Could you introduce yourself?
KYLE: OrKa Odyssey is a progressive oceanic synth-pop band comprised of four human vessels administering Spirit through sound.
How did you all meet and decide to create a band together?
KYLE: Brett and I played in another synth-pop act together in Tennessee called "tHE HEARtS IN LIGHt" from early 2013-2015, and we've worked together on projects on and off over the years. We mostly toured the Southeast together and spent most of our best times in one of my many studios during that time period. When our previous band began to break up, Brett and I formed a natural songwriting bond. Mostly musical, but sometimes we wrote and still do write words together. Brett was always fascinated with the recording process so he began doing some engineer work on our projects while I handled the producing. I guess we kind of have that lead guitarist/frontman and drummer relationship, although I play keytar! In early 2016, the OrKa Odyssey project started to take off with myself and our former bass player who would frequently travel from Nashville to Denver, where I live, to write, record, and gig with us. Eventually, Brett moved out to Denver and it became a serious band. Unfortunately we were forced to let our former bass player go during the middle of our summer tour last year, but in a lot of ways it helped us grow closer together as songwriters and creative partners as we had to overcome a lot of obstacles on that tour. I think it's safe to say that we've paid our dues.
We met Deano through an idea I had to perform a "Concerto for Plants". I think I was in my local kava bar here in Denver and I came up with this title of a mini-symphony or suite called "Recording No. 78: Venus Flytrap Sea Pod (A pink, pulsating green slime human grapefruit web formations)". It was a short concert in an art gallery to be performed for an audience of at least one hundred plants. I wrote most of it for the clarinet (on keyboard) and so then I began searching for a clarinetist. Deano answered my Craigslist ad and so he started coming over and between he, myself and Brett, the piece was composed and recorded. Unfortunately, Deano was out of the state for the successful live performance at DATELINE gallery in Denver, but when he returned we began doing a lot of sessions together. I even got him to sing on one of the main ballads, "Time Passage Sadness." I think he was surprised when I asked him to do the lead, but has a really great voice. He has soul. Deano completed our sound with his sonorous woodwinds and knowledge of classical music and concerts.
I met Scott when his other band "Lost Aliens" asked us to play a Christmas show with them in Denver. After the show, we talked about him just laying some bass tracks on the new record. He started coming over to my studio and we hit it off almost immediately. We became friends and then we soon learned that we could work well together and get along easily. Scott's a real chill guy, the hippy of our group per se, and that's good because it balances the forcefulness that Brett and I bring to the group. It improves the dynamic. Scott's all about getting lost in sound, whereas I'm all about controlling sound. It's a great combination!
What’s your life philosophy? How do you try to apply that to your work?
KYLE: My life philosophy is Jesus, Musica Universalis (The Music of the Spheres), dolphins, whales... The whales sing like us, and like us they are God's instruments of sound and light. I dream about dolphins and whales often. Sometimes the dreams are prophetic and saturated with creativity. Cetaceans are our moniker per se, our "spirit animals". The orca represents balance as it resembles the yin-yang. The "Ka" spelling used in our group name was intentionally selected as it is the Egyptian word for "eternal soul". Although I'm no longer interested in living by eastern philosophies, I can respect the truth found in some of the ancient wisdom and symbolism. It all stands for spirituality and will-power. Orcas are the planet’s' number one apex-predator. I grew up listening to artists like Brian Wilson, Paul McCartney, Luke Steele, Ric Ocasek, Tom Schulz, Paul Simon, and Jeff Lynn (among many others). All of these artists were commanders. Captains of musical battleships in a sea of tunes shouting "Full speed ahead!". I feel like OrKa Odyssey has a sense of boldness. Like harsh sunlight shining through a stained-glass window or the reflection of the late afternoon sun on choppy, Atlantic waves. There's a touch of bloody chainmail, shiny chivalry, and Arthurian legend as well, and of course American patriotism. I feel like one day we'll be waving glorious banners of victory in a lush, seaside jungle bordering a kingdom made from crystals, streets of gold... All of that. Perhaps there I'll get to ride my dolphin.
Why music? What made you choose this medium to express yourself creatively?
