Oisima: “I was so nervous I had to take my shoes off and play in my socks”

After over a year of biding his time, Adelaide’s Oisima has just dropped what is – in this writer’s opinion – one of the best albums of this year. A string of successful singles, supporting Bonobo on two separate tours, as well as performing at Field DayBIGSOUND, supporting xxyyxx and many more accolades, it’s in a way surprising that a debut album has only come now, after all of this. Such a release however only makes the future look even brighter for Oisima, (real name) Anth Wendt, as his genre-blending, eclectic sounds are now ready to be heard. We were lucky enough to chat with him as the dust began to settle on the release of Nicaragua Nights, to get a little more insight in the brains behind the beard.

Hey Anth, how’s it going?

Yeah really good! How are you?

I’m really good too. What are you up to?

I’m just chilling on my porch smoking a cigarette hanging out with my dog.

Nice! I’m going to see Onra tonight so I’m getting really excited. 

Oh cool, where’s he playing?

Here in Brisbane at the Woolly Mammoth!

Yeah nice, I like that venue.

I noticed you guys were beside each other in the iTunes charts, that would have been such a trip for you!

*laughs* Yeah it was very, very strange.

I believe that a congratulations IS in order though – I love the album, as you could probably tell from my review that I wrote…

Yeah I really appreciate that, thank you! It’s been such a long time coming! Do you feel liberated in a way now that it’s out?

I’m just relieved to be honest. I’ve had it finished for so long, like the best part of the year. I’ve just been sitting on it and going through all the things that go with putting out records these days. It’s just nice though. Now I can move onto the next project. And people can actually hear it now!

There is just so much going on in the record, I’m so interested to learn how you got into making beats like that. I read that you started off with like Air and Radiohead and artists like that?

Yeah I was never really into electronic music. i guess I wasn’t hearing the right things, then I moved in with a friend and he put on Moon Safari and it was like, “Oh you can actually have beautiful instrumentation in the electronic stuff.”

Now you seem to have quite the affinity with jazz and especially the saxophone as well…

Yeah, I’ve always been into jazz and the saxophone. I’m really lucky to have friends who are amazing jazz musicians too.

I feel like your music follows that same Freedom of Expression that jazz does – how important is that for you? 

Really important. This one especially, compared to the first two. I just wanted to put a lot more focus on the actual songwriting as opposed to looped beat based music. I just really wanted to compose pieces of music instead of just four bars.

Your music could absolutely sit comfortably with hip hop, but is it conscious for you to blend the hip hop styles with all the exotic sounds or did it just happen that way?

Yeah I adore hip hop and have for such a long time, but I guess yeah my music is a combination of everything I’ve listened to up until then – a lot of Latin, a lot of jazz and afro beat and I’m just working out a way to incorporate all the sounds that I love into one different style of music.

I know that you love record shopping as well, are a lot of the records you buy exotic as well? 

Yeah, I really love going to little thrift stores and just purely buying the record just because it’s got an interesting Oriental cover or whatever. I do like the Eastern art.

Are you going to go to somewhere Eastern to record shop or make samples there?

Yeah, well I’m planning for the next record to a lot of traveling and recording over in different countries!

One of my favourite things about your music is that even though most of the tracks are instrumental, the absence of vocals isn’t notable. Your songs are already really fleshed out without them.

Yeah, well I guess the introduction of singers and rappers definitely came after. I only really started writing music for vocalists and stuff in this last project.

How do you decide whether to incorporate vocals or not? 

I just leave it up to the artist who I’m collaborating with. I don’t really have anything in mind that I have specifically for them, except for Sun of Truth – I wrote that specifically for Mei. But yeah, especially with Annabel and stuff, I just let her pick and choose. I don’t give anyone I collaborate with any boundaries. They can put their spin on something that I’ve made.

Do you prefer collaborating? 

I don’t prefer it either way; it’s exciting because you’ve obviously got a direction or a feeling that you’ve got personally when you create something but it’s exciting having someone else come in. I love watching how people interpret something I’ve created and it always ends up going to different places you might not personally think of yourself. That’s really exciting.

You have played some serious killer shows and support slots over the past two years or so – I’m dying to ask what has been the highlight for you? Has any one show or tour stood out?

Probably the two Bonobo tours I’ve done.

The one just gone was huge!

It was crazy. It was really full on. It’s an amazing thing but it’s a very stressful thing, opening up for someone like Bonobo especially on this last tour. The responses to my music was far beyond what I expected. Just having 1000 people in a room singing the words to your songs.

Did you have to change your set around much playing those bigger rooms and bigger crowds, bigger than what you’re used to? 

Not really to be honest. I very much like to keep my live show and my record as two pretty separate things. You know when you go to a gig and you kind of get a bit disappointed when something sounds exactly like the album? I very much like to put a completely different spin on the live show as to what’s on the album. A lot of my live show is a lot more uptempo than my record, but I didn’t take anything into consideration or think about the fact that you’re playing to 1000 people or whatever.

Probably best not to think about playing to 1000 people! 

Well I remember the first tour with Bonobo and we played the Palace Theatre in Melbourne and it was just such an intimidating venue and I was about to play with 1000 or 2000 people in the room, and I got that nervous I took my shoes off and played my whole set in my socks I was that nervous!

Really?!

*laughs* Yeah you can kind of close it out, but there are always moments where you do look up during your set and realise what you’re doing – it’s pretty crazy!

I read that you listen to the same track before every show, do you still do that? 

*laughs* Yep!

What track is it?

It’s a guy called Fina and the track’s called Remembrance. He put it out maybe 4 years ago? He’s actually become a really good friend of mine, I told him about it and he had a good laugh! One thing that I wanted to talk to you about is your cover art – each release has such distinct and beautiful artwork, so you’re obviously really into the visual side of music as well?

Yeah I like incorporating visual elements into something that’s audible. Whenever I create stuff, I always have. I just get ideas that pop into my mind when I’m creating a song, and I have my favourite artist at the time or something. I like bold, bright and interesting artwork and I think it compliments the record in a way.

I definitely agree! What else can we expect from you? I’m hoping this album means a tour isn’t too far away for you?

No no, I can’t really you right now but there’s something coming!

Awesome! I wanted to tell you, I saw you last year at BIGSOUND, but I also saw you two days later – and your computer broke!

*laughs* Yeah. It’s just the thing that kind of comes as having a computer as your live set. I’ve chatted to so many artists, local and international and it’s just one of those things.

It was just done for the week!

It happens, you know? Being on tour and throwing it around, plus technology gets a bit cranky when it doesn’t want to sometimes.

I feel like you handled it pretty well though?

Yeah it’s kind of happened a lot. I think you just have to make a joke of it, and people realise that it’s part of the live show.

I think it makes it a bit more real too in a way – “My computer breaks too, they’re just like me!”

*laughs* Yeah!

Oisima’s Nicaragua Nights is out now via Create/Control.