Oaktown Indie Mayhem Project

In 2014 Odell Hussey Photography partnered with Oaktown Indie Mayhem to produce a series of portraits & Q&A for a music compilation project featuring musicians from Oakland, California. I photographed 13 bands over the course of several months. Below are some select images from the project as well as the Q&A.

Angelica Tavella by Odell Hussey Photography

Angelica Tavella by Odell Hussey Photography

NYX

What is your name & what kind of music do you create?

My name is Angelica Tavella, and I release music under the name Nyx.  I call my music Sythfolk Fuckrock, which are vague, associative words that give people a better idea of the instrumental and genre-based associations I draw from, but intentionally don't do a very good job at it because it's difficult to put all of my music into a specific genre.  The kind of music that I strive to make is the most soulful, raw, and real sounds that I can get out, while hopefully still giving others some sort of auditory enjoyment...

When did you first know you were going to make music a part of your life?

When I was about 7 living in Las Vegas, I got my first shitty guitar and loved playing it sitting on the ground
while plucking the strings without even touching the fret board.  That guitar was stolen along with my mom's car,
and after experiencing my first, huge anguish of being separated from a material possession, I knew that it would be an important
part of my life.

Who or what inspired you to pursue creating music?

When I was very young, nobody in my family played music, but for some reason I wanted to start playing guitar…so I did, and spent many years ruining all of my mother's kitchenware using them as drums.  In later years, I think a lot of my inspiration came from a combination of living in a beautiful place, having a lot of solitude & alone time, and having some older musical role models that were really good at making soul music, not soul as in the genre, but soul as in Soul, you know?

What is your biggest dream for your music?

My dream is to always have the passion, time, and curiosity to continue making new music, as well as exploring new mediums to make new sounds with.  I really like electronics and want to build some analog instrumental contraptions that I can use in a live setting…I won't get in to details right now.

Angelica Tavella by Odell Hussey Photography

Angelica Tavella by Odell Hussey Photography

What is the best thing about the music you make?

It's original.  It of course bleeds out a lot of the music that has inspired me over the years, but it's original in the sense
that it's a part of my own crazy mind that I'd have to let out some way.  Sometimes I wish that I was better at making a song sound a particular way, but I think that when a song comes out of necessity, there is a lot of sincerity that makes it easier for others to recognize.

What is the most challenging thing about what you do?

For me, the biggest challenge is asking myself why I make music and how much I am willing to sacrifice to get to the place I want to be with my music, and that seems to change on a daily basis.  It's really easy for me to get caught up in a constantly moving lifestyle, and other hobbies, and the idea of actually making money, and I often need to step away and reassure myself that the purest ecstasy I have found is in making music, which is a really good feeling to be reminded of.

Along your musical journey, what has been the toughest choice you’ve had to make?

Probably the choice that I'm making right now, to put aside doing other things that would potentially have a more tangible positive impact on the world, or on the opposite side of the spectrum be more monetarily lucrative, but I am instead working my own narcissistic music, because it's what I love to do.

Angelica Tavella by Odell Hussey Photography

Angelica Tavella by Odell Hussey Photography

What has been the biggest lesson you've learned along this journey?

I'm learning a lot everyday, and I'm messing up a lot everyday.  I don't think I can disassociate my musical journey from life in general, because they run hand in hand for me.  But I have learned that it is always good to keep a cliff bar, apple, bottle of Jameson, and pen & paper on reserve in your backpack, just in case you need it.

What is the best advice you can offer another artist coming up?

Just keep creating more and more all the time, because the more and longer you do, the more you will hone in on your own distinct voice.
Also, don't make music for other people, and if you do (for monetary purposes) make sure you find a balance of who you are creating your music for.

How has Oakland influenced your music and sound? 

Well I can definitely say that the people and culture in Oakland have influenced my taste, and craving for things that are raw and real.  There are so many different artists and musical spheres in Oakland that are making music (or any art form) because it is their passion, and I think the result of that is a lot of originality of sound, and a very proactive and diy mentality in terms of making things happen.  Besides the creative culture, Oakland is a beautiful city in the context of an urban environment and is also surrounded by some of the most beautiful places in the world that you don't have to go very far to find.  I don't think that it is a coincidence that this city has so much musical history.

B. Hamilton

What is your name & what kind of music do you create? 

Our name is B. Hamilton. We play rock and roll music. 

When did you first know you were going to make music a part of your life? 

The first moment I realized my brain is a nightmare unless I do it. 

