Classically trained violinist and singer-songwriter Orcha talks to Sheldon Ang about his latest single ‘Atlas’ and on finding inspiration in the surrealistic arts, philosophy and nature.
Not often do we find a violinist listed in the top twenty of the triple j Unearthed charts.
Then again, not many violinists can vocally immersed deep into the sonic layers of intricate soundscapes, weaving mellifluously between electronic and acoustic experimentation.
The classically trained violinist and singer-songwriter Orcha finds inspiration from the surrealistic arts, philosophy and nature to some of life’s sequential banalities, levitating his listeners through the wonders of his own universe, projecting them into the dreamy and ethereal realm while focusing on the mysteries of the human experience. Put simply, his music is psychedelic, as if we’re watching a life’s journey through a kaleidoscope.
The latest single, Atlas named after the Titan God who was condemned to carry the heavens on his shoulders, is an autobiographical chapter in Orcha’s life.
The latest single, Atlas named after the Titan God who was condemned to carry the heavens on his shoulders, is an autobiographical chapter in Orcha’s life. Instead of burdening his listeners with trash can music, he philosophically massages the audience with soothing melodies, engrained in multi layered tracks, translating moot into reverie.
The single follows Reverie and Depths released in 2019, forming the gestation phase of his upcoming album that will explore the different states of mind such as isolation, joy and grief as Orcha explains to Sheldon Ang.
Sheldon: Congrats on the latest single Atlas, sitting on top 20 of the Triple J Unearthed. I think the song is about feeling the weight of the world on your shoulders… tell us more about this song.
Orcha: Thank you. Yes, I was getting into this feeling of being weighed down in my headspace. I was feeling so rundown all the time, trying to keep up with life and all the work that I was doing…and just trying to catch up on so many different projects that I was working on.
So, I was thinking of a song to write for myself – as a bit of a mantra just to remind myself to slow down and just focus on the things that are most important, and the things that make me most happy. So that’s what I was trying to write about through Atlas.
I was reading a lot of Greek mythology… there’s a really great audio book read by Stephen Fry on the old Greek gods, and I was drawing parallels to the story. Hence the song title, Atlas – the Titan God who was condemned to carry the heavens upon his shoulders.
Sheldon: Sounds heavy on what you had to go through (Orcha: Yeah). Someone was saying that some of your songs feel as if he or she has just walked into a nightclub with an alien DJ. How do you create that dreamy feel… is it through several layers of violin?
Orcha: (Chuckles) I think violin itself is a very cinematic instrument. It has that kind of movie-like quality to it. I think of this sort of sounds that naturally happen when I’m running violin through all these different effects. They do sound a little bit otherworldly and eerie sometimes, but hopefully in a good way.
Sheldon: Is there a recipe to create this dreamy, ethereal feel?
Orcha: Well not necessarily, because all my tracks are violin based. I guess it generates the dreamy feel. I have a drummer as well who plays all the beats. But I really like that kind of floaty feel… almost surrealistic, sort of strange familiarity…sort of the 80’s inspired, dreamy synthpop kind of sound too. So that kind of sound definitely creates that mood.
Sheldon: You must like the surrealism art form.
Orcha: Yes, surrealism is my main inspiration with all the music I make, even though the songs themselves may not necessarily be surrealistic in their art form, but the art form itself forms a lot in the lyrics and the concept I write. I think about the existential side of my song writing.
Sheldon: I assumed the message of Atlas, or your songs in general, generate mainly from the music rather than the lyrics.
Orcha: I used to write a lot of instrumental stuff, and it’s only really on this album that I’m starting to write more lyrics, and singing myself. I think the music actually plays one of the most important parts in creating the message that I want to send across in a song; lyrics are only half of it, to me music is about capturing that feeling of what you’re trying to say…and the emotion behind it as well, because I think music does that way better than any lyrics, or language itself. Music conveys the meaning so much stronger between humans.
Sheldon: Unless you rap, then it is all about the lyrics.
Orcha: (Chuckles) True! I mean you can go the other way where you just explain everything.
Sheldon: (Chuckles) I’m also interested in the song making process of Atlas…do you lay the drums first, and the music before the lyrics?
