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In conversation with Oklou

My artistic DNA

French-born Oklou whisks us away to her ethereal world through her melodies and harmonies; a dreamy fusion of the electronic and classical utopia she thrives in. With her recent drops of I didn’t give up on you & Galore, our hearts are encapsulated as we have become obsessed! Her unique and magical sounds alongside her striking visuals provide the kind of energy and escapism we need during these surreal times. Ahead of her upcoming tour (fingers crossed), we got the chance to delve into Oklou’s fascinating creative journey and the mind behind the music. 

Hey Oklou, how are you doing today?

I’m ok, I’ve just visited a flat that I will never be able to afford so I feel great. 

Relatable! These are exciting times for you as an artist; could you begin by telling us about your music and creative energy?

I guess my music is evolving just as I am, and I feel like right now I’m in a very lullaby-ish, fantasy phase – always have been but I feel more inclined to assume it recently. The creative energy is ephemeral, hard to maintain for me most of the time if I’m not drawn by a very precise project. It’s not on-demand unfortunately, so I always need to be very attentive to myself in order to make creative choices that feel right. Sometimes it implies to not create at all – that is the reality in art-making. The void is part of the process and necessary. 

It seems you have always been musically inspired – from the age of about 4 you started learning the piano. Could you tell me about how your music has progressed over all these years? 

Yeah true even though I didn’t start creating music at age 4 lol. My path through music I feel went through 2 main phases – when I was younger I was still learning and educating myself and building my aesthetic, drinking band’s blood while spending hours practising classical music. At this time I would project myself into being an instrumentalist performer, without thinking I could write my own stuff. This came later on, first with people and my own bands, and then all alone with my computer. 

Nice! And how did you find making the jump from the classical music world to a more experimental, electronic vibe? Was this a natural progression for you?  

I guess that was pretty natural yeah, I was just interested in pop music in general and very early on in many different genres. I wouldn’t have been able to restrain myself to the classical world, I wanted to be part of the present and understand it. Also, my way of apprehending music is almost academic, and I think that’s why I’ve always been fascinated and easily curious about more experimental art/music. It takes me somewhere less comfortable, and always gives me more perspectives with my own creation.  

I see, this approach to music creation definitely shines through in your new mixtape Galore. It is incredible, I have it on repeat! Can you talk me through some of the creative processes for this mixtape?

 Thank you, I’m glad you like it. A bit more than a year ago, I had demos I’d made during the year and the years before that year. In 2019 I was not feeling very good. Super lonely actually and at some point, I had to confront some of my choices in order to make new ones so I could find happiness again. Galore has been written during that process. I left Europe for a bit more than a month, reunited with friends, and kept working with one of them (Casey MQ) who I knew would be the best partner for me to write the story. So in October 2019 we went on a residency together in Spain for 3 weeks and wrote 80% of what became Galore later. 


The tracks are magical, and provide such a beautiful form of escapism during a very surreal time! Do you have any favourite tracks from your mixtape? Any you particularly enjoyed creating? 

That’s funny you’re using that word ‘escapism” cause it’s the one Casey used when he first put words on my demos – it was a very important moment for me to then create a ‘story’. Anyway, I think my favourite one is still Galore, for the simplicity, the purity of the lyrics and feeling, super innocent and shining, a batch of love and gratefulness basically. This one also creatively was very nice to compose, write and record. I had a very cool time also doing nighttime. I didn’t give up on you was emotionally intense. All of them really have their own history and collection of memories that feel great thinking about. 

Each track is beautiful and unique and so are the visuals. The video for unearth me is fascinating, super dreamy and otherworldly. Is this a part of your approach as an artist, to create and delve into these alternate worlds?

I think it’s part of my artistic DNA definitely, but even more for Galore; as I’m literally using escapism in alternate worlds to build the narrative of the mixtape. It’s not that literal in how I present it to the world, that’s a choice I made to not be too explicit on that narrative ‘cause I really want people to be able to make their own, but this idea of a dreamed/parallel place has definitely accompanied me during the entire creative process for the music and visuals. 

You’ve described your music previously as being born out of a ‘melancholic’ state – is this when you found you were best inspired to create the tracks? 

Not that much for Galore actually. Melancholy has always been there in what I like and then what I’ve created but so far I can remember, romanticism, melancholy, nostalgia most of all, are the feelings I’m the most drawn to. But Galore is not about melancholy. You can’t escape if you fall into melancholy – that’s almost contradictory. With Galore there’s a need to get somewhere far from what you have known in the past, take some distance and turn a page. 

Do you think other artists help you push your musical boundaries and with your creative process? 

I maybe wouldn’t say anyone helped me push my boundaries – that’s not even a thing I think I want to achieve. Or, before I feel the need to push my musical boundaries, I need to understand what these boundaries are and so far I feel like I was still looking for them – for a strong identity at least, for a more personal voice. The people who worked with me the most on Galore really helped me more to achieve the vision and enhance it.

Your YouTube Channel is almost a catalogue of your growth as an artist – I noticed the short video clips posted quite a few years back. How did you use this platform to express yourself and develop as an artist? 

I guess I used it at the time more like a very free platform where I could post whatever. Looking back at it, I have the feeling that I was observing myself, I needed to understand what I could give that was beautiful, I was looking for that really. I remember what I was going through and it makes total sense. 

I recently saw that you’re going on tour! So exciting… Can you tell me about your plans for the tour and what energy you hope to bring to your audience? 

Fingers crossed that it’s gonna happen! I’m super excited to work on this live show. I really want it to be a special visual and sonic experience for people. I plan to work on a mostly acoustic formula, with piano and guitar and if we can, have even more musicians on stage, and try to find a way to recreate all the visual universe onto the stage.

Sounds amazing. I’d love to see the songs in a live setting! What advice would you give to getting through these surreal times?

I feel like we shouldn’t be afraid to make radical choices – it’s the perfect time as it’s never been so hard to project ourselves in the future. Try to get excited by it.  

I didn’t give up on you OUT NOW

More info on the tour here

Merch. Merch. Merch. 

Words by Issy Wharton