Who or what inspired you to pursue creating music? 

Marijuana and a delay pedal. 

What is your biggest dream for your music? 

Payoff an automobile with a song I wrote about people fucking. 

B_HAMM.jpg

What is the best thing about the music you make?

Being loud in small places. 

What is the most challenging thing about what you do? 

Being loud in small places. 

Along your musical journey, what has been the toughest choice you’ve had to make? 

“Does the world need another song about the life of a white guy with a guitar” 

What has been the biggest lesson you’ve learned along this journey? 

The world does not need another song about the life of a white guy with a guitar.

What is the best advice you can offer another artist coming up?

Live inside your head. 

How has Oakland influenced your music and sound? 

It's everything.

Big Tree

What is your name & what kind of music do you create?

We’re Kaila, Luke, Matt & Danny, and we’re called Big Tree.  To keep it simple, we say we play “indie pop,” but every Big Tree set or album is full of songs that don’t quite fit into one genre.  We’re a little psychedelic, a little folky, a little groovy, but above all we just want to make beautiful, accessible, good pop music.


When did you first know you were going to make music a part of your life?

Music has been a part of all our lives from a young age, studying multiple instruments throughout childhood and playing in bands.  Matt has drumming in his family, and Kaila’s dad taught her to harmonize when she was super little.  Everyone got pretty serious about it in college, and at a certain point it’s like, “this is so fun and I love it so much, why would I ever stop?”

Who or what inspired you to pursue creating music?

We have different backgrounds and inspirations, but we’ve all had amazing teachers and musical obsessions, from Flea to John Mayer (ohhh to be a pre-teen again…), that shaped us along the way.  So much of the process has been so organic that it’s hard to pinpoint just one thing that led us to pursue this.

What is your biggest dream for your music?

Selling out Madison Square Garden. Or less specifically, sharing it with as many people as possible.  We want to make the masses feel good and dance and cry and experience human emotions!  We want to make really good albums that affect people’s lives, and never stop experimenting along the way to keep learning and growing.

BIG_TREE

What is the best thing about the music you make?

We hope that it’s honesty.  We may not be the “hippest” band on the fringe of some new, undiscovered territory, but we’re not trying to be.  When we write songs we try to keep them how they feel the best, without overthinking it or trying to turn them into something that might fit in better with whatever is trending.  Besides honesty, the best thing about our music is that it’s something uniquely “us.”  There’s a special thing that happens when Matt hits on those drums, Danny makes sparkly guitar sounds, Luke thumps the bass, and Kaila wails over it all.


What is the most challenging thing about what you do?

Most of the challenges are not music related.  Playing is the fun part.  The toughest things are making sure we have weekly rehearsals, balancing individual lives with band life, making enough money to fund our creative projects, knowing the right thing to do from a business perspective without a manager or agency that has more experience in the field, etc. We’ve been doing this for over 5 years now, so we’re no spring chickens, but we still have a lot to learn.  After several self-booked cross-country tours, hundreds of shows, and many recordings, we pretty much get the lay of the land, but it’s a challenge to navigate it by ourselves.


Along your musical journey, what has been the toughest choice you’ve had to make?

Once we were offered a licensing deal for one of our songs to be in a McDonald’s commercial.  Specifically, a Hungarian McDonald’s commercial.  We really needed the money, but McDonald’s goes against most of the things we stand for (we drive a tour van that runs on recycled vegetable oil and give “Grease Talks” about sustainability to college students). It didn’t end up working out….

BIG_TREE

What has been the biggest lesson you’ve learned along this journey?

Being in a band is FULL of lessons! How to get along with others, how to persevere even when it doesn’t look hopeful, how to read a map on the road, how to choose the best snacks at a gas station, how to file taxes as a partnership, how to respect your bandmates and business partners even if you don’t agree 100%, and the list goes on and on. We love touring because each day we see a new place and meet new people and learn new things.  Every show and every recording session teaches us something new, as well.  If you never want to get bored and are constantly curious, join a band.


What is the best advice you can offer another artist coming up?

Be patient.  Be genuine.  Try your best.  Be kind to others.  Practice your instrument- a lot.  And do your research.  The music industry is changing as we speak, but the more you know about the business and the more professional you act, the more power you have.  And the more power you have, the more music you can make!

How has Oakland influenced your music and sound?

