I’ve been going through my dad’s record collection recently, finding LPs from the ‘60s and ‘70s that are new to me, despite us having shared a home for the first 18 years of my life. When I listen to these records, I’m consumed by the dissonance of hearing a track so recognizably of a previous era for the first time, of discovering something new in the old.
Listening to Slow Dancer’s In A Mood is a similar experience. Released this month on ATO records, Mood has the charm and soul of a worn and well-played LP that you slip from it’s frayed cardboard cover. Simon Okley, the voice, hands, and mind behind Slow Dancer, constructs another reality on Mood, somewhere between modernity and a simpler age of song-writing.
Mood’s fuzzy guitars, robust bass lines, and mellow drums feel like they could accompany the voices of Otis Redding or Marvin Gaye. From the open chords of “In The Water,” (track 1) to the closing hooks of “I’ve Been Thinking,” (track 10), Mood carries warmth like the ray of sunlight that suddenly breaks through cloud cover on a grey, early-fall afternoon.
But Mood reveals its youth in its details. Okley’s vocals are both smooth and incredibly crisp, every tone and lyric captured and mixed delicately into his instrumentation. The album’s first single, “Don’t Believe,” incorporates a drum machine and synthesized harmonies that hint at Mood’s twenty-first century origins.
It’s Mood’s dissonance, caught between two eras, that accentuates the timelessness of Okley’s lyrics, poetic reflections on love and human nature. “I was floating on the surface, I was pulled into the depth. I was dreaming of a purpose, but I still haven’t found it yet,” Okley coos on the album’s title track, expressing sentiments that could easily be found on a 70’s R&B record or on a song pulled from Spotify’s Fresh Finds. Like his arrangements, Okley’s existential ponderings transcend the boundaries of years and decades, uniting the music of my father’s generation with that of my own.
In honor of the release, we got a few minutes to chat with Okely about it all.
What was the first song or album you remember listening to, and who introduced it to you?
It was an Elvis Presley greatest hits cassette, I was 5 or 6 years old. I think mum and dad got it from grandma? It was a regular fixture on our car trips to the big smoke.
Does that song or album have any bearing on your sound now?
Simplicity, cool and feel are things I cherish I’m music. He had em all in spades.
Was there a defining moment when you realized you wanted to pursue music in your life?
I was about 7 or 8 years old and I’d saved all my pocket money to buy an alarm clock radio. I listened to it every night before bed. Friday night i’d tune into the last 10 of the top 40 hits of the week. I knew then and there in those evenings I would write songs for the rest of my life. Mum said, “maybe consider something else”.
So, tell us the origin story of Slow Dancer. What made you choose the name?
So the name was born from a song off the first record called ‘Please’. It’s an instruction manual on how to slow dance with a listless partner. I liked the way it summarised the music I was writing at the time. I like it still.
Who/what serve as the biggest influences for your sound?
My instruments serve the sound the most. They influence what and how I write. They are all from the 70’s and have a voice and a character all of their own. I’m also heavily influenced by Greek philosophy, good hommus, and professional cycling.
Your track “Don’t Believe” is already nearing 400K on Spotify, and we can see why. You create an entire ambiance with it. How do you imagine people listening to the track?
Thanks, well I hope people are making love, or kissing passionately, or skydiving, or driving a car way too fast, or doing something that makes them connected with the finite nature of life like cooking a nice meal for friends or painting their nails or swimming laps, or eating a kebab.
What inspired “Don’t Believe” specifically?
The finite nature of life. And violins. And Kanye. And kebabs.
Any fun or interesting anecdotes from the production process?
I’m really excited about the album release. I make records in my bedroom to entertain myself so the idea of 2 wonderful labels releasing it into the entire universe is beyond my belief. I initially wanted to call it Honeymoon, but Lana Del Ray named her record that so I re wrote my song ‘honeymoon’ to what it is now: ‘in a mood’. Thanks Lana, it’s heaps better now.
If you could score any movie with the music from In A Mood, which movie would you choose to throw your music into? Is there a reason?
My dream sync would be any Jim Jarmusch film. He is another mood guy. I think it would work well.
What has been the biggest struggle you’ve faced as you approach the music industry? (Or has it been a cake walk?)
I make outsider art. The kind of music an untrained person makes. It means it can be hard at times to believe in what your doing – the methodology is less common. It’s taken a while, but I now have a wonderful team around me who get my less conventional way of working.
When you write and produce a song, are you simultaneously dreaming up ways it could be portrayed in other mediums, like with the album art or music videos?
No, all my energy goes into the song. It demands all of my attention. I think a lot about the sound of words, their meaning, and how to marry those things to music so the song is stronger than the sum of its parts.
Do you have a favorite superhero? Substantiate that claim, if so!
No, I’m a non fiction guy. Fact is stranger than fiction, and I like strange.
What’s down the funnel for you in 2017?
An Australian tour in July and then a trip over to the states for some more touring is on the cards. I’m also writing a fair bit.
In A Mood is out June 9th. It is available for order now. Keep up with Slow Dancer here.