Orcha: For all the songs on this album in particular, I’ve been starting with a drum beat. So I went into a studio with my drummer, and we just recorded something like fifty or sixty different drum loops…just grooves over and over…and just had them as like sixteen bar loops or whatever, and then I started riding chords over the top of it, and I start playing melodies and parts and stuff based on the drums which is really interesting way of going about it.
I haven’t done that before, but it kind of meant that the rhythmic element of all the songs was really strong right from the very start. I was used to adding the drums after the fact and would always have to edit the chord progression to suit the groove or like the bass lines or whatever, so it was good doing it the other way round because it kinda meant that I was like really sitting in with the rhythm of the song much better.
Sheldon: Interesting! So Reverie and Depth are part of upcoming album. Depth sounds more of a dance track. Your earlier tracks sound very violin orientated. Can we also expect more of those?
Orcha: There’s definitely going to be quite a strong mix of all different styles on the album. I think these singles are a little bit out of context without the rest of the songs in the album.
I’m kind of really keen to release the rest of the tracks so that people get an idea of my overall sound. With that being said, I think there’s quite a few more songs that are a bit similar to Depths – like a little bit more electronic focused, bit darker whereas Atlas and Reverie is a bit more of a light feeling.
It’s going to be a good strong mix with some songs have heaps of layers of violin. I’ve been recording full string sections by myself here in the studio, just layers and layers of violins and stacking them on top of each other. But then, there are also heaps of sounds that I have just recorded, with lots of sound effects…that they don’t even sound like violin anymore (chuckles).
Sheldon: I’d love to hear that. So do use electric and acoustic violin?
Orcha: Yeah, I have both in my studios…the Yamaha electric violin, it has no body. It has an extra string as well as five strings instead of four, and that is really good for like all the synths weird kind of guitar’ish sounds, but it doesn’t have a super nice violin tone by itself.
So you kinda got a recreate the tone using effects, but my acoustic violin just sounds really great by itself without anything on top of it. So it depends on what sort of sound I’m recording; if I’m trying to make a really nice natural string to, or an orchestral sound or anything like that, I’ll use my acoustic violin. But if I want to get more experimental, I use the electric violin.
Sheldon: Do you feel you are more of a violinist, or a singer?
Orcha: I definitely think I’m more of a violinist. I’ve been playing violin for 22 years. I’ve been singing for the last 10 years but I haven’t really given it a proper go until the last couple of years when I’ve been fully recording my own vocals for this album. I wasn’t really loving the sound of my own voice that much…but now I’m getting more comfortable with it.
Sheldon: When you performed live, do you play the violin and sing as well?
Orcha: Yes, I play violin for all the songs. I try and recreate as many parts live as possible using my big guitar pedal. I got a multi effects pedal board, and have all my presets saved in there. And I also have a drummer, where he plays live with me as well, and he has a sample pad. He plays the electronic stuff on his sample pad. I also have a keyboard player, and he has created some keyboards out of the violin sounds…
Sheldon: Can you play the violin while you sing as well?
Orcha: I’ve been practising doing that. It’s hard. I can only play the same as what I’m playing on the violin, so I can’t play something different on violin and sing it different – at the moment. Once, I saw a violinist who started playing a melody and then started singing harmony with the melody at the same time, and that was really cool, and I would like to get to that point, but I’m not there yet (chuckles).
Sheldon: Perhaps to the general public, the most famous violinists are the likes of Vanessa Mae, Lindsey Stirling, Bond…where they perform in front of thousands…except you can sing as well! Do you see yourself doing something similar?
Orcha: It would be nice to go into that full showmanship on the electric violin, as it would be pretty fun to do some tours and playing in some bigger venues.
Sheldon: When will the upcoming album be released?
Orcha: Well it depends on this lockdown. I was planning on releasing it in the next couple of months or two. But I really wanted to tour and perform live gigs. And a bit of a party to release the album as I have been spending so much time working on it. I might wait until people can start going out again to do the album launch, or I might release it and then wait a couple months for things to go back to somewhat normal, and then do some gigs.
Orcha – ‘Atlas’ – out now