Oakland has encouraged us to just be ourselves. We feel no pressure here to do anything but what comes naturally to us- we don't have to try and change our sound to "fit in" or be "cool." Diversity is encouraged in this scene, and it's so amazing how many different kinds of high quality music are coming out of the same place. We're consistently impressed and inspired by our friends in local Oakland bands, and I'm sure influenced by them as well. Big Tree has also always been inspired by the natural world around us, and what place is more beautiful than the Bay Area? Having access to Oakland and San Francisco while still being able to hike and eat incredible local food and enjoy the landscape is the best! 

Emily Afton

What is your name & what kind of music do you create?

My (new) artist name is Emily Afton. I have performed as Emily Moldy for 6 years now but I have now officially decided to chang my artist name as of this month!  Emily Afton is my real, first and middle name (unlike Emily Moldy which is a nick name of many years). I am excited for myself and my music to be known as Emily Afton. It sounds pretty and personable to me, and thats how I want my music to be experienced by the world. Though Moldy was fun, it never really felt like either of those things. 
I create (indie) pop-rock music with some hints of R&B and electronica. My songs are usually about things that I have experienced deeply, like love, or frustration with humans, or wanting to be a better person, etc. 

When did you first know you were going to make music a part of your life?

I think freshman year of high school. Once I started learning how to play and write songs on the piano is when I slowly started realizing that it is something I love and have a knack for. 

Who or what inspired you to pursue creating music?

I think when I opened for Sean Hayes (one of my music heroes) in 2010 by way of a friend, Buckeye Knoll (also a local Oakland artist).. thats when I knew. BuckeyeKnoll had organized his own show, album and tour. He got Sean Hayes to come play at a barn in Napa Valley for his album release and had a little, 21-year old Emily Moldy open up the show with just me and my guitar. I was so inspired and realized a music career is more attainable than I ever dreamed of. Unsigned artists could make their own tours with famous people? What! That was my dream, right in front of my face. Thats when I knew I wanted to do everything I could do to pursue my music dream. 

What is your biggest dream for your music?

All I could ever ask for is a solid band that loves each other and with whom, tour the world together. Is that so much to ask? Just kidding, but seriously, my dream is to have a solid band to tour with and for people to actually buy tickets to our show... enough tickets that I can feed myself, my band and our families. And on a non-selfish level, I want to make people happy with my music, and feel something real. 

What is the best thing about the music you make?

I think it is emotional and relatable to a lot of people of varying identities; different ages, different music tastes and backgrounds, etc. I think my music is personable and is good pop music. 

What is the most challenging thing about what you do?

Trying to find legitimate ways to money off of it is number 1. And number 2 for me is working with other people (finding the right people to play the right sounds). I know I am difficult to work with because I am picky, but I am learning how to describe whats in my head to others. Finding people to put up with me has been tough ;) 

Along your musical journey, what has been the toughest choice you’ve had to make?

There have been some really tough choices, though not ones I want to share. Leaving my full-time day job to try and pursue music full-time was a tough one, as well as deciding to do this name change.  

What has been the biggest lesson you’ve learned along this journey?

That this is a life's work, not one year's work, or one album's work. I have a whole life to create a substantial music career, which allows me to relax a little so I can work smarter/harder! I used to trip out thinking I only had this one year to try and make it happen, or this one album. But the music business people I have met along the way that I really respect have been doing music for a longgggg time. Their life is music and they know that there are going to be many opportunities to make things happen as long as you keep at it. 

What is the best advice you can offer another artist coming up?

I would offer the advice of just making a buzz in your home town/ home base, getting to know local bookers who really care about artists, and perform a lot and make cool recordings and videos that you love, and if the world responds well to those things, then you got yourself a nice lil music career. Sounds so simple like that, but it isnt, but at the same time, it kind of is. 

How has Oakland influenced your music and sound?

Oakland has offered a lot of exposure of new sounds and styles to my music. I feel really grateful for having been exposed to more musicians from hip-hop and R&B backgrounds, more electronic sounds, more rich and complex music than I was exposed to before. I have been able to take my once-folky sound and add on electronic beats and loops, which is truer to the sounds that I have been hearing in my heart and head for a long time but couldn’t translate (and which, in my opinion, make my music more interesting).   

Foxtails Brigade

What is your name & what kind of music do you create?

Name: Foxtails Brigade
Type:  fishpaste pop

When did you first know you were going to make music a part of your life?
When I first heard "Rain Is A Good Thang" by Rodney Atkins. I guess also when my mother made me take piano lessons at age 3. 