KYLE: Music is in my blood. My dad is a fantastic bass player and he toured nationally throughout the early 70's and early 80's, so basically I was turned onto classic rock straight out of the womb. My dad's band "Blaze" used to practice in our old garage when I was a kid. I think my ears are still ringing! When I was about eight or nine my dad turned me onto the White Album and The Dark Side of the Moon. I also started reading and writing poetry at that time, which still to this day is my number one passion (and talent) related to the arts. That was the beginning... Then when I was about fourteen I discovered The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds and SMiLE (bootlegs) LP's. Pet Sounds and SMiLE changed my life and made me want to be an auteur, although at that time my main passion was film, so I wanted to be a filmmaking auteur like Kubrick or Hitch. I think I was also fourteen when I first heard the Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour. I remember walking down Crescent Beach in St. Augustine, Florida listening to that record and feeling something I had never felt before from the sounds. A year or two later I began taking piano just for the theory, and from there I went on to use my newly developed skills to create John Carpenter-esque soundtracks for the little indie movies my friends and I were making. When I was seventeen I bought myself a laptop with Pro Tools and an Mbox, as well as a Baldwin upright piano. I started getting into music production professionally. I found that it was an easier medium to accomplish your goals as opposed to film which requires hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars to create and also a lot of people! With music you can drop a few g's with a hand full of folks and get a professional project off of the ground. One of the biggest inspirations to my music career came around the same time I graduated film and theology school. I went to a Sleepy Jackson concert in Atlanta, GA and I met Luke Steele, currently of Empire of the Sun fame. Luke became like a mentor and a spiritual brother to me. At that time, in the early 2000's, Luke still lived in Perth, Australia, and so we became pen pals for many years. He would invite me to label parties at EMI/Astralwerks when he was in the states and that is when I got my first real taste of the professional music industry. In 2009, I formed my first professional band called tHE HEARtS IN LIGHt with Brett and two other people, and we basically just transposed all of these Brian Wilson/Paul McCartney-esque piano arrangements over to synthesizers. I think at that time I described the sound I was trying to create as, "Heavenly, celestial pop music." tHE HEARtS IN LIGHt toured together for six years and made an EP and three LP's before Brett and I started noticing serious personal issues within the group. tHE HEARtS IN LIGHt broke up in late 2014 and so then Brett, our former bass player, and I formed OrKa Odyssey. It's worth noting that in 2010 tHE HEARtS IN LIGHt began surfing the Delphic wave. I began exploring and including concepts related to dolphins, whales, and the sea in our songwriting, as well as including images of them in our album art. So the cetaceans definitely had a lot to do with our music once we became adults and started to seek a true purpose with art and music.
BRETT: As a young kid hearing my mother and my father play their favorite records, I instantly had a connection to the music. The groove, the words, the energy. It instantly made me feel “something” whether that was happiness, sadness, excitement, I knew that this thing called “music” was special and that I wanted to be a part of it. Later in my life as I started expressing my life feelings as a teen through the exploration of writing (specifically poetry at the time) my parents bought me my first drum set as well as my first guitar. After losing my mother to cancer when I was just 17, I took my knowledge of poetry and began figuring out how to express these whirlwind of feelings into this musical journey. Simply an outlet for me. I knew in that moment specifically I wanted to do nothing more than to put good feelings and great art out into the world, so that other people could be taken back to a good memory or find a happy place in a time that may not be so great just as I did growing up with the people I love.
DEANO: I grew up playing music from a very young age. I never really had a plan for it to be the focus of my life or my career. It just sort of happened. Music can be immensely powerful and the act of performing, whether it’s in a venue, on the street or for your friends, has always been a special experience for me. I can’t really see myself doing anything else.
SCOTT: Music brings me happiness. It feels good to co-create, inspire, and share.
How has your LP, "The Legend Of The Golden Dolphin" influenced where you are now in your music career? How has the creation of this album made an impact on you personally?
KYLE: "The Legend of the Golden Dolphin" LP began as I was reading a book about dolphins and cetaceans called "Souls in the Sea" by Scott Taylor, PHD. I started delving into scientific experiments in relation to dolphin and human communication via telepathy and dream states, and so naturally it leaked into the concept of the record a bit. "The Legend of the Golden Dolphin" is not a concept album, but the title is conceptual and has everything to do with my personal physical and spiritual experience with cetaceans. It also marked the beginning of a new phase for the band as we had to let go of our former bass player at the end of our summer tour last year, and then we met Deano and Scott. We also met Karli Rhind, a violist/violinist who contributed to a few of the songs on the record including the "Concerto for Plants." Incorporating woodwinds, strings, a different bass sound, and electric guitar with a variety of psychedelic effects definitely gave us a bigger sound, especially when you toss all of those into the trick bag with my keytar/synths and Brett's percussion. I know for Brett and I this record also represents overcoming seemingly impossible obstacles by walking on faith. I believe it also signaled the end of our eclectic and miscellaneous, DIY creative period.
