When you’ve supported names like Lana Del Rey, Lorde, and James Blake all in the space of two years, you know you must be doing something right.
Oliver Tank burst onto the electronic music scene when he uploaded his work to Soundcloud in 2011. After winning FBi Radio’s Northern Lights competition, where his prize was to perform at a festival in Iceland, the singer-songwriter released two EPs, collaborated with some impressive artists, and more recently hit the festival circuit, playing at Falls and Southbound over the New Year. Oh, and he’s just 24 years old.
“I think festival crowds tend to not be as patient,” Tank says of his first taste of the festival scene.
“Some of the quieter tracks, the more chilled out stuff that I might do at my own shows, maybe doesn’t go down so well, and I tried to play a slightly different set to accommodate for that. It’s good that I was playing kind of early, I guess!”
“I haven’t really done many festivals so I was pretty nervous. But once I got out there and saw people having a good time, I really just tried to be myself and give out good vibes.”
He certainly used his Falls experience well, managing to catch acts such as Rüfüs, Chet Faker, MGMT, and Pond – all while travelling the country between festivals.
“I really wanted to see The Roots, but they were always a day ahead of me wherever I went, so annoying!” he laughs.
Tank is friendly and well spoken – a little reserved, perhaps – but he has a quiet charm that makes him instantly likable.
After unleashing his second EP Slow Motion Music in 2013, Tank is realistic about what he expects from record releases.“I think artists should give away their music for free, especially their first release”
“I was very nervous before releasing it; I wasn’t even sure if I liked it anymore! But I’ve been pretty happy with it. I’m not expecting to make a lot of money selling records anymore, but it doesn’t concern me at all to be honest. All I ever wanted to do was make music, so I’m happy with what I’m doing now. It’s more about the live show.”
“I just want people to hear my music.”
As an artist who put his first EP Dreams on Bandcamp with the price of “pay whatever you want”, it’s evident that Tank isn’t really in this for the cash. In fact, he’s quite pragmatic about the state of music in the digital age.
A true member of Generation Y, Tank knows how the internet is altering music.
“The music landscape’s changing. Who knows if people will still be paying for music in ten years time. I think artists should give away their music for free, especially their first release. I believe your priority should be getting your music heard, not earning money.”
The whole concept of Tank’s homegrown, organic approach to music could easily be attributed to the self-confessed ‘bedroom musician’ – producer, singer, and songwriter James Blake, an artist Tank says “defined a whole generation of electronic musicians” and who he toured with for his Splendour In The Grass sideshows.
“I enjoyed that tour the most because he was really the reason I got into music and I really respected him. He’s just a nice guy. I got to hang out with his band who are all really lovely – and I played some crazy venues!”
It is said that electronic music has been redefined over the past few years. So, what does Tank think of the changes in the industry?
“I think it’s good! I think, whether people like to admit it or not, Flume opened up a lot of opportunities for people like me and other up-and-coming electronic artists. I don’t want to call it a ‘craze’, because it’s got more legitimacy to it than that, but his album was what kicked that off. That’s what festivals are booking, what gigs are booking.”
“There’s no real limit to electronic music, which I like. Even though electronic music is the big thing at the moment, I don’t think that it will necessarily stay that way. I think, in the end, what will prevail is just good music.”“Flume opened up a lot of opportunities for people like me and other up-and-coming electronic artists”
The debate on ‘good music’ has been a controversial one of late. Critics and admirers of government-owned youth radio station Triple J have been engaged in what could almost be described as a silent battle over the station’s “particular sound”, and whether they are conditioning artists to perhaps play what they think will get them airtime on the popular station.
“”When I’m listening to the radio in the car, if I don’t hear a song I like on (other community stations) FBi or RRR, I’ll just flick till I find what I like. There are a lot of really diehard Triple J fans who will take for granted whatever the station gives them, but I don’t think that artists should ever feel like they have to write a song a certain way to cater to getting played on that station.”
Tank continues, “I still think they play good music. I was surprised that the station picked me up when I was just getting started, and they’ve been really supportive ever since, and I don’t think my music’s very “commercial”, or whatever you want to call it. I don’t know, I think there’s some fair criticism there but it’s not that bad. People just need to relax!”
Relax, however, is not something Tank’s doing a lot of in the future. Only a month after his huge festival run, the Sydneysider is embarking on his own Australian tour to promote Slow Motion Music.
“I love coming down to Melbourne. Those guys are really nice to me down there! Obviously Sydney’s home, so that’s always a good show. Mostly I’m just looking forward to getting in front of my own fans. I do a lot of support shows and festivals, so it’ll be nice to go and play to people who are there to see me.”
As for his dream venues? Tank’s already knocked that one out of the park.
“I think in Australia it’d be the Opera House…but now I’ve played there a couple of times! I’d love to do that just for my own show one day. It’s a bit of a way off, though.”
At the rate Tank is going, it won’t be long until the Opera House is just child’s play for this young musician.
Oliver Tank Australian Tour 2014
Saturday, February 8 | The Zoo, Brisbane
Tickets: www.oztix.com.au, 1300 762 545 or Oztix Outlets
Saturday, February 15 | The Metro Theatre, Sydney
Tickets: www.metrotheatre.com.au, 02 9550 3666, or from the venue box office
Thursday, February 20, The Corner Hotel, Melbourne
Tickets: www.cornerhotel.com, 03 9427 9198 or from the venue box office
Friday, February 28 | The Bakery, Perth
Saturday, March 1 | Arcade Lane, Adelaide
Tickets on sale now