Who or what inspired you to pursue creating music?

Faun Fables, a local Oakland-based band I was first introduced to by my brother Brent (another huge influence/creative inspiration) who played them on a radio show he hosted on KALX in the early 2000s. When I first heard them on a mix tape he made of one of his shows, I stopped the cassette right after their song "Sleepwalker",  asking who this amazing darker-than-Siouxsie-and-the-Banshees music I was hearing was. Little had I known, my brother Brent was so certain of how much I would love them, he had already bought me their record Mother Twilight for Xmas that year. The album fast became the soundtrack to my 18 and 19th years and a big inspiration for the first song I ever wrote titled "Foxtails Brigade", now only available as a B-side on a 7" record I released in 2008. Also, my mother and father have always encouraged creativity and music making among my brothers and me. 

What is your biggest dream for your music?


For it to be important enough for it to get me a complimentary bottle of Crystal at every show. 
 

What is the best thing about the music you make?

It's really good. 


What is the most challenging thing about what you do?


The time when Joffrey contracted itch jock on the purple pink particle wheel at Knotz Barry Landing Patch. He was trying to pull a two for one with a bagpipe, and cork hunk while juggling his balls into a cup of sparkling hot cidre. It was most challenging. (I just can't change that one; it's too good).

Along your musical journey, what has been the toughest choice you’ve had to make?

It wasn't so much about the toughest choice, but rather the tuffnest choice-- 

Here's how:
When I was 18, I encountered two turbo twist boys standing flush against a lily-white fence, thick, bloated, bodies, bodaciously barring the entrance to what was supposed to be my first ever solo acoustic partly-unplugged vocal ensemble core class. The boys appeared both psyched and soaked, as I continued onward towards them. In a minute. One of the two twists slowly inched a bulbous fist toward the pocket of his draw-string sweatpant, and started to dig. As he dug, I deg. I dig man. What could he...? who could... wait but, no... I... Soon. Day breaks. Steaming hand crustily reveals itself from pocket's saggy depths.  Softly unfolding its tight clench, the fist opened up to a fully-blown pink palm upon which sat the very thing: a single sweaty bounce ball of hair and lint caked with bits of crusty crab. Or what! He tossed it over and I chose to catch. It was from that point forth that I've been doing what I do now for 1.5 plus years and counting. (I'm sorry but I just can't change that one either-- it's a masterpiece!)
 

What has been the biggest lesson you’ve learned along this journey?

To listen.  

What is the best advice you can offer another artist coming up?

Me freckled friend Farley once said, get off my jawk and funked himself in a five foot tub filled with pinto beans and fun dip. Sophisticated, yet refreshing-- we liked it. (or to listen). 

How has Oakland influenced your music and sound?
 
It has truly allowed us the time, space, depth and programming of the jurisdiction of sector B of the office of administrations (sector B etc.) necessary to breathe, ingest and digest the multicultural soundscape of ethnic diversity crucial to the ernest diplomacy with which our music reflects in it's own unique baritone, bilingual and faceted multi whay.  

French Cassettes

What is your name & what kind of music do you create?

French Cassettes. We've finally landed on a writing style that most people would say is indie rock and for the most part we'd agree. We like to include a lot of pop references too, but we avoid using that as an anchor. We only keep material that we still find interesting to play live.


When did you first know you were going to make music a part of your life?

One time my dad tricked me by asking me to go get the rest of the groceries out of the trunk of his car and instead I found no food, but a brand new electric guitar. He could of fit at least a few more groceries in there if it weren't for that thing so I figured I owed it to him to pursue a rock 'n' roll lifestyle.

Who or what inspired you to pursue creating music?

When I was a tiny kid I slept on the highest pew in church while my grandmother played the organ for all the Mormon hymns for our ward and I remember them having these very beautiful melodies. I didn't get the lyrics really, but I thought that was the coolest thing I'd ever seen anyone do. That, mixed with my dad playing guitar and watching Seinfeld was convincing enough.

What is your biggest dream for your music?

To play enough to not have to wake up to one of those stock cell phone alarm clock tones to go and do something that I don't enjoy doing, all day long. To make sure all of our families are taken care of. That and to get recognized by a server at Denny's and get my Moons Over MyHammy half off.

What is the best thing about the music you make?

I've seen parents years older than us bring their kids that are years younger than us to a show and watch them share moments together during some of our songs and I just about lose it. Not a lot of things make me happier than that.


What is the most challenging thing about what you do?