BRETT: “The Legend Of The Golden Dolphin” has been a fantastic musical journey filled with new experimental sounds and many different kinds of emotional feelings and obstacles throughout the entire studio sessions for this album. For me, I started experimenting on more of the fantasy side of my writing (both musically and lyrically) for these sessions. I had been writing more straightforward Nashville, folky, personal material and wanted to challenge myself to take a more fantasy-like approach for “The Legend Of The Golden Dolphin” which has resulted in me being at my best musically and lyrically so far in my career. Personally this album has made the entire band stronger as a team and as individuals. We had a lot of emotions and trials to overcome during the making of this album. Having had a head on collision in Idaho with a 1,200lb elk on tour last year on our way to Portland, Oregon and the unfortunate loss/departure of our longtime friend and former bassist, the making of this album has truly made us stronger than we’ve ever been.
Could you tell us a bit about your creative process when it comes to planning a new EP/album? Could you walk us through the steps?
KYLE: For me it just depends on the project, and more importantly what I have been feeding my mind, body, and spirit. I could get a creative epiphany from a book, a record, a film, a real life experience, a woman, anything that turns me on... For this record I went to Monterey and did some whale watching. We also plan to livestream one of my float tank experiments in VR360. It makes it more real when we live the creativity, especially considering sometimes the creativity comes from real life interests and experiences. In our last group (Brett and I), we went to Bimini, Bahamas a lot and swam with wild dolphins. For the next LP we plan to stay in a monastery to prepare. That will probably happen over the summer after our Pacific Northwest tour. As far as how I usually start a song, once I have an idea rolling, I usually program a beat/metronome and create the basic structure of the verses, choruses, bridge, intros, outros, etc. on synthesizer. I used to always start on an acoustic piano or organ. Now that I live in an apartment, I mainly use keytar and a variety of synths. Sometimes I write on acoustic guitar as well, especially on the next record, but yeah it usually starts with a tempo and then the arrangement begins. Once I have the initial keyboard arrangement, I stack it with a sea of colorful melodies and sounds. The final process is typically lyrics and vocals, but there are always exceptions.
BRETT: For me it always seems to vary on where I’m at in my life at the time. The lyrical material itself can come from a variety of things such as my current adventures, travels, who I’ve met, a book I’m reading, my love life at that specific time, who I'm collaborating/co-songwriting with at the time, current worldly situations. I do quite a lot of traveling and adventuring before I start the writing process for an album. I enjoy being alone with nature. I find a sense of calmness and inspiration for myself. In my “notebook” there may be a full chorus to an idea to a song that I have a concept for. There may be one line. There may be a song title. I know personally for me all my songs usually start out with something I’m writing on the acoustic guitar. The music almost always comes before the words. I do this to start to feel the emotion of what that song will become. Once the song is written on the guitar with structure, finished lyrics and a vocal melody, I will then take it into the studio for production. Sometimes the base of the song is kept with the acoustic and sometimes it is stripped away completely. This will then begin to shape the form and concept of what the next album will become.
Who are 5 music artists you'd want to collaborate with and why?
KYLE: Brian Wilson, my musical hero. What can I say about Brian that hasn't already been said? He's a genius and a beautiful creative soul.
Luke Steele, my musical mentor. I love his writing and music, and he's a great friend.
The Wrecking Crew, the greatest studio musicians of all time. I would love to produce a session with those guys!
POLARTROPICA, they're a synth-pop group in LA that I really dig right now.
OrKa Odyssey, because we are infinite. I hope this project continues until I'm well into my 70's!
How would you describe your music style? Do you feel like it reflects you?
KYLE: I would describe our current style as oceanic synth-pop or futuristic pop/rock. Ultimately it's just pop/rock music inspired by the sea, God, life and love. There really are no rules when it comes to the songwriting in our group except for innovation and excellence. I will say that our band has a heavily produced sound and that has a lot to do with my interest in making modern day classic records. I would also say that it has a bit to do with my obsession with The Beach Boys and their records. I hope the next record I produce will be the "What's Going On" of our generation. We need to unite as a nation. Marvin Gaye's solution to the chaos of the late 1960's was the Love of God and Holiness, and he put that on a record. I dig that. So yeah, I think the records I produce and co-write reflect my interests in the production race of the mid-late 1960's and the music from that decade, and the two decades that followed it, as well as my soul's deep connection to the sea and its inhabitants. Our records are definitely infused with my spirituality.
