.olympiamusic.com.au/
OTHER DATES OLYMPIA WILL BE APPEARING AT:
October 31st | Riverside, Perth (ROCKWIZ)
November 7th | Thebarton Theatre, Adelaide (ROCKWIZ)
November 14th | MMW Self-Made, Melbourne (BRUNCH GIGS)
November 20th | Amphlett Lane, Melbourne (DIVINYLS Tribute)