Putting on those sticky wrist bands at shows without it tearing off some wrist hairs.

Along your musical journey, what has been the toughest choice you’ve had to make?

When we were in high school we had this obsession with the Mars Volta and wrote some really weird tunes. Some of us liked it that way and some of us thought we should write more indie pop songs. That was huge. It took a lot of convincing, but we eventually decided to write in that direction. That's when we came out with Summer Darling EP.

What has been the biggest lesson you’ve learned along this journey?

When we first started playing music we realized how important it is to learn faces and remember names. In the long run that is one of the most important things you can do. We know a lot of our best fans by name basis.


What is the best advice you can offer another artist coming up?

Take a ton of promo pictures while you’re skin's tight, don't buy an amp you can't carry by yourself, at rehearsal, try to avoid the sentence "it's ok, we'll just jam it out at the show", and always save your best underwear for gig nights. But what do we know.


How has Oakland influenced your music and sound?

It's been awesome catching all these great bands though gigging in Oakland. That mixed with the promoters that kill it every show we play together, we take a lot of that home with us.

Jenn Johns by Odell Hussey Photography

Jenn Johns by Odell Hussey Photography

Jennifer Johns

What is your name & what kind of music do you create?

My name is Jenn Johns and I make Afro Diasporic Feel Good Music ;) 

When did you first know you were going to make music a part of your life? 

My Daddy would let me steer his old truck while he drove and we would sing that one song from the movie "the jerk" with Steve Martin..... "I know I know you belong to someone new, but tonight you belong to me". I was about 3 and that's how he taught me harmonizing. I knew then I was gonna sing forever. 

Who or what inspired you to pursue to create the music you do? 

I am inspired by humanity really. The way that we hurt and love one another and the planet will never cease to amaze me. Humans are so many things! 

What is your biggest dream for your music?

I intend to be an international recognized and respected voice/name/presence. I want my music to be the soundtrack to folks lives. 

Jenn Johns by Odell Hussey Photography

Jenn Johns by Odell Hussey Photography

What is the best thing about making music?

There is nothing like it. It fills you up in a way that doesn't make rational sense. It's a spirit that takes over and we as musicians are just along for the ride. I love being possessed by the spirit of music. 

What is the most challenging thing about what you do? 

Details and money. Indie artists love their art so much that signing to mainstream channels that take and don't give doesn't work for us. Sadly, it leaves us with much more to do, with less resources. 

Along your musical journey, what has been the toughest choice you’ve had to make? 

Choosing to not be in the entertainment industry. I hit a wall  and needed to realign myself. I thought I needed a 6 months- year. It turned out to be more like 7. Best thing I've ever done for myself. 

Jenn Johns by Odell Hussey Photography

Jenn Johns by Odell Hussey Photography

What has been the biggest lesson you’ve learned along this journey? 

TRUST YOUR GUT!!! 

What is the best advice you can offer another artist coming up?

Make art because you must. Make the art that you must. The rest comes. TRUST! 

How has Oakland influenced your music and sound?

BLOOD?!

Lila Rose by Odell Hussey Photography

Lila Rose by Odell Hussey Photography

Lila Rose

What is your name & what kind of music do you create?

Lila Rose, Cinematic indie-rock


When did you first know you were going to make music a part of your life?


Music was always a part of my life starting from a young age, playing a wide range of instruments from cello to viola, steel band, piano, and things like choir. But that was all thanks to my parents, and school which both "required" (thank goodness) that I do that. But music didn't occur to me to be something to pursue until I was about 23 years old... it happened a bit late for me you could say! Theater and acting had been my thing until then, until the light switch went on when a friend back home in Toronto gave me his CD of freshly made beats, and I wrote my first songs to it (which at the time I thought were really cool songs, but you will likely NEVER hear them! They are..... cute???) It was then that I remember saying for the first time to someone that I was a musician.


Who or what inspired you to pursue creating music?


I have no idea! I think the inspiration just came through me after I wrote those songs to my friends beats. I had given up acting a couple years prior and so I was on this soul journey (which wasn't easy) trying to figure out what the heck I was doing. I think the inspiration came from my heart feeling totally and completely happy and fulfilled from writing, that I knew I had to keep going. After that, I think it was the little scatterings of fans who gave the thumbs up, and as the fan base grew and continues to grows, the fans are certainly the ones who encourage me to keep creating music.

What is your biggest dream for your music?