How do you feel Denver and Los Angeles have inspired your creative spirit? Do you feel as though your environment influences the direction of your work? Why or why not?
KYLE: Moving to Denver changed my life for the better because it put me near the people I needed to live a happy life and realize the vision that is OrKa Odyssey. As far as inspiration, the mountains are beautiful. Whether I'm skiing at Loveland or camping and hiking in Boulder or Buena Vista, the vast landscapes, deep gulches, cold water streams, and literal Rocky Mountains always seem surreal. The city itself is fun and very active. There's always something going on in Denver. There are shows every night. So many you can't keep up! I live on a very busy street just up the road from the Capitol building so I'm right in the middle of the action. I will say that most of my creativity does come from within, or above rather. Places are nice and inspirational, but I can create just as well locked in my studio, alone with myself. LA is great as well. It's very nostalgic for me growing up as a film buff and all. My degree is in film so I love Hollywood and movie history. I think I love the dream of LA better than LA itself. The rent is too high and it's very crowded, but with that being said, every time we tour or visit I have a beautiful experience. I love my LA fans and friends and they will always hold a special place in my heart. I see myself getting a flat out there within the next five years. Somewhere to stay when I work in the city.
How do you want listeners to feel when they listen to the music you create?
KYLE: Loved. We want to give our listeners hope. Faith and hope. They need to know that anything is possible, and part of our job is to remind them of that. We also want to paint pictures in their imaginations with our music and words and inspire them to create.
What's one aspect about your life that you feel others would find surprising?
KYLE: How deep my connection with dolphins and whales actually is, and how involved I am with science and metaphysics in an attempt to bridge the gap between human and cetacean communication. i.e. Float tank experiments, swimming with cetaceans in the wild on numerous occasions, etc. Also, I have immense faith in God.
BRETT: The maturity and hard working work ethic of a 25 year old artist.
DEANO: I love learning about history and other cultures. I can speak Russian pretty well, a little bit of Mandarin too, but it’s always a work in progress
Do you have any rituals you do before you start your creative process for a new project, to get your mind and energy in the right place?
KYLE: Spending time by the sea in prayer and meditation is ideal, especially within range of cetaceans, but sometimes just getting a latte from the local coffee shop across from my flat in downtown Denver and putting on one of my favorite LP's does the trick. Throw in a little bit of herb for good measure!
BRETT: I surround myself with nature right before the start of a creative process, whether that is spending time high in the Rocky Mountains, walking down a coastline, or playing a round of disc golf, I find a sense of calmness about it. I know that sounds hippie-like, but it truly lets me escape and creates a clean slate of clear headedness for my next project.
DEANO: I wouldn’t say I really have any rituals. Experimenting and seeing what works is important on any project. Staying open minded.
SCOTT: Take walks out in nature. Listen.
Coffee or tea?
KYLE: Lattes and kratom tea. I used to have a major orange soda addiction. It was a real problem!
BRETT: Both of course! Maybe even a green tea latte ;)
DEANO: Arnold Palmer, or Cuban Coffee if we’re in Miami
SCOTT: These days tea, but I still enjoy a cup of coffee.
What are some of your goals for 2017?
KYLE: We have a Pacific Northwest tour lined up, which will be followed by a Southwest and So Cal tour in the fall. We are also working on the next record. We've already written and recorded two songs for the new project. Actually, we've written more along the lines of seven or eight songs, but only two have actually been recorded. We have a title for the new LP, but I'm not ready to release it just yet. We plan on staying in a monastery here in Colorado for a few days halfway through the new album sessions just to get the spiritual vibes flowing so we can make a uniform album filled with love that is executed with clean hearts and pure intentions.
What makes you happy?
KYLE: God, love, cetaceans (dolphins and whales), tracking in the studio, the sea, poetry, music, watching movies (especially classics and 80's films!), The Beach Boys, reading, innovative creativity, exploring, travel, hiking, surfing, birds, and walks on the beach.
BRETT: Good food and great drinks, good music, traveling, meeting new people, spending time with the people I love, creating music and art for the world to enjoy and doing this interview! :)
DEANO: Being out in nature, hiking, having new experiences, listening to great music
SCOTT: Life. Creating and sharing music, friends, family, and this beautiful planet.
Listen to the full LP here!
Photo credit: Levi Ebeling