Regardless of what era of dance music you enjoy, California duo Oliver are sure to get your feet moving. With influences that borrow pieces from Prince’s baby soul, Giorgio Moroder’s techno funk, and Daft Punk’s modern-day disco, Oli “Oligee” Goldstein and Vaughn “U-Tern” Oliver have crafted a fun-loving back-to-the-future sound that touches everything from indie rock to Donna Summer. The critical acclaim of last year’s Mechanical EP has fast-tracked their momentum in 2013, a year that’s included an opening slot on Dillon Francis’ tour as well as collaborations with A-Trak, Destructo, and Alex Metric. We caught up with the two on their Toronto stop of the Moment of Clarity tour.
EARMILK: You guys are currently on tour with Alex Metric and Zedd. How have the shows been so far?
OG: It’s been amazing, super fun. The only other real tour we did this year was with Dillon Francis a few months ago. This one’s a little bigger, larger crowds. On this one there are two buses, one with lighting and lasers and all that. The production is definitely a lot bigger but we’re hitting a lot of the same cities.
EM: Have you been able to do any work together musically while on tour?
VO: We haven’t really done anything, we don’t have a lot of space to work. Anton has a little studio set up but he’s busy doing his thing. We’ve mainly been working on our set and editing music, stuff like that but not really making records.
OG: We’ve gotten pretty used to being in a recording studio, I don’t think either of us are really laptop guys.
VO: It’s kind of nice to get away from the studio for awhile, when we get back hopefully we’ll be fresh and have some new ideas.
EM: Last year’s Mechanical EP featured four tracks of varying styles and tempos. Are you able to incorporate all of those original productions into your DJ sets?
VO: We don’t really play "Mechanical" too much. Sometimes we’ll end a set with that if it’s the right kind of thing. We start with “Night Is On My Mind” a lot as it’s a slower tempo. It is quite a challenge to work our music in. We try to be diverse in the stuff that we make so it doesn’t always fit into a show with a lot of rave kids. A lot of our records are kind of chill and not meant for those kinds of situations. It helps that we have a lot of remixes of our songs now that are more appropriate for the crowd.
EM: Is it difficult to appeal to the raver crowd with a funky, mellow sound?
OG: I think the challenge is satisfying ourselves and being able to play records that we like, but also giving them a good show.
VO: We have a lot of records that we play that we know will go over well, so we can always fall back on those. Maybe we’ll try something new and if that’s not going over so well, then boom, we’ll play this and get them back on our side. It is a difficult balance and we want to represent our music and the stuff that we like so it’s definitely challenging.
OG: We have to do a bit more digging, it’s not just scouring the Top 10 Beatport. We have to find songs that people haven’t heard a million times and hope that they have the same kind of impact.
EM: Are fans responsive to some of your 80s remixes that may have been a bit before their time?
VO: To them it’s completely new, but for us, it’s the stuff we grew up on. The EDM thing has been pretty huge for a long time and people are starting to discover the other side of it. There are so many different branches that come from that. I think kids are starting to dig a little deeper, there are so many different styles but I still think the scene is in its infancy. It takes time, but they’re starting to come around.
EM: You guys are pretty tight with Gary Richards aka Destructo, playing a number of HARD events over the past months. What separates HARD events from other big festivals?
VO: It’s really unique, Gary is always thinking outside the box, especially with Holy Ship!, that was just something that popped into his head, then he’ll actually do it.
OG: And it actually works.
VO: He’s been doing it for so long but he still stays true to his musical tastes and he tries to expose people that haven’t had the limelight yet. He’s doing the balancing act as well – he wants to bring the kids in, but then he also wants to book cool shit that no one knows about. Not many festivals that do that. He approaches it just like a music fan. He’s always e-mailing us, “Hey, have you heard of these guys?” with links to artists with a few hundred Soundcloud followers. It’s all about the music for him.
EM: Coming from a turntablism background, do you ever wish that had more of a presence in today’s scene?
OG: We had a lot of years doing it. The thing that’s cool about it is the spontanaeity and improvisation of it all, and I think that’s something we’ve retained.
VO: We’ve just translated that energy of being a technician into other facets of music. We play keyboards and instruments so it’s the same kind of thing. It’s a completely different time now. When I was doing doubles of breakbeats in the club with 50 kids in backpacks, you can’t really compare that to today.
OG: It’s indirectly influenced our interest in where technology is going. Using different controllers and DAWs, triggering loops, even the visual aspect is another thing that you can play with.
VO: The really technical guys that have stayed around since that era have just taken that and applied it to live performance. Those are the guys that stay relevant. A-Trak is still around and he’s one of the only guys that still uses turntables. I get why he does too. There’s a certain feel to turntables that can’t be replicated, and I definitely miss that.
EM: The “Night Is On My Mind” video features a pretty cool time machine concept. What was the thought behind that?
OG: We collaborated with the director on that. Just throwing ideas around, he seemed to have a concept that sounded cool so we tried it out.
VO: We wanted to be a little weird and a little dark, so we’re happy with how it turned out for sure.
EM: What’s next music-wise for you guys?
VO: We were working on a lot of music in the summer trying to figure out our next direction. There’s definitely going to be new music coming out soon. There’s going to be a remix EP for Mechanical, that’s going to come out on Fool’s Gold shortly.
EM: Final question – we know you’re huge Prince fans. What do you like better: the new Prince single or the new Prince single Dave Chappelle cover art?
VO: I've seen the cover art, I haven’t really heard the song. I think I did briefly.
OG: The cover art.
VO: Yeah, that's what I remember so that says it all. The cover art wins, total boss move.