This one is easy: To have large production multi media show including an orchestra and choir, touring the world playing shows for wonderful audiences inspiring the masses, and learning/studying the art forms of various cultures around the globe. Also to be using my art as a medium for social change- to help build deeper bridges between music and activism... to be in a position to be able to influence deeply needed changes through the power of art. What else could I ask for?? Oh yeah... to play with Bjork!

Lila Rose by Odell Hussey Photography

Lila Rose by Odell Hussey Photography

What is the best thing about the music you make?

That is comes from the deepest place in me (and beyond) and holds quite a raw, honest, vulnerable place for myself and (hopefully) other people to drop in with. Also that I am becoming more and more fucking fearless. Ha!


What is the most challenging thing about what you do?

A) that I have an incredibly powerful mind which comes up with a million terrifying possibilities for "failure" B) that it takes a ton ton ton ton of time and perseverance to really come to a place of being fully sustained financially from the art.


Along your musical journey, what has been the toughest choice you’ve had to make?

Yikes. Great question! Well, we put alot of thought into almost everything we do so unfortunately I kind of find alot of choices to be tough. So yeah, I can't think of the toughest per say, because I feel we are just constantly up against numerous important choices. Perhaps this moment right now with WE.ANIMALS. the new record might be the most difficult choice we've had to make. There are interesting proposals and ideas about how to put this record out, and it has been wrapped up in our basement for 3.5 months now waittttinnng for us to make some choices about it so we an put it out. It's very difficult and annoying to have to hold back but we are trusting the process (most days)!

Lila Rose by Odell Hussey Photography

Lila Rose by Odell Hussey Photography

What has been the biggest lesson you’ve learned along this journey?

Definitely patience. Patience patience patience patience patience and more patience. This stuff takes time. Everything takes time! Writing a song takes time, producing takes time, mixing takes time, just scheduling mixing can take time, finding a publicist takes time, choosing album art takes time, building a fan base takes foreverrrrrr, preparing a show takes time, making money from music takes time. Ok ok, we get it. Yeah. Waiting, patience. It's a part of the deal, and I still to this day, am years ahead (in my mind) of where we are actually at. The more I surrender and remind myself that it's all working out just right, the easier it gets to be patient with the process.


What is the best advice you can offer another artist coming up?

To just give it your all. To be fearless, to follow the tiny voices and inclinations of sound and art that want to birth themselves through you. THAT is the only way to be genuinely YOU, and I think at the end of the day, that is the happiest place to be: just YOU. Trying to emulate or become someone elses' voice or sound will never fulfill the same deep yearnings we all have to express ourselves. Be you, and be prepared to give it your all, or don't bother cause it's no vacation being a musician!


How has Oakland influenced your music and sound? 

Mmmm. I can't say for sure what influences come specifically from Oakland itself, but I am certainly inspired by all of the bands here! There are so many incredibly talented young folks just killing it here that it gives me extra ammunition to persevere. It is a wonderful community to be a part of! Also the flowers, trees, views of the bay from my living room window, the sun, vegetables that grow all year round, hummingbirds, deer that wander within cityscapes, and good good people.

Lisa Light by Odell Hussey Photography

Lisa Light by Odell Hussey Photography

Lisa Light


What is your name & what kind of music do you create?


Lisa Light aka El Elle, and I make experimental pop music that is woven into a

performance art context which utilizes dance, theater staging, couture, film, and

punk aesthetic to make its point.


When did you first know you were going to make music a part of your life?


When I left my job at a marine biology lab to play violin in the circus.


Who or what inspired you to pursue creating music?


Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, my musician parents and Grandmother, a surplus of

romantic agst and rebellion.

What is your biggest dream for your music?

To work with my music and dance heroes, which change weekly.

Lisa Light by Odell Hussey Photography

Lisa Light by Odell Hussey Photography

What is the best thing about the music you make?


The interdisciplinary and collaborative aspect of El Elle is definitely the most

thrilling part of this project. I love working with dancers and artists in other

mediums for cross pollination.


What is the most challenging thing about what you do?

Maintaining motivation to keep pressing onward, when obstacles sap my

enthusiasm.


What has been the biggest lesson you've learned along this journey?

There is no substitute for putting in the hours, and schedule time for

experimentation.

Lisa Light by Odell Hussey Photography

Lisa Light by Odell Hussey Photography


What is the best advice you can offer another musician coming up?


Don't listen to anyone's advice about your process. Do what makes you thrilled,

and it will translate. Don’t be afraid to copy your heroes and always tell the truth.


