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Otium - Interview: Otium

22 Mar 2019 // An interview by Kerry Kingi

Upcoming NZ band Otium are on fire! Having just released their new Single Dollar For The Man, they toured for most of 2018 with sell-out shows and they're still touring right now! Kerry from Muzic.net.nz asked about their favourite musicians, venues and what's coming up in the near future. Here's how it went down.

When and how did you meet the band members of Otium?

Otium was originally formed in high school with Jesse Samu (lead singer), myself and a few other guys in 2015 for Rockquest, like so many young muso's do. Life can get in the way of music sometimes, so Jesse and I are the only original members left from that crew. I met Scott (guitarist) primarily through the local music scene, but we'd crossed paths before as he was also the older brother of one of my good friends. What I didn't know was that he absolutely rips! Jesse and I were blown away when we went to see his covers band play at a local bar one night in 2017. Funnily enough the other two members of this covers band were Grayson (drummer) and Devon (bass), so that's where I met the band members of Otium properly for the first time. As spaces opened up in the band, Scott came on board with Otium first and soon orchestrated a jam with all of us at a birthday party. Without wanting to sound cliche, it was a bit of a love at first sight scenario - we knew we'd stumbled across something worth pursuing as soon as we started jamming together, and that feeling intensified significantly when we started actually writing music. And that was over 2 years ago! 

How did you get into music? Who were your influences? 

Music was always a big part of my upbringing from a very young age. Both my parents love all kinds of music and my mum plays guitar and sings, so we were singing songs together as soon as I could read the lyrics. My dad got me my first guitar at age 8 and by the time I got to high school we were busking on the streets of Whangarei most Saturday's. Doing this definitely taught me the importance on focusing on melodies and songwriting first and foremost - technicalities and musicianship are great skills to have and you can't go without them if you want to speak the language of music effectively, but they exist to serve the song, which is an ethos I hope to retain as Otium releases more material. Early influences for the band were fairly reggae/dub heavy e.g. The Black Seeds, Freddy's, TrinityRoots, Sublime, Katchafire etc - standard musical initiation when you're from Whangarei! Having said that we weren't very picky - if it had a strong melody, well arranged harmonies, a great sonic landscape and a neck-snapping bop we were listening to it and trying to emulate some of those sounds. And all of those "criteria" go out the window if the song has emotional resonance, and a sprinkle of that special something that can't be named - some might call this soul music. Artists like D'Angelo, Jeff Buckley, Jordan Rakei, Fat Freddy's (again) and Troy Kingi come to mind.

What are some of your favourite and least favourite venues you have played at?

We are very lucky in New Zealand to have an abundance of beautiful venues to play music at. Some of my personal favourites include the Common Room in Hastings, the Okere Falls Store in Rotorua and of course the Old Stone Butter Factory in Whangarei - the only venue where we've had to leave straight after we played because we were too young to be there! Opening up for Sons of Zion at the Powerstation in Auckland was also an amazing experience and playing music right on the Raglan coast for Soundsplash was a special time too. I wouldn't say I have a least favourite venue per se - maybe some of the local pubs in the early days where there was no stage or barrier, and you had to spend your Sunday wiping all the spilt alcohol off your equipment! 

After releasing your latest Single Dollar for the man, What's up next for Otium?

Album time! We've been writing a lot of music and I think that we have enough stories to tell for our next release to be a full length project. So, stay tuned for that! This has been a dream of mine since I started writing music so if we can start laying down the groundwork for that this year I'll be ecstatic. This may also involve a week away from the metropolis that is Whangarei to head to either the coast or the bush, as both a mental holiday and a writing retreat for us. 

What the meaning behind the name Otium?

It's a Latin word that essentially means free time/ leisure. The space in which you can simply enjoy your chosen pursuit(s). It's just as relevant to me now as it was 4 years ago - music is so special in that you can instantly create a space, texture or a mood just by what collection of rhythms and notes you decide to listen to. Whether you're actively listening to music, creating it, analysing it, dancing to it, or even falling asleep to it, I believe the act of enjoying music is effortless. 

What advice would you give to any new and upcoming musicians entering the music industry?

Practise your instrument as often as you can, as this is directly improving your sounds. Write the music that YOU want to write, and never stop writing. Your signature style comes from the music in your head, not the music that you try to emulate. Stay humble - you'll enjoy it more that way and make lifelong friends through music. Learn the basics of audio engineering and how a PA works. Understanding what is involved in a really good mix will be hugely beneficial to yourself, your band, your production crew and your audience. And always pack your gear BEFORE you have a few drinks! 

Where can people find your music and pages?

All of the tracks we've currently released, including our latest track Dollar for the Man, are available on Spotify, iTunes, YouTube and all major streaming platforms under Otium. You can also find us on Facebook and Instagram


About Otium

Emerging from the small town of Whangarei, comes a new generation of musicians and artists. Otium’s core members have been performing together since they were in their early teens during high school, accumulating knowledge, driving their passion and perfecting their craft from a young age. Over the past three years they have expanded across the Northland circuit and have forged a reputation of being one of Northland’s most unique, dynamic and exciting live acts in the region, with influences of Reggae, Funk, Rock, Ska and Pop they have managed to create a significant sound in their music.

Since forming in 2014 they have been able to create a fantastic opening set and have been invited to share the stage with top class acts such as Katchafire, Jordan Luck, L.A.B. (Kora Brothers), The Herbs and upcoming artists such as Brendon Thomas and The Vibes, Ocean Alley and Strangely Arousing.

Their, ever-changing, sonically rewarding and exponentially growing repertoire of music is consistently enjoyed by all those who have witnessed it live and listened across all media platforms. With an average age of 20 streaming across the group, expect to see big things from these young men as they continue to take New Zealand by storm.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Otium


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