Producer Oatmello grabbed my attention back in March after releasing a series of instrumental projects. Dropping 10-12 minute EPs, the lofi producer from Portland quickly began to soundtrack my morning routine, my writing sessions, and yes, my afternoon naps. Since running an article about him back in the spring, he has gone on to release numerous tracks on his Bandcamp and SoundCloud, he has contributed to our monthly Sleep compilation, and he has assisted with Inner Ocean Records' impressively long compilation, Bless Vol. 1. Topping it all off, the producer is kickstarting August with the 26 minute full-length beat tape Memory. Working directly with the stand-out label Inner Ocean Records (who get a great deal of coverage on this site), I spoke with Oatmello about the creative process, his growth through the calendar year, and what we can expect from him as we approach the fall and winter.
How long have you been working on this project?
I've been working on this EP on and off for about six months. I end up making beats on an almost daily basis, but only certain ones had the right vibe and fit in with the overall concept of the project. Right now I have settled into this groove where I sit down to make music and I pretty much keep the first take of everything I do. I'll make a beat, then play keys, bass, synths, etc...I keep the first takes, and then move on. This allows me to finish music very quickly but only a few songs end up being good enough in my mind to release. This might sound cheesy but I was actually really inspired by this art style I read about called "Sumi-e" where the artist completes each painting in one stroke. These artists might make 100's or 1000's of paintings before they get that one stroke right. I think I enjoy taking that approach to beat making because I really enjoy the playing part, and not very much the part where you go back over a track and spend hours trying to turn what you recorded into something better with mixing, effects, or re-recording parts. That part is so tedious to me, I'd usually rather just start from the beginning.
How would you describe it to a stranger on the street?
I'd probably start by just telling people I make beats, and if they are interested further I'll say it's some sort of weird blend of hip hop, experimental instrumental music, ambient music and jazz or something.
You've already released (at least) four EPs this calendar year. How is this project different? Did you approach the songs differently?
Usually when I make music I end up feeling so totally consumed in the process that I lose track of everything else going on around me at the time. It's almost meditative. When making this project, I tried to focus on a memory and in some cases a feeling of a past time while working on each song. Most of the memories were from childhood but there are some others in there as well, including a bad one about the day after the 2016 election. I tried to keep it personal in that way, and ended up doing a lot of recording of things like my family and the sounds around my home. I relied a lot less on sampling and played a lot of the instrumentation live, including a lot of piano. In the end, I think this is a collection of beats that I feel very personally connected to.
What's the inspiration/vision behind the artwork? Did you do it yourself?
I really like doing line art on my iPad and when I was showing stuff to Corey at Inner Ocean Records, he suggested I blend in some color with it so I decided to play around with adding some old photography as a background. To me the child on the cover represents a time in life that inspired a lot of the songs.
What do you have planned for the remainder of the year?
One of my big goals this year is to get more involved with Spotify and Bandcamp. I have this idea to make a secret EP that I am just going to email a download link to everyone who has downloaded my music on Bandcamp as a thank you. I really think it's special in this day that someone would download actual files of your music and save them, when it's so easy to stream.
As far as beat tapes for the rest of the year, I'd like to continue to practice playing piano and incorporating more of that, and playing around with different song structures.
What are some Oatmello studio essentials?
The stuff I use all the time would be my Nord Stage, Logic Pro, Kontakt, and Fab Filter & Vahalla plug-ins. I record a lot of found sound type stuff on my phone, and I also use this tiny sampler plug-in called Nuance on almost every track. I'm more of a kombucha guy than a caffeine guy to be honest, although I usually consume both daily. Oh, I also eat massive amounts of chocolate.
What's the music scene like in your neck of the woods?
The music scene in Portland is pretty amazing to be honest. There are so many musicians doing interesting things just for the love of music. It's also become a regular stop off for interesting national acts, so I find that if there is a group or musician that I really get excited about, they almost always end up playing somewhere locally soon after I discover them. Honestly, I rarely take advantage of any of that these days. I tend to spend a lot of time playing music, and not very much time going out and seeing it. Instead I'll end up hanging out with friends or doing something out in nature.
What have you been listening to/reading/watching as of late?
I've been watching the new HBO documentary called The Defiant Ones, It's way better than I thought it would or could be. It's really interesting to see the backstories of some of those music legends like NWA, Tupac, Nine Inch Nails, and a bunch of other superstars from the 90s told through the first hand experiences of Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine who I honestly hadn't even heard of 'til watching.
Anything I didn't ask that you'd like to include? Any final thoughts / words of wisdom?
Let's see...There is this amazing music compilation series put together by this blogger called Sleep, that's really worth checking out! Truthfully, I'm not very wise so I try not to dispense any sort of wisdom on a regular basis.