How has Oakland influenced your music and sound?


I cut my teeth on Oakland warehouse parties with my first band, The Lovemakers.

The DIY aesthetic of noise/punk/hip hop has greatly tempered out my classical

music background.

Derek Barber by Odell Hussey Photography

Derek Barber by Odell Hussey Photography

Perhapsy

What is your name & what kind of music do you create?

My name is Derek Barber and I record and perform under the name Perhapsy.

Although it’s difficult for me to genre-a-cize my music, I think Experimental Pop is the best descriptor I got so far.

When did you first know you were going to make music a part of your life?

I was five when They Might Be Giants' album Flood came out. My younger brother and I would jump on our couches and run around the run listening to that album on repeat. That mixed with the feeling of tape recording Nirvana, Oasis and other college-station music on my Tiger Talk Boy made me realize I had to make music a part of my life 

Who or what inspired you to pursue creating music?

Watching Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" video on MTV played constantly when it came out. Also, Radiohead, Wes Montgomery, Blink-182, Miles Davis and Jimi Hendrix did the same thing for me.

What is your biggest dream for your music?

To one day sit in with Radiohead. I'd settle for Pavement though, too.

Derek Barber by Odell Hussey Photography

Derek Barber by Odell Hussey Photography

What is the best thing about the music you make?

Honesty? That and the fact that I can play some guitar.

What is the most challenging thing about what you do?

If in terms of challenge for me, then it's summoning up the courage to sing in front of people. But that sort of thing gets slightly easier after every gig. The real challenge is figuring out a way to survive. Which I think we're all learning about everyday.

Along your musical journey, what has been the toughest choice you’ve had to make?

What to do with a degree in Jazz Guitar. :)

Derek Barber by Odell Hussey Photography

Derek Barber by Odell Hussey Photography

What has been the biggest lesson you’ve learned along this journey?

Life's too short not to do what you love, so you may as well do it the best you can.

What is the best advice you can offer another artist coming up?

Listen to as much music as possible. Also, if you keep hearing people say, "you're not doing it right. People won't like that," there's a good chance you're already on the right track.

How has Oakland influenced your music and sound? 

I believe Oakland is a very special place for art music right now just based upon the kinds of collaborations and diverse range of artists doing diverse work. I'm continually inspired not only by my close friends (who play in each others projects, create zines, make art, etc) but by this city's history as an important cornerstone for forward thinking people. It's one of the few places I've ever felt at home.

Waterstrider by Odell Hussey Photography

Waterstrider by Odell Hussey Photography

Waterstrider

What is your name & what kind of music do you create?


Nate: Waterstrider. My name is Nate. It's music that comes from our head and is inspired by everything that we have ever listened to. Our music may not continue to sound the same as it does now, and we are okay with that. 
Waterstrider is just the sum of what we are feeling at any moment. 


When did you first know you were going to make music a part of your life?


Nate: I don't think it was a totally intentional pursuit for any of us. I do remember going into my second elementary school and realizing that I wanted to learn how to play piano. I must have liked the sound. I started taking lessons and really fell in love with it and started dedicating more and more of my time to it. 


Walker: I can't remember when I first started playing hand drums with my neighbors as a kid, but I vividly remember not being able to start playing until I imagined the melody to "Under the Sea" from the Little Mermaid. Playing drums was never a question for me - it was just something I always did. In third grade my cousin offered my lessons on drum set, so of course I took the opportunity. 


Who or what inspired you to pursue creating music?


Nate: I like pretty sounds. My ears are full of icicles. Icicles make pretty sounds.


Walker: Apparently the Little Mermaid. 
 

What is your biggest dream for your music?


Walker: To be the default song on a children's keyboard.
 

Waterstrider by Odell Hussey Photography

Waterstrider by Odell Hussey Photography

What is the best thing about the music you make?


Nate: It tickles the nerve endings in my brain, and gives me ASMR. When it's the right atmosphere and the right performance, I feel transported. It's like meditation.


What is the most challenging thing about what you do?


Nate: Over-analyzing and re-arranging songs over and over again. Instincts are good things to go by.
Walker: Interviews.


Along your musical journey, what has been the toughest choice you’ve had to make?


Nate: I feel like we are just beginning our journey. At least I hope that's the case. The band did break up once before, but I think that allowed everyone to figure out exactly what they wanted to pursue. It did allow me to write songs I'm quite proud of.
 

Waterstrider by Odell Hussey Photography

Waterstrider by Odell Hussey Photography

What has been the biggest lesson you've learned along this journey?

Life isn't a struggle, it's a wiggle.

What is the best advice you can offer another artist coming up?

Duke Ellington’s Law: If it sounds and feels good, it is good.

How has Oakland influenced your music and sound?

Nate: I don't know that the city itself has directly influenced our sound, but the vibrancy of the music scene has been incredibly inspiring. It's such a rich culture and the music is diverse yet united in intention. 
 

Whiskerman by Odell Hussey Photography

Whiskerman by Odell Hussey Photography

Whiskerman


What is your name & what kind of music do you create?

Graham Patzner. In the band Whiskerman we make rock and roll.

When did you first know you were going to make music a part of your life?

I come from a line of professional musicians on my father's side. My great grandfather had multi instrumental vaudevillian  act. Lord knows what my great great great grandparents did...

Who or what inspired you to pursue creating music?

Everything and everyone. 

What is your biggest dream for your music?

I'd like for as many people to hear it as possible and for it to help people  someway or another.

Whiskerman by Odell Hussey Photography

Whiskerman by Odell Hussey Photography

What is the best thing about the music you make?

I think music brings catharsis and can be a catalyst for healing in some people so I intend to make that the best thing out our music, someday. 

What is the most challenging thing about what you do?

It's challenging to keep 4 people engaged in the process of trying to create a successful band. The everyday needs, monetarily  and spiritually, do hinder the process quite a bit. 

Along your musical journey, what has been the toughest choice you’ve had to make?

What songs make the album or don't!!

Whiskerman by Odell Hussey Photography

Whiskerman by Odell Hussey Photography

What has been the biggest lesson you've learned along this journey?

Keep your nose to the grind, keep practicing, love yourself, enjoy and honor the process. 

What is the best advice you can offer another artist coming up?

The above.

How has Oakland influenced your music and sound? 

I grew up in Oakland. I am greatly influenced by the nature surrounding our beautiful city. Walking in the redwoods and Sibley bring me a sense of rapprochement within myself.  

Yassou Benedict by Odell Hussey Photography

Yassou Benedict by Odell Hussey Photography

Yassou Benedict

What is your name & what kind of music do you create? 


Yassou Benedict. We create music that we would want to listen to. Music that can’t be put into one specific box or genre. 


When did you first know you were going to make music a part of your life?


After high school I fractured my heal and was out of work for six weeks. I started playing guitar and writing songs and decided to start a band. We haven’t stopped since. 


Who or what inspired you to pursue creating music?


Music was a large part of everyday life. My mother was a music teacher, and all the founding members of the band attended a Rudolph Steiner School which is very music and art oriented. Listening to Radiohead's In Rainbows on repeat for months would be a turning point in my understanding of what music could be and do as well. It opened my eyes to how vast an impact it could have on the full spectrum of your life. After realizing that I wanted to be a part of that experience for other people. 

What is your biggest dream for your music?


MTV
 

Yassou Benedict by Odell Hussey Photography

Yassou Benedict by Odell Hussey Photography

What is the best thing about the music you make?


The feeling when a song comes together and you know its right, and then sharing that with people.


What is the most challenging thing about what you do?


Not being able to give it 100%. Between working full time jobs, managing, booking, paying insane rent, sometimes you forget that your real responsibility lies within the art of creating actual music. To remember that and keep everything in balance is definitely the hardest part. I hope one day we can find a new structure for the music industry. I know theres is so much insane talent around right now that is in the same boat as us. We are all losing out if we are not hearing or experiencing the best and fullest of what these young artists have to give. 


Along your musical journey, what has been the toughest choice you’ve had to make?


Turning down the Young Money record deal. 

Yassou Benedict by Odell Hussey Photography

Yassou Benedict by Odell Hussey Photography

What has been the biggest lesson you’ve learned along this journey?

Be respectful and treat the people that do good by you right, while never slacking on your standards. 

What is the best advice you can offer another artist coming up?

Write really fucking good music. Everything else can be achieved by writing emails. 

How has Oakland influenced your music and sound? 

Being originally from a small town in New York moving here was a huge transition. It took us a long time to settle in and figure it out. Meeting and working with people like Sarah Sexton at Awaken and Ramona at Bottom Of The Hill gave us confidence that what we were somewhat on the right path and that our hard work was not for nothing. Without them and a lot of the bands that we have played with and are inspired to be as good as I don't think